Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. His latest book, "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body," is available now.
You know that feeling of not getting your money's worth, when you paid for something and it just didn't meet expectations? This happens in corporate development, too. Many executives believe in the benefits of leadership training in theory, but according to a Korn Ferry survey of more than 7,500 executives, more than half rate the Return on Investment (ROI) of their leadership development efforts as “fair to very poor.”
Why? In most cases, the leaders themselves are intelligent and competent. They are strategic and knowledgeable about what needs to be done. But often the missing piece comes down to emotional and social intelligence—the human capacity to connect with others and guide them towards a shared vision. Here’s an example.
I worked with Dimitri, an executive who was trying to establish some lean methods with his team, aiming to eliminate wasteful processes and cut down costs. But after several months of training, efficiency had actually gotten worse. He was frustrated, confused, and disappointed. The problem was that he hadn't first cultivated the shared attitudes that would make everyone receptive to lean processes—or to any change at all. His direct reports felt these were superfluous trainings. He had never offered a vision for what he hoped to accomplish, and more importantly, why his team should see value in it. He also didn’t bother to offer team members an opportunity to voice their opinions from their unique perspectives on where waste could be eliminated.
Another reason leadership development programs can be underwhelming: lack of acknowledging their importance in the culture of an organization, or a lack of investment in shifting that culture in a way that better meets company objectives beyond the bottom line.
Because leadership training comes in a broad variety of philosophies and methodologies, failing to align a leadership development strategy across all levels of a company creates a sub-optimal environment.
A business isn't just a collection of people who happen to work on discreet tasks in the same office. A business is a team of people working together towards shared goals, often depending on one another's success. Inspirational leadership is vital in providing a clear vision, but that doesn’t emerge in a vacuum. It takes a positive and collaborative environment to nurture success from the top down and the bottom up. That entails open communication, trust, patience, testing different approaches, and occasionally a little bit of risk—such as giving junior talent opportunities to implement their good ideas.
Bottom line: Manage expectations to initiate a culture change. Leadership development, it turns out, isn't just about a given leader at all. To see a positive ROI on leadership training, leaders must prepare their teams for change too.