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The Learning Glass Ceiling – Part 2

In my last blog I said that in working with senior leaders in major organizations I’ve observed that once they get to be the CEO, or reach other C-suite level positions, many quit participating in learning experiences. I noted that there are two problems this causes: 1) the negative messages it sends to the rest of the organization, and 2) the inability of those top leaders to role-model and reinforce what is being taught. See the last blog, The Learning Glass Ceiling – Part 1, for a discussion of the first problem. Now for the second issue.

In my last blog I said that in working with senior leaders in major organizations I’ve observed that once they get to be the CEO, or reach other C-suite level positions, many quit participating in learning experiences. I noted that there are two problems this causes: 1) the negative messages it sends to the rest of the organization, and 2) the inability of those top leaders to role-model and reinforce what is being taught. See the last blog, The Learning Glass Ceiling – Part 1, for a discussion of the first problem. Now for the second issue.

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These senior leaders often support leadership development with their words and financial backing, encourage those who report to them to participate, kick-off or close their senior executive/leadership development programs, and sometimes “teach” in them – usually presenting the organization vision, strategy, marketplace challenges and priorities. They might even go so far as to be briefed in some detail by the head of HR, or Chief Learning Officer, or head of executive/leadership development, on the objectives and content of the programs. But if they haven’t actually attended personally as a “student”, several problems arise that are critical and often overlooked:
•Since they have not had the development experience themselves, they can’t possibly role model what is being taught to leaders below them
•Because they don’t have the same training/development they can’t encourage, support, and reinforce what is being taught with the leaders who report to them who have participated in the programs or development experiences
•If top management doesn’t role model or reinforce what is expected of others in the organization, it is much less likely that there will be an environment that supports people in applying what is learned. At best, this makes it extremely difficult for lessons learned in leadership development experiences to be applied and sustained over time. And at worst, it can make the time and expenditures on development a complete waste

So, what do you think? Do you think top level leaders understand the problems created by their lack of personal engagement in learning and development? If you agree that this is a problem, what do you think can be done about it?

Jim Bolt*jbolt@executivedevelopment.com*www.executivedevelopment.com