wasting training and development budget

During a break in a recent leadership development workshop, I talked with the HR Director (let’s call him Rich) about all the work they were putting into revamping the organization’s promotion and performance management system. Rich said they were basing their promotion process on their performance appraisal and rating system. Their big problem is getting managers to complete performance appraisals. They planned to push harder and provide some training. This despite growing evidence that performance appraisals are being abandoned by most companies because they don’t work.

Rich’s company was doing nothing about changing their culture. They were doing the same thing but expecting different results. In a classic case of do-what-I-say and not what I do, Rich said he’s been there three years and never had a performance review. And Rich was failing his executive team by not providing strategic HR leadership.

I had this conversation just after returning from Zenger Folkman’s international partner conference in Utah last month. Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman spoke about the updated research detailed in their new book, The New Extraordinary Leader. Having just finished the book, Zenger Folkman’s new section on key organizational factors in building leadership capacity came to mind in talking with Rich. One of those chapters, “Embed Leadership Development in the Culture,” rang especially true to our conversation. We can dip leaders in a development event, but if what’s expected and rewarded back on their job hasn’t changed, neither will participant behavior. Doing the same thing but expecting different results…

Most leadership development efforts should be accompanied by a giant flushing sound. They suck time and money down the drain. Jack and Joe cite a McKinsey study showing the depth of the problem; “when upward of 500 executives were asked to rank their top three human-capital priorities, leadership development was included as both a current and a future priority. Almost two-thirds of the respondents identified leadership development as their number-one concern. Only 7 percent of senior managers polled by a UK business school think that their companies develop global leaders effectively, and around 30 percent of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit their international business opportunities fully because they lack enough leaders with the right capabilities.”

High-performing organizations get dramatically better returns from their development investment. The New Extraordinary Leader reinforces key steps proven to maximize return on development. These include: tailoring development to the organization, hitting critical mass by developing the majority of leaders at all levels, ensuring active executive role modeling and support, using learning methods based on evidence for behavior change, developing organizational culture and leadership skills in lock-step, and building a robust process to follow through and sustain development efforts.

Tomorrow we publish my November blogs in the December issue of The Leader Letter. This issue features background on, and a review of, The New Extraordinary Leader. This new work includes three new leadership competencies and fresh insights emerging from Zenger Folkman’s updated research.

You’ll also read about the communication confusion trapping many managers and nine ways to increase communication effectiveness. As Jack and Joe explain from their research, “leadership is about behavior, and the lion’s share of behavior is centered on communication via word and action…an extremely important part of communication involves the leader’s ability to ask questions and intently listen to the answers…it becomes clear that ‘catch’ is more important than ‘pitch.'”

Hope you catch a few key leadership nuggets to keep you growing — and stop flushing development dollars down the drain.