A new McKinsey & Company study reports that the training industry “estimated to be more than $50 billion are delivering disappointing results. According to a recent Fortune survey, only 7 percent of CEOs believe their companies are building effective global leaders, and just 10 percent said their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact. Our latest research has a similar message: only 11 percent of more than 500 executives we polled around the globe strongly agreed with the statement that their leadership development interventions achieve and sustain the desired results.”
This is a huge waste of time and money. If capital, technology, or marketing investments were only effective 10% of the time they’d be changed very quickly — or the leaders would be changed.
In this study, McKinsey put together systematic data on what drives effective leadership development programs. They found “four sets of interventions appear to matter most: contextualizing the program based on the organization’s position and strategy, ensuring sufficient reach across the organization, designing the program for the transfer of learning, and using system reinforcement to lock in change.”
There’s a blizzard of theories, opinions, arcane thesis papers, inspirational quotations, training programs, books, frameworks, and approaches to leadership and organization development. Search for “leadership” in books at Amazon and you’ll find nearly 200,000 available for your reading pleasure. Google “leadership development” and you’ll be served up over 21 million sites to browse through. What’s sorely lacking is an integrated model that combines both “hard” management practices, “soft” leadership behaviors, sustained and supported by culture development, that’s built on a base of solid research.
This simple formula is key to lasting and effective leadership and organization development; B = P x C. That is, Behavior is a factor of Personal development multiplied by the organization’s Culture. This generates an interdependent cycle that creates a flywheel effect. Like two wings of an airplane, both are needed for sustained and soaring performance.
Keys to Successful Leadership Development
Looking back over decades of leadership development efforts, we see that when they’ve had a substantial and lasting impact on shifting behavior and results, senior leaders and development professionals cover most of these bases:
- Move beyond bolt-on development programs to built-in culture change – too many efforts are partial and piecemeal efforts unconnected to the organization’s strategy and key objectives.
- “Double Development Impact with Manager Support” – Managers can double the effectiveness of development activities by investing some time in pre and post coaching sessions.
- Avoid Common Barriers a Harvard Professor Found Causes Leadership Training to Fail – unclear strategy and values, executives not working as a team, lack of honest conversations about problems, lack of organization-wide coordination, inadequate time to talent issues, and employee fear about telling senior management of obstacles.
- Leader’s Coachability – It’s been said that no one should ever try to teach a pig to whistle. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. Are development dollars being wasted on uncoachable leaders?
- Cascade and Model Leadership Development from the Top Down – Too often senior leaders are “too busy” to participate in leadership development exercises. Giving lots of lip service to the importance of leadership and organization development they approve budgets to develop (or “fix”) other leaders.
Thoreau wrote, “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue… but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look…” Successful leadership development efforts paint the culture while the culture shapes the leader.