The SEG 
KNOWLEDGE CENTER

How Do You Know Leadership Training Works?

By Tim Deuitch

Is your organization looking for better retention, a more collaborative environment, and improved employee engagement? If so, then don’t just do leadership training, but invest in developing your leaders. In Episode 20 of the Strategic Insights Podcast, Tim Deuitch, Andrea McOwen, and Joane Ramsey share strategies to move from leadership training to leadership development.

Tim Deuitch: 00:01 Hello and welcome to Strategic Insights brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Tim Deuitch, Senior Performance Consultant and today I'm joined by two of our colleagues, Andrea McOwen, our President.

Andrea McOwen: 00:16 Hi everyone. Happy to be here.

Tim Deuitch: 00:17 Thanks for being here Andrea, and Joane Ramsey, Senior Performance Improvement Consultant.

Joane Ramsey: 00:23 Hi Tim, how are you?

Tim Deuitch: 00:24 I'm doing great.

Joane Ramsey: 00:25 Thanks for having me.

Tim Deuitch: 00:26 You bet. Let's get right to our topic. Our topic today is, how do you know leadership training works? This is a question asked of us repeatedly. We all know that in the business world today, developing strong leaders is an incredibly important imperative. That companies everywhere are making a significant investment in this and it makes sense that they ask us regularly this question, "How do you know leadership training works?" and we're going to dive into that. So Andrea, would you get this started for us?

Andrea McOwen: 01:04 How do we know that leadership training works? Well, it doesn't. Let me rephrase that, it doesn't work by itself. For it to work there are some things that need to happen. What we really are looking for is behavior change. When behavior changes, then you will see results that will positively impact your business. There are things that you will see in the workplace that are indicators that your leadership development is working.

Tim Deuitch: 01:31 Those indicators are critical, because when business leaders ask, "Is this working?" They're asking in the context of, "How is this going to make us better? So Joanne, give us a few examples.

Joane Ramsey: 01:45 Well Tim, some of what we find our clients want to achieve by developing their leaders is better retention, more productivity, more profitable operations, a more collaborative environment, improved bench strength for succession planning, and most of all, they really want to make sure that their employees are engaged and fulfilled in the jobs that they're performing.

Andrea McOwen: 02:10 We already know that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their direct supervisor. By developing the leadership to better to lead and manage your employees, our clients see that their retention is improved. With less turnover, our clients can develop their future leaders from their existing employee base and promote from within. One of our clients has been able to promote almost entirely from within. They set up a leadership development plan that included coaching and reinforcement to ensure that they change behaviors. These behaviors were tied to compensation and opportunities for advancement. They like this "homegrown" approach, because that ensures that their culture stays in place.

Joane Ramsey: 02:55 That is so true, Andrea. We have another example, where a client likes to develop the collaborative culture that they have created, by using skills that they learn in the leadership training. For them, the cross functional collaboration led to improved customer service and better project management. Customer satisfaction was greatly improved, because less was falling through the cracks. A bonus benefit was that the cost savings they had, both financially and in productivity, because they warrant, "Always fixing problems," was just tremendous.

Andrea McOwen: 03:32 Another client liked how their leaders were more adept at conflict resolution. They were able to handle conflict more productively, saving the angst that can always occur with conflict.

Tim Deuitch: 03:42 So, one of the observations I make of your examples guys, is that this is a development process, it's not a single training. That's a really important piece here, that we're looking impact over time. We introduce a set of behaviors, but we're talking about collaborative processes, and so forth. One of the examples I'd share is a client who, through the leadership development process, they learned about each of the functions that are taking place in a given process and the importance that each carry. They began to share ideas back and forth and make changes to internal processes that allowed them to be more customer focused. In this case, not external customer focused, it was really internal customers. So yes, through their training, they learned how to be collaborative in working together and then they became accountable to each other to use the skills they learned. Andrea, you mentioned in the beginning of our conversation that leadership training itself, doesn't work. So then, what is required after the point of training to ensure you get the biggest impact?

Andrea McOwen: 04:57 Well, here are some things that are really important to get the best return on your training. Don't send someone to training by themselves or to fix them. Peer support is a really important element to keeping the new skills forefront in their minds when they get back to the job. Coach and reinforce the new behaviors, support them in using the new skills, and give them feedback, both reinforcing and corrective to ensure the use of the skills. Joanne, do you have an example of that?

Joane Ramsey: 05:25 Yes, I actually do Andrea. For one of my clients, we brought a group of executives for leadership training together and one particular executive stood out. He was really committed to coaching and reinforcing the skills they learned together to adopt and change behavior across the organization. Their results were just amazing, they really grew the organization.

Andrea McOwen: 05:50 That is great. Finally, let the people that you're going to put through training know how important this is by tying it to rewards. Performance goals, opportunities for advancement, and even pay increases work as good incentives for using new skills and changing behavior.

Tim Deuitch: 06:06 Tremendous examples Andrea, thanks. So, to sum this conversation up, the best way to know if leadership development is working comes in three distinct areas. One is, be absolutely clear of your business critical objectives for developing leaders in the first place. We talked about those objectives like retention, or establishing a positive conflict free culture, or creating an innovative environment. Be absolutely clear of what you're trying to achieve. The second is, reinforce the new behaviors of developing leaders, hold them accountable for the behaviors, coach them to do these behaviors well, and recognize leaders who use the behaviors effectively. The third piece then, is measurement. Measure in the context of your overall objectives and identify the leader behaviors that are ensuring the results you're seeking. If you put all three of these pieces together, you will know your training worked. If you would like to learn more or have any questions, please reach out to us at StrategicEnhancement.com.

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Published: May 30, 2019

MEET THE AUTHOR

Tim Deuitch

Senior Performance Consultant

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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