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4 Common Leadership Training Mistakes To Avoid

Beth Thornton

April 11, 2018

Employee engagement statistics have been at the top of improvement lists at organizations across the country for as long as Gallup has been measuring them. Even as our solutions for getting employees engaged (and keeping them that way) have grown, the number of disengaged people within an organization has remained, stubbornly the same.

In 2017, 27% of learning and development teams said they were increasing their spending and what was their top priority for the coming year’s strategy? Develop managers and leaders.Tweet This!

There’s no question an engaged employee does wonders for your company’s overall goals, but when an engaged employee becomes disengaged, it can really harm your productivity. Especially since a disengaged employee is more likely to scroll through Facebook all day compared to their engaged colleagues. How do you prepare your employees to take on more responsibilities and stay engaged? More importantly, what mistakes could you possibly be making when helping them prepare for added responsibilities?

Of course, engagement includes managers and leaders, as well. In order for leaders to be engaged, they have to be trained and developed too! Without the right training and development, the leadership efforts are then ineffective. American companies spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development training, but if you’re making one of these four mistakes you could be wasting your L&D budget.

1. Leadership Development as a One-Time Deal

Leadership support is not a task that can be crossed off a list and then forgotten about. It is a continuous cycle to provide opportunities to help these individuals meet their leadership goals and become the best they can be. Unfortunately, this mindset is not always the case as many organizations have employees take leadership programs or classes once a year, or once a career. Once the class or seminar is over, development is over.

Learning and understanding takes practice and patience, like learning to ride a bike. Your parents didn’t let you quit after falling off the first time, they made you get back up and try again. Learning how to lead others or even self-lead takes practices as well. Employees aren’t going to know what to say the first time they face a problem. But, if they continue to practice and learn other ways to deal with it, they’ll eventually find a solution that works best for them.

In 2017, 27% of learning and development teams said they were increasing their spending. Their top priority for the coming year’s strategy? Developing managers and leaders. If these learning and development managers are focus solely on a one-and-done strategy, it could be problematic for the leadership skills gap. Employees need continuous feedback and direction in order to get a grasp on their skills and evolve as a leader. Invest in curriculum and software to ensure that leadership development is not an annual or one-time occurrence but built into the fabric of your company’s daily activities.

2. Your Leadership Development Program is Too Generic

Leadership training programs are not one-size-fits-all. It’s important for it to fit the organization’s unique goals, mission and values. The program also needs to be able to help individuals meet their goals. Many programs often miss the mark by not aligning the two; individual goals with organizational goals. If you’re using the same old content over and over again and expecting the same results, it is never going to happen. If you’re giving feedback or encouraging improvement more than once a year, that’s great! But, you have to make sure the content you are giving your employees is new, up-to-date, and relevant to their position.

Alignment is the missing link to a successful leadership and development program as well as the key to keeping employees engaged. If individuals throughout your organization feel they’re contributing to the company’s goals as a whole, employees will be more engaged in their work and more inclined to reach their own goals. 

Not everyone in your office is going to learn the same way, so don’t feed everyone the same information. They could read the same leadership material time and time again, but if they don’t understand or get bored with the material, you’re wasting everyone's time.

In addition to aligning goals, the organization’s values and mission should also be present throughout the leadership development program so employees are able to identify with it. A Deloitte survey found that 82% of Millennials who stayed with the same company for more than five years felt their values aligned with those of the organization. Your leadership development program should focus on the specifics of your organization and take organizational goals into account.

New employee training software that updates itself to align with your companies goals and visions will help make sure your leadership development content is never boring and always at the forefront. Working with a company that’s awesome at training leaders can also be beneficial.

3. Your Leadership Training Program Fails to Measure Results

A leadership training program that has been developed well, will also identify changes and measure results for the individuals and the organization altogether. Many programs do not define these measurable results beforehand, which is where progress can be lost. Implementing a development program that gives employees the opportunity to track their progress as well as the leadership team an opportunity to view it, helps everyone stay on the same page and achieve the goals they set out to reach.

Before investing in a leadership training program, discover what metrics you’ll use to measure success and ensure you track those throughout your learning and development journey. After setting the metrics and deciding how you’ll approach any problems, don’t be afraid to say something. Watch how your employees react and collect any behavioral data as they go through leadership training and start to take on those roles.

If you notice significant changes in behavior of the employee who’s being trained and the people they are starting to lead, you can jump in and make any changes as they are needed. Having the metrics set up before hand and creating a way to measure and handle behavioral changes will save time in the long run.

4. Development is Only Offered to Those at the Top

In many organizations, leadership training is typically targeted toward the top level or C-suite executives. This strategy not only leaves the middle managers and team leaders to fend for themselves when it comes to developing their skills, but the rest of the organization, as well. There are development opportunities for all employees by learning about being a self-leader.

Are you guilty of these leadership training mistakes? Find out from @InspireSoftware:Tweet This!

According to Gallup, only one in 10 individuals have the natural talent to lead, and just 18% of current managers have a high-level of talent required for the role. While this is a relatively scary statistic concerning the leadership skills gap, it does not mean those individuals with high-level of talent to lead a team cannot be further developed. Ensuring all the leaders, and even the aspiring leaders, at your organization have a chance to develop their skills is crucial to safeguarding the future of company.

Having a large team can mean only individuals with dominant personalities rise as leaders. This type of environment makes it hard for new employees to step up and shine in their new workplace. By creating smaller groups or task forces, you can have multiple, maybe less experienced leaders control smaller parts of a project. This way you are providing a role and responsibility that shows your confidence in their potential while setting them up for larger projects in the future.

It’s also important to be with your team or office when things get rough. If your team sees your leadership shine in these situations, they’ll know how to act and what to do when they may eventually step into that role or as a self-leader. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your workload, but your team should come first. Remember to think about opportunities that can help ensure your employees are making their way to a leadership role.

In a survey from APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, only 50% of employees said their employers provided career development opportunities that met their needs and chances for advancement. Providing these opportunities that align with employee needs can be the difference between engaged employees and employees who are checked out and possibly even seeking other positions. If you want to avoid these leadership training mistakes, learn how Inspire Software can help you develop employees for leadership and more.