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Why don't leaders go to training?

Usually the C level’s create an organisation's vision, from here these same executives choose to either design an organisational culture or to let the culture grow organically. And if culture is defined as the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a society then organisational culture is intrinsically linked to each and every person within an organisation. In relation to learning and development a positive view and an ingrained custom must be supported and modelled by all levels of the organisation including the C level and senior executives.

Lately I have been delivering organisational training including building resilience, growing emotional intelligence, leadership, effective time management and challenging conversations. Whilst there is a good gender, cultural and age balance almost exclusively the attendees are not in leadership positions. This would indicate that whilst the organisation supports development, the senior level executives are not modelling the behaviour when it comes to self development.

This may not be surprising, perhaps those in more senior positions have previously participated in training and do not need this type of personal development. I thought that too until my learners started to share some of their experiences. It would appear to me that in some circumstances leaders are sending staff off to training to mask the leader's own deficiencies.

One example an organisation where staff were stressed because their new manager was micromanaging, giving people constant criticism and thumping desks in anger during meetings, it was no wonder the staff were having difficulty coping. Instead of the organisation’s leadership group dealing with the underlying issue of the manager's behaviour, employees were sent off to resilience training. In other examples learners have described poor management strategies, overwork, under resourcing and the ever present poorly managed organisational change.

Very often the questions raised in training by trainees relates to how people can manage up rather than managing self.

There is no doubt that where organisations encourage and foster a culture of learning and development there is a competitive edge and it is no wonder. The value of learning includes staff feeling valued by and engaged with the organisation, there is also increased productivity in the long term with the improved skills and knowledge. The permission to learn and develop gives employees an opportunity to seek new and innovative ways to achieve the organisation’s vision and when supporting their employee’s development it strengthens the trust between employees and leaders.

So why do leaders recognise the importance of this development for their employees but not themselves? I think there are a three main barriers for leaders.

The main excuse is a lack of time, they are so busy they can’t give themselves a break to focus on their own development. This is where the leader needs to step back and ask themselves is their lack of personal skills causing some of the issues they are facing? If the leader had better resilience, empathy, time management skills would they be facing as many employee related issues?

Some leaders may think this sort of training is below them and either there is an expectation that they should already be proficient in these areas or they don’t need personal development. This is the delusional leader who thinks these issues are because of knowledge gaps of their staff rather than their own deficiencies.

The third barrier is that the culture of the organisation. Either it has no commitment to learning and development or perhaps worse it has a tick the box attitude where employees are sent off to training to spend the training budget without an understanding or belief in the benefits of learning and development.

With growing career flexibility, the availability and commitment to learning should be encouraged by leaders and as leaders themselves move from one job to the next, from one industry to the next they need to recognise that they too will have knowledge gaps to be filled. At each step of their leadership journey they should take the time to focus on honing those personal skills for their organisation, their employees and themselves.

For organisations to create a real culture of learning and development it needs to be genuinely supported at all levels of the organisation. Management need to model their commitment to personal development and learning so that everyone in the organisation sees learning and development as valued and without it the organisational vision may remain out of reach.

For more information about some great training packages check out OnBoard Training's professional development workshops.