HCI Blog

When coaching programs begin to fail

Leadership development was identified as a main concern by two thirds of 500 executives interviewed.
30% of US companies admit that they failed to explore their international business opportunities to the fullest due to a lack of leaders with the right capabilities.

Four reasons attributed to why leadership-development programs fail to deliver:

1. Overlooking context

  • Training programs tend to believe that “one size fits all” independent of company culture or strategy.
  • The focus of training programs must be flexible and adaptable to the needs of the company, taking into consideration their current strategy and goals instead of making companies adapt to the training programs.
  • Focusing means selecting two or three competencies which can make a significant difference once worked on.
  • A clear path must be established on the competencies worked on: a “from – to” path must be clearly drawn.


2. Decoupling reflection from real work

  • Leadership programs usually detach the leader from their work environment, usually inserting them into a “classroom” like environment.
  • Typically, adults retain 10% of what they see in a classroom or lecture versus two thirds of learning through a “hands on” approach.
  • By doing on-the-job training, leaders can balance their demands between urgent projects and leadership development


3. Underestimating Mindsets

  • In order to cause change, generating discomfort is inevitable once addressing root causes as to why a leader acts in a given way.
  • Training programs usually avoid exploring individual beliefs and mindsets of leaders and instead choose to promote empowerment and delegation; successful adoption of this is unlikely.
  • Just as a coach would view an athlete’s muscle pain as a proper response to training, leaders who are stretching themselves should also feel some discomfort as they struggle to reach new levels of leadership performance.

4. Failing to measure results

  • When businesses fail to track and measure changes in leadership performance over time, they increase the odds that improvement initiatives won’t be taken seriously.
  • Too often, any evaluation of leadership development begins and ends with participant feedback; the danger here is that trainers learn to game the system and deliver a syllabus that is more pleasing than challenging to participants.


SOURCE: McKinsey & Company