The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

October 9, 2016

Leadership Training – The Solution

Leadership training most often fails. Last week, Jim & Steve talked about why. This week, the solutions. If every bad leader causes chronic suffering in the lives of multiple coworkers (and if you’ve ever had a bad boss, you get it), how do we grow leaders in ways that sustainably ease that suffering?  Here’s what it takes …

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve Motenko: Hi there. Welcome to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. I’m a personal development coach, an executive coach, Harvard-educated. Yes, indeed, although it was many years ago. I just went back there recently. That’s another … We can talk about that later.


Jim Hessler: Stop. Stop introducing yourself.


Steve Motenko: I work in leadership development in organizations with my friend across the table.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development and the author, along with Steve, of the book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. Really, face it, if you’re a regular Boss Show listener, I’m the reason you listen to the show, so.


Steve Motenko: Okay, moving right along. Today, on The Boss Show … Last week we talked about the problem with leadership training. Today on The Boss Show, we want to talk about the solutions to the problem with leadership training. Just to review, of course, you have listened to last week’s show, if not, pause it right here.


Jim Hessler: Pause Go back and listen to Part 1.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. What the picture we painted was of a really professional well-designed leadership training program as so many of them are with a great facilitator and inspiring content …


Jim Hessler: Solid contents.


Steve Motenko: … Highly-interactive in its approach that doesn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? Like most of them, we referenced a Harvard Business Review article that said three quarters of senior execs are unhappy with their leadership training or their training function in general. Why doesn’t it work? Well, that’s what we talked about a lot on the show last week. Again, you’re going to want to go listen to that. We’re going to take each of those elements today of why leadership training doesn’t work. We will talk about, okay, what can we do to turn that on its head? Because, clearly, it is possible to do leadership training that works. Jim and I have been doing it for 15 years.


Jim Hessler: Yup, mm-hmm (affirmative).


Steve Motenko: We don’t want to make this an infomercial for our services, and yet we do want you to know how passionate we are about this, about the concept of providing, creating a leadership development process that truly works to bring bottom line success as well as a more humanistic workplace, greater job satisfaction to anywhere and everywhere that it can be brought.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. We should say we’re not the only ones there that do it the way we do it, but there’s many, many more that do it the way we described in our last show which is not effective.


Steve Motenko: Right.


Jim Hessler: There’s billions and billions of dollars spent every year on programs that don’t work very well.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, so if I’m listening-


Jim Hessler: We want you to stop wasting your money …


Steve Motenko: Exactly.


Jim Hessler: … on leadership programs.


Steve Motenko: If I’m listening to a radio show with a couple of guys who do leadership development, I think my first thought would be, “Okay, this is the business that these guys are in. They’re doing what they can to make a profit and a story.” What I want you to know is the passion we both feel toward this work. I like to say that leadership is a sacred responsibility because leaders creates the conditions under which other people have to live 8, 10 hours a day. That’s a really powerful responsibility.


Jim Hessler: I spent –


Steve Motenko: Impacting a lot of people in potentially negative way.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. My journey is having to go into distressed underperforming organizations and do turnarounds. When I founded Path Forward 15 years ago, I said my primary reason was to reduce human suffering, because I saw how much people were suffering in poorly-led business environments and we want peoples’ lives to be better. It’s really the bottom, the triple, quadruple bottom line of what we do is we want people to be happy or more fulfilled, more engaged in their work.


Steve Motenko: If you sit down with Jim and me and talk to us about what our process has been like, it’s been about trying to brainstorm constantly and implement different ways of easing that suffering, of making peoples’ lives better in the workplace. That’s what gets us up in the morning. That’s what fuels everything we do.


Jim Hessler: Leadership matters. It matters a lot and it matters on so many levels. We’re not just talking about what happens at work. We’re talking about what happens at home, in their communities, in our churches, in our families, etcetera.


