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Follow-Through: The Key to Leadership Training Success

Imagine you have been covering for a fellow manager while they attend a company sponsored leadership training program.  Your co-worker stops by your office to discuss what they missed while they were away. They are beaming with excitement about the new leadership skills they acquired, and they cannot wait to put those skills into practice. Your co-worker’s renewed enthusiasm for their role as a leader is inspiring and you remember that you felt the same way when you attended that class.

But you begin to realize that you only put those new skills to work for a brief period and you start to wonder why that happened. You remember that your direct manager barely acknowledged that you had attended the training and they were not supportive of some of the new approaches you tried upon your return. You also remember feeling like the leadership culture of your organization was different than what was taught in that class. You wonder if the performance of your team would be better now if you had implemented some of the skills you learned.

The Pitfalls of Most Leadership Training

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR),[1] corporations are often victims of “the great training robbery.” American companies spend enormous amounts of money on training, but they are often not getting a solid return on their investment. In many cases, the training does not lead to better organizational performance, often due to the tendency of people to revert to habitual behaviors. This phenomenon leaves executives across the globe rightfully questioning the return on investment (ROI) of their leadership development programs and often cutting training budgets.

Another HBR article[2] suggests that quiet quitting is about bad bosses, not bad employees, underscoring the importance of consistent leadership training. The article reminds us that quiet quitting is a new name for an old behavior. Researchers have used years of assessments that were designed to evaluate a leader’s effectiveness and skills from the perspectives of managers, peers, and direct reports to answer the question:  What makes the difference for those who view work as a “day prison” and others who feel that it gives them meaning and purpose? Managers who were rated highest on balancing relationships with results – a key objective of most leadership training - saw 62% of their employees willing to give extra effort and only 3% quietly quitting.

The question is not whether an organization should continue to invest in training, but how the organization can improve upon that investment by sustaining positive leadership behaviors. The answer is not cutting already thin leadership training budgets, but instead developing ways to reinforce those behaviors and improve company culture. 

Improving the Return on Investment for Leadership Training

The solution to increasing the return on leadership training does not only lie in the leadership training class itself, but in what follows the initial training. The implementation of a survey tool designed to gather feedback on a manager’s specific behaviors from their direct manager, peers, and direct reports is an ideal way to gather feedback 6-12 months after the completion of leadership training. This window gives time for the leader to implement new skills and behaviors. Organizations should consider re-administering the feedback assessment for each leader every two to three years to create a strong culture of feedback.  The more broadly and consistently this feedback is gathered across the organization, the less likely managers are to return to their old habits after training.

The results of each assessment are delivered to the leadership trainee in a one-on-one coaching session with an experienced coach that will help interpret the feedback assessment results. A skilled coach can provide the leader with context and guidance to understand the data. The coach will also look for themes of positive behaviors and areas of improvement to assist in the development of an action plan. If reinforcing steps can be done consistently across an organization, change in leadership culture and a meaningful return on investment will be apparent. 

High-quality, customized training – whether live or on-demand - is a key part of an organization’s effort to both remain compliant and to build and foster cultures of respect. Meaningful, comprehensive leadership training that is designed to sustain development objectives is another important part of those efforts. Powerful change can happen in an organization with the right training, tools, and feedback.   


[1] M. Beer, M. Finnstrom, and D. Schroder, Harvard Business Review, Why Leadership Training Fails—And What to do About It, October 2016;

[2] J. Zenger and J. Folkman, Harvard Business Review, Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees, August 31, 2022;