I just returned from Elliott Masie’s LeadershipDev Conference in Las Vegas, where I saw robotic virtual humans, listened to Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching advice, and had a great time exploring the Vegas strip with some favorite clients. Here are some of the key learnings that I took away:
#1: Don’t try to measure the precise ROI of learning. Creating ROI data on leadership development efforts continues to vex many L&D leaders. Elliott’s advice: Think like a lawyer. You won’t be able to prove a hard ROI number for your training investment. What you want to demonstrate is a “preponderance of evidence” that shows that your intervention works. Many other business decisions, such as mergers and acquisitions, are bets based on a preponderance of evidence. Ask your business leaders to make a bet on a learning intervention and then present a preponderance of evidence that it works. Or, as an executive suggested to Elliott, reframe ROI; CEOs don’t want their ‘money back’ – they want ‘talent back’.
#2: Don’t design learning and development programs in isolation. For business leaders, it’s often not the content quality or the learning process that determines success or failure of a learning intervention – it’s context. Most learning leaders have access to good content and can create the right learning process. But a leadership training event is often as much about creating a ritual – or as Elliott called it, a ‘tribal’ event – as it is about learning. It is imperative that any leadership learning initiative considers the context as much as the content of what is being taught.
#3: Consider technology affordances. From mobile learning to telepresence and robotic humans, new technologies have opened up hundreds of new avenues for learning that will influence the way we teach in the future. Elliott advises to embrace technologies but not get lost in fads. What’s important is to think about technology affordances. Always keep in mind how a learner will interact with and learn from a content delivery mechanism. If it’s too complex it will not get used.
#4: Focus on the leader. Advice from Marshall Goldsmith: People improve their performance because they want to improve, not because they are told to improve. Don’t focus on the coach or teacher, don’t put a sage on a stage; focus on the leader. Most leaders understand conceptually what leadership is, but it’s the execution that’s hard and requires years of practice.