Steve Motenko: Let’s talk about if leadership matters, how do we get leaders to be better? When we come back, we will get into the specifics of leadership development programs that truly make a positive difference in the lives of participants. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Jim Hessler: I am Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. If you like the show, if you don’t like the show, but especially if you’ve got some background experience, thoughts about personality style assessments in the workplace, any of those reasons, we’d love to hear from you. We want to want to know what you think about what we’re doing. We want to know what your ideas are for new topics. Our listener comment line is 206-973-7377 and our email address is


Jim Hessler: Today, we’re talking about what is a good and effective and sustainable leadership development program look like. To point out how difficult that is and how important it is, we refer to some information from Daniel Goleman. Daniel Goleman is the guy that invented the concept of emotional intelligence and made it popular. He said that 90 days after a typical single event, one-time leadership development program, the participant will have retained less than 5% of what they learned. Three months after you’ve been to this wonderful thing … On our last show, we described this great experience you had with this wonderful program and this great facilitator, 90 days later you’re only going to retain 5%.


Steve Motenko: We talked a lot on the last show about why that’s the case. What we want to focus today is how to turn that on its head. As Jim mentioned, we painted this picture which really is the baseline. You’ve got a great facilitator. You have great content. You have interactive experiences that encourage people to reflect and give people opportunity to connect with each other at a deep level. All that stuff can work great in leadership development programs and yet they’re not sustainable.


Jim Hessler: Let’s talk about some principles, some things you should insist on when you’re trying to create a leadership development program or buy a leadership development program for your business.


Steve Motenko: Or critique …


Jim Hessler: Or critique …


Steve Motenko: … The leadership program that you have …


Jim Hessler: … That you currently have.


Steve Motenko: … And understand why it isn’t sustainable, doesn’t produce sustainable behavior.


Jim Hessler: The first principle is that because leadership is difficult, because it’s a deeply psychological and emotional practice, you can’t train it in a day or two or three. It has to be what we call a longitudinal program, which very simply means it takes place over an extended period of time.


Steve Motenko: That gives people the opportunity to practice with the new insights that they’ve developed.


Jim Hessler: And be exposed to the concepts over and over and over again so they begin to nest in and become part of their baseline thinking.


Steve Motenko: You might think, “Well, maybe an emergent retreat would do it, a residential 5-day retreat where you really get deep into it and get to know yourself and everybody else incredibly well.” Still, don’t count on it to produce sustainable results because, as we said last time, you take these phenomenal new insights, you go back to your workplace, your task list stares you in the face and you’re going to do the task the habitual ways that you’ve always done your task, but even more importantly, your culture doesn’t support the changes that you’re intending.


Jim Hessler: We were asked not too long ago if we were interested in facilitating leadership development programs for one of our competitors. I looked at their website and they had all kinds of 2 and 1 and 3 day seminars; 7, 8, 10 thousand dollars. We said no. We said, “No, we won’t do that. That’s out of integrity for us.” You cannot deeply change a person’s behavior in a short workshop experience.


Steve Motenko: Really, isn’t that the acid test? Six months, a year, 5 years later, you want to be able to point to that experience and say, “Not just I was inspired or my co-worker took that he was inspired, but that he/she became a different kind of leader as a result, and that has, I mean, just elevated his or her game for good.”


Jim Hessler: And everyone else’s game along with it. The second principle, and that is pretty simple; it has to be an experiential program. Adults learn best when they can take what they’ve learned and apply it to their current circumstances, not necessarily to case studies, not necessarily to fictitious scenarios …


Steve Motenko: Hypotheticals.


Jim Hessler: … Hypotheticals, but to their own world. The program has to have them working on what’s in front of them today.


Steve Motenko: If it’s a one-shot workshop, it’s simply not possible, because you can’t do that until you go back to the workplace and look at the challenges that are in front of you, not artificial challenges you’re creating for the sake of the workshop experience, but the real work challenges that are in front of you and then saying, “What can I do differently based on what I’ve learned to implement, to elevate the quality of my game on these particular challenges?” That also depends on a culture that supports that which we’ll talk about more when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Jim Hessler: Hello, I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.


