When people are asked, “What is your opinion about leadership training?” common answers are…
- Many companies have one-off events and workshops, but “true capability is developed over time and regularly reinforced.”
- Programs that are aimed at “broad, generic themes” like success or leadership do not help to develop specific skills.
- The success of most programs is measured by attendance and attendee satisfaction, without assessing the skills attendees developed.
Even I, as an external Leadership Development Trainer, must admit these answers have relevant points. Most leadership training is too theoretical. The best leadership development brings only a pinch of theory and a pound of practice. Ideally, first, there is the practice in small trusted groups under the hawk eyes of professional feedback givers (coaches). Secondly, comes the practice of one micro skill at a time after the program when it can be integrated into daily business. And in order to see if a program is worth continuing to invest in, leaders skills should be assessed before the training and again after 6 months to a year. Even if this is only a self-assessment, it would show how much value the program actually creates.
Developing Leadership is like Developing a Sport
Leadership in many ways is like a sport. There are many various factors that make you successful. Inborn traits certainly help you to succeed but are not enough. In sports, we do better when we find the one that makes sense for our physique and preferences. Leadership roles are similar – you will do better when you find the right industry and culture for your innate abilities and preferences. But the most important similarity between excelling at sports and developing leadership is that you have to work and train continuously to maintain and improve your performance. And in both cases having fun makes it easier to put in conscious practice that is needed for success.
I am a tennis player. A few years ago, I went to an excellent tennis retreat, which provided a step-change in my level of tennis. The ratio was roughly 5 minutes of explanation to 55min of practice with feedback for each new skill we learned. Nevertheless, I entered a few tournaments later that season that did not go well. Although I played a lot after the course, I was not consciously selecting one habit at a time to practice and improve. If I had kept in touch with players from the retreat and we practiced and had given feedback about each effective habit we learned on the course, I would have improved much more. Who knows how those tournaments might have gone differently?
Modules and time to practice
This is part of why we started to work with a few of our best client companies to instate a self-managed follow-on learning program. In these programs, participants support each other in their daily business to focus on and practice one small skill at a time in the workplace. We also have shorter but more frequent modules to serve as impulses that participants can immediately take home and practice. These follow-on sessions also give a sense of accountability and responsibility, which greatly increases the learnings and courage to try the theory in the workplace.
This approach is far more effective to the one-off programs that shoehorn in as many topics as possible into one exhausting albeit fulfilling week-long offsite and then judge the success based on “smile-sheets” on the last day. The best program curriculums align with company strategy, values, and culture. They include both business and leadership topics, and their success is judged based on changes in behavior and performance results of participants over a one-year period.
If you’d like to talk with us about Leadership Training with a real (business) impact, feel free to schedule a chat or pay a visit to our website.