Friday, July 18, 2008

Real or Fake (Creative) Leadership Programs: The Answers

The results are in! A few days ago I asked readers if they could identify the three out of five real leadership programs from a list of "Creative" Leadership programs. The post generated a lot of hits, and a few good answers, so I decided to offer a prize for the first person to comment with the right answer.

Minutes after that 2nd post when up, I got this comment from Ask a Manager:
"My guess is that #2 (scared straight) and #4 (leadership gene) are fake. I am strangely over-confident about this."

There's no fooling this savvy manager. She's right! Congratulations, Alison. Send me an email with your address and I'll send you your prize (as soon as I'm done reading it).

(Sorry, HR Wench, no cookie for you, but thanks for playing.)

Here's the original list, with more information and my take on the real ones:

1. Space camp for leaders. You and your leadership team can go to a real space and rocket center and train like astronauts! Complete realistic space missions that require effective problem solving, communication, and teamwork - just like real astronauts! You can even bring your own company trainer to provide professional facilitation in order to reinforce the learning objectives on a more personal level. The sky is not the limit!

REAL. Yes, here it is. Forbes says the $11 billion dollar fantasy camp industry offers everything from shark diving, to fighter-plane dog fighting, even a parachute jump over Mount Everest. Some of the experiences can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Space Camp, with over 500,000 graduates, offers children and adults alike the chance to train like an astronaut, ultimately carrying out a simulated space shuttle mission.

Sounds like fun, right? Sure, I'd love to try it. I'm all for adding activities to the agenda of a leadership team off-site for a little team building. (read a great Steve Roesler post on the difference between team building activities and real team development).

I do have problems with this: First of all, please don't try to sell me this as a leadership development program - or a leadership team development program. It's not - it's a boondoggle.
Secondly, I would have a serious problem with this if my company was struggling, asking employees to tighten their belts and sacrifice, and I found out the leadership team was away playing astronaut. And under no circumstances would I want to see my tax dollars being wasted on government employees or elected officials going to fantasy camps.

2. Scared Straight for Leaders. This is a program started by reformed executives from Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom. Crooked CFOs are brought to an actual white collar penitentiary in an attempt to make them end their criminal ways by introducing them to actual convicts. A group of inmates known as the "lifers" berate, scream at, and terrify the executives and attempt to "scare them straight" by showing an ugly, harsh presentation of the realities of prison life. By the end of the program, executives decide that they don't want to end up in jail and vow to follow all Sarbanes-Oxley standards.

FAKE. Based on the 1978 documentary filmed at Rahway State Prison, about a group of cocky teenage juvenile delinquents and the attempts to make them end their criminal ways by introducing them to actual convicts. I watched it when I was 20 and it sure helped motivate me to stay out of trouble.

3. Business Astrology. "The Absolutely Essential PERSONAL BUSINESS PROFILE, including a year's worth of important business dates! What does astrology say about your business personality? Where are you likely to shine? Where do you tend to add value to an organization? What are you really thinking about on the job? All that, plus a year's worth of advice regarding key business dates! The Personal Business Profile is an amazing document that will have you and your colleagues (if you let them in on it) buzzing. Also makes an excellent recon tool if you can pry birth info out of a boss or competitor!

REAL. A few weeks ago, I received a very well written email from Steven Mark Weiss, Author of "Signs of Success: The Remarkable Power of Business Astrology" , published by AMACOM. He quoted me from one of my posts: "Open your mind to new ideas, even if they at first they seem absurd." - Dan McCarthy, 10 Tips for Creative Thinking . OK, so how could I not at least take a look? I did, and while I'm not ready to dive into astrology as a leadership development program, it's worth taking a look at. Who's to say it's any less helpful than some of the other assessments we love to use?

4. The Leadership Gene. Scientists from the Human Genome Project (HGP) have isolated a gene that is responsible for the ability to inspire others to follow. This trait, one of the hardest if not impossible leadership characteristics to learn, has always been suspected as being more of an innate, or natural ability. By isolating the gene, scientists have been able to use gene therapy to inject the plasma of inspirational leaders into uninspiring managers with dramatic results. The gene has been patented by the University of Southern California.

FAKE. But after reading Michael Critchen's Next, it wouldn't surprise me if it was true. Scary stuff.

5. Happiness Training. Scientists from the Positive Psychology Center have developed a series of e-learning programs that companies can purchase to make their employees happier. Happier employees mean more productive employees, which means better business results and and fat profits.

REAL. Yes, it's legit stuff! I met with representatives from The Positive Psychology Center, which is affiliated with Penn State, and came away very impressed. They've done extensive research that proves that you can learn optimism and resiliency, which in turn makes you more positive - and happy. They have an series of on-line modules - than can be purchased and offered to employees as part of a company wellness program. After hearing what they had to say and grilling them with questions, I was ready try it out myself. Hey, wouldn't we all rather work for a "happy" leader?

I had so much fun with this, I'm sure I'll do it again. I've already started a list of "strange but true" leadership development programs and products I've run across. If you know of any, please send me an email and I'll consider adding it to a future post.


Rachel - Employment File said...

Argh! I just saw the post today and totally picked everything right. I just didn't have a chance to comment.

niki said...

Just a point of clarification: the Positive Psychology Center is associated with the University of Pennsylvania, not Penn State.