Steve Motenko: Hi there. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. We’re talking about leadership training that work when the vast majority of them don’t. We’ve covered a couple of concepts that are critical. Any leadership training worth its salt needs to happen over a course of time where people get a chance to practice, to fail, to start over and practice in different ways, to implement the concepts but also on their real work challenges, not hypothetical case studies sorts of things.


Now, in the extension to that, the third principle of what makes a leadership development program really work is accountability. Not only, “And when I come back from this workshop do I have to immediately apply the learnings to what’s in front of me and ways that auto-immediately benefit myself, my team, my company because I’m more effectively, as a result of this training, addressing these real work challenges, but I have to have accountability for doing so. Somebody has got to hold my feet to the fire of not just continuing to do things the same way I’ve always done them.”


Jim Hessler: Yeah, the whole point being if you have no way of measuring whether your people are putting their learning into practice, why do the program? We, for example, now have a-


Steve Motenko: You wouldn’t teach somebody to weld and then not check whether they’ve worked-


Jim Hessler: Right, and then walk away.


Steve Motenko: Yeah.


Jim Hessler: It’s funny you should say that because that would be insanity and yet that describes exactly what most companies do with their leadership development program.


Steve Motenko: Right, you mentioned-


Jim Hessler: They wipe their hands off it. They say, “Oh, he or she has been through our leadership development program. Cross it off the list.” It’s not cross off the list until you watched them operate and find out if they’re really doing what they’ve learned.


Steve Motenko: Exactly.


Jim Hessler: A lot of managers just don’t have the appetite to do that very hands-on observation of how their managers are leading their people.


Steve Motenko: We strongly encourages bosses … Here’s a couple of ways that we, in our program which is called Path Forward Leadership, and that’s, in our program how do we guarantee that kind of accountability? Well, we give people assignments that asks them to implement their learnings, again, as we’ve said a number of times, in their real work challenges and we ask them to come back and report on them in two different ways. There are actually two different structures. We meet with an intact groups of managers monthly, and in each monthly module, we ask them to report on the homework they did applying to their real work challenges, but we also ask them-


Jim Hessler: The entire process is 18 months long, which is back to the longitudinal thing that we talked about earlier. From beginning to end, we’re with these people for 18 months.


Steve Motenko: Right, and part of the accountability is that 18th month is a 360 among the co-worker saying to what extent does this person elevated their leadership game. The other structure that we do on a monthly basis to demand accountability, I want to say, is we ask people to make 30-day commitments t the end of every session. What is it that you have learned from this content module that you want to apply in ways that you haven’t before? Who do you want to declare as an accountability partner to help make sure that you actually do that, bounce ideas off of, have them email you and asked if you’ve done, whatever accountability looks like for you? Then we also ask our participants next month to report on that, how they did on their 30-day commitments.


As a result, I don’t know Jim about you, but in my experience, probably 80 to 85 percent of my participants make good on at least a good, a majority of their 30-day commitment.


Jim Hessler: They say these are things they would not have done if they hadn’t been in the course. They’re being challenged. In most cases, these 30-day commitments, it require them to do something that has some element of risk or discomfort to them to try something new.


Steve Motenko: Right, because that’s what leadership is all about. It’s about taking risks and about learning to tolerate failure. I think you’re starting to get a picture a little bit more about what makes leadership development work when we come back. It’s The Boss Show.


Voiceover: KOMO News. The Boss Show is back on the northwest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Jim Hessler: I am Jim Hessler, and I am the business guy.


Steve Motenko: Hi, I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. Topic for the day, as you know, if you’ve been listening, is leadership trainings that work.


Jim Hessler: If you haven’t been listening, what the heck is wrong with you?


