Top 12 leadership training mistakes
- Too basic - I remember a time when I'd been a
manager for 7 years, I'd managed teams of up to 100, and I'd achieved
amazing milestones in terms of employee engagement - and despite all of
that, my employer sent me on a Management Development Program where half a day was spent on "what is a team".
It was torture. My mind was switched off the entire day, and not only did my employer waste money on the course itself, but it also lost my productivity since I was out of the office. So, mistake number one. Send your leaders on courses that are suited to their level.
- The facilitator's experience - And I'm not talking about experience in training. I'm talking about experience in management or leadership.
How could someone who has never managed a team in their life provide
guidance to a group of established managers? That's just like a
hairdresser teaching doctors how to perform surgery.
Not only must your facilitators and trainers be ex-managers, but they better have been pretty good at it. They need to have stories to tell of what they did fabulously and what they got wrong. They need to understand precisely the pressures and challenges and situations that their trainees are facing.
- No reinforcement - Many companies run a training
program once and expect to see a change in behaviour. Well, that's
unlikely. In order for behavioural change to occur, the learning needs
to be reinforced. It's similar to selling. Studies show that consumers
need to be exposed to a product an average of six times before they
finally decide to buy it. Likewise, learners need to be exposed to a
certain principle between three and six times in order for it to become
ingrained in their psyche.
The added twist is that this repetition needs to occur in different ways. This means that if the first exposure is a training program, the second one might be a book, the third could be a mentoring session, the fourth might be a newsletter, the fifth could be an audio program, the sixth might be an online forum, and so on. Eventually the penny drops.
- There isn't any - If you don't even have a
development program in place for your leaders, hmmm, there's a problem. A
study last year by Universum found that over half of employees say they
would be more loyal to their employers if they received greater
opportunities for training and development. This attracted more support
than promotional opportunities and generous salaries.
And yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the average Australian employee receives only 16.5 hours of paid employer-sponsored training each year. So there you have it. If you're not investing in your people, you're not investing in your company. And if you're not investing in your people, it won't be long before someone else is.
- Wrong audience - Most leadership development
programs focus on executives, senior managers, and middle managers - all
of which is great - but insufficient. The people with the greatest
influence over employee engagement are front-line managers. Whether you
call them supervisors, team leaders, people managers, or whatever else,
it's those responsible for your front-line employees who really wield the greatest influence.
Employee turnover, absenteeism, performance, productivity, and quality - all of that rests with the talent of your team leaders, not your executives. And yet the people that miss out the most on training and development are ... team leaders.
- It's boring - Like, painfully boring. Here's the
deal with training: it's not just the transfer of knowledge that's
important. What's equally as critical is the motivation to put
in practice the knowledge that's been learned. Most training programs
focus only on the knowledge part, not the motivation.
If you want your leaders to change their behaviour, the learning experience has to be passionate, fun, enjoyable, stimulating, and delivered with enthusiasm. It needs to arouse curiosity, create debate, challenge minds, trigger thinking, and stir emotions. To love and laugh is to learn.
- No measure of success - A survey of 250 senior
executives conducted by Accenture has found that a mere 14% of
executives feel that their employees' skill level is industry-leading,
and as a result, only 10% of the executives were happy with the way in
which their training departments were performing. This was mostly due to
a failure to measure the business impact of training initiatives.
Every training program should be analysed for effectiveness. In terms of leadership training, a great program should result in improved levels of staff retention, project implementation, employee engagement, and many other metrics. If it doesn't, scrap it.
- Doesn't cater for every learning style - Many
trainers train in the way they prefer to learn. It makes sense, I guess.
Even when they go on train-the-trainer courses and they're taught how
to construct a program that caters for every learning style, even then
it tends to lean more towards the trainer's preferred learning method.
The key here is to check that your leadership training programs have a healthy mix of everything: stories, activities, case studies, research, models, and discussion. Unless of course you find that your participants are extremely dominant in one or two preferred learning styles, in which case you can tailor the course even more precisely.
- Too much theory - And not enough application.
Drucker was a genius - no question. But it's ludicrous to still quote
the guy in an age where people care less about academic theories and
more about the specific actions they can take each day to make a
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, transformational/transactional leadership, and total quality management were amazingly influential and successful, and to those of us who obsess over management, they still are. But let's face it, most people just don't care. All they want to know is what can they start doing every day in their time-limited work-lives to get the most out of their people. The more your training programs focus on the abstract stuff, the more they'll be disconnected.
- Lack of senior management support - Senior
managers can make or break the commitment that leaders lower on the
corporate hierarchy have toward their leadership training. Senior
managers must publicly support training initiatives. If they can, they
should say a few words at the beginning of training programs, and they
should encompass the behaviours they most want to see their subordinates
exhibiting upon completion of the training program. Without the senior
managers' dedication to the leadership training, you'll end up training
just a bunch of cynics.
- Minimal input from participants - So many
leadership training programs are overly-structured and rigid in their
format. The material is very prescriptive, the agenda is meticulously
timed, and the process is excessively rehearsed. All of that is great
for efficiency, but it's terrible for engagement.
Get your participants to direct the flow of the content. Get your participants to share their greatest challenges and use that to drive the course. Get your participants involved in the creation and delivery of a knock-out development program. Involve them all the way.
- No follow-up - You've probably come across many
internal (and external) training programs which are run for a day or
two, the feedback is wonderful, and then... that's it. There isn't a
discussion between the participants and their managers afterwards. There
isn't an opportunity to revisit what's been learned after there's been a
chance to apply it in the workplace. There isn't a process in place to
see how people are feeling a month later, three months later, even a
year later. And as a result, we miss out on the chance to really embed
the learning outcomes.