Marshall Goldsmith in his blog post, “Practicing Leadership”, reminds us of the myth held by many training programs, but especially leadership development programs, that “if they understand, they will do.” If this was true of learning, I would be exceptionally fit, a scratch golfer, and a world-class piano player. It’s just not true (sadly, for me)! However, organizations continue to spend millions of dollars on programs that are intended to achieve understanding, not business results. Goldsmith has done a considerable amount of research to try to understand leadership development and, after finding that there is little correlation between change in behavior and understanding, liking, and seeing the value of a training program, he concludes:
Our research paints a compelling picture. People don’t get better because they go to “programs”. They don’t get better because they listen to motivational speeches. They only get better if they pick something important to improve, involve the people around them and follow up in a disciplined way. Long-term change in leadership effectiveness takes time, follow-up and discipline – not just understanding.
Some training programs are having a significant impact on leadership effectiveness and business results. Tim Mooney and Robert O. Brinkerhoff in their new book, Courageous Training, describe how a few organizations have learned how to turn individual understanding of leadership (and other abilities) into behavior change and business results. These organizations don’t leave impact to chance; they design it into the training and learning process. We know how to do high impact leadership training. Now it’s a matter of courage and will.