Today’s HR and L&D professionals are under immense pressure to deliver real return on investment to their businesses from executive education. But some of the ways they’re trying to do this are counterproductive.

We know of many companies who have engaged some of the world’s top business schools to help them design leadership development programmes. But then some of them get so into the details of the proposed programme design and the actual delivery that they destroy the value the programme could have delivered. This happens, for example, when they want so much detail about the minute-by-minute flow of the programme, they can stifle some of the learnings the business school is trying to create through creative programming. In a genuine example, we were asked to develop a day on leading in uncertain and ambiguous times, and the client wanted a schedule that ran to the fifteen minutes level of detail. Ironic. You can’t make this stuff up.

It can also happen during delivery, when clients hover around the back of the room, fussing and fretting. Any minor irritation in the programme becomes an issue they want to rectify immediately, and they cause untold stress doing so. They don’t trust the process, and think that learning will happen when every delegate is pandered to and happy (rather than stretched, out of their comfort zone and struggling). When you say it like this you can’t imagine a learning professional world think this way. But they do. And they damage the value of the programme they’ve paid big money to develop.

Sadly, most business school programme managers do not stand up to these antics, allowing clients to get away with this counterproductive behaviour. “He who pays the piper”, I suppose. But still, top ranked business schools should do a better job in pushing back at these types of clients. Mainly because it’s got nothing to do with better executive education, and quite a lot to do with the HR and L&D’s perception of what it is going to take to keep their own job and get a good review this year.

They should stop meddling, and start trusting the exec ed professionals they have engaged to help them develop their future leaders.

This video is another “thought bullet” in TomorrowToday’s Signposts series on this topic:

What do you think? Have you experienced this on any courses you’ve been on? What do you think the solution is?

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