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Most organizations realize the importance of leadership development. However, their intention to develop powerful leaders often ends up being a damp squib or an also ran exercise. Clearly, the business leaders have not paid closer attention to the factors which contribute to the success of leadership training programs.
Through my own experience as a recipient of such trainings and also, while running such leadership development workshops for our clients, I have identified five key factors which every organization must keep in mind while developing and designing leadership training programs in their organization.

1. No linkage to business goals or missing context:
Running a leadership intervention for the sake of itself is a sure shot guarantee to failure. It is an imperative to spell out in clear quantifiable objectives as to how this leadership development program will contribute to the organizational goals and help leaders develop key skills to make these goals happen. In the absence of such clear linkages, the buy in of the participants remains weak. Strategic goals must always drive the learning agenda in a leadership development initiative.

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2. Inadequate probing into root causes:
Often, behaviours demonstrated by leaders are related to other factors in the organizations such as prevailing culture or DNA, business environment or the industry characteristics, workforce composition etc. Putting them through a training program and expecting them to demonstrate behaviours which don’t fit into the overall environment is akin to planting a coconut tree in a desert. In an organization which was very customer centric, teaching behaviours on efficiency were not aligned to the DNA and eventually didn’t create any further impact.

3. Poor involvement from the participant’s Manager:
The participant’s supervisor plays an important role in reinforcing the learning in the participant. I have seen many managers being dismissive of the new learning experience the participant has gone through or being reluctant to incorporate new ways of working to reap the benefits. HR or L&D department cannot alone make it successful, the role of line managers in this is vital.

4. No clarity on needles to be moved:
Expecting leaders to demonstrate key leadership behaviours or traits also requires the organization to define how these would be measured or evaluated. For example, when I asked the senior in an organization on how would they currently measure behaviour like taking ownership, there were only vague descriptors. Efforts to quantify or make it measurable are often missing leading to vague inputs for making the shift happen.

5. Short term inputs or commitment:
Let’s be clear. Leaders are not made overnight. Organizations often expect miracles through a 2-day workshop. Essentially this becomes a tick box item. While participants do walk back picking up a few insights, making these learnings become their very nature requires serious nurturing. It requires repeated inputs through multiple touch points. A spirit of community learning is also essential for people to learn with each other. Slipping back into one’s work zone and not re-connecting to deepen the learnings is one mistake I see in most organizations. This short-term approach does not allow for maximising the ROI from the inputs. Since the organization has already committed several man days, other means to engage the participants with a long term commitment should be explored.

Oh! Other than these five, there are few others including not selecting the right facilitator that can also contribute to poor outcomes. In my next article, I will outline how to select the right facilitator for your leadership intervention.