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Management and Leadership Training Don’t Work

Let’s tackle a common myth head on, shall we?

The myth is: that management and leadership training work. 

For many managers and leaders, leadership training often conjures up images of bad role play activities, easy-peasy 5-step guides to doing everything better, and techniques so generic that you cannot envision yourself actually using them in your real, live work situation. Where’s the return on your investment of time, money, and energy in this picture?

Think about it for a second…

One of the top concerns of executives is underequipped managers and leaders. 

One of the primary reasons our best employees leave is a poor relationship with their manager(s). In fact, Gallup tells us that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to the effectiveness of managers.

Let’s keep going . . . 

What happens when employees become disengaged, eventually? They either leave the organization or stay but essentially quit (in their heads and in their attitudes).

If they leave the organization, the cost is typically 2x their annual salary. If they stay and quit, it can be even greater than that amount, because of the tremendous negative impact on others who they work around, directly with, and on your time and focus. 

So year after year, people keep attending training sessions. It’s a big, profitable industry! And our ‘ill-equipped, underdeveloped management’ epidemic continues!

What’s broken? 

For one thing, adults do not learn best in 8-hour chunks of time, in classrooms.
For another thing, the “stuff” that they’re learning from 99% of the leadership development professionals out there is . . . 

not effective. It’s often the wrong topics – unimportant. Or what IS important is not taught. It’s:
based on outdated, incorrect information about behavior.
based on the way ‘work’ looked 50 years ago.
missing the entire look into the biology (brain and body) of us humans in the workplace.

It’s not only the low-end training providers that are stuck (or resisting?) the need to transform, it’s also the very reputable, high-dollar, high-prestige training providers. There are a handful of high-quality organizations who both understand AND HAVE ACTED to transform their training delivery, but they are few and far between.  Buyer beware! 

It is high time for a management and leadership development overhaul, and I’m not the only one saying this. Others have expressed the same sentiment over the past five years but the tide has not yet turned. 

We have to break habits and be willing to do something different — it will look different, it will feel different, and the results will not be evident in the way we’re using to  measuring them.

But isn’t it worth it?

The current model provides expensive training that doesn’t change behavior or motivate managers. It reinforces beliefs and practices that cause employee disengagement and turnover. When you are feeling comfortable continuing to offer training in the same way–because it may seem efficient to corral 30+ bodies in the same room at the same time with one instructor–just please consider the actual expense. Factor in the turnover, the lost productivity, the low morale, ALLLL of the direct and indirect costs inherent in maintaining this status quo.

What’s the alternative?

Providing fresh content based on new research findings in a manner that managers can learn it. This means it must include learning and applying new practices over time, in a supported structure. It forces training and development staff to provide their services differently, and demands different skills from them in the support of managers.

Consider the expense of sticking with the old model that we KNOW is ineffective and costly.


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