How do you measure the success of leadership courses? And how do I find out if a leadership course is promising?

During a continuing education course last year, I heard about the following study: A research team had interviewed several workshop, coaching and management course participants following their training. The focus was on the typical questions about how they felt about the course, what was important to them and how they would rate the event.

The goal of this survey was to find out which participants had learned the most the long-term and thus were able to get the most out of the event.

The result of the first interview, immediately after the event, showed that most of them were very satisfied and had given a very positive review of the seminar, workshop or coaching course. But there were also the dissatisfied ones and those who were upset or felt massively challenged. Their reviews were consistently negative.

All interviewees were asked a year later what they remembered about the continuing education, what they still apply today and what ultimately shaped them.
The result was amazing: Those who liked the event could barely remember anything and the lessons they had „disappeared“ within enjoying the wonderful course. But those who had been upset or did not like the course knew more than average, because some „crucible of anger“ had stuck with them!

This realization has led me to a few questions that could be interesting to answer.

How are leadership seminars selected? And how do I rate a course based on its impact on the employees?

Does the seminar provider get a bonus, where the participants felt most comfortable and submitted a great rating? Whose feedback forms were filled out most positively?
However, according to the findings presented above, this method is very questionable.

Well, the general question is, what do I want to achieve with leadership education? Why am I paying so much money as a business to send an employee to leadership development? What do I get out of it?
In the final analysis, the answer can only mean one thing: Improved leadership and company success!
As a company, I want to support and secure the company’s success through the further development of my directors.
Proper leadership development must result in business success, otherwise the training was unsuccessful.

So, the training concept, through whose learning a person has changed positively in his leadership behavior entailing long-term business success, is to be preferred. The problem is that the measured values are only available after a long time period. The success of leadership development can only be measured months, even years later.

Now, without waiting so long, how can I find out if a leadership or development program is good and drives business success?

If I cannot rely on the previous participants‘ feedback forms, it will take a different decision-making process to select a course.

It is not possible to say in advance whether a course, coaching session or workshop will really promote business success because there are so many other constraints, such as the ability of the seminar leader himself or herself or the willingness of the participant to really want to change. But you can find out well in advance on which components the seminar is built on and whether this corresponds to the most update-to-date knowledge. A leadership course should always contain the following 5 building blocks:

  1. The knowledge training must be separated from the behavioral training.
  2. It’s not about leadership recipe books, it’s about understanding what my action (communicating, deciding, and executing) does to others.
  3. There is no „right“ leadership style or method per se. There is only one useful or helpful behavior for the current situation and the corresponding corporate culture.
  4. Asking participants in their endeavors to be a leader.
  5. The involvement of employees as a training field and implementation space.

1.) You cannot give people new insights in the same breath as implementing behavioral change. This approach is inefficient. In order to acquire knowledge, it does not require the high seminar or coaching costs of a trainer or coach. Everyone can learn that individually in advance. In addition, it helps to internalize this knowledge in advance and then to lead it into a behavioral change. This saves time, costs and promotes the success of really influencing the behavior. A good leadership seminar always provides the knowledge in advance and can only be paid for in behavioral education

2.) Do you know the difference between a good acupuncturist and a professional? The good acupuncturist has learned at what point of the body, for whatever effect, which needle needs to be set. To the millimeter, as specified in the manual. The professional combines this standard knowledge with the particular situation of the individual human and links it to the anatomy of this person and his assessments of the person. He interpolates between everything he can find out and creates an individual map on the human body and sets the needles as he derives from his contemplation.
For me, that’s a good idea for a good leadership development program. First, I have to understand the person I am supposed to lead, and based on that knowledge, I can use the appropriate leadership behavior to get the desired response from my staff. This is no longer about „recipe-book-like“ training, but about understanding and applying

3.) This point is based on the 2nd point. As a leader, I must always incorporate the circumstances, the corporate culture and the leadership principles into my considerations. This means that „what helped yesterday does not have to work today“. My ability with my leadership behavior to get people to do something specific only works if I can take the current circumstances into account. Conversely, this also means that my style as a leader will not be and cannot be useful everywhere. There are areas where my leadership style will be helpful, but not useful somewhere else or in another company. It is important to understand and know your own limits as a leader.

4.) An important part of a leadership development program should be the personal reflection, why do I really want to be a leader? Does this role suit me? What do I have to give up when I am a leader? What do I have to do without? What is the price to be a leader? Only the one who answers these questions will not be surprised when he realizes that in his new role, he can no longer perform his favorite tasks.

5.) It is always desirable to implement the change in behavior concretely into „in-house“ tasks. Provide the participants with very specific tasks in their company and involve their employees at the same time. This makes it easy to see to what extent the lessons learned are put into practice.

To summarize, it is not easy to find out to what extent leadership development has been really successful. Only the company’s successes ultimately testify to a successful leadership development. The fact that a workshop or seminar was good and pleasing is not a measure of whether there has been an impact on the participants. Rather, the reverse is true that people who are out of their comfort zone and are upset or annoyed by the course are even more likely to experience long-term changes.
Since it is difficult to say to what extent a course is really „good“, one has to look that at least the 5 most important elements of further development that are included in the course concept. Those who combine these 5 elements in the training concept have a very good chance to create a positive change within their participants.

If you have missed a blog and would like to participate in the entire leadership series, you can always download the other blogs from our homepage.

Kind regards,
Andreas Halbleib