The Last Thing You Need is More Training

Photo by Al Nik on  Unsplash

Photo by Al Nik on Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference where a behavioral scientist was making a case for the fact that having information does not necessarily lead to behavior change. As I like to put it: it isn’t knowing what to do, but doing what you know, that makes all the difference. While we all accept that we have to know better before we can do better, many of us confuse the former for the latter, and this is where we end up getting held back. This point, that simply knowing better isn’t the same as doing better, is what the behavioral scientist was trying to convey. To demonstrate this truth, she took us through an exercise where she asked us a few questions which went like this:

“How many of you have heard that exercising three times a week is good for you?” Almost every hand went up.

“How many of you believe that is true?” Almost every hand went up again.

“How many of you believe that this applies to you, and if you did exercise three times a week, your health would improve?” Just about everybody raised their hand (with the exception of a few who had figured out where this was going).

Then she asked the question that she had been waiting to ask. “How many of you have been exercising three times a week for the past few weeks?” A quick glance around the room, and I could count on my fingers the number of hands that went up in the audience of about 200 people.

To drive her point home, she then presented us with some mind-boggling data that said, based on a meta-analysis of 188 research studies, The Effect of Financial Literacy and Financial Education on Downstream Financial Behavior, only 0.1% of variance in financial behaviors are explained by content-based, financial education interventions. To put that another way, more financial knowledge and training only significantly impacted the financial behavior of 0.1% of people studied. Out of the over half million people studied, extra education only made a difference for about 500! That’s one tenth of a percent, as in 1/1000, which is a pretty pathetic ROI no matter where you sit.

How could this be? Is training and education that useless? She we just abandon education and training altogether? Of course not! We know that training and education are invaluable and irreplaceable when they are actually needed. Construction workers need to be trained in the proper use of their tools and machinery, accountants need to be educated on the tax code, electricians need knowledge and training to work with circuits and appliances, etc. I believe education and training is necessary in any area of life where you want to develop mastery, but they not sufficient alone to bring about a transformation in your behavior and ultimately your results. That requires something more than knowing what to do, more than just tools and skills.

In my experience, this is even more true when it comes to leadership development. Some training is necessary and helpful in the beginning, especially if one has learned their way through the school of hard knocks, but at a certain point, you reach the point of diminishing returns when it comes to equipping the person with more knowledge of even skills. Truly transformative leadership development, the kind that creates consistent growth in success and fulfillment, is about getting leaders to see how their current mindset and behaviors are working against them, and then cultivating in them the inclination, opportunity, and desire to change.

From there, it’s about making sure that they have a supportive community of accountability partners doing this same work, having them make bold declarations that force them to grow beyond the person they have been relating to themselves as until now, and about putting accountability structures in place that keep them moving toward the transformative vision that they have created. Ultimately, what makes the difference is going for something big, difficult, and important and seeking out the knowledge and skills that you need overcome the actual, real-life challenge of pulling it off. Without that, you will invariably end up spinning your wheels in more “useless” training classes, learning a bunch of information and perspective and tools that have a 0.1% chance of maybe someday impacting your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been a proponent of training and development for my entire career. They are important and necessary. The fact is, you can’t even really begin to work on shifting your mindset in earnest until you have the requisite training and education to develop a certain level of competence. So, why do I say “the last thing you need is training?” Well, for one thing to pique your curiosity so you would read my blog post! But seriously, because I believe we all need to put more thought into how we approach training and education when it comes to the workplace. Our current approach isn’t helping those attending these trainings, those paying for the training, and it is giving the false impression that all training and development are useless.

Again, that’s not what I’m saying here. Training and education are essential, but only up to a certain point and in a certain context. Just giving people more knowledge and skills doesn’t help them with how to actually put that knowledge and those skills into practice to make a difference for themselves or their community. At a certain point, once they achieve competence or expertise, more tools and skills just don’t move the needle anymore. How to shift their mindset, how to use the tools and skills they already have to overcome the specific challenges they are facing, and how to deliver specific results that represent a step-change from the past: these are the missing keys when it comes to most training and education.

