The BIG problem with developing leaders

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An article from our Cultural Intelligence newsletter…

We were in a private conversation with a couple of senior executives after having worked with the organisation’s leaders over a full day.

One of the senior execs reflected on how delighted he was with regard to the processes and outcomes from day. He then went on to bemoan the large investment in leadership training that had been implemented by the organisation for little or no return. This exec was wondering out aloud what was ‘wrong’ with these leaders.

We took a different tack and put it to that senior executive that maybe this was a reflection on the quality of leader training that had been delivered.

There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that as a general principle, leaders need to developed. We are still often surprised by hearing stories about what some leaders do, or fail to do in the workplace. In large part, poor leadership has led to low employee engagement and ordinary cultures at best. Put bluntly, poor leadership is impacting on the bottom line of many, many organisations. We can and should be leading better.

Signing over responsibility for developing leaders to outside providers to deliver leadership training is fraught with problems. These include the possibility that people delivering the training are poor trainers or have little pragmatic leadership knowledge. There is also the possibility that the content of the training, while interesting, may have little practical application. And then there’s the possibility that the facilitators of the training fail to deploy the optimal learning experience for those involved in the training.

We’ve mentioned in the past that even if training is high quality, the UGRs (unwritten ground rules) associated with training back in the workplace are pivotal to determining whether or not the training ‘sticks’. If the prevailing attitude in the workplace is ‘What was your jaunt over the last two days’, there’s probably little chance the substance of that training will endure. This is sometimes prevalent where training is deployed as the ‘fix’ for problem leaders.

It’s time for the delivery of leadership training is put under the microscope – where executives get clear on the expected outcomes from training and hold those delivering training to account. And it’s also time for there to be a genuine desire within the organisation to learn what people have gained from their development experience.

Leadership training is too important not to do this.

Steve Simpson is an international speaker, author and consultant who works with companies across the globe to help them understand and strategically improve their corporate culture Professional Speakers Australia recently bestowed the Australian Educator of the Year Award to Steve