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Train Your Leaders, Part II

Gatekeepers: If you're in sales, you deal with them and undoubtedly share my frustration with the obstacles they often erect. Mind you, I admire the valiant administrative assistant, who heroically safeguards the boss's calendar and telephone extension--after all, that's part of the job description. Frustrating to me are the people who are so insecure in their jobs, they deflect opportunity when it knocks on their organization's door. I find that behavior especially prevalent in those individuals paid to train their company's employees.

I can't tell you how many times a CEO, president, or owner has expressed interest in my leadership workshop, only to be "overruled" by someone in organizational development. By overruled I mean the OD person cried foul: "You hired me to handle all the training. Why would you outsource leadership development?" To keep the peace, the boss relents. Of course, I don't like losing business; but even more irritating is the knowledge that many of these organizations never do implement effective internal leadership programs, so their leaders go untrained.

The turf-protecting conduct of some OD professionals is just one symptom of a universal corporate crisis. When Accenture asked business executives to identify the most critical factors for achieving high organizational performance, 65 percent said leadership development is the most important issue. However, only 8 percent of respondents said their organizations develop leaders very well. Why such a discrepancy? Because most organizations are not their leaders at all!

To be sure, I talk with companies all the time that are exploring the idea of an internal leadership program. They're always at the same stage: OD is in the process of assessing managers' needs. And those assessments expose the earth-shattering knowledge that people want training--in everything. Inevitably, leadership development takes a back seat to technical skills training. In its 2005 State of the Industry Report, the American Society for Training & Development confirms that organizations spend most of their training resources on profession or industry specific content. So while top executives are begging for trained leaders, OD is busy teaching bookkeepers how to use Excel.

From my perspective as a leadership trainer, most organizations are better at teaching skills than developing people. So let your OD experts teach job-specific skills--it's what they do best. But if you want to develop leaders capable of taking your organization to the next competitive level, look seriously at outside resources.
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