Leadership development services are a $134 billion annual expenditure in the US.
-*How can purchasers ensure that they receive value for the investment?
Peter Harms of University of Nebraska-Lincoln identified prerequisites for effective leadership development in his collaborative research with
- Candidates’s readiness to receive candid feedback from a variety of sources
- Mentoring from an engaged, supportive leadership coach in preference to classroom earning about leadership
- Realistic advancement opportunities in the organization for the candidate.
This research team randomly assigned participants to an individual mentorship program or classroom-based group leadership training to evaluate the relative efficacy of less expensive group delivery delivery approaches
Those who participated in the semiformal mentorships were significantly more likely to report increased confidence in assuming a leadership role than those in the classroom training.
Harms and his team suggested that the mentoring group’s effectiveness is based on coaches’ ability to:
- Establish a trust-based collaborative relationship
- Provide support
- Offer frank, even blunt, experience-based feedback
- Become sponsors and advocates when the cadets assert leadership.
Additionally, participants who experienced greatest gains in leadership skills and confidence were:
- Open to receiving candid feedback from mentors
- Willing to receive challenging and even negative feedback
Though the least expensive approach to leadership development did not produce the greatest
results, recent research on the placebo effect in medicine may remind those evaluating the Return on Investment (ROI) of leadership development training that the more intense attention demonstrated in the “Hawthorne effect”, described by Elton Mayo, and the placebo effect may explain some of the results, rather than the actual content of the mentoring relationship.
A tangible example of power of attention was reported by Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School, who found that among 250 patients with documented symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), those who received the most individualized attention in three no-treatment conditions reported the greatest symptom relief even though no medical intervention.
Even Kaptchuk told participants that the “treatment” was a placebo, volunteers reported symptom alleviation.
These finding suggest that the most important “active ingredient” in leadership development training may be personalized attention.
However candidates’s readiness to receive candid feedback and to implement recommendations should be also evaluated by multiple raters in addition to candidates’ self-ratings to reduce evaluative bias.
-*How has personalized mentoring helped you develop leadership competencies?