Corporate leadership development programs begin with lofty aspirations, but they often run the risk of coming up short. And according to BlessingWhite, a global consulting and training firm, several themes emerge when taking a closer look at why these sorts of programs fail.
Stephen Parker, vice president of consulting, said the results of leadership development initiatives tend to not reflect all the planning that goes into them.
“Senior executives go off-site for a team-building program with noble intentions and an ambitious agenda, but weeks afterward, they find little benefit for their time and effort,” Parker said. “Regrettably, this is not unusual for executive development retreats. What surprises us is that many organizations continue to make the same mistakes.”
Some of the most common difficulties that bring down corporate leadership development programs are as follows:
- Urgency overrides preparation. In this case, the CEO’s insists that a team meet as quickly as possible, which tends to have a negative impact on effective preparations, thus having a negative impact on the corporate leadership development program.
- Trendiness triumphs over consequence. When this occurs, the program’s basis or inspiration is not actual business or strategic issues but the latest, hottest trend in business circles.
- Participants fail to engage emotionally. They might agree with what they learned in the corporate leadership development program, but if participants do not walk away with a burning desire to implement anything — or they simply do not care enough to put forth the effort to try something new — the program has not succeeded.
- The CEO cannot contain himself or herself. Although leadership off-site programs are supposed to give people an opportunity to “let their hair down,” some CEOs forget that they should not monopolize the conversation, which leads to intimidation and, accordingly, a lack of candor.
- Awkward issues are not confronted. It’s easy to point a finger at others and offer leadership development suggestions. It’s not so easy to look inward and acknowledge what you personally need to address.
But even if organizations recognize these pitfalls and successfully change them, corporate leadership development programs still will not lead to positive change unless the organizational culture is receptive to them.
“Too often executives want leadership development to be the magic pill, except that if a company’s culture punishes risk taking — or worse, rewards the same behaviors that need changing — then training and development are beside the point,” Parker said.