Forbes’ Top Reasons Your Leadership Development Program is Failing

🕑 4 minutes read | Nov 28 2020 | By Becky Gendron

Investing in Leadership training can have significant results and have a direct impact on your entire team. In fact, some companies have reported 114% higher sales, 70% lower turnover, and 71% higher customer satisfaction.[i] Having an effective leadership training program is key for both individual and organizational success. The right leadership training can expediently scale your current and future leaders to become key contributors in your organization. Often, leadership training programs fail due to lack of engagement, no follow-up training, the wrong leadership training approach, or even beginning leadership training too late. Understanding your team’s potential training pitfalls can help you develop a more effective and engaging leadership program within your organization.

Why Leadership Development Programs Fail

This year, Forbes shared many top reasons many organizations have leadership development programs that fail:[ii]

  • People Don’t Want to Be There: One of the greatest challenges with a leadership program is having a team that doesn’t want to be there. It can be helpful to assess what works best for them. Often, people do not take training because they are too busy. To remedy this, work on a schedule that works for your team and be flexible. Depending on the size of your team you can give different options for the leadership training program.
  • Get Buy-In: Another common theme for employees not taking training is they don’t see the value in putting the time into training. It is important to get buy-in and feedback on what they feel are key areas they would like to improve. Some companies make leadership training a required step to become a manager so there are no surprises about what is expected of them.
  • Training Too Late: On average, managers do not receive their first leadership training until the age of 42. If managers do not receive any formal leadership development training until their 40s, that leaves many years of their professional lives to develop poor management habits, which can be hard habits to break. Developing your leaders as early as possible is crucial to the success of your leadership training program.
  • Outdated Training Approaches: One of the largest reasons that leadership development programs fail is due to outdated training methods. It’s important to update your training program with new strategies to keep learners engaged. Know your audience and have the ability to tweak your approach based on what will be best received by the learners. Some new strategies include breaking up sessions into smaller micro sessions or offering more collaborative teamwork exercises. It can also be beneficial to incorporate more game-like activities as well.
  • Too Much Training, Not Enough Coaching: Often, leadership training programs are offered as a ‘one and done approach. In other words, you attend a 2-day training and that is the last you hear of it. Leadership development is all about creating good leadership habits. As we know habits cannot be changed just by attending a 2-day class. A great leadership development program incorporates continuous coaching to help observe and reinforce good habits. Some things that can be helpful are knowledge checks, role-playing, and skill-based reinforcement training. Nothing can replace on-the-job training and giving real-time feedback.
  • Training Doesn’t Align with Real Scenarios: Forbes notes one reason many leadership development programs fail is due to the fact that the training doesn’t align with how managers will actually be evaluated as leaders. When developing your leadership program, design it in a way that it seamlessly integrates into everyday management life. To help translate the training into everyday management, be sure to incorporate real-life scenarios and challenges managers face each day. This can help develop their leadership skills in a way that is easily transferrable to their day-to-day role.
  • No Reinforcement: Perhaps one of the biggest reasons the leadership program will fail Is because there is no reinforcement built into the training. It is all too common that training programs are handled a ‘check the box after completion. The last thing you want is to invest in a program that doesn’t stick. You need to build in continuous learning. It is important to have methods in place to ensure feedback can be shared in a timely and open manner. Keeping the leader engaged in a continuous learning program can help them to be more accountable after the leadership training ends. A great tool to keep learners accountable is utilizing scorecards to track progress after the close of the training.

To learn more insights on how to unlock your leadership team’s full potential, listen to our podcast episode, “Leadership: Leading with Structure and Substance” to discover how leaders can use structure and substance to be more effective.

[i] 7 Statistics to Know About Leadership Development in 2019

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