Steve Motenko: I know. Go to the website, and download last week’s show which was Part 1, this week’s show, and every show we’ve ever produced, please. Leadership trainings that work; we’ve given you a number of good ideas for evaluating your organization’s leadership training and maybe suggesting to your HR, COO, or somebody what could work even better. What we neglected, but maybe it’s assumed, is that there’s got to be some pretty inspiring seeds of insights. There has to be a conceptual framework that really works that embodies the best wisdom about how leaders develop. How do we do it, Jim?


Jim Hessler: Ours is called the Leadership Platform. It has 12 planks, each of which represents a month of the leadership program that we have and-


Steve Motenko: We actually overlap them in process so they’re actually spending 2 months on each month.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, they’re additive. They roll forward with each other so that plank 8 references planks 1 through 7, etcetera. We think ours is good. We’ve heard from many people that it’s good. It’s very practical. It’s not pie in the sky, “Do these 5 things and you’ll be a raging success.” Frankly, it’s a one-on-one. It’s a very, very good one-on-one, but it needs to be there. It’s the framework that we hang the learning on. Each month you’re challenged to think about leadership in a different way as a result of our platform.


Steve Motenko: We start with, I want to just mention, the 3 sections. We start with leadership of self, because it all … I mean you know, you know that no leader can lead others or lead a team unless they can lead themselves, unless they’ve got the self-awareness and the understanding of what it takes to be worthy of followers. That’s where we start. Then we go to leadership of others, which is all about relationships which is all about what leadership is. Then, finally, leadership of organizations. That’s how we construct our conceptual framework. We don’t say that it’s the be all and end all, the only way, the best way, and it works.


Jim Hessler: Right, but that leads into the next principle really which is that we are facilitators. A good leadership development teacher isn’t really a teacher, they’re a facilitator. We don’t want people to think that we just get up and present on our content. We let people read the content and they share it with each other more than we actually share it with them. We don’t have to talk about exactly how we do that, but we are question askers, we are seekers, we peel-


Steve Motenko: Challengers.


Jim Hessler: -Challengers. We peel away the onion and we create conversations within the cohort groups. We do our work in small cohorts. There’s only typically 10 people in a cohort group. Facilitation is one of our core principles rather than teaching. The other that flows right from that is the idea that this has to be done in community. This cohort of people that go through this program together become increasingly into the spirit of supporting and challenging each other as they go through the program.


Steve Motenko: Which is also what leadership is all about, support.


Jim Hessler: Right , exactly.


Steve Motenko: We’re challenging other people.


Jim Hessler: Right, exactly, so we want to see that leadership show up in the context of the program. You don’t come to learn about leadership, you come to exhibit it and practice it.


Steve Motenko: And play with it in the context of the workshop room. Imagine the difference between sitting there in a workshop, downloading information from this inspiring teacher whose got lots of interesting insights but is pouring them into you as opposed to what we like to do which is the … and not just like to do, but what really works to take learning deep inside, which is to pose questions and to expect the group to chew on those questions without necessarily any right answers, but to challenge and support each other to deepen their own insights and create their own action plans based on what they find value.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. I think the overarching question that we ask again and again and again is really a very simple one, which is “What does it mean to be a leader?” To reinforce this idea of community, at the end of our program, we do a reflection with all the participants and we ask them, “What did you like most about the program? What would you like to see changed?” Very seldom does anyone say, “Hey, we loved Steve or we loved Jim.”


Steve Motenko: Oh, they say, “We love Steve,” but they don’t-


Jim Hessler: Well, yeah, yeah, but I don’t hear that much. What they talk about is each other. They talk about how much they learned from each other and how their relationships were strengthened and deepened in the program more than they talk about us as the facilitators, which is exactly what we want.


Steve Motenko: Don’t underestimate the power of community, especially in this age where teams are becoming more and more important, critical part of leadership development. Stay with us. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Jim Hessler: Hello. I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. We’re cruising toward the end of a two-parter on the problem with leadership trainings, and we’re not focused on the solutions to leadership trainings. We talked earlier in the show about our individual passion from our different business guy and psychology guy perspectives for the importance of easing suffering in the workplace and the importance of leaders understanding their sacred responsibility as leaders in an organization because of the influence they have on the lives, even the control they have on the lives of so many people below them.


