After working for nearly 38 years, I have to admit that I've had quite a bit of leadership training. I'm optimistic, and hope that my company has invested in my career because they saw the leadership qualities that I possess. In this article, I'll provide insights learned over time.
Leadership Training Basics
Before embarking on a search for the perfect training course, spend time looking inward, while thinking about the feedback received from others - especially your manager. This is not as easy as it sounds because it's important to be honest with yourself to figure out what help is needed.
For example, if you're oftentimes arguing with coworkers, then you might want to take a training course on handling conflict. Someone that's recently been introduced to a new group might want to consider a team-building training course.
People that are in a new position, one that requires the supervising or managing of others, might want to consider taking a "management and / or leadership" course. In fact, these early-career courses should be introductory programs, which will be the foundation upon which additional leadership training courses build.
Supervisors that find themselves suddenly in charge of a unionized workforce should find out if their company provides training on enforcing the collective bargaining agreement. When I was asked to supervise union employees, this was one of the most useful training courses ever taken. It keeps the supervisor out of trouble, and the union membership honest.
This brings up a good point about internal or in-house training versus external training courses. There was a time when large organizations attempted to do a lot of their training in-house. Over the last 15 years, companies have come to realize that being in the leadership training business is not their area of expertise. That's why more companies are turning to external resources to help.
There are some training courses, such as those dealing with collective bargaining agreements, which are specific to a company. For these courses, in-house training is preferred. However, higher-quality leadership courses can be found more frequently outside of a company's domain.
If at all possible, try to obtain a recommendation from someone else about a particular training course before signing up. I've sat through many leadership training classes that were, quite frankly, a waste of time. Ask several people for their opinions, and see if there is a pattern.
Make sure to ask the right people for their opinions. There are many associates that love to go to training classes just because they view it as a couple of days out of the office. If you're considering being out of the office, then make sure you learn something too.
As with most things in life, companies will get what they pay for, and leadership training is really no exception. When a company offers courses internally, they're only as good as the trainer. That might sound obvious, but the specialty training organizations I'll talk about shortly can afford to have quality control and development practices in place. This means participants are almost guaranteed to be exposed to the latest information on leadership, and the most progressive thinking.
Organizational Leadership Training
The first recommendation is the American Management Association. Anyone that's been a manager for a couple of years has probably seen their course offerings book in their in-box at least once.
AMA offers such courses as Mastering Organizational Politics, and Influence and Alliances and Planning, and Managing Organizational Change. The AMA can provide on-site training or participants can visit one of their five conference centers located throughout the U.S. A typical leadership course might take two to three days and cost roughly $1,000 per day for tuition.
Executive Leadership Training
The single best leadership training experience I've had was at the Center for Creative Leadership. They've been offering an executive leadership training program for nearly 40 years, and it shows. The center's philosophy is around a 360 degree feedback mechanism. Typically, this would involve a self assessment to be completed before attending a training program, followed by careful observation and feedback from CCL staff and other participants; in a safe and non-intimidating fashion.
Of course all of the individualized attention at CCL does come at a cost. The ratio of trainer to participant is very low; meaning there are many members of the CCL staff observing the trainees. A typical leadership training course at CCL runs five days and costs in the neighborhood of $1,500 to $2,000 per day.
This may seem expensive, but the quality of their staff, materials and feedback makes for an excellent program. Executives that are looking for training at its finest need to explore CCL's offerings.
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