Why leadership training doesn’t work (and what actually works)

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Whether you own a business or spend most of your time working nine to five, leadership skills have never been more important for one simple reason – so many more of us are alone. Last year, the percentage of Americans working from home nearly doubled from 22% to 42%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Anyone who works independently should be a problem solver, a critical thinker, a self-manager, a decision maker and, ultimately, a leader. The problem is, while 83% of encouraging organizations think it is important to develop leaders at all levels, only 5% have taken steps to do so in their business. Another concern: While it’s tempting to think of leadership training as the answer, some experts say it’s not as effective as leadership development.

“Leadership training is a series of one-off training events that aren’t effective because they’re theoretical,” says Nanette Miner, an organizational development expert with three decades of experience who has worked with small entrepreneurial businesses. as well as Fortune 100 companies. “Leadership development, on the other hand, builds skills over time and when they are needed. This is what works.

Take Miner’s advice and avoid the top three leadership training mistakes most companies make. Whether you’re hiring an entrepreneur, virtual assistant, or vice president of sales, changing your perspective on leadership development will help you improve recruiting, increase retention, and increase productivity.

1. Don’t wait too long to learn

Most people are promoted or transitioned to entrepreneurship based on their technical skills: writing, statistical analysis or project management, for example. But Miner says great leaders spend the majority of their time using soft skills like listening, providing constructive feedback, coaching, demonstrating emotional intelligence, and more.

“Waiting to be pushed into a leadership role to develop soft skills often means you’ll have to unlearn years of bad behavior, like picking on someone when they miss a deadline or being unfriendly to troublesome health. but a very valid customer concern, “says Miner.” The hardest thing to accomplish through training is to change someone’s behavior, so the longer you wait, the harder it will be to develop a capable leader. “

“When clients hire me to help them develop a leadership development strategy, the first thing I recommend is to start early,” says Miner. There are lots of helpful little things you can do to start building soft skills over time. Miner suggests taking an assessment to understand communication preferences or volunteering with a professional association to become more comfortable with public speaking or learn project management skills.

“A rising tide really lifts all boats,” says Miner. “There is no harm in everyone in your organization being a better communicator or better self-management. When you master the soft skills on your own, your colleagues and employees will have more confidence in you, respect for you and the motivation to do a great job because they will be supported by you as an exceptional leader.

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2. Don’t let development take place in a vacuum

“Most leadership development takes place as part of a four-hour feedback course or a three-day coaching skills workshop,” says Miner. “The problem with this approach to development is that it’s an artificial environment. As someone who has designed workplace training for decades, I can assure you that no matter what exercise, case study, or assignment is given, it will end favorably for the learner as it is designed to do so. Bottom Line: When you train people through courses and events, whether you teach them soft skills, operational topics, or even self-management techniques, it’s not real enough to hold the training.

Instead, Miner suggests developing leadership skills in situ. If you need to give corrective feedback to your virtual assistant or have a difficult conversation with a project manager you’ve worked with for over a year, now is a great time to learn the process for giving feedback. fixes and define non-negotiable items for change. in their behavior. To prepare for the conversation, ask a senior executive for advice, consult a coach, or watch a training video on YouTube or LinkedIn Learning. Without the real world app, you could have learned the process in a training course eight months ago, but you can’t remember how to do it when you need to.

3. Do not choose and do not choose the leaders

Many organizations decide who will be the future leader of the company based on job performance or personality traits. “I always joke that it’s like planting my garden in the spring, but then identifying just three tomato plants that I want to keep until the fall,” Miner explains. “Why wouldn’t I want to feed all the plants?” Why wouldn’t you want to get the most out of every employee’s productivity? Choosing and choosing who will be favored in leadership development hinders the potential of the organization as a whole.

A better approach is to ensure the development of leadership skills for all individuals. “Not only will people flock to you and your business when they know you value their professional development, you will reap the rewards of increased capacity and productivity throughout the organization,” says Miner.

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