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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Sharp

Many leadership development programs don’t accomplish what they set out to do: build better leaders

But there are reasons for that…

Most training programs focus on the results. “Bring in an expert to train our people and make them leaders!” But did you know that, on average, only 10% of what is learned in the classroom is retained after 30 days?  Did you know that most executive leaders barely engage in the leadership development process of their middle managers? How do you change that?  Focus on changing the way YOU think. 

Of the dozens of companies, I have worked with and over 15,000 leadership development participants I have taught, there are two main reasons why these programs are unsuccessful.

Focusing on The Wrong Thing

First, organizations tend to want a quick fix when it comes to turning their managers into leaders. They want results within weeks and that’s just not how it works. It took a long time to get into the jam you find your organization in. It’s going to take some time to get out of it. Most individual learning is not done inside the classroom. It is done in practice when the participant gets back to their desk. It is there that they put the concepts they learned into practice and learn how to customize what they learned to fit their style and personality. If they do not reinforce what they learned, you get the 10% retention I referenced above. Of course, the leadership development program participants also need the support of their managers and/or executive team. They need to know that they can count on their manager to have their back if they experiment with what they learned and initially fail. They need their manager to hold them accountable and follow up immediately after each event.

Executive Buy In

The second and most common reason why leadership development programs are unsuccessful is that the executive team does not fully engage and take an active role in the program. All too often I hear executives ask “why isn’t anything changing in my organization when I am spending good money on a consultant?” The problem is them! There is a direct correlation between the success of a leadership development program and the participation of its executive leadership team. In order for a program to be successful, executives need to LEAD THE WAY. They can begin by kicking off the program and explaining to the participants why they are here and what is expected of each of them during and after the program. The executives can actively engage the participants after each session by asking them what they learned and how they plan to change their behavior. Executives can set the tone for the naysayers that make excuses for why they cannot attend the leadership development program sessions by holding them accountable and leading by example through attending and/or dropping by the sessions often to show their support. If you are an executive and you are not ready to lead by example, you’re wasting your money on a leadership development program for your team. THINK DIFFERENTLY!

At Sharp Leadership Development, we assist leaders in answering tough questions like the ones you read above and challenge individuals to look within themselves for ways to experience positive change for them and their team. If this sounds like something that would benefit you or someone you know, visit us a for details on our individual coaching, workshop offerings and in-tact team events.

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