How to get value from Leadership training

Companies invest in leadership training to tackle a common problems like low morale, high rates of absenteeism, presenteeism, performance issues, and grievances.

But despite billions being spent on leadership training, it appears that the overall trend in large organisations is that these issues have got worse, not better.

That negative correlation points to a deficiency in the leadership training programmes that businesses are receiving. The intention is a good one, but the training is not effective in turning around the problems faced by that particular organisation.

Either the training itself is below par, or leaders have not been equipped properly to put their training into practice.

Problems with common leadership training programmes

When we look at the typical set up of a leadership training programme, it usually consists of a two-day course of classroom training.

That training is generic and theoretical. It doesn’t necessarily address the nuance of the issues in your organisation. It simply tells you the theory of being a ‘good’ leader.

There is little follow-up to see how you’re getting on with putting your new training into action. Despite good intentions, workbooks from the session remain unopened on your desk back at the office. The day job takes over, and you never get a chance to put these new skills and ideas into practise in a deliberate way.

These sorts of programmes become a ‘tick in the box’ for career progression, but don’t deliver sufficient substance to effect change in individuals or organisations.

What makes a good leadership training programme?

What’s the alternative to the two-day classroom setup? A more effective programme would take into account these three steps:

Step 1: A health-check to identify gaps in leadership skills

The first step is to invite an external person into the business to assess the culture. Yes, this will feel a bit vulnerable and exposing. But it’s not about criticising your company. It’s simply the case that it’s quite difficult to assess your own culture.

Your people may feel more comfortable speaking to an external consultant about their experiences, their feelings and their take on the culture of your business. A consultant is more likely to get to the heart of the issues, and they have additional context from other businesses to compare and contrast your culture with others.

It’s likely that your consultant will find a host of things you’re doing well. They’ll be able to suggest the areas that could do with tweaks, in order to make the whole system work more effectively.

Step 2: Define the areas of leadership that you need to improve

Your external assessor will be able to give you data to evidence their findings. That could be data from surveys of your people, or thematic answers to their interviews.

They explain how your people feel about working for your organisation, which gives you a platform to discuss how you want your employees to feel. Then the conversation moves to how you go about fixing it if there is a mismatch.

By the end of that assessment, you’ll have a clear idea of the areas of leadership that you can improve on as an organisation, and as individuals.

Step 3: Create a bespoke programme that includes a variety of learning interventions

Once you know which areas you want to work on, you can start the process of training. The main thing to note here is that ‘training’ is not a one-off course. It’s an ongoing process and it should include a number of ways to learn.

An effective learning programme includes a blended learning approach, with clear expectations and goals defined from the outset.  Blended learning includes a mixture of 360 feedback, individual development plans, and one-on-one development coaching. It also incorporates group workshops, e-learning, and research projects. In some circumstances, an organisational development project runs alongside the training activities to help effect positive change in the business.

If the programme runs over a longer period of time, there is a higher probability for learning to transfer into the workplace. We’d usually recommend that the programme runs for around 12 months. During that time, there will be regular learning activities, which are co-ordinated strategically and effectively to complement each activity’s learning outcomes.

We find that this approach gives sufficient time for individuals to take on board their learning interventions, and for the team and the organisation to reap the benefits. By the end of the programme, we see a tangible return on the expectations we set at the start.

Leadership roles vs technical roles

One of the most common problems in leadership is having the right people in the wrong roles.

We often see people who are technically excellent at their jobs, and so they get promoted through the business. Once they reach a certain level of seniority, then they’re simply expected to start managing people, whether or not that is within their skill-set.

Let’s be honest; some people don’t make good managers. No matter how much training they have, or how technically excellent they are, they will never be the best person to manage people. And that’s OK. You can leave your technical gurus to do what they’re good at – the technical stuff.

There is still scope for those technical people to deliver training and impart their knowledge. But you need to stop forcing them into managerial positions that they probably don’t want, and they don’t perform well.

Instead, put your people who have the social and managerial skills into the people management positions. Companies need to value leadership roles as much as they value technical roles and recognise that it is an imperative part of running a happy, successful business.

Then help your technical gurus and your managerial people work better together. Perhaps the technical person makes to the top level decisions on budget and strategy, and they have a team leader who works alongside them to look after the people.

There are all sorts of factors at play that make people better suited to certain roles, including neurodiversity, personality traits, and their life experiences to date. Identify the strengths in your people and help them find a role that celebrates their strengths, and gives them support in the areas they struggle with.

How can I help?

As a relational leadership development coach and facilitator, I bring a holistic perspective to leadership training. I come into your organisation to find out the issues and then break down an action plan into manageable, sensible steps. I’ll prioritise the actions that get the biggest results in the quickest timeframe. And I’ll help you change habits in your organisation with effective coaching and training.

If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch for a no-obligation, confidential chat.