Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Most Leadership Development Programs Don't Work

I'm going to suggest three reasons why most leadership development programs don't work.

  1. Organizations aren't really committed.

  2. Individuals aren't really committed.

  3. Personal coaching isn't a key component.

Organizations Aren't Really Committed: In business, dedicating people and resources to seeing someone grow isn't as easily traced to bottom line dollars earned. This is extremely short-sighted thinking. Build your people and you will build your business. Certainly our executive coaching firm frequently uses Return On Investment tracking that makes a strong case for bottom line results from front line human resource investments.

In addition, investment in people takes work. You don't just subscribe them to a magazine, give them a book allowance and send them off to a conference or two and think you have done the leadership development thing. Most of those in supervisory positions just don't have the time or inclination to work consistently with their leaders. And even if they are keen, they often don't really know how to proceed or to follow up on the individual.

It isn't much different in nonprofit settings. Just because they aren't engaged in profit making enterprise doesn't mean they don't want results. But many nonprofits are so strapped and busy that those who should or could be developing others just don't have the time. Immediate needs take precedence.

Individuals Aren't Really Committed: Individual leaders are often hungry to do better and achieve more. But they haven't got a clue of how to go about it. Busyness dictates that they don't get much time to think about personal and professional development beyond trying to keep up with the bottom line latest information they need to know for the next day.

Leadership development takes time. And months stretch into years. It's easy to let something slide. The tyranny of the urgent dictates attention and action. Unless the individual abruptly interrupts their well established patterns and plans for a different approach, things will pretty much stay the same.

People are far more often thrust into leadership than prepared for it. They learn by the seat of their pants. Now that's not all bad, but it is far from great for them or the company. And sometimes the results can be downright disastrous.

Personal Coaching Isn't a Key Component: Without one-to-one, intentional back and forth that is focused on the individual and what they are attempting to achieve, there is no focused 'system' or approach to fostering real growth. Intentional growth takes conversation. It takes probing and the revealing of potential blind spots. It takes questioning entrenched habits and exploration of as yet unknown possibilities in behavior and performance.

The Coach can take the time to walk alongside the individual with one purpose in mind ... helping them think about, plan for and act upon those things which would move them forward in learning, experience, skills and attitude.

Consistent coaching over an extended period of time may be the key missing link in most leadership development programs. With it, the individual can go further faster. In the same way that iron sharpens iron, the coach can sharpen the leader, assisting them to go farther than they might have otherwise thought possible. When that happens the results will show back in the organization.

Bottom Line. If you are going to be serious about a leadership development program, work with an executive coaching firm such as ours. We have a track record. We know what we are doing. We know how to help an individual grow in ways the benefit them and the company or organization. Your investment will be highly targeted and ROI will be real.

Additionally a seasoned professional coach can help you implement a 'coach approach' to working with your people. You will have a three-way partnership that is focused both on personal and professional growth and company results.

If you run leadership development programs

  • Be committed. Make it part of who you are as an organization.

  • Work with committed individual leaders.

  • Make coaching a long-term key component of your effort

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