Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Problem With Leadership Development

By Gordon Curphy, Robert Hogan, and Robert B. Kaiser

If leadership programs do not produce the bench strength, performance and behaviors desired, one or more of six problems could be the culprit.

During the past two decades, learning executives have persuaded U.S. corporations to double their
annual spending on various forms of leadership development to $14 billion. Yet over that same period, public confidence in leadership has dropped considerably. According to a 2012 poll by The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University, 70 percent of Americans believe there is a leadership crisis that will lead to a national decline unless we find better leaders.

Many leaders, including some in the learning profession, recognize the problem. A 2011 survey by
consultancy Development Dimensions International Inc. of 14,320 executives reported that 38 percent of line leaders and 25 percent of HR leaders gave their organizations high ratings for leadership and only 32 percent and 18 percent, respectively, thought their organizations had the necessary bench strength to meet future business needs.

That leadership development is broken seems to be an open secret. In a 2013 survey by research firm Brandon Hall Group of 329 organizations, 75 percent of respondents described their leadership
development programs as ineffective. What accounts for this disconnect between money spent on
leadership development and leadership performance?

A Way Out of Darkness
Six problems undermine leadership learning and development initiatives, and these problems flow from deeply held convictions reinforced by so-called best practices. The evaluation problem. It is a dirty little secret that leadership development programs are rarely evaluated in a meaningful way. They are typically evaluated byasking participants how much they liked or benefited from it, or by using metrics such as how many directors received 360 feedback, how many managers watched an e-learning module and so on. But the real question is whether programs produce positive changes in behavior and financial results.

Thousands of leadership development programs are delivered in the U.S. every year, but a 2009 review article by Bruce Avolio and colleagues published in The Leadership Quarterly could only locate the results of 200 programs that were formally evaluated. Two-thirds of these programs were found to have positive outcomes. Because these programs likely were better designed and delivered than those not evaluated, the overall failure rate for the typical leadership program is probably higher than 1 in 3.

Learning leaders normally use evaluations to justify return on investment, but evaluations also can be used to improve programs. Without formal evaluation, many programs will use questionable methods, and no industry is more susceptible to fads than leadership development. The definition problem. Evaluation requires specifying desired outcomes, and this requires defining leadership correctly. Unfortunately, leadership is most often defined by a position — Marissa Mayer is
the leader of Yahoo Inc., or the senior vice president of marketing is the leader of that group. This
confuses status in organizations with leadership, and many senior managers are better at promoting
their careers than they are at leading.

Competency models also can be used to define leadership. But competency models are idiosyncratic lists of skills and abilities composed by asking senior managers what is needed to lead in particular jobs. Because few senior managers are good leaders, asking them about effective leadership is like asking a doctor for investment advice. He or she probably has an opinion, but it may not be a good one.

Teams are the building blocks of organizations. The essence of leadership is persuading individuals to work together to achieve a common goal. Thus, many believe leadership should be defined as the ability to build and guide teams that outperform the competition. Leadership development programs should be constructed from this perspective and should be evaluated in terms of whether they help leaders build high-performing teams.

The people problem. Many of the people who attend leadership development programs are drawn to high-status and high-paying leadership positions, but they have little talent for leading a team. These people fall into three broad types: savvy politicians who can play the game; technically competent individual contributors; and ambitious people who are also arrogant, defensive, incapable of selfreflection, and not open to learning and growing.

As a result, many people who attend leadership development programs lack the motivation and interest to do the hard  work and learn how to lead a high-performing team. Organizations need to rethink who they send to leadership development programs. They should focus on identifying individuals with people skills who are also team-oriented, results-driven and curious learners. It would also help to screen out self-promoters, satisfied technical experts and those unable to

The content problem. Little of what is taught in leadership programs concerns the actual tasks of
leadership. Courses are often based on competency models which, in addition to being ad hoc, rarely concern how to build teams that get results. A review of the most popular, commercially available competency models shows they almost never include competencies specifically about getting results through teams. The same is true for the homegrown competency models used in most organizations.

Nonetheless, people in positions of authority often struggle to staff teams, launch virtual teams, fix
dysfunctional teams, and align competing interests and egos. Focusing leadership development efforts on these team concerns is essential if programs are to have a demonstrable impact on results.

