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Mistakes That Will Derail Your Leadership Training

5 Frustrating Mistakes That Will Derail Your Leadership Training

by | Apr 4, 2019 | By Karin Hurt and David Dye, Training |

Avoid These Mistakes For a Better Leadership Training Program

Have you ever spent money on leadership training that was a colossal waste of time?

We feel you. We have too over the years. It’s incredibly disappointing to invest time and money in a training program that doesn’t change behavior.

Do know what’s also frustrating? Pouring your heart and soul into designing and delivering training that doesn’t stick. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it breaks our hearts.

We would hate for this to happen to you. No one should have to waste time or money on a leadership development program that doesn’t work.

5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Launch a Leadership Training Program

If you want leadership training that changes behavior avoid these common mistakes.

Learn more about our live-online leadership training programs here.

1. You don’t commit to staying the course

There’s never a good time to take people away from day-to-day work for leadership training. Something will happen that makes the time you’ve scheduled feel inconvenient. You’ll wonder, “How can we be doing leadership development at a time like this?”

The other question could be, “How can we NOT do leadership development at a time like this?”

Avoid This Leadership Training Mistake

Once upon a time, we had a company who came to us saying that “leadership development was their most important strategic imperative.”

The business was changing and turbulent. They worried that their middle managers needed new skills to make better strategic decisions, to think critically, and develop a cadence of accountability with their teams.

They needed their managers to learn practical tools and approaches they could apply to real business problems and daily execution with their teams.

The senior team carefully selected the participants. The CEO joined the first session explaining how vitally important this leadership training program was. Everyone was excited and left jazzed to apply their new learning. They picked action learning projects that would help them tackle some of the biggest strategic challenges of the business and worked on them with their teams.

But just as the program was gaining traction, the problems that had inspired them to start the program were becoming more obvious – partially because the senior team was now having more visibility to the program participants. They put the program on indefinite hold until things calmed down. You guessed it, they’re still waiting for the storm to pass.

And guess what’s still an unaddressed strategic priority? Leadership bench strength.

The Power of Staying the Course with Your Leadership Development Program

Interestingly, during this same time, we had another leadership training client who also faced a major strategic challenge right before we were coming to do a two-day leadership strategic off-site. He also needed all hands on deck to support the business. Given what had just happened, we asked if he wanted to postpone.

He responded, “Are you kidding me? Nothing is more important than leadership development!” They stayed focused despite the chaos and had a remarkably productive two days, made several critical decisions, built a solid execution plan, and identified quick fixes that would stabilize the business. He was right, nothing was more important than how they spent those two days.

2. You need to check a box.

If you’re just looking to “go get these managers some training,” and are looking for the fastest, cheapest leadership training program solution you can find, you’re probably wasting your time. Better to slow down and figure out what must be different because of the training, and how you will measure impact, then look for a strategic partner who will build a program to meet your needs.

3. Field managers aren’t supportive.

Sometimes, we find HR is pushing leadership training programs that people didn’t ask for, or don’t think they need.

Training isn’t something you did, it’s something you do. If you want your managers to lead differently, they need encouragement and feedback. If your participant’s supervisors are resentful for the time out of the office or are unwilling to support and reinforce behaviors, you may be focusing your leadership development program at the wrong level.

4. You’re trying to train your way out of a deeper problem.

Training can’t fix bad systems. Sometimes people ask us to deliver conflict and collaboration training or team building for a team that just can’t get along. But after a short conversation, it’s clear that the real issue is a siloed organization, conflicting performance objectives, or a wonky compensation structure. Don’t waste your time or money on training, until you’ve taken care of the systems that cause the dysfunction. Your leadership development partner should help you address these concerns and think more holistically about your business.

5. You don’t have a good way to reinforce learning and behavior.

When you’re talking to your leadership training partner, be sure you ask them how they build in application and reinforcement into the design – between sessions and after completion. Don’t send managers to training until you know how they will apply, measure, and demonstrate what they’ve learned.

See Also: 5 Powerful Ways to Ensure Your Leadership Training Sticks

Why Employee Training Fails and How to Prevent It In Your Organization

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!


  1. Fred Schrader

    “Training can’t fix bad systems. ” – You’re absolutely right, Karin. Sometimes it’s better to reorganize structures at first. Like it’s better to open the door than ramming your head through the wall. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks Fred! Appreciate you. Always a good choice to look for the door 😉


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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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