— May 1, 2018
It’s well-known that effective leadership is crucial for success at all levels of an organization. In fact, past data from the CEB Corporate Leadership Council shows that companies with top-tier leadership teams outperform others by nearly 19%. Weak or below-average leadership, on the other hand, can cause significant harm to an organization over time.
For example, poor leadership contributes to high employee turnover, low morale, and a lack of collaboration. All of these issues lead to increased costs and reduced productivity for organizations of all sizes.
Yet, despite the well-established importance of effective leadership, many companies struggle to develop their leaders. These companies have leadership training and development programs that seem to consistently fall victim to several common issues.
Because of these issues, the effectiveness of the leadership training suffers and these companies end up wasting time, money, and resources.
Knowing what the most common leadership training mistakes are is the first step in avoiding them. With this in mind, here are three of the most common mistakes that OnPoint Consulting has encountered over the years:
1: Failing to Make Learning Experiential
One issue that leadership training programs frequently run into is that the training resources and environment fail to match the leader’s daily work situations. This leads to a disconnect between the training program and the leader’s actual work—which can make it harder for developing leaders to apply lessons from training to their work.
This is an issue that may be best handled using “experiential learning.” In experiential learning, people learn by doing—which helps them better understand new concepts. The basic idea is that when the activities leaders participate in during training closely resemble the situations they can expect to encounter at work, their learning engagement, retention of information, and ability to apply lesson content to work will all improve.
On-the-job learning opportunities, such as job rotation and targeted job assignments, can be used to reinforce experiential learning.
2: Using the Same Stale Learning Content Over and Over Again
One trap leadership training programs often fall into is trying to simplify the program by using the same content over and over again with every set of learners. The problem with using one kind of training content is that not everyone learns in the same way.
Some people are visual learners who learn by seeing the relationships between ideas represented in some kind of graphic format. Others might prefer listening to a lecture or reading an explanation of a concept in written form.
When training content is all kept to the same style, learners who happen to match well with that kind of content may excel while others suffer from poor engagement and results. However, by delivering content using a variety of methods including visual, auditory, written, and activity-based elements, you can engage a wider variety of leaders with your training—improving overall success and training efficacy.
3: Not Making Training Programs Scalable
Growth is a frequent goal for businesses around the world. However, some businesses fail to take into account how growth can affect different aspects of their existing programs and procedures. Leadership development is no exception.
Training and development solutions that work fine when a company has a single office may not work as well once that company begins to add new offices in other cities, states, or even countries. Wolverine Worldwide, a U.S.-based apparel and footwear wholesaler, experienced issues with the scalability of its leadership training program and team management responsibilities as a result of a large-scale acquisition involving many geographically-dispersed assets.
Because they now had to deliver learning content to leadership candidates who were not located in the same regions where they usually conducted training, the company had problems with getting developing leaders up to speed in their more remote offices.
One solution to the problem of scalability is to leverage technological solutions to employee learning—such as online training videos and teleconferences—to give remote employees access to training wherever they are. This is typically faster, easier, and less costly than trying to arrange for a dedicated training specialist to travel to every remote office location or region.
4: Failing to Align Training Content with the Overall Business Strategy
Another issue that Wolverine Worldwide had to contend with as a result of their acquisition was that managers/leaders at every level of the organization were suddenly confronted with the need to manage virtual teams instead of co-located ones. The shortage of employees skilled in virtual leadership created operational issues that impacted the company’s ability to meet its long-term goals.
To counter this problem, the company launched a learning program focused on leading from a distance to help their current and future leaders gain the skills they needed to effectively manage virtual teams. The lessons learned in these virtual team leadership-focused training sessions helped Wolverine Worldwide improve relationships, collaboration, and trust between their remote and co-located team members.
While this was a reactionary solution to an immediate issue, this example highlights how important it is to align the content of leadership training programs to the overall needs and challenges of the organization. However, many organizations neglect to modify their training programs as they grow and evolve.
By periodically reevaluating the value of learning program content to align it with the current needs of the organization, those in charge of leadership development can help to improve the results of the training program—creating leaders who are ready to face the challenges that the organization is facing.
Managing a leadership training program can be enormously challenging, and mistakes are all too easy to make. However, by studying the most common mistakes of others and learning from the examples of companies that have done it right, it is possible to improve the ROI your own organization sees from its programs.