The pedagogy problem. Most leadership programs are taught in inappropriate ways. They tend to be events with little follow-up support or accountability for transferring learning back to the job. Further, research summarized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers" shows that developing expertise — in writing fiction, figure skating or leading — requires 10,000 hours of practice, far more than a one-day seminar, weeklong training program or two-year MBA. Worse, leadership programs are often taught by HR staff, talent managers and consultants — individual contributors with no real leadership experience — which makes it difficult to translate theory into practice.

There are four ways to improve leadership training. First, reinforce learned lessons back on the job. For example, reporting back to the participants’ bosses, having a clearly defined action plan and periodically reviewing progress will add support and accountability. Second, provide l earning environments that allow experimentation and practicing new skills with real-team feedback. Third, use teachers who have track records for building high-performing teams. Fourth, involve intact teams together in the learning and development process.

The rationale problem. Leadership development programs are often launched for questionable reasons: A CEO decides a leadership book is the key to organizational salvation. Someone thinks the organization needs a leadership development program to teach "best practices." Or a senior manager wants a coach as a perk after reaching a certain level. Although these programs cost millions of dollars, they rarely improve his performance.

To get the best return on investment, start leadership programs for at least one of three reasons: to
help leaders learn how to develop the strategies and tactics needed to beat the competition; to help
leaders learn how to build and maintain a team; or to improve team dynamics and results.

Where Do We Go From Here?
The shortfall in leadership talent will continue unless learning leaders change their approach to
leadership development. CLOs are uniquely positioned to drive this change because they are responsible for talent development, they understand the mechanics of adult learning and they control leadership development budgets. The following recommendations are not expensive but do require learning leaders to think differently about leader development.

1. Clearly define leadership. Organizations need a clear definition of leadership to organize their
development efforts. If leadership is defined as the ability to build teams that outperform the
competition, this definition has specific implications for how to hire, develop and promote leadership talent.

2. Build better competency models. Organizations should build competency models either by observing what distinguishes leaders with track records for building high-performing teams or by interviewing these leaders. Including those who are not proven team builders muddies the waters.

3. Rethink who attends leadership programs. Well-validated assessment tools can be used to identify those with the right motivation, interest and talent for leadership. These tools also can be used to screen out those who are not likely to benefit from the training.

4. Offer programs on teams. Most leadership programs nibble around the edges of team development. They often concern goal setting, communication, coaching, delegation and performance management as applied to direct reports with no concern for how the concepts work with teams.

5. Teach intact teams. Because teams are the building blocks of organizations, leadership development programs should target intact teams rather than isolated individual leaders. This is particularly true for teams critical to driving the business strategy.

6. Resist the magnetic pull of fads. Far too many leadership development programs are based on the latest fad. Programs should be aligned with an organization’s definition of leadership, business strategy and the knowledge, behaviors and skills needed to guide teams to execute that strategy. Everything else is just noise.

7. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Although the effect of some leadership development initiatives is more easily studied than others, all programs should be evaluated in terms of meaningful outcomes. The outcomes should focus on the skills, behaviors and competencies individual leaders need to build a high performing team as well as team performance.

Gordon Curphy is president of Curphy Consulting and Robert Hogan is president of Hogan Assess

The Problem with Leadership Development

I really enjoyed an article by that appeared online in the Chief Learning Officer blog on May 22nd titled, The Problem with Leadership Development. I was particularly interested in their six problems that undermine leadership learning and developmental initiativesAlso, that these problems flow from deeply held convictions reinforced by so-called best practices. The problems noted are as follows: 1) Evaluation, 2) Definition, 3) People, 4)Content, 5) Pedagogy, and 6) Rationale.

Focusing on the Evaluation Problem, I agree that leadership development programs are rarely evaluated in a meaningful manner. This is why most training programs end up becoming failures.  In most cases, no real metrics for success are defined prior to the start of the program, therefore there is no foundation or baseline on which to base success or failure. I wouldn't call it a “dirty little secret” but it is true.  

I don’t mean to “toot my own horn” but we are the only company in our area that provides a 180 degree feedback mechanism for each participant and the course evaluation is completed by not only the participant but the participant’s immediate supervisor or sponsor. Our entire learning process focuses on getting results. We really focus on behavioral change that results in: 
  • Support individual development goals
  • Improve morale
  • Enhance engagement
  • Strengthen participant skills for future career opportunities 
  • Helps the company build their succession plan

I would like to say that the problem with Leadership Development today is the fact that companies are not focusing on the future of their company regarding the development of their future leaders.  Most personnel departments or HR professionals now report directly to the financial officer and the attitude coming from that department usually reflects some sort of  “cost cutting measures”.  Leadership Development does cost money and requires an investment in your future leaders but there are metrics that can determine your ROI. 

Don’t let the financial commitment hold you back, because the talent that you develop today directly correlates with the future success of your company.  The most valuable asset you have is the talent and skills that your people bring to the workplace.

Call 609-390-2830 to discuss the learning process that incorporates the most effective evaluation procedures. Let us show you the value of Leadership Development

Please pass this article on the decision maker for Leadership Development

Monday, June 2, 2014

Executive Coaching: A Leadership Development Tool for Top Performers By Gayle Lantz

"Coaching" used to be a popular approach for derailing executives or professionals whose performance needed a lot of work. Got a problem? Get a coach. However, increasingly, coaching is being sought by some of the most successful executives in their field - those who want to get even better at their business game. So the new thinking is…

Got a goal? Get a coach.

Executive coaching has evolved quickly over the years. Some consider it a field in itself; others consider it a form of consulting. There are many interpretations for "executive coaching". No matter how you define it, coaching can be a useful tool for executives who want to develop as leaders. Rather than debate the definition of coaching, it's more important to consider the type of coach and approach that's most appropriate for you given the results you want to achieve. Some executives have difficulty art iculating concrete desired results, but a skilled coach can help. Often executives simply haven't taken the time to slow down and think things through.

Coaches come in the form of business professionals, psychologists, trainers, consultants, authors, etc. They come from all walks of life. Some are tough, challenging and direct. Some are sensitive, encouraging and indirect in their style. Some impose a particular process. Some are more flexible. A consultant with expertise in communication may focus on executive coaching that emphasizes presentation skills. A fashion consultant may offer executive coaching with an emphasis on professional appearance. Other executive coaches focus on leadership skills or business strategy. The approaches are as varied as the professionals who deliver coaching services.

Selecting a Coach
Ultimately the most important factor in selecting a coach is the coach's track record and his/her ability to establish the kind of relationship with you that helps you achieve results. Senior leaders who have few peers seek out coaches to discuss business and professional goals. It's a decision that should not be made lightly.
Coaching relationships can be structured a variety of ways. Consider whether you want to work with a coach in person, by phone or both. Know what's most important to you in selecting a good coach. Finding the right fit is everything. You'll know you have the wrong fit if you feel you're wasting your time, dread your coaching conversations, or focus on issues that aren't directly relevant to your goals. Listen to your instincts and find the best fit.

Coaching Issues
With the complexity of issues that challenge executives, there is never a loss for discussion topics between a coach and client. Below are a few of the issues that many of today's top-performing leaders discuss with their executive coaches:

  • Staying focused on top priorities
  • Increasing accountability for follow-through
  • Building skills in particular areas 
  • Dealing with organizational politics
  • Thinking strategically
  • Handling stress & avoiding burnout
  • Managing teams & dealing with sensitive personnel situations
  • Influencing others
  • Negotiating
  • Brainstorming new ideas/creative thinking
  • Personal career planning
  • Life-work balance issues
  • Establishing clear goals and action plans

Success Factors
In addition to finding the right coach, here are a few success factors to keep in mind for those who engage in a coaching process.

  • Establish clear guidelines for the relationship and coaching process on the front end. Don't make assumptions.
  • Share feedback. If something is not working, discuss it.
  • Acknowledge progress and successes along the way. This helps build momentum.
  • Involve other stakeholders if necessary. In some cases, others in the organization can participate in the process to share input and feedback.

Executive coaching is not for everyone. It's only for those executives who are highly motivated, who are committed to leadership development and who want to engage in the process. Expect a minimum commitment of six months to a year.

Company Sponsored Coaching Programs
Many more companies now recognize the importance of promoting coaching within their organizations. Many have formal coaching programs that include internal and external coaches. Organizations that sponsor coaching programs need to be diligent about connecting the benefits of coaching with business results in their organizations. Without a results focus, organizations run the risk of promoting coaching for its own sake - a "campaign for coaches," instead of solutions for executives. Coaching is simply a means.

Corporate initiatives that mandate or roll out a coaching program too broadly jeopardize the effectiveness of the program. Often those who need coaching most are least likely to be open to the process, but top performers are always looking for a leading edge.

Finding the right coach can be the leading edge you need to succeed professionally.


Call now for a complementary Coaching Conference to discuss how we can provide the best practice for Leadership Development at 609-390-2830.