INVEST don’t SPEND your leadership development budget!

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. ~John F. Kennedy      Change is the end result of all true learning. ~Leo Buscaglia

Every now and then I feel the need to get on my soapbox, and this is one of those times. Several years ago I was engaged by a client to do a series of leadership development trainings. When I came to do the final training, I did a quick “pop quiz” on the first training which was several months prior. What did I learn? That they hadn’t learned (i.e., retained) much of anything!

When I did the first training I was told that it was the highest rated (satisfaction scores) training they had offered. So we all patted ourselves on the back and probably shared numerous high-fives. But did it stick, not really. So the investment quickly became just another expense.

But there is a better way!

I’ve often believed that one-shot training workshops provide short-term inspiration, but not a great deal of long-term improvement (i.e., change). DDI (Development Dimensions International) together with and the Institute for Human Resources conducted a study of 300 HR managers. DDI’s Richard Wellins, Ph.D, said “The study points out the best training incorporates learning journeys of multiple events that tie together over time.”

If you need more proof, Dartmouth’s Sean H. K. Kang reported in his extensive research on learning: “Evidence indicates that spacing can enhance meaningful learning that generalizes to new situations.” In other words, learning that is strategically spaced out over time enhances our ability to actually apply the content to problem solving and new contexts. Isn’t that the ultimate outcome of learning, to be able to apply it in real situations?

Unfortunately, the default for training and learning in organizations has become more about checking something off a to-do list so we can say that training was offered. And less about investing in real learning.

Now, fast-forward a few years. I’m in the midst of an opportunity to make a difference. I’m facilitating training, spaced out over time, and I’m repeating a common theme/thread throughout the entire year process. I’m already seeing more meaningful learning.

With many things today, we can have instant gratification. We can text a friend and get an instant reply, we can order something and have it delivered within hours or even minutes, the answer to nearly any question is at our fingertips if we have an Internet connection. However, this same expectation of instant gratification is unrealistic for real learning. Learning takes time, repetition, and practice.

Even if you don’t manage a training budget but want to enhance your own abilities; invest in learning. Find an opportunity that will take you on a learning journey of repetition and practice over time.

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