By Alexandria Nunweiler, Business Development Manager
Walking into my organic chemistry class in undergrad I had one objective: to pass. Cram-session after cram-session, I became a zombie. What is a covalent bond? How many hydrogens? Wait, what is oxygen again? WHAT IS A COVALENT BOND?
So 8 years later, as you can see, I remember the term ‘covalent bond,’ I know that organic chemistry has something to do with hydrogen and oxygen, and probably something else to do with covalent bonds – but that’s about it. Seeing as I dropped the class and was not in fact able to pass (sorry, mom), my approach to learning was not fully cultivated.
Similarly, and the bane of many employees’ existence, we have corporate trainings. Classroom and online training sessions are often seen as a distraction from work; spending time developing soft skills doesn’t help spike sales numbers or clear a looming inbox. In many minds, learning is not delivered quickly or efficiently enough for them to see the benefits. So the employee sits through a half-day session, answers the survey, and goes back to their desk with a few new tools they will (probably) never think about again. This mindset and quick anecdote, while semi-rooted in fact, leaves out sustainment, which we know is the key to leadership development that lasts.
If we see learning as a one-time cram-session, then we are all living in the zombie apocalypse of my Organic Chemistry 101 class. With this mindset, yes: the classroom learning will do nothing to help sales or your emails (or in my case, my knowledge of chemistry). But truly learning and sustaining a behavior is the key to unlocking new skills and potentials that in turn teach you how to manage an overflowing inbox or reach sales goals more effectively.
Learning something takes repetition and application to change behavior. That, in my opinion, is the thesis of leadership development.
The problem was staring us in the face
I’ll say it again for the people in the back: the thesis of leadership development is to foster learning that changes behavior.
Our research shows that leadership development programs fail two-thirds of the learners in any given classroom, no matter who writes or delivers the content; whether it’s in person or online. We’ve estimated it is more like 1 in 10 learners that actually implement any of those skills and tools a session provides. To boil down over a year of research, the reason learners fail is because they are returning to an unchanged environment that does not encourage or enable them to change their behavior.
This answer has been staring us in the face since the beginning, but we’re just now recognizing its ability to move the needle when it comes to the ROI of leadership development programs.
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