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Why Do Leadership Development Programs Fail?

February 22, 2018

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By Glen Calderon

In January 2014, McKinsey & Company conducted a study that examines the 4 main reasons why leadership development programs fail:

1.            Not allowing for context.  Simply, leadership development training is unique.  One size does not fit all regardless of a homogenous company, management or culture.   An organization should ask why do we want this training and who is it for?  Then focus on a few detailed core topics and the corresponding expected results.

2.            Not linking development programs to real world projects.  Clearly define expectations and then balance them with the actual work responsibilities.  Use subject matter experts and design projects that are relevant for the attendees.  If you prepare your key people for the future and make it tangible, they will be ready to lead.

3.            Underestimating what it really takes to change behaviors.  There must be some level of personal discomfort for change to be effective.  The program should be designed to address mindset, culture, habits, feelings, personality and other non-measurable traits.  Programs need to be challenging and not too comfortable or easy for the attendees.  Consistent feedback and open communications post program reinforces the company’s commitment to change.

4.            Not measuring results.  Learn from both successes and failures.  Use of 360-degree feedback tools pre and post program are an effective tool.  Tracking career advancement post program is another.  Comparing participants career advancement versus that of non-attendees is great barometer of overall impact.  These take time; start now.

Looking at these reasons, it should be no surprise that 60% of frontline managers fail within the first two years in their role.  26% feel they were not ready for the role, and 58% reported receiving no management training.  Companies annually spend upwards of $150 Billion on training with as much as 70% of this wasted.  Wouldn’t it be advisable to try a different more effective approach?