Are companies measuring to the standard of their leadership performance? For leadership training?
Like most of you, I’ve had the opportunity to experience many forms of leadership training, team building, and fostering of professional development. Since the Great Recession in 2008, and its fall-out, why have companies not improved in their leadership more?
According to a study done by the Ethics Resource Center in 2012 (Ferrell et al) comparing an earlier study done in 2009, many metrics remain the same. For example: Discrimination, Abusive Behavior, Conflicts of Interest, Health and Safety Violations, Stealing, Sexual Harassment, and Disengagement levels have all remained the same if not elevated slightly. How are we ensuring the lessons “learned” during the Recession aren’t lost on the next generation? Every leader speaks of disengagement and turnover, but what are the real follow through actions to curb it?
Additionally, when we look at a leader’s ability to implement transformative change, studies like those conducted by McKinsey Consulting along with many others suggest that change efforts fail between 60-85% of the time depending on the study. These numbers have also not increased significantly over the last decade or more. In a time when leaders are increasingly expected to drive change, their results indicate that the training and development focused on driving transformation are not increasing their rate of success.
In the military there was a phrase “Inspect what you expect”. I think supervising and inspecting the standards that we set or expect may be falling short. Once we send our future leaders through company sponsored courses are we following up to see if the time and money for these lessons has been properly ingrained and carried out? As higher level (Director, VP, SVP, etc…) leadership how are you measuring mid-level management (the hinge pin of small unit success) to the standards you expect? I think we would all love to believe that managers and leadership should be above reproach but perhaps the data may tell a different tale?
We may also be looking at incomplete measures. If we send our leaders to training then they return to organizations that do not allow them to use their new skills, the training may be fine and the leaders may be learning. We may have created a situation that causes leaders to be even more frustrated – they learn that there is a better way but they do not get to do it because it “is not how we do things around here”
How do we get around this? Many companies make it mandatory for all leadership positions to submit or adhere to certain goals throughout the year as part of the compensation plan. Are these goals consistent with the leadership teachings that are company provided? Are these goals parallel with the standards or company credo that adorn or hang on the walls of your conference rooms? Are companies changing their systems and cultures in ways that allow their leaders to use their new knowledge to drive success?
I was having a chat with a peer that I had worked with previously. It was around the time of their Voice of the Employee Survey (VOE). Anyone who has ever taken these surveys knows they are about as secret as the launch of a new iPhone. I asked how he felt about them and his response hit a nerve. There were only four direct reports to his manager in the region. He was proud that he lied on each VOE survey so as not to rock the boat. His team always grumbled about the leadership and had misgivings to the contribution management made to the teams’ overall goal. He couldn’t say this, as he felt certain that if four less than beaming survey results surfaced in reference to one leader, the dissent would be met with retribution. The cycle of sub-par leadership would continue. Many people being promoted to a management/leadership position have probably all been in a similar position prior to the promotion. Once promoted, how do we measure the nuance, intangibles, and true leadership styles? Performance to quota? Turnover ratio? In correlation to the data above at the Ethics Resource Center it seems that no matter how we measure, it may include too many false positives. How do you find a comprehensive approach to measurement that is also cost and time effective?
On a different but related topic, how do we get around the “Peter Principal” of people getting promoted who do not have the right skills for the role? Many companies still promote the subject matter expert to leadership roles without providing management or leadership training. It is not surprising with this approach that instead of producing better leaders we keep making more of the same? When I was in the Marines they had a separate option that included high anonymity. If there was anything that didn’t seem right or any qualms you could Request Mast. You could go right to the top leadership, in private, and express your thoughts. Most corporations have a direct hotline to HR but who knows how that information is disseminated and who hears it. Why is this powerful? Everyone knows it exists and in many cases it acts as a deterrent for mismanagement and fostering a transparent and inviting work place. If people do not know how their information will be used and if they cannot trust with certainty that it will remain anonymous, the risk of expressing concern is too high.
I ask three questions when I stand in front of groups. 1) Raise your hand if you have ever had a less than stellar boss. 2) How many people here have been promoted to management level and beyond? 3) If I asked the first question to all of your reports…how many do you think would raise their hand as you had?
It’s great that companies provide such amazing opportunity for development and we need to take it to another level and measure the stakeholders and future leaders to the standard we expect the training and opportunities to produce. We also need to measure the organization’s ability to adapt so our newly trained managers and leaders are able to implement what they are learning. If not…I’m sure we all enjoy more of the same.
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