The key elements that are missing from most leadership programs

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on leadership development. Walk into any bookstore, surf the web, or participate in any number of seminars available at your work, and you’ll see what I mean that the opportunities to be developed are endless.

And yet look at the results. Where are the leaders? Where are the different kind of leader from the ones we see in the headlines every day or we work with daily? Why is there not a better return on investment?

The reason is in our thinking. While we spend all this time, energy, and money on leader development, the reality is that this is the most neglected area because of how we think about it.

At the core, we believe that information equates to training and development. If you went through the course, if you sat through the seminar, if you have the notebook, then you are trained.

My brother had a clever way to demonstrate the inadequacy of this perspective. As an English teacher, he began his year in a rather novel way. The first day of class, the opening topic was on how to juggle.

He would take three tennis balls and share the three steps to juggling. He repeated it over and over as he juggled.

Then, he gave them a pop quiz. The question? What are the three steps to juggling? Everyone was excited that they made a hundred on this first quiz. He then surprised them. Walking up to one student who successfully answered the question, he would then hand them the tennis balls and ask them to go to the front of the room and juggle.

Their retort was universal. “But, I don’t know how to juggle!” He asked them what they made on the quiz. “100,” they would say. “No, you do know how to juggle. You listed the three steps to juggling correctly. So, show us what you know.”

The point?

Training and development are not completed merely by listening to and then regurgitating information. Information is important…but insufficient.

What’s missing? Along with instruction, real training only occurs with two more pieces...observation and feedback. You need to inform them and then watch them apply the information and then give them feedback on what you saw. Repeat the process as needed.

Are you relying upon the “instruction only” mode of development? How can you incorporate the elements of observation and feedback to better insure competence and confidence in those you develop?

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