I wanted to mention that we talked about the Harvard Business Review article from October this year, which, of course, is this month, the current issue, where they talked about why leadership training programs don’t work and they focused on the culture of component. A really interesting quote from this article: “Even well-trained and motivated employees who had gone to a leadership training could not apply their new knowledge and skills when they return to their teams if those teams were entrenched in established ways of doing things.” Now, if you look at that phrase, “established ways of doing things,” it’s the definition of culture.


Jim Hessler: It is, and we said many times very few of us are fully aware of how much culture drives our behavior. We tend to morph into whatever environment we’re in and that goes for family, it goes for workplace, it goes even for national cultures and things like that. Yeah, it drags you in or pulls you in, in a good way but you can’t ignore it. You are part of the culture that you exist in. That speaks to how important it is to have the leaders in the organization exhibit the principles that are taught in the company’s chosen leadership development program.


Steve Motenko: Right, exhibit and believe in.


Jim Hessler: And held accountable for.


Steve Motenko: Right, right. That has to be at the level of their values, not just at the level of their practices.


Jim Hessler: Yes.


Steve Motenko: They have to truly believe that this is the right way to trait people, the right way to develop success in organizations or any leadership development program is doomed to failure. This cultural thing, I wanted also to say that we, our bodies were formed, the species Homo sapiens is essentially a species that exist in community. Without belonging we don’t exist. When we were banished from the tribe early in the existence of our species as, Jim, you’ve heard me say often, the result was death. We could not survive on our own, and yet in our culture, our Western culture, we have this idea, this kind of rampant individualism idea, that just doesn’t work the way we’re programmed. The notion of belonging, the notion of community, of culture, critically important in ways we can’t even begin to fathom.


Jim Hessler: We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth repeating. If you want to be a leader, if you hold yourself up as a leader, you have to be very mindful in each and every moment of how you’re behavior is landing on the people around you. Can that be a little bit exhausting? Yeah. Does that require a lot of concentration, a lot of focus, a lot of mental energy to be that person? It does.


Steve Motenko: A lot of compassion, too.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, but very few leaders that I’ve known really truly understand the impact. It sounds egotistic to say it, but you behavior matters so much in terms of how it impacts the way other people feel and act. Leadership describes that. If you don’t see leadership above you, you won’t enter into your full capability as a leader either.


Steve Motenko: If you’d like to tell us what you think about what we’re talking about today in The Boss Show or you’ve got an idea for a Boss Show topic, you can contact us on Facebook, you can reach us on Twitter, you can go to our website,


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: hey, Steve Motenko, that’s my name. I’m the psychology guy.


Jim Hessler: Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy. Here’s your cliff note version of what is the best principles of a leadership development program. First of all, it has to be longitudinal. It has to take place over an extended period of time. It has to be experiential, give people opportunity to work on their real word challenges. It has to be in a facilitated rather than an instructed environment. It has to be done in community where the learning happens from each other rather than necessarily from the facilitator. It has to have a strong conceptual framework that explains what leadership looks like in terms that everybody can understand. It has to be modeled. The leadership behavior that you’re teaching has to be modeled in the organization. There’s your hit list. If your program doesn’t contain those elements, it’s not worth the money you’re spending on.


Steve Motenko: Just highlighting that last piece. If senior leadership doesn’t, not just believe in the leadership principles being taught, but if it’s not at the core of their value set as individuals, you got a problem.


Jim Hessler: Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions and our sound engineer is Kevin Dodrill.


Steve Motenko: If you missed any of the show, you can get it in its entirety online at


Jim Hessler: Thanks for listening.


Steve Motenko: Don’t forget …


Jim & Steve: Rule number 6.



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