A colleague and I were having a conversation about the overall effectiveness of leadership development programs. Both of us have been coaching and developing leaders for more than twenty years and so comparing notes was both enlightening and educational.
While discussing some of the challenges, we came to the conclusion that there are certain factors that create an environment that dilutes learning and lowers the overall effectiveness of most leadership programs. I will be addressing some of these challenges over the course of the next few weeks. Each article will speak to a different issue and will end with a few ideas on how to change the effectiveness of your leadership program or with a question you might ask yourself to get you thinking differently about how your organization is developing leaders.
Leadership Development: Truth #1 – We’re Measuring the Wrong Thing!
Every year organizations sends thousands and thousands of folks to attend leadership development program, with the hopes that somehow they will be changed, transformed, awakened, or at least better equipped to traverses the travails of leadership.
The truth, is that most people leave a training course losing 75% of what they learned on the way out the door or within a few hours of leaving the class. If the leader fails to implement any of the learning or skills from the program into their leadership quickly, then 95% of the learning vanishes into thin air. Considering the cost of the program (time, resources, lost hours, etc.) a 95% loss of learning doesn’t make for a great Return-on-investment (ROI)
That said, most organization are driven by numbers, so when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a leadership development program, initiative, investment, etc., they analyze data. The assumption is that the numbers will tell you the truth about whether you’re getting your money’s worth and investing your resources properly. That’s true … if you’re measuring the right thing. But what if you’re not?
Yes, I know we have surveys which we hand out at the end of the course and people rate the content, the instructor, the food, the venue, etc. on a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 or 1 to 7 and say things like, “Great class, learned a ton, excellent instructor, great material!” But what does that really say about the impact to the business or the bottom-line?
Sometimes, the drive to make the numbers look good (optics), blind us from seeing the truth about the effectiveness of the leadership development programs we deliver. Reporting the the number of people who attended a training course does not measure the effectiveness of the training, it simply measures the number of folks who sat in the class. And while it may sound good to say 2500 people have been trained, it says nothing about what happened as a result of the training or about the impact on retention, productivity, culture change, the leadership culture, succession planning, etc..
Measuring how a person feels after attending a class is not the same as measuring whether the leader is still leveraging the skills learned in the course 6 months later or the impact the leader had on their teams’ productivity.
What’s interesting is that most companies have Key-Performance-Indicators (KPIs) for production, budgets, output, quality, expenses, etc. but we have very few, if any, KPIs for training that measures anything more than the number of folks who attended the programs and whether they thought the room was too cold or enjoyed the gluten-free lunch that was served.
So what can an organization do to start improving the overall effectiveness of their leadership development programs?
Here are a few ideas:
5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Leadership Development Program ROI:
- Survey the leaders before the program as to what specifically they want to achieve from the training as it pertains to that specific course. Tell them to get feedback from their manager, peers, or direct reports about that specific topic.
- Have them share what they want and need from the course in class prior to diving into the work and discuss it small groups.
- Have them revisit what they wanted and needed from the course at the end of the program and discuss at least one specific action they will take to improve.
- Assign accountability partners to check-in with each other as to the progress they are making on their commitments post workshop.
- Randomly survey a few teams of some of the leaders from the course by creating a system to measure what the teams have noticed differently about their leader. We leverage a system called Measure Behavior Change (MBC) as a part of the leadership development programs we do, if you would like more information about it please contact us here.
While these ideas seem simple, they can transform your leadership development programs. Whether you enact any of them is up to you.
The central idea here is to get you thinking differently about just how effectively you are developing your leaders.