Leadership Slumber–“Sleep & Learn” is alive & well…

The story you’re about to read is true. The names have
been changed to protect the innocent. Ok, you may not be old enough for that
line to make sense (Dragnet), so I’ll stop. Plus, these people weren’t
“innocent.” Further, I’m not changing the names, I’m simply omitting
the company name, and only because a client suggested I do so.
Moving on…
So, I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa a while back working with
one of my largest clients–Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). I’d just spent the
last two days facilitating multiple half-day sessions with three separate
groups of up-and-coming leaders and was relaxing before dinner.
Sitting in the hotel’s lobby lounge, I couldn’t help but
overhear a fairly rowdy bunch next to me. They clearly worked together, or at
least for the same company, and were having quite a time. Several were
discussing where they would go to “continue the party” that evening.
Though I didn’t hear the initial exchange, apparently one
of the crew questioned the wisdom of a traveling party, since they all had to
get up a bit early the next day.
“We’re at management training this week — how awake
do we have to be
I kid you not, that’s the response that came from one of
the women in this group. At about nine kazillion decibels, lest someone in the
adjoining hotel couldn’t hear.
Obviously, this got my attention.
It was only then that I noticed the three-inch blue and
white binders sitting next to most of them. “Foundations of
Leadership” was embossed on the front; the name and logo of this large
defense contractor would be familiar to all reading this. Particularly since
there aren’t many of those in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Apparently, not all of those revelers understood the
general concept of “Foundations of Leadership.”
Now we’ve all been bored stiff at one time or another by
a sleep-inducing, monotone-voiced facilitator or trainer (no one in my
sessions, of course — merely speaking hypothetically), droning on about one
thing or another for three or four consecutive butt-numbing days. That’s not
the point here. The points are:
1. Leadership development is crucial for long-term
success of an organization
. We must convey that those participating are there
for a reason. And that reason is not to reach consensus on the next bar
location. Having a good time is ok, maybe even encouraged (hey, I like a good
time); making learning adjunct to the party is not.
2. The investment for leadership development is
. Facilitators, facilities, materials, salaries… then add in loss
of productivity while in session and related costs. Save it for those who take
leadership — and their professional development — seriously.
3. But my final point is this: The most important thing
we can do with emerging leaders is to develop them for the future.
Not all, of
course, are worthy of the mantle, nor the cost of such development. Realizing
the importance of development must start with senior leadership, and we need to
get better at it.
If we take it seriously, and show its significance to the
organization, so will others. That whole “leading by positive
example” thing. Maybe then our emerging managers won’t use
“Foundations of Leadership” as an insomnia cure.
I’ll sleep to that.
But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann


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