Is Your Leadership Training Working? Here’s How to Look at It

What many organizations fail to come to grips with is the fact that “leadership” is more than just the here-and-now team that currently occupies the executive suite.

Studies by Deloitte, in fact, speak to the problem. While 86 percent of business leaders understand an effective leadership pipeline is critical to their organizations’ future, 87 percent lack confidence in their succession plans. In fact, more than half say a shortage of future leaders has hurt their business. When businesses spend over $15 billion on leadership training, something is clearly out of kilter.

A leader has more than a fancy title and a corner office. A leader is someone who can inspire and motivate others and make them eager to follow, who actively seeks advice and perspective in order to make the hard decisions, is authentic and trustworthy, thoughtful and empathetic and communicates well. A “leader” can just as easily be found on the factory floor as that corner office.

The challenge is to recognize those who have the potential and help them develop it. And then make sure that the training is working.

The problem lies in several areas.

One problem comes in the form of training initiatives styled in the one-size-fits-all manner. Further, required competencies are typically neither specific, nor necessarily aligned with what the business needs. Do you really need innovators – whatever those are – when your organization is so siloed that its future lies instead with skilled bridge builders who can bring people together?

Your culture and long-term strategy are among the most important indicators of the types of skills, capabilities and mindsets that need to be fostered in your leaders. As a result, leadership training should be grounded in the specific competencies your particular organization needs to ensure it moves forward. That way a culture of leadership can embed in your organization and ;any the foundation for success.

From there, another issue needs to be tackled: that of ensuring your program is mindful of the time-honored axiom: What isn’t measured isn’t managed. And so it goes with your leadership training. How effective is yours?

Ideally, you should use two approaches to evaluate your progress: one qualitative, the other quantitative. These approaches should tie back to your results-oriented, leadership training goals, and they should be evaluated against solid benchmarks.

Qualitative, of course, has to do with non-numeric outcomes, or impressions and feelings. To that end, feedback is key. How do your developing leaders feel they are doing? Can they identify areas where they’re falling short or exceeding expectations? And how do others who work with them feel? Are they seen as authentic leaders? This is how – through quizzes and surveys – you monitor behaviorial change so you know what skills are taking and where reinforcement might be needed.

Quantitative measures are more-by-the-numbers, hard-and-fast indicators that your program is working…or not. These can include tracking retention rates or engagement levels. Specific achievements can be monitored, as well.

Talent is a terrible thing to waste. The way to keep that from happening is to apply more rigor to your leadership training program and how you measure its outcomes. Remember that an investment in leadership training is not simply taking a product out of the box, but rather thinking about who you are as an organization and what you need. Only then can you thoughtfully program and deliver the kind of training that will impact your culture and your success for years to come.