Leadership Training

Very often firms believe that Leadership Training is a remedial action. Training is there to correct somebody or to fix them. From personal experience of going on these programs and wondering why some people were on the course, I could say that none of the people on the course got ‘fixed’. They got a week or so out of the office, but I can’t say that any significant breakthroughs took place. Some people learned about themselves, which is helpful, but that learning doesn’t really create significant change.

Another frustration of senior HR people and the clients themselves is that very often the training model itself benefits the trainer not the trainee. I can remember going on a very intensive two-week training course and subsequently being asked to deliver the training myself but in only half a day. To accomplish this challenge, we had to think very carefully about the outcome we wanted our trainees to achieve. With that in mind, we developed a very successful half-day workshop that absolutely delighted our clients and enabled them to achieve huge results.

The two-week training gave the trainers two weeks work which they could charge a lot of money for because if you think about it, a two-week training course is a substantial thing. When you approach the problem from the viewpoint of the client rather than the trainer then a completely different need emerges. To satisfy the challenge our client had given us, we had to identify the core principle behind the two-week training and work out how to teach it in a very short space of time. Because we weren’t bothered by how much money we earned from delivering the training we were able to focus on the needs of our client rather than on the needs of our wallets! No one had to leave work for two weeks and the firm didn’t have to pay for two weeks of trainers’ time.

This is not a criticism of the training per se. Training for skills can be an important part of anyone’s development. Training to induce change is a completely different matter. In a leadership context teaching somebody leadership skills when they haven’t resolved themselves is largely a waste of time. My own experiences of being on (what was marketed as) “the top leadership training in the world” fell well short of the mark in terms of its ability to induce any meaningful change.

As is often the case, there was also a complete absence of follow-up to the training which meant that any beneficial effect it might have had soon faded in the mind of the participants. To me, as a senior executive, I was keen to extract as much value from the experience as I could. I remember the distinct impression that there was something I needed to learn which the trainers knew but wouldn’t tell me. I wondered if they were bothered about upsetting me in some way.

I thought this ‘something’ was important for me to know, and I had to work out how to get them to tell me what it was. For me, it was just a simple blind spot. In the end, the trainers themselves gave me the opportunity. They had planned for us to complete some exercises outside, but it was raining. One of the fellow trainees was in the banana business with boats all around the world and so we ended up watching a video about the banana boat business. Truly bizarre and I couldn’t imagine that the trainers had not experienced rain before!

I said as much on my feedback form for the day and then watched carefully as the two trainers went through the feedback forms until they got to mine. There was a gasp of astonishment as one trainer showed my form to his colleague and that night in the bar, I got my comeuppance. Actually, it was the learning that I needed and had been striving for but couldn’t find. How extraordinary that the lesson I needed to learn was one I had to provoke the trainers into teaching me by upsetting them deliberately. I wondered how many other people on the course actually left with the learning that they needed, and I surmised very few.

My company paid handsomely for the privilege of me attending this course. Other executives hadn’t gone because I was the only one that needed the remedial work. And this decision was gleaned from a 360° feedback exercise we’d all done. When I received my own marks – I probably averaged 5 out of 10 – I was devastated! Two colleagues, who I had perceived to be complete psychopaths, had both scored 10 out of 10 and were congratulating themselves on their brilliance. I was completely confused. After thinking about it for a short while I realised that there was probably one senior manager in the company who had been asked by all three of us for feedback and so I called this person to find out what had been going on.

The answer I got was not the answer I expected! In response to my question about how come these two got 10 out of 10, she said “you don’t think we’d tell them the truth do you? We’re not that stupid”. And I asked “so how come you guys marked me down so badly?” and she said, “well, it’s not badly, it’s just that we know you want to improve so we’ve identified the areas where we thought you would want to improve. That’s all”. That was quite an emotional conversation for me!

From my own experience, I can see why a lot of senior people believe that Leadership Training doesn’t work!

Too many businesses and too many providers of training tend to price and cost by the day. No one seems brave enough to price by value, by the outcome that they want to achieve. We’re locked in a silly game, called the day rate game, by clients trying to evaluate is the person worth a certain price per day and the provider trying to work out how many days to screw out of the client whilst delivering with people that are cheaper than they used in the sales pitch. This prevails as much in the training game as it does in the consulting game, and it gives clients the impression that training is expensive.

To summarise, training can work for skills, but it rarely works for behavioural change and that’s because training is delivered consciously. All change happens at the unconscious level. The training model is based on selling days rather than selling outcomes. And because training is delivered as a one-off without follow-up, much of the paltry gain is lost anyway.

What clients want, very simply put, is Leadership training that works. They want training that meets their needs, and they want the effect of the training to last so they’re not just wasting their time and money on something temporary which reverts back to the old normal within a few months. I even have a name for this phenomenon. It’s called the fireworks effect. This is where you’re absolutely wowed by the trainer or the speaker. You think the experience with them is amazing! And then when people wake up the next morning it’s back to life as usual. Most people can’t even remember the wow of the day before. What a waste of money and time.

Here at Breakthrough Leadership, we deliver a transformational Leadership Training and Development experience that acts on the unconscious minds of the participants, thereby creating change that lasts.

For more information on how I can help you with leadership training, get in touch with me.

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