Executive coaches regularly field requests from HR managers and executive leaders to present various leadership workshops to their employees and teams — a seminar on becoming a better communicator, a webinar on listening skills, a session on developing emotional intelligence. It’s a one-and-done approach: the opposite of consistent leadership development.
Requests such as, “We’d like you to do a two-hour workshop that will change how our managers communicate and relate to all their people,” or, “We want a 45-minute presentation about teamwork at our next off-site strategic planning meeting,” are common, as is the idea that an executive coach might meet once or twice with a manager or executive and quick-fix a specific problem or challenge.
Then, after the two-hour seminar or morning workshop, we’re all better leaders, or team members, or communicators, right? No. The fatal flaw with this approach is the assumption that leadership development, team performance and communication can be improved in a SWAT-like fashion — quick and easy. Building leadership skills is not as simple as throwing a switch.
The HR manager or executive leader in question may be able to check off the box, “Done,” but nothing meaningful will be accomplished. Most of us understand this intuitively — it’s a waste of time, a waste of money, and ultimately, a poor experience. But sometimes, we do it anyway!
The Power of Consistent Leadership Development
The fact is, we all need consistency and repetition in anything we wish to learn or improve upon, including leadership and communication skills.
Consider playing a musical instrument. Can someone become a skilled guitarist with one or two lessons? A one-day intensive? No. Someone might learn a few power chords, but even then, they’d need to practice with some consistency before playing any song with confidence or skill. In the sports world, it’s widely understood that in order to improve, golf requires repetition, consistency, and practice. Anyone who has ever played golf, stepped away from the game for a year, then returned to it knows how true that is!
The reason is fundamental to how we learn. It’s an essential truth about how we remember and retain information, whether it’s learning guitar, improving our golf swing, or developing our ability to communicate effectively with employees. It’s called the forgetting curve.
The forgetting curve demonstrates the quick decline in remembering when there is little effort to recall or apply the information. Some experts say that we lose as much as half of our memory of recently learned information in just a few days or weeks unless steps are taken to intentionally review the knowledge. For more about the forgetting curve, read this Arden Coaching blog.
So we need repetition. Are you interested in developing high performance teams? Would you like to improve your leadership skills? Do you wish to develop a high-potential employee’s communication skills, emotional intelligence, or strategic skills? A planned coaching program of learning, mindset and behavioral changes, and application of learned skills —consistently implemented over time — is the surest path to change, growth, and success. For an interesting perspective on the value of repetition, read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, and his comments about the role of “10,000 hours” of practice for mastery and success.