I appreciate the investment that was made in my development over the years, and I have invested a lot in making sure that those in my organizations had the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed at work and in life. Unfortunately, I must admit that I have also attended many “useless” training sessions and I have invested in many, many more of those for my people out of ignorance. I’ve had experience on both sides of the spectrum, and, now in my own leadership development practice, I’m proud to say that I do my very best to incorporate as many of the missing keys necessary to turn insight into action and training into success in all of my sessions, even on short-term engagements.

Next time you are looking to conduct training, make sure the following components are considered and intentionally integrated into your plans:

1.       Stretch Goals – Why are the participants attending this training? What bold future are they creating? Have they set some goals that they are working toward that compel them to get something tangible and practical out of the session or program and do something with it?

2.       Coach – Who will coach the participants beyond the training session?

3.       Community – Is there a community that will encourage each other and keep each other honest in action with their commitments?

4.       Accountability Structure – What structure do you have in place to ensure that following through and doing the work doesn’t take a back seat to everything else that is going on?

5.       Immersion – How are you going to make sure that the participants are reminded of their takeaways often and remain immersed in a conversation that elevates them to the next level of performance and fulfillment?

One of our programs, The Transformative Leadership Academy, brings all these necessary ingredients together. This 3.5-month program is one that I have been conducting for about 14 years, first in my own operations, then as a consultant for my clients. Every single time I have conducted one, it has delivered breakthrough results on an almost unimaginable scale for those who have participated.

How it works is that we identify 8-12 participants who are doing well and have shown potential to take their influence and effectiveness to the next level. Each participant takes on an actual project within the organization—not a test case or hypothetical—and declares stretching targets that they only have a 50/50 chance of delivering. They declare the characteristics and skills and that they want to develop in themselves and a target community in the course of delivering on their project, then we agree on monthly milestones, and off we go!

We start the program with a 3-day face-to-face intensive session, where the participants not only receive personal and culture transformation training, but most importantly come together as a community and set the tone for the rest of the program. Each participant is assigned a coach within the organization and we establish a structure for the participants to develop weekly plans and meetings with their coach. We also meet as a team every week, or every other week in some cases, to not only further train and develop the participants but give them coaching and support in getting their project done.

In the end, what happens consistently is that not only the participants deliver extraordinary results that they didn’t think were possible but they also begin to relate to themselves differently. They develop the skills, characteristics, and mindset that set them up for success no matter what challenges they may face in the future, and they begin to cultivate a level of influence that enables them to begin guiding others in the organization down this path as well. As a bonus, most, if not all, report significant benefits in their personal lives, which go on to enhance their performance and satisfaction at work, and vice versa.

Click here to learn more about The Transformative Leadership Academy. Let us know if you are interested in having a conversation about bringing The Academy to your team and accelerating your progress in delivering extraordinary results and experiencing unprecedented growth and fulfillment.

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You can now listen to the new 5-part audio series, “Transforming Your Workplace Experience!" This audio series serves as both a great standalone introduction to culture transformation, as well as a companion to our previously available free culture transformation guide. In the series, I walk you through some applications and examples of the concepts presented in the guide, so that you can more effectively put them into practice and get motivated by the progress you will start making. I know that after learning and applying the concepts and distinctions that I present in the guide and audio series, you will be more qualified than ever to create extraordinary cultures that consistently deliver breakthrough results!

The Transformative Leader Audiobook is available now! I'm so excited to announce that "The Transformative Leader" on audiobook is currently on sale now exclusively on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! The wait is over for those of you who (like me) prefer to listen to books during their commute or while exercising or simply doing things around the house! If you aren't yet a member of Audible, you can use this link ( and sign up for a free 30-day trial and receive "The Transformative Leader" audiobook for free (plus one credit per month thereafter)!

About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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