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Whose Responsibility for Results?

One of the most interesting challenges for anyone involved in training is whether the trainees will put the training into action. For those of us involved in leadership training it’s even more interesting to consider whether the theories, concepts and models you share will make any difference in the workplace of the leaders you share them with.

Why the difference? Well, most apprentices do the training in order to get the job. Without the training, there is no job. But most leaders have the job already, so where is the drive for skills uptake? What does it take for a trainer and the buying organisation to encourage the translation of theory into action?

The topic of ‘theory into action’ is quite fascinating, particularly as it involves the interplay between three parties a) the trainer b) the trainee c) the trainee’s organisation. The question has to be ‘What, if anything, do the three parties have to do to maximise the take up and use of the theories applied in the training?’

Simplistically, if the trainer delivers poorly then there is limited take up, and if the employee isn’t interested in the first place, then there is poor take up. However If the trainer does a good job but the employee is still not interested, there will still be limited take up. If an employee is really interested, you would think that all the trainer has to do is deliver well. But what about the employer? Can they influence beyond the hiring of the trainer in the first place?

Recently I started a small group coaching programme for three managers. All of these managers turned up for the session highly motivated to get something out of it, questions ready, and having done some personal preparation as to what they wanted to learn and where their gaps were. I hadn’t asked them to do this. So trainer intervention was limited until they got there.

Each of them spoke about how enthusiastic their manager had been about the programme, how her insights reports had helped her when she did it, how important it was to the manager that they succeeded in their role and this was part of helping them do this etc etc. So no KPIs, no pre-work, no planning sessions, no engagement surveys from us, yet a high level of motivation to get something from the programme.

All down to the manager? Well each of these managers also has a high level of internal drive, motivation to succeed and a degree of ambition (shown through their insights). Each had just been promoted to a tough job and had no management training. So a tick in the box for their part in the interplay of three bodies.

What does this all add up to? I’m not convinced that I could put it into an perfect algorithm with all the components laid out, but if I could it would start out looking something like this:

Employee Motivation to Improve x Manager Commitment to Employee Success x Organisational Incentivisation x Trainer Matching of Needs = % Translation of Theory into Action.

If you are not getting the outcomes you are looking from your development programmes you might want to look more closely at these four elements to see what levers you can pull to deliver better results.We would also love your comments on the topic of theory into action from your perspective, particularly what you’ve seen working, or has worked for you?


  • On April 24th we will be talking about ‘putting theory into action from an axiological perspective’ at the International Leadership Association conference in Auckland. If anybody can’t get to that, but would be interested in what we have to say then please contact us.


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