Trickle-Down Leadernomics

If I were to characterize the philosophy behind executive development programs at many companies today, it would be “Trickle-Down Leadernomics.”  Defined as: Episodic training designed to stimulate positive behavioral changes, aimed to help executives be better leaders who inspire commitment rather than mere compliance, resulting in a more productive work environment and happier employees who, ultimately, will improve the company’s bottom-line somewhere down the road.   Doesn’t sound very promising when you put it that way, now does it?  That’s because it isn’t.  The trickle rarely makes it past “inspiring positive behavioral changes.”

Behaviors can’t be taught; they have to be learned.  And the only way most people learn and actually adopt new ways of working is by trying their newfound behaviors in a “game situation” and achieving repeated success.  So if you’re not systematically integrating learning with doing, you’re not likely to realize the full benefits from what otherwise may be a solid formal training program at your company.

As companies continue to be challenged to do more with less, it’s never been more important to maximize one’s ROD (Return on Development).  If you’re going to send your executives to school or host formal training in your offices, then at least make sure you’re maximizing its effectiveness.  With myriad challenges facing today’s leaders, it will take more than gravity to assure that the substantial investments being made in their development are positively impacting your bottom line.

Rather than offer a prescription (that wouldn’t likely work for your particular organization anyway), let me pose a few questions instead:  For those of you who believe you’re receiving great ROD, how are you doing it?   Do you augment your formal training with informal initiatives such as cross-functional teams, mentoring programs, peer groups, outside executive coaches, etc.?   Or does your formal training alone produce the desired results?  And if so, how?

Tell us what you’ve found works best for you and please share your insights with the Executive Street community!

Category : Leadership

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About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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  1. Your comments correctly identify one of the major challenges in the workplace, those “Episodic training programs designed to stimulate positive behavioral changes.”  You need the changes to become part of the culture, and executing a formal mentoring program is one of the fastest ways to make these cultural changes. 

    Unfortunately, it is challenging and time consuming to execute a mentoring program unless you have the right tools.  We’re currently writing a series on the four generations in the workplace, and how a well thought out program can use the common traits in each generation to help other workers make the desired positive behavioral changes.

    Kim Wise, CEO

    • Kim, that sounds really interesting and speaks to an excellent point regarding how different generations learn as well as what their development needs may be.

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