How to Make Leadership Training More Effective?

Succession Planning
Knowledge Center

Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

How to Make Leadership Training More Effective?

Leadership training and education often do not lead to improvement of the organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things. According to studies, a main reason behind this behaviour is that the organizational system (which defines roles, responsibilities, and relationships) does not allow even well-trained and motivated employees to apply their new knowledge and skills when they return to their workplace.

The context in which employee work sets the stage for the success or failure of leadership training. Typically, individuals have less power to change the system surrounding them than that system has to shape them. Therefore, to accomplish a good return on their training investments, companies must transform their system so that it will facilitate and sustain individual behavior change.

Beer, Finnström and Schrader (2016) advocate a seven step approach of tracking systemic issues and then delivering a productive training program:
  1. The executive team clearly SETS DIRECTION ON STRATEGY AND VALUES.
  2. The team gathers anonymous observations and insights from the company’s managers and employees, and then DIAGNOSES BARRIERS TO STRATEGY EXECUTION AND LEARNING.
  3. REDESIGN THE ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEM to overcome those barriers and cultivate change.
  4. DAY-TO-DAY COACHING AND PROCESS CONSULTING help employees become more functional in that new system.
  5. Add TRAINING where needed.
  6. MEASURE SUCCESS in changing behaviour by using new metrics for individual and organizational performance.
  7. ADJUST HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES to reflect and sustain the changes in organizational behaviour.
Also, the executive team should be sensitive to the distinctions between different units in an organization when defining an integrated change agenda, hence it is better to develop the organization unit by unit.

Source: Beer, M., Finnström, M. and Schrader, D. (2016). Why Leadership Training Fails—and What to Do About It. Harvard Business Review, 94(10), pp.51-57.

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

How to Make Management and Leadership Education More Effective

Thanks for contributing this summary, Chloe. This 7 step approach seems a rather big, old school effort, considering the...


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