The need for leadership training isn’t new. As HR and L&D professionals we are constantly asked about what training our managers should receive to improve their leadership capability. DDI World’s latest report identified that 75% of HR professionals believe the leaders in their business don’t have the required skillset to lead their teams efficiently or effectively (DDI World, 2014).
So what can be done to improve capability? The obvious answer is training. But do we really know what training we need to provide to see tangible behavioural change? When questioned, less than 20% of participants that attended face-to-face leadership training believed the session was a useful development activity (Training Journal, 2015). So what’s the alternative?
For businesses to see true return on their investment in leadership training they need to rethink how they deliver that training. When businesses focus on training rather than development, they are focused on the wrong thing. Since the 1980s, The Centre for Creative Leadership have written extensively about the importance of the 70:20:10 model for leadership development. The theory behind the model is that leadership capability cannot be learned in a single training event. For capability development to take place, formal learning must be supported with well thought out on-the-job development opportunities and management support.
According to the 70:20:10 model, formal training such as e-learning or face-to-face training should be allocated the least amount of time (approximately 10% of the time allocated) when creating a program. The biggest chunk of learning needs to be allocated to on-the-job experiential development activities (approximately 70% of the time allocated). The activity that organisations struggle with the most is the 20% in the middle.
The greatest teachers in your business are your subject matter experts (SMEs). They not only have the theoretical knowledge but they also have practical real-life experience to support it. In the case of leadership capability, these SMEs should be the managers in charge of leading other managers. It’s critical when any leaders undertake leadership development that they receive the appropriate support from the manager above them. This can include pre- and post-training coaching conversations and co-created implementation plans that document how the learning will be applied on the job. Along with this, businesses may also choose to implement mentoring programs that allow their developing leaders to connect with other leaders in their organisation they wouldn’t normally work with.
So before planning your next leadership training, take a step back and reflect on what you’re trying to achieve. If you are looking for lasting behavioural change that has true return on investment, look toward implementing a development program that has participants appropriately supported to ensure lasting change. Keep the formal training short and to the point. Ensure managers of managers have a good understanding of what’s required of them as leadership SMEs and gain their full commitment to the program. Finally, ensure you give the participants the opportunity to practise what they’ve learned back in the workplace.