Thinking About Investing in Leadership Training? Choose Wisely.

By Jane Kennelly, Director, Frog Recruitment

Baffled by the array of options for leadership training? Jane Kennelly talks with Jane Davis, Director, Activise Ltd about how to choose what’s right for your company.

Jane Davis2014 has seen an uprise in the number of organisations unzipping their leadership development wallets and investing in training programmes. This was anticipated given the reaction that occurs during market downturns when training budgets are stripped back until times improve.

Unfortunately a by-product of this stop/go approach to training is the appearance of capability gaps inside organisations, so the cry for leadership development programmes can be heard in boardrooms, meeting rooms and cafés across New Zealand.

The other trend that occurs within a buoyant market is the increase in the number of people turning their hand to leadership development and coaching. So the dilemma: ‘How to choose the right leadership training programme?’

Given this can be perplexing and potentially very expensive, we asked Jane Davis to outline the current thinking about leadership training and development and to provide some key points to consider when trying to decide what programme is going to deliver what you need.

According to Davis, the first decision to consider in the leadership training equation starts by thinking about the leadership team and assessing if all team members have the same generic training needs or require specific needs.

“It’s best to start with the end in mind” says Davis. “What are you trying to achieve? Is this a pipeline for future leaders or are you using career development for retention? What will success look like? Where’s the gap? How could we fill it?”

This leads to the ‘make versus buy’ decision. For example, one option to consider is the ‘leader as the teacher’ model. The #1 method of developing an individual is on-the-job; which is an effective and powerful approach. This sees the ‘teacher’ design, deliver and motivate, so the desire to teach others needs to be evident.

You may be tempted to buy and implement a leadership development programme that could be run internally for a group of peers, encouraging team building and shared learning. Alternatively you could send people on an external course, which is run offsite. This has benefits such as a broadened view, access to other organisations’ problem-solving methods and creating a new network.

So which is right for your organisation?

According to Davis, current thinking suggests a combination of generic and specific training is effective initially, but no matter what, Davis believes that a vital component in the success of any programme is making sure the participant’s manager is involved in the development process. “Being briefed at the outset, setting goals and supporting the application of learning will ensure you achieve a maximum return on your training investment,” comments Davis.

All too often the promotion cycle goes like this: a person is promoted for their technical ability. They find themselves in a strategic role and this is where they come unstuck because the skill set needed in this type of role includes being able to collaborate, network and influence others in order to get work done. It’s here that training is needed!

Davis is quick to emphasise; “If leadership training and development has becomes a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise with little sharing or support for change, watch participants fall back to their old ways and you’ll have wasted your training dollars.”

Biggest Areas of Leadership Development:

  • Dealing with change and ambiguity in a fast paced world
  • How to you lead in a challenging economic climate
  • Developing your people
  • Agile and flexible leadership
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Traps to Avoid:

  • Thinking a one-size-fits-all model will work
  • Lack of manager’s involvement means it won’t be impactful


Activise specialise in positive psychology-based change programmes which increase resilience and capacity to change, leading to a richer more meaningful life.



One thought on “Thinking About Investing in Leadership Training? Choose Wisely.

  1. Thanks Jane. And Jane. Well said. Also, and this might come as a surprise to many managers out there, there are options for leadership development ‘on-the-job’. Being recognised for what you already know and are doing daily and then turning that into a meaningful qualification can be hugely powerful for new leaders. Coupled with other programmes – based around your needs as Jane so rightly says – makes for a compelling offering for any manager considering leadership development for their people, or themselves. This can be very very cost effective too. Thanks again for your words!

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