A few days ago, I wrote about how companies these days simply aren’t investing in leadership development for their people. I cited a 2018 study by West Monroe Partners found that 59% of people managing 1 – 2 people, and 41% of those managing 3- 5 people had no training at all for those roles. Even among those with 10 years of management experience, nearly half had had only 9 hours of leadership development support.

The conclusion? When it comes to leadership development, that the days of waiting for training to be offered by your company are over. Enterprising managers need to seek it out – and invest in it – for themselves.

As you consider where to make that kind of investment, it’s important to pay attention to the format of the program.

There are plenty of “workshops” out there. Here’s how that usually goes: you show up, listen to some lectures, have some fun with a few games, get some great insights, and then go back to the grind. For the first few weeks you’ll think about those new learnings and how to apply them to your work. And then the experience fades away. All that remains is a binder on the shelf. The problem is that the discussions about application are limited in that kind of format.

Coaching could be a useful alternative. Working with a coach means that you focus on what you’re experiencing in your work, and get guidance and support through thoughtful reflection from the coach. What’s great is that it’s completely tailored to your situation. What’s not so great is that there’s no overarching set of ideas. Coaching doesn’t survey the landscape of everything a new leader might need to know. It’s reactive to the situations the client brings into the discussion. Coaching provides a safe space to reflect and explore. Over several months of coaching, clients will certainly gain insights, but not the comprehensive set of skills they will ultimately need.

The best programs combine world class training with ongoing coaching to support application of the ideas and insights. That way the learning isn’t left in a binder on the shelf. It comes to life as it’s applied.

There’s learning to be done in wrestling with the real-life complexity of applying management ideas to the real world. For example, everyone knows leaders need to “set boundaries” and “create accountability.” A good training program will dig into how to do that, offering frameworks, tools and skills. Add coaching to the mix, and now you can truly explore the tradeoffs as they relate to your particular situation. How can you set boundaries while allowing for flexibility? How might the boundaries shift over time, as the team develops trust? What are the distinctions between holding people accountable and micromanaging? Are there different approaches to take, that account for the different styles of the people on the team? These are lessons that best learned through a combination of framework, hands-on experience, and thoughtful reflection.

As you’re considering where to invest, it’s also important to find out if it’s going to be a fit for you. Plenty of programs will take your money through an online sign-up, without any real conversation. There’s no vetting to be sure that they can meet your needs. The result can be a lot of wasted time and money. A better approach is an application process that includes a conversation with a real person who can assess your needs and tell you whether and how they’ll be met.

If you’re tired of waiting for your company to provide the training you need, and are ready to invest in your own career, let’s talk. We’ll explore your situation, and identify the major challenges you’re facing in your leadership. If I believe my program would fill those gaps, I’ll let you know, and we can talk about what that would look like. If not, too, and point you to other programs and resources. Either way, you’ll be taking an important step toward moving your career forward. Book a call with me here. I promise it will be worth your time.

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