The quality of leadership development programs varies widely.

training programs

Training programs can be costly, so choose wisely and do what you can to ensure training is put to use.

Everyone seems to be on board with the concept of “leadership development,” and that means there are a lot of programs from which to choose.

And it can be a challenge to wade through the choices and select the program that is the best fit for your organization. Moreover, there’s usually no guarantee that the techniques and best practices learned in leadership development programs will actually be put into practice by training participants.

Your best approach is to either choose programs that include leadership coaching as well as training or else provide coaching for program attendees from others within your organization. Coaching is perhaps the most effective way to turn learned skills into applied skills. Here are some other things to consider when planning leadership development programs.

Battling Prevailing Culture Requires Persistence

A McKinsey study of why leadership development programs fail found that company culture played a pivotal role. Companies that implement such programs tend to do so because they want measurable change. Yet they may not bother to address the root causes of why change is necessary, which is often the underlying culture.

However effective the data, skills, and techniques people learn during leadership development, they can’t gain traction if the underlying corporate culture is constantly pulling them in a different direction. Honestly assessing culture and making changes there beforehand can help create a healthy, beneficial environment in which proven leadership practices can take hold and make a difference.

Tools and Techniques That Make Learning “Stick”

Most executive and HR leaders believe in the value of leadership training, yet few believe they have the “strong bench” of capable leadership necessary to fulfill critical leadership roles.

future success

Future success depends on having a strong bench of leadership-ready professionals.

How can companies in conjunction with leadership development programs ensure that such programs get real results? Here are some proven techniques:

  • Encourage daily learning, training, and practice, and go as far as blocking out time for it in the schedules of developing leaders
  • Encourage leaders to hold weekly one-to-one face time with their subordinates to discuss KPIs, long term goals, and to discuss progress toward goals
  • Mandate practice. Leadership development is ongoing, not an achievement that is proven by a course completion certificate. It can take countless small events over the long term to develop an aspiring leader into an effective, practicing leader.

Top leadership simply can’t expect transformative results from a half-day workshop, or even a weeklong leadership development course if they don’t buy into the process and regularly encourage attendees to further hone and practice what they learn.

Apply Training, Measure Results

Before choosing a leadership training program, you have to define what you want to be different afterward. And you have to come up with ways to measure that change. It may be a cliché that “what gets measured gets done,” but it’s a cliché for a reason. And if you don’t have measurement tools and if you don’t use them, you can’t know the business impact of your leadership development programs.

Evaluate not only behavior changes in leadership development participants, but also company-wide metrics like employee turnover, efficiency, and productivity. Measure the time your leaders spend learning, the time spent by those higher up in executive coaching, and what the outcomes are in terms of innovation, team effectiveness, and morale. If you don’t know whether your leadership programs work, then what’s the point of having them?

Whether or not your company has the resources to invest in leadership coaching for its top leadership, it can put coaching principles into practice. When your emerging leaders undergo leadership training, don’t just assume they learned great stuff and will apply it at the first opportunity. Find out what they learned. Find out how they want to apply their new skills and help them hold themselves accountable. And make sure the underlying culture isn’t working against their interests.


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