As the HR leader of a mid-sized company, not a month goes by without receiving a pitch from a training vendor or consultant asking if I’m interested in purchasing training for our managers. I’m all for formal training, however, I know it’s not the end-all-be-all. To give some perspective, I grew up in my career at Pricewaterhouse Coopers back in the 1990s-2000s so it was ingrained in me that management training was critical. It was provided and encouraged. Fast forward to other companies I worked for and it was less readily available. Some courses were offered, but typically not until the employee was already managing people.
Training is a multi-million dollar business in 2013. There are live sessions, webinars, podcasts and more. Training can be available, for a cost, to any company wanting to throw dollars in that direction. Again, I love training. I wonder, though – is it worth the money and does the formal training actually lead to greater success for the leader and better leaders? I decided to take an informal poll of successful leaders and influencers in the HR and recruiting industry as well as accounting, security, and the restaurant industry to find out how many of them received training before or when they were promoted to the manager level.
I received feedback from 19 people when I asked:
When you first managed people at work, were you given training? If not, how did you figure out what to do?
A majority of the respondents said they relied on instinct, on emulating good managers they had, or lessons from the “school of hard knocks”. A few other responses mentioned skills learned while volunteering, trial and error, learning not to micro-manage the team and also taking cues from the team. None of these successful leaders said they received formal training. Only one leader said they work where a formal program was offered. It’s called Manager Detox, and it is a course where managers are told how to avoid the pitfalls of bad leaders.
There are other people questioning the effectiveness of formal manager training programs. Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In her 2012 book The End of Leadership, she states, “For all the large sums of money invested in the leadership industry, and for all the large amounts of time spent on teaching leadership, learning leadership, and studying leadership… There is scant evidence… to confirm that this massive, expensive, thirty-plus-year effort has paid off. To the contrary: much more often than not, leadership development programs are evaluated according to only one, subjective measure: whether or not participants were satisfied with the experience. But, of course, even if they were, this does not prove the program had the impact it wanted or intended; in fact, the opposite might be true — it could be that the most satisfied participants were those who changed the least.”
So, you be the judge. Have you been formally training in the art of managing teams and individuals? Or, like many of us, have you been training in the school of experience on the job? Please share in the comments.