Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Too Dumb to be True Leadership Development Program

A while back, I did a post on "Creative" Leadership Programs ; where I described a list of real and fake leadership development programs (i.e., “Space Camp for Leaders”), and offered a prize to the first reader to pick the fake programs. The point was to shine a light on some of the ridiculous programs out there disguised as leadership development and the idiots, errr, naive managers and trainers who are suckered into spending their company’s hard earned money on them.

Maybe it’s the economic downturn and bad PR over AIG post-bailout junkets, but I haven’t seen many good examples lately.

Until I saw this one:

New Green Training Reduces Corporate Carbon Footprint

Yes, self-proclaimed “independent thinker" Streaming Strategies CEO Michael Warren has taken three good ideas:

Team Building + The Green Movement + Fly Fishing

And combined them to create one too damn silly to be true idea for a training program.

Here’s more from the press release:

StreamingStrategies, a new corporate training company in Virginia, announced today that it will launch its green corporate training services on May 1, 2009.

The company provides green training for strategic corporate teams that combines high quality classroom instruction with an eco-aware fly fishing experience for team building.

CEO Michael Warren said of the launch, “Our services help HR professionals green their companies. Our training is eco-friendly, sustainable and renewable. Based on Authentic Learning concepts, our training results in both an action plan to solve an immediate team problem and a blueprint for solving similar problems. Combined with a low-tech delivery method and a flexible format, our training allows green learning to be incorporated into organizational development events at virtually any venue, including remote adventures. Because we achieve training and team building in a single event, our training helps a company reduce its carbon footprint.”

OMG, "eco-aware" training?! Is it any wonder we continue to see headlines like this:

Training a 'waste of time' says one in three workers

Why training doesn't work

Don't trust HR to manage your talent

Well sure, it's partly because:
- There are a lot of charlatans out there selling crap like this and calling it leadership or team development
- There are a lot of incompetent HR and Training departments all too willing to buy and promote this stuff and other bad ideas
- There are a lot of desperate and gullible managers looking for silver bullets

Hey, I'm all for a good time now and then on the company's tab - just don't try to justify it as a training investment.

Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Warren; I don’t think I’ll be sending our leaders to this one. But good luck with your new venture, I'll bet it will do well.

In my next post, I’m going to describe a way to develop leaders that is:

- Highly effective
- Free
- Easy to implement
- Very green
- and doesn’t involve fishing.


Becky Robinson