Ensure Your Leader Training Succeeds

Most organizations are transitioning from event-oriented leadership development to a system of continuous learning, according to the latest Brandon Hall Group leadership development research.

Only 10% of organizations have a fully developed leadership-development strategy yielding strong business results. These organizations’ leadership-development efforts are fueled by a culture of continuous learning, including coaching and mentoring, action-learning projects and other opportunities for leaders to apply new skills in practical settings. Only in this kind of environment, wherein leaders are empowered to take ownership of their development, can LD programs have real business impact.

Leader Values Demonstrated at a High Level

One of the top reasons leadership-development programs are not more successful, according to our research, is that leaders believe they don’t have enough time to learn. The real reason is that the culture in many organizations — which top leadership is responsible for — does not give leaders time to learn.

Continuous development of leader competencies is not part of the fabric of most organizations. Leadership training, most of it still centered in the classroom, takes leaders/managers away from their responsibilities, so the organizations and leaders believe this training diverts them from their work. In fact, self-development should be an important be part of it.

Most organizations surveyed believe their leaders’ behaviors need improvement. The majority also think development is most urgently needed for front line and midlevel leaders — the ones with the most direct day-to-day impact on employee performance.

10 Most Important Leader Behaviors Needing Improvement

• How do we do a better job converting leadership training to behavior change?

• How do we build a pipeline of high-potential employees who can become the leaders we need to drive business results?

• How do we enable leaders to practice skills and learn continuously?

Employers should empower leaders to make continuous development part of their jobs — as much a part of their day-to-day existence as meetings, emails and reports.

Here are three high-level strategies for success:

Give Leaders Time for Reflection and Self-Development

For too long, learning — including leadership development — has been treated as an event outside of work. That mindset is changing, albeit slowly. Leadership development is becoming more experiential and additional digital-learning experiences and practical exercises are happening in the flow of work (though far more are needed).

But beyond ongoing training, leaders must reflect on their current behaviors and allow time to practice new skills and consider how they can improve. Employers should give leaders space and time to grow. They must not be so overloaded with day-to-day work that they can’t spend a few focused minutes each day to reflect on what they are doing, how they can do it better, and practice new behaviors that can transform them.

When we asked respondents to our 2020 Impact of Leadership Development research what they would do if they could choose just one thing to improve leadership development, the most frequent answer was “empowering leaders to take more time for reflection and self-development.”

The coronavirus pandemic served as a leadership laboratory, with new and often disruptive situations testing leaders’ abilities. Now is the time to build onthis experience and give leaders time to reflect, learn and grow through more experiences, skills practice, coaching and feedback

Enable Skills Practice in a Safe Environment

Practice (and more practice) is critically important for behavior change. However, just telling leaders to practice their new approaches on employees, without having opportunities to struggle and make mistakes in a safe environment, often does more harm than good.

There are many solutions available now that provide online and offline scenarios to allow leaders to tackle real-world situations using a new approach. These mini-simulations — some as short as 2 to 3 minutes — also provide constructive feedback and resources to use if the leader needs more help. Larger-scale scenarios, perhaps with peers and support groups, may also be needed. Whatever way you choose, give your leaders a chance to practice their new skills and competencies — often.

Support Leaders through Coaching, Mentoring and Peer Groups

It takes a village to educate a child and it takes diverse support to develop a great leader. Leaders benefit from coaching and mentoring and just sharing experiences and insights with peers going through similar experiences, highs and lows. Change is difficult and the more people involved in a leader’s development, the better.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.