Leadership Development Programmes: Get your head out the sand!

Here’s a thought: when it comes to your leadership development programmes…don’t measure the programme, measure the outcomes.

Head in sandMost programmes require that the participants rate the content, the delivery and in some cases, the ‘stuff’ that surrounds the learning experience. The ‘stuff’ could be anything from the food to their pillow. All of this gets compiled, aggregated, studied and reported on with the end result in changes to the content, service providers and perhaps whether or not the very programme survives. There can be much backslapping and congratulatory hugging that accompany ‘high ratings’ or equally, or tears, excuses and alternative sources of income being sought in the case of ‘poor ratings’.

In case you think I’m exaggerating, I have been part of an international senior leadership development programme where faculty couldn’t wait to see the backs of the delegates so that they could anxiously pour over the evaluations. In some cases (on this particular programme) those rating determined whether or not someone would have a job. Over time the learning process itself became a complete hostage to the whims of the participants and excellent input, and disruptive (unpopular) messages that really needed to be heard and absorbed, were sacrificed because they weren’t ‘liked’ by the participants.

In short, much of it is a complete farce.

The investment that goes into leadership development rightly demands that the programmes get evaluated. However, rather than evaluate the programme ‘there and then’ the resultant outcomes of the programme – over 6,12,18 months should form the basis of the evaluation. B.F. Skinner said it best when he wrote, ‘education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten’.

There you have it!

The test of leadership development should be on what survives into leadership practice. Transforming leadership practice requires a change in thinking and even, in some cases, a transformation of a values. This is the significant work of preparing leaders to be futurefit and it is work that extends beyond the bounds of a traditional programme. It is work that demands a degree of disruption and discomfort and if asked to rate this (disruption and discomfort) at the time it occurs…well that is akin to asking a child to rate your parenting at the very time of metering out punishment!

Preparing your people to be futurefit just might be your most important task as a leader. Best then make sure that what you are doing in this task works!

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