The Trouble with Leadership Training
Mike Myatt, one of my favorite Forbes contributors wrote in a recent article on leadership development, “most [leadership training programs] don’t even come close to accomplishing what they were designed to do—build better leaders.”
Myatt asserts that the terms “training” and “development” have become synonymous in executive parlance in recent years, when in fact they are significantly different. Without distinguishing the 2 types of learning approaches, corporate training departments are often left wondering why leaders are disengaged, fail to produce expected results, and don’t stay with the company more than a couple of years.
In the traditional sense, training is used to indoctrinate new employees, demonstrate “how we do things around here”, and establish expectations around company norms, processes, and systems. Training is rote and often times involves a one-to-many type of delivery and may not be effective unless the learning is applied by the “student”.
Training may also be short-sighted, helping employees more efficiently accomplish near term tasks but ignoring the larger landscape of sustaining solid business growth. If creating inspirational leaders to guide your organization confidently into an uncertain future is the end goal, leadership training may not be your best investment.
Development, on the other hand, is more about the journey than the destination. Developing great leaders is a process that takes time, effort, and support from the entire organization.
Leadership development focuses on the unique strengths of each individual, and allows for a dynamic, organic approach that does not assume a single “best practice” for leaders. Additionally, transformational development programs should be collaborative, ongoing, iterative, and available for leaders at all levels.
Myatt points out several other differences between training and development. Here are a few of my favorites on leadership training:
1. Training focuses on the present. Development focuses on the future.
2. Training focuses on the role. Development focuses on the person.
3. Training indoctrinates. Development educates.
4. Training focuses on maintenance. Development focuses on growth.
5. Training focuses on problems. Development focuses on solutions.
Leadership programs that leverage these distinctions between training and development have been proven to be more successful.
Research from the Human Capital Institute has shown that organizations that take more of a “development” approach see better results in alignment, collaboration, succession, and execution of strategic initiatives.
Organizations that develop their leaders in addition to providing customized training options are able to produce teams that enjoy a shared purpose, more effective communication, and a greater sense of ownership of the strategic direction of the company.
Leaders who have a common vision for the future – and who have been given a voice to develop the plan to get there – are much more engaged and more likely to remain a part of the team for years to come.
As Matt Myatt said, “It is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not.” How is your organization developing leaders to create a better future?