Failed Leadership Training: Five Reasons You’re Not Seeing Results

failed leadership training: 5 reasons you're not seeing results

Most businesses recognize that they need some sort of leadership development training. But it’s not just about absorbing as much knowledge and leadership content as possible. The real challenge lies in implementation – changing team dynamics, systems, and company culture. In fact, there may be several contributing factors to blame for a failed leadership training. We’ll discuss those in more detail below.

Companies must learn how to present leadership training in a way that feels accessible to employees. A 2018 study of more than 500 professionals showed that presentation of a training significantly impacted the interest it garnered.

At A Better Leader, we’re committed to creating leadership training programs that provide inspirational and actionable development for your leaders, any time, anywhere. We’ve done the research to understand what creates a successful development program, and therefore, the factors that are to blame for failed leadership training. Here’s what you should avoid when it comes to implementing a training in your workplace. If you’re shelling out good money on leadership programs each year, be sure to steer clear of these common pitfalls.

1. Focusing on the Wrong Things 

One of the easiest ways to waste money on leadership development training is to misdirect your focus. Emphasizing things that don’t interest your employees and things that won’t impact your bottom line. Companies don’t always focus in the wrong areas out of sheer ignorance, but instead avoidance. You may see weak spots, productivity blocks, and even glaring errors in how your team operates. Understandably, change can be confusing and intimidating. This can manifest in misplaced effort. For example, buying types of training programs that neither you nor your team are excited about, or investing in skills and knowledge your team already has, hoping that doubling down in one area will magically fix other areas of dysfunction. Consider how a lack of awareness and discomfort addressing issues is keeping your team from focusing where it counts.

What is your workplace struggling with? What areas do you truly see a need for improvement? Addressing these head-on and being willing to change and grow with your team will actively prevent another failed leadership training.

5 benefits of online leadership training from a better leader

2. Not Understanding Organizational Change 

Researchers asked, ‘What is most important when leading your company or team through a major change?’ 65% answered ‘communicating clearly and frequently’ – far outdistancing ‘managing expectations’ at 16% and ‘outlining goals’ at 9%.”.

The higher up the ladder a leader is, the more distanced they are from how their teams operate. Not only are managers up against complex problems, but the added task of getting all team members on board and following through with changes. This makes resentment crop up between managers and employees — when changes are implemented without everyone being on the same page.

You can spend all the money in the world on leadership development. Still, if the follow-through and company-wide communication aren’t there (e.g., silos are present, teams don’t understand changes that are being implemented, etc.), everything a team learns will float out the window. Knowledge alone isn’t power. But teams who learn new skills, receive support, and get feedback from management are far more likely to succeed.

3. No Reliable Way to Measure ROI 

You may invest a sizable chunk of your budget in leadership development training. If the results can’t be tracked reliably and honestly, who knows whether there is any real ROI? This is quite a nuanced problem. Companies must find some way to begin collecting and analyzing data around their training programs. As Forbes leadership expert Brent Gleeson offers, “360-degree feedback, leadership competency assessments, employee engagement audits, emotional intelligence assessments, culture diagnostic analysis tools” are just a few examples that can provide insight.

Not all of these tools will be effective for every business, but it’s important to start somewhere. Your team can also set a clear goal for leadership development training (e.g., improving innovation) and decide exactly how to measure it (e.g., observing new product development, team members bringing up ideas at meetings, etc.).

4. No Strategy Put in Place 

It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that once new information is in your mind, you don’t need to plan, collaborate, or hold yourself accountable. For exciting new programs that get lots of engagement, the danger of being too optimistic is even greater. Teams and leaders can get swept up in the positivity of a training event and assume that they’re well on their way to hitting big goals. But as time passes, coworkers get busy with other tasks, nothing gets delegated, and the value of the training has vanished. 

5. Letting Information Overload Take Over 

According to Esri UK research, “When novelty is available in effectively unlimited quantity, the brain becomes overworked as it tries to process this information while driving itself on to search for more. This leads to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to confusion, memory loss, and a state of restlessness.” Teams may have good intentions, but information overload notoriously puts people in analysis paralysis. There can be so much to implement – how do you know where to begin?

Estimates show that the United States spends around $160 billion in leadership development training. Still, companies are not seeing long-term results – even when in-person trainings are reported as inspiring and effective at the time.

About 74 percent of organizations utilize instructor-led training events, and it can certainly be effective when implemented properly. Unfortunately, this isn’t feasible for every workplace. What if there was a better model for leadership development? In an organization that needs flexibility, or has a remote staff that can’t attend in-person events, ongoing digital training can be much more effective. It’s available on-the-go, and employees can access it whenever they need. Online learning keeps teams accountable, on track, and consuming bite-sized information they can act upon.

Address The Issues Head-On

Ultimately, knowing the potential issues that can lead to a failed leadership training is half the battle. Focus on the areas your organization needs to pay more attention to, and have a strategy ahead of time to implement a training that will address exactly what your workplace needs. If you’re looking for a new kind of leadership training that provides a real ROI and true employee engagement, A Better Leader would love to have the opportunity to help.

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    Walter Orechwa

    Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.