In our last post, we talked about the lack of training for new managers. We should have said lack of effective training. Roughly half of all managers have had no training on how to manage employees. For the other half, you have to ask “Was the training effective? Did it prepare the manager to be a more effective leader for his or her employees and for his or her organization? I am betting that the answer is usually ‘No’. Do you feel like you are getting good results from the trainings you have gone to?
What does leadership training look like to you?
When you ask managers what great leadership training looks like to them, they will list off the seminars they have attended or heard about. It might be an afternoon lecture or, if the attendees are lucky, it might be a 2-day seminar in a great location like Las Vegas or, better yet, San Diego. (I live in San Diego so I know how great it is.) They will talk about how a well-known author or company is conducting the training. They may even talk about how highly the participants rated the event. They liked the content and had fun. Woohoo!
And then what happened?
Show me the numbers.
I have to ask “What about the long-term impact?” Did the leader retain information from the training sessions and lectures? Did the training change the leader’s behavior so that the leader is more effective?” The answer is ‘Probably not’.
When the training is presented in a lecture or presentation format, studies have concluded that there is very little retention and even less behavior change. The following is a summary of information retention from the National Training Labs:
Intuitively, the increase in retention with exploration and use makes sense. If you apply or teach what you learn, you are more apt to retain the information over time. Actual retention will also depend on individual factors and differences. Someone who is actively seeking to learn new approaches, even through a lecture or reading, is more likely to retain information versus someone who is participating because they ‘have to’. Think about situations. When do you retain more information? I know I am much more likely to retain information when I have to directly apply it or teach someone else.
How to select an employee leadership training program
You want training in leadership and management. How do you go about selecting the right one? The following is what I would look for in leadership training:
- Homework. You should have to do some preparation in the form of completing a survey or pre-reading. Spaced repetition helps with retention, as does having a framework for the learning.
- Multiple Learning Styles. Material should be presented in multiple forms including verbal, i.e. lecture and written form, i.e. handouts. Ideally, you would also have visual/video components that combine both.
- Demonstration & Practice. The program should include time for demonstrations of the concepts. Better yet, you should have the opportunity to practice it during the training. There should be the additional opportunity to debrief your practice in a small group so that you have the opportunity to directly participate.
- Follow-Up. Leadership training is not a one time thing, there should be required follow-up after the learning event. Even required application on the job of the principles taught in the program. This could just be teaching key takeaways to others in your organization.
- Coaching or small group meetings. Ideally, there would be post-training coaching or even small group meetings to reinforce the information and also support using the concepts on the job.
It’s not just about the training program: You need accountability!
All of the above recommendations have been about the training program that you are considering. A bigger factor is the leader you are sending to the training. Are they ready, willing and able to adopt the concepts in the training to their jobs? Usually that involves changing one’s behavior in some way. That includes trying new or different approaches in engaging employees, providing effective feedback, holding employees accountable and other key skills needed for effective leadership. If they aren’t willing to put in the effort to change their behavior, they shouldn’t participate in the training. I would also say they probably shouldn’t be a manager!
Are you set up for success with your leadership training programs?
To get the best results from your investment in leadership training, it is critical that you have both of these elements in place: a training program that includes multiple elements to ensure retention and usage on the job, AND accountability from your participants.
We are proud to say that we will be offering a management training program starting October 1st that will address these needs and more. Stay tuned for more information!
Join us for next week’s post where we will discuss why leadership training should be based on leveraging strengths.
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