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Sometime back, I got a call from the HR head of a company
He said “We need to conduct some leadership sessions. Can you suggest some topics?”
I replied “Sure, what are your exact requirements?”
“Nothing specific, just suggest some topics” he responded
I paused for a moment and said “I do not work that way. I need to know what your needs are, so I can determine whether I can serve you or not”
“I have some budget this year for leadership programs.” He said
Now he was being honest...
But it was clear to me that he was not the type of client I was looking for..
Something fundamentally was missing for me
..The intent to invest in people development because you know it is the right thing to do
..The intent to help your people grow and succeed
And that for me, is one of the biggest reasons why so many leadership development programs fail to deliver
But that is not the only reason….
Based on my experience as a coach and leadership facilitator, I have come up with 7 reasons why such programs fail or have limited impact
7 elements which are missing….
Here they are….
1. The intent is missing
I am repeating this here, since this to me, is at the core of everything
Many organizations run leadership programs purely for the sake of it
It is like a “tick-in-the-box” activity for them, but nothing really changes on the ground
The true intent to focus on people development and growth is missing
Some organizations think learning and development is an optional activity to be carried out, only when they have time and budgets
And I somehow stay clear of such organizations
Personally, I work with leaders who truly believe in personal and professional development both for themselves as well as for their teams
2. The investment is missing
Intent has to be backed with investment. Period
You could have all the right intent, but if you are not ready to invest resources, then nothing will change
Ofcourse, resources are and will always be limited, but when budgets dictate the choice, frequency and quality of such programs, then they may not be effective
Infact, I recollect one L&D manager asking me for my “best and final quote” after I had shared my proposal with her
My response to her was swift and simple “My commercials are high because I truly believe I deliver high value. This is the only quote you will get from me. I do not lower my prices”
3. Fresh perspective is missing
Many organizations have internal resources to facilitate leadership development
That is a good approach to develop internal capabilities and reduce external dependencies
However, that sometimes limits the possibility of challenging the status quo and bringing in fresh and new external perspectives
If you are part of the system, you know how things work and will have little incentive to challenge
Many a times, what leaders really need is a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking
And that is why, I try to bring in that different point of view by challenging your thinking - be it coaching or leadership facilitation
My sailing experience as a Ship Captain, corporate experience as an investment banker and consulting experience as an entrepreneur allow me that unique vantage point
4. Segregation of roles is missing
Managing Learning & Development (L&D) as a function and designing/delivering leadership programs is NOT the same
These are separate and unique skills, but some organizations do not have that clear segregation
In such organizations, L&D managers themselves deliver such programs
That can still work, but keep in mind that L&D managers may or may not always be most suited or qualified to facilitate leadership development programs
5. Application is missing
This is a big, big one in my opinion
Learning has to be backed by application and by practice
If you do not provide the right opportunity to apply, test and course-correct with feedback, then learning effectiveness is reduced or lost completely over time
Nothing will change on the ground
That is why I make sure that when I design learning interventions, there is a process to follow-up and practice to reinforce the learnings
6. Accountability is missing
In many leadership programs, what happens afterwards is NOT very clear
Sometimes, you attend a one or two-day workshop and that is it
Who is accountable for the follow-ups, application of learning and regular check-ins is not very well defined - whether it is the individual, the line manager or the L&D manager ??
This lack of clarity impacts long term effectiveness of learning
7. Personalization is missing
You and I are two different individuals
We have our own dream and desires, our own fears and frustrations
Similarly, every leader has individual development needs, goals and aspirations
There is obviously merit and economy in scale, no doubt about it
But if leadership programs do not offer some level of personalization, then they have limited impact
There you go....
Those are the key elements which are usually missing and may reduce the impact of leadership programs
So go back and reflect
1) Are any of the above points applicable, when it comes to leadership development in your organization ?
2) What else, in your opinion, could be a reason for the limited impact of such programs ?
I would be interested to know about your experience and views, so keep writing