Leadership “training” is not enough

By Lonney Gregory on July 23, 2015

A popular definition for learning is “a change in behavior based upon experience.” But the problem with this definition is that managers and leaders often believe that “training” is the same as “learning.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that training is only a precursor for learning.

What turns any training program into real learning is application. Managing/leading is not a spectator sport, and while we create and apply theories that suggest performance gains or behavior changes, we have to follow up to assess and prove that learning did in fact occur. And when training is closely tied to performance objectives (not just training objectives), a manager is in a much better position to judge the ROI of any training program.

Performance gains are always achieved through experience, and the more realistic a training environment is (i.e. where actual failure is a real option) the more likely the student will be able to apply the training. As they say “hindsight is 20/20,” so failing or underachieving at a task is often the best teacher.

Examples of such environments exist in military forces across the globe. Special Forces teams, combat pilots, and other roles requiring critical behaviors experience extreme “training conditions” before they are allowed in the “real world.” Medical interns go through years of education and training but are not fully qualified until they are engaged in the real world where they apply their training and truly learn what it means to be a doctor.

In real estate the mantra is “location, location, location.” In training the mantra should always be “experience, experience, experience.”

The question is: Do you have training objectives or learning objectives?

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Talent Management Tagged with: , , ,

About Lonney Gregory

Lonney Gregory specializes in the design, delivery and facilitation of a variety of leadership development programs, innovation initiatives, Diversity & Inclusion programs, and organizational development and change initiatives
3 comments on “Leadership “training” is not enough
  1. Ray Kinard says:

    Lonney – I agree 100%! Appropriate application of skills and/or positive behavioral changes are the real measure of learning. I work in the corporate “training” world and have for years and have seen the standard training scenario without true aplication and post assessment play out hundreds of times almost alwats with less than desired results. The true goal for learning and training professionals is to understand the true learning outcomes (enhanced skills or changes in behavior) before a training intervention is even suggested.

  2. Lonney – Thank you for your post. You present what is typical in most organizations. I attribute the tendency to confuse training with learning with a decision-makers tendency to think because they attended school or other training courses that this ensures that they can make decisions about identifying learning needs, learning design, and learning evaluation. Collaborating with learning professionals at the outset could support better approaches and outcomes, giving credence to the learning and organizational development field. Performance consultants, instructional designers, facilitators, eLearning developers understand the adult learning principles and behaviors, diverse learning (and cultural) styles related to learning; neuroscience, instructional methodologies, and the diverse ways technology could be used to support communication structures and ongoing learning within an organization.

    Learning happens because the training design is relevant ad directly connected to what employees/participants require to meet performance outcomes and business goals. So often the step for needs assessment is skipped. Typically there is not plan for ensuring transfer of learning with managers once the training is over. In other words — employees attends training, and there is no process or plan with the supervisor involved to assure that the skills learned are applied on the job or in the service of the organization. Performance requirements aren’t aligned to new learning and often there is no benefit for the employee to apply these skills — it may be considered an “extra” because the training is not aligned to a performance or business outcome. More fundamentally “training” is viewed as an external feature of an organization, a one-time event or as part of an independent responsibility of the learner. Learning as part of organizational culture is not viewed or valued as something that can happen and should happen on an ongoing and continuous manner. There are many internal models, when designed and structured for the organization and its employees, can deliver great results: Blended learning models, Action Learning, Job Aids, Communities of Practice (CoPs). Other more common approaches that occur on the job — when designed, structured and properly supported, not simply ad hoc — such as “buddy systems,” mentoring, peer coaching, OJL (on the job learning), can also have sustainable impact. Along with some of these suggestions, the importance of ongoing evaluation and feedback and feed-forward systems should be in place to validate that the training/learning is making a difference to learners and other stakeholders.

    • Hello Brenda
      Thank you for your comments and for the wealth of training insight you shared with our readers. You and I appear to be kindred spirits believing in the maladies that impact training in organizations. I hear myself in your reply having said similar things over the years. I also hear the deep passion and expertise you have for training and development. Thanks for all you do and continue to do. I am glad to have made your acquaintance. I would like to hear about your approach and successes in evaluating training and other developmental interventions. Please share.

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