Is Leadership and Management Training Really Effective?

I guess most of us have been there… your boss offers you an opportunity to attend a training workshop for a couple of days, maybe somewhere nice like the Lake District. Great hotel, great food including homemade biscuits at break time.

Comments I’m sure you have heard…

  • It’s got to be useful, hasn’t it?
  • Has it made a difference?
  • Great topic, great facilitator, not sure I can use it?
  • Learnt loads but not sure it will fit at work?

One of the common pitfalls is that training is delivered to transfer knowledge which often isn’t retained and misses the crucial understanding that emotional learning does ‘stick’ and emotional learning is only created by doing things, often in real time in real situations.

When emotional learning occurs that learning is often retained forever. Think about the times you fell off your bike whilst learning to cycle. I’m sure you have lots of other examples too.

Emotional Learning…

The picture opposite is an illustration of the three fundamental senses used to learn.

  1. Seeing things. i.e. PowerPoint slides
  2. Seeing those slides and hearing the information from a facilitator
  3. Actually ‘feeling it’ illustrated by the person on the tightrope. Doing it and feeling the sensation whilst learning is retained far greater than a PowerPoint show!

Knowing Is Not Learning...

There are exceptions of course, but in most cases when we are assessing an organisation prior to embarking upon a transformation change programme there is little evidence of a significant shift in performance due to the delivery of leadership training, especially ‘stand alone’ workshops.

There are benefits over and above the workshop material. Networking and the forming of new teams.

The reality is……

  • People forget stuff. Statistically its proven that people will forget content. Workshops with PowerPoint slides and discussion will only retain about 30% of things after a week.
  • Sending somebody a PowerPoint pack in the hope that they will learn from it is fruitless but we still think it makes a difference. At best they know a little more!
  • People learn in different ways, so people who learn from doing practical things won’t even remember 30% other PowerPoint show. These people are pragmatists and activists.
  • People’s thinking in workshops can get in the way of learning. Often people don’t commit to “throwing themselves into it” for fear of looking wrong, bad or incompetent. Their Egos.
  • Expectations of participant’s follow up when back at work is missing or confusing.
  • The topics are so generic that, although interesting, aren’t relevant to their role
  • Training workshops have been organised to use the budget up, otherwise it will be reallocated

Development in leadership and management should be in an integrated process that includes workshops coaching the delivery of well-defined projects and integrating the workshop material into the workplace.

the projects become the vehicle to put new learning into practise

Also, some guidelines for workshops themselves should be that the day is split into equal thirds

  1. Material and Content
  2. Discussions both as a group and in small teams
  3. Real life exercises to create emotional learning with actual real-life practice.

Capability = KSA…

All the above must focus on the three key elements of Capability and not merely knowledge. Those three elements are;

  • Knowledge, that’s the tools and techniques
  • Skills, the ability to put the knowledge into practice effectively
  • Attitude, the willingness and mindset to put the skills into practice properly safely and effectively with due consideration to others and the business.

A Joined-Up Corporate System…

When you explore the root cause to these problems the most probable reason is training in Leadership and Management isn’t joined up with other components within the “employee system”. And to be honest it’s hard sometimes to call it a system! Some examples we have seen in organisations look like separate silos of activity with very little sense of purpose and aiming in a common direction.  

The diagram below illustrates the way “people development components” can be joined together within an HR system.

The system above starts with recruitment and continues a loop to join up all components for continuously developing employees.

In this illustration, at the centre of the process is a set of management competences and these competences are measured and tracked throughout the career of an individual, as part of the appraisal process. At the start of the process i.e. recruitment, the individual is assessed on the same competencies as training and development is delivered, at different levels throughout their career. Also, the same competences that are used and assessed for possible promotion. Simple but rare!

Examples of competencies are:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Working effectively with others
  • Problem solving
  • Initiative and follow through
  • Priority setting
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Technical mastery (understanding the processes required to make the product or provide the services of the organisation)

Once these competences have been agreed by the organisation, they are then inputting into all the components.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Regular line manager 1:1s, where at least half of that meeting is about the person’s development linked to the results they are achieving (or not!). Its mustn’t be a numbers review. Results are an output of using effective leadership and Management competencies.
  3. The competencies are an input into the appraisal process with quarterly, half yearly and annual appraisals, none of which the content should be a surprise to anyone. That process then should enable gaps in the employee’s performance leading to the offer of training……
  4. So, the above leads to a training and development process where, at three levels, there are training workshops and different activities to cover the 8 WCFs
  5. The three levels should be:
    • First line management and supervisory levels (potential managers of the future too)
    • Middle management
    • Senior management
  6. As people are developed, their succession planning should be a formal process where the top people within their “pay band” should go to a “senior management promotion panel” where appropriate promotion is agreed; with the right person, with the right data about their ability within those eight competences is to then match the position that is available. Simply, yes but still many examples where it’s not done

Also, as employees are developed and become more competent in certain factors, they then can become trainers for the organisation. This reinforces the learning with them and their ability to transfer that learning to others. All managers, especially starting out on their careers, should have a spell at delivering corporate training.

Participants learn so much more through “Emotional Learning” They learn about managing people for the rest of their career… they don’t forget it!

If you would like to know more about how NewLeaf International helps organisations with Business Improvement through Integrated Organisational Development programmes, please make contact for an informal chat.

Martin Gummery, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209


Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd