I’ve been thinking lately about why some leaders fail. There are many theories about the causes and what can be done to improve the leadership abilities a person has. There are also theories that focus on the idea that leadership abilities are something that individuals are born with, that they are innate. Either way, companies promote people into leadership roles who either do not have the skills they need or the skills they have are not strong enough to be successful.
Living in the real world
In my career I’ve had the same conversation many times. It goes like this:
Manager– “Jane Doe is not leading her team effectively. She is not respected, she alienates her staff, she’s too hard (or too soft) on her staff, she does not understand business metrics and how to meet them, and on and on. What training do we offer that I can send her to? I think she needs leadership training. I think she needs training on how not to alienate her staff.”
HR– “Well, we offer Leadership 101, How to Give Constructive Feedback, yadda yadda yadda.”
Manager– “Great. Let’s send her to XYZ training.”
End of story? No. Six months later, her boss is back and says she has not improved. She is still having the same issues. So, what went wrong? We talked about it and wrote in her plan that she needed training then she attended training. She should have been a success story, right?
Companies today tend to put all their eggs in one basket and focus predominantly on training. But is that the best strategy? Isn’t on-the-job learning the best way to teach someone how to lead?
I’ve been thinking and researching why this is not working. My theory is that the real problem is not any of the leadership skills the employee lacks. The root problem is that the employee lacks self-awareness and acceptance and without THAT, this employee can attend training ever day and still never improve. If this manager does not perceive that she has issues dealing with her staff, then sending her to training to work on that will just not sink in.
Breaking the cycle
We need to take it back to square one. Self-awareness training. Make employees go through training that will show them where the deficiencies lie. Make them talk about it. Make them discuss whether they realize these are deficiencies. Do they agree? Disagree? Without that piece, you may never break through, so that later, when they understand what they need to work on and they have buy in that it is holding them back in their performance.
Path to Success
Once you have your leaders embracing their strengths and with awareness of their skill deficiencies, you can begin both on-the-job training supplemented with some classroom training. Then:
- Tie it to accolades
- Tie it to responsibility
- Tie it to money
Then, and only then will the leadership training begin to stick. Otherwise, you may be throwing away your company’s training dollars for no reason. Think about it.