High Failure Rate of Leadership TrainingAbout 10 years ago we customized a series of leadership training workshops for a large company. Over the next few years nearly 1,000 supervisors and managers went through the two-day workshops. Ratings were high and participants reported numerous positive outcomes and benefits from attending.

However, senior executives didn’t participate and we weren’t able to get the company to build a pre-post series of coaching and support sessions to avoid the all too common “development dipping” problem. Recently I was back in the company working with a few development professionals and senior managers. They’re still struggling with mediocre performance coming from a mediocre culture. The executive team missed a major opportunity for a cultural “leader shift” by taking their “fix them, but we’re OK” approach. They failed to leverage the power of B = P x C (Behavior = Personal Development x Culture).

In this month’s Harvard Business Review article, “Why Leadership Training Fails,” Harvard professor, Michael Beer, and co-authors report that only one quarter of 1,500 senior managers interviewed at 50 companies felt that learning and development was critical to achieving business outcomes.

Beer and his colleagues point out that individual behavior isn’t likely to change if the system doesn’t change. They identified six common barriers to change:

  1. Unclear direction on strategy and values, which often leads to conflicting priorities.
  2. Senior executives who don’t work as a team and haven’t committed to a new direction or acknowledged necessary changes in their own behavior.
  3. A top-down or laissez-faire style by the leader, which prevents honest conversation about problems.
  4. A lack of coordination across businesses, functions, or regions due to poor organizational design
  5. Inadequate leadership time and attention given to talent issues.
  6. Employees’ fears of telling the senior team about obstacles to the organization’s effectiveness.

As I outlined in my webinar, Executive Team Building and Culture Development, organizational culture ripples out from the management team leading it. That’s why we’ve found that a Leadership Team Retreat is often a vital first step.

I’ll be showing how these components can come together later this month in my webinar on Essential Elements of Leadership, Coaching, and Culture Development.