5 solutions to leadership training mistakes
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5 solutions to leadership training mistakes

2 months ago · 3 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

Each year, the average U.S. company allots $1,071 per employee on training — and public accounting firms are no different. Leadership training is just one kind of professional development that public accounting firms budget for, working to increase the competencies of the next generation of finance leaders. However, educational efforts risk being ineffective. The return on investment can be slim, and the training may not lead to more competent leaders or higher organizational performance.

To find the training regimen right for your firm and give your staff the competencies needed for sustained success, address the following five mistakes.

  1. The mistake: Lack of support
    Once the training concludes, learners attempting to implement their newfound knowledge could face resistance from upper management or senior leaders. A leadership program’s success is contingent on buy-in from upper management. As learners enact their newly learned skills, they need constant support from their leadership. If that is lacking, the lessons won’t take hold, and the training program won’t succeed.

    The solution:
    Establish a top-down approach to leadership training. Include senior leaders in training from the onset. Before, during and after training, engage with executives to ensure all leaders agree on expected training program outcomes. With more transparency and support from senior executives, learners can better understand their roles and what support is needed, ensuring the program’s success within their firm.

  2. The mistake: One-size-fits-all approach

    Training programs are not created equally. A blanket approach overlooks the fact that certain skills or leadership styles may not work with preexisting firm strategy, culture or management. The selected program may also be too broad, burdening learners with the number of competencies to remember, juggle and implement.

    The solution: When selecting a leadership training program, be specific about your firm’s needs and don’t ignore context. Ask yourself: Who is my audience? What do I want this program to accomplish for them? Context is important for two reasons, according to McKinsey:

    1. First, a well-tailored program focuses on a few key competencies relevant to the audience and sector.

    2. Second, establishment of a “from–to” path for learners shows them their trajectory and puts their training into action.

  3. The mistake: Underestimating attitudes

    Preexisting attitudes and behaviors are hard to change, becoming a multifaceted problem. Although on the surface learners may be receptive to training, upon completion, they may revert to pre-training viewpoints and practices. Therefore, constant effort is required from learners to put their new skills into action.

    Additionally, consider staff attitudes. Highly motivated learners who complete training and are ready to lead may meet resistance from a team that’s entrenched in the current culture. A team’s unwillingness to change can undermine the leader’s intent — ultimately affecting the firm.

    The solution: For any leadership training to be successful and sustainable, deep, company-wide behavior changes are required. According to the (HBR), organizations view themselves as “an aggregation of individuals” and select people for training based on skills and traits that align with the organization’s strategy. Upper management believes that developing specific traits will lead to organizational change.

    But this viewpoint may be lacking. Organizations are instead “systems of interacting elements” influenced by many factors — leadership styles, backgrounds, organizational structure and more, according to HBR. Senior and executive leaders need to be ready to change their firm culture and help alter attitudes at all staff levels to ensure successful training.

  4. The mistake: Lack of relevancy

    Training programs need to be specific and relevant to their audiences. If the lessons are not applicable or if the language is too broad, learners won’t put the lessons to use.

    The solution: Successful leadership training should directly address the needs of a public accounting firm. Relevant lessons are engaging, applicable and easy to implement months, or even years, after the training concludes.

  5. The mistake: No action items

    After completing leadership training, learners need help using their newly learned skills. Learners may need help understanding the next steps or how to apply the acquired leadership skills. The application may be hard to visualize. Learners risk regressing to their pre-training ways of doing things — see mistake No. 3.

    The solution: Effective training maps out the next steps for learners to see how the lessons apply to their teams and organization. Learners should feel confident applying their training and competencies to everyday scenarios. Success is also contingent on buy-in from upper management — see mistake No. 1 — who can guide their developing leaders.

Implement successful learning and development programs
You can avoid these common mistakes by recognizing them, and ultimately make your leadership training more effective in cultivating future leaders. A key to addressing these mistakes is first selecting the right learning and development program.

  1. With AICPA & CIMA Learning & Development subscription tiers, leadership development training is specifically designed for public accounting firms’ needs. Employees at all levels can upskill through on-demand learning that covers a wide range of competencies — digital, people, technical, business and leadership skills.

    You know what makes a good leader; now is the time to invest in staff development. Access our L&D subscription tiers as you prepare to guide new leaders and usher in leadership transformation at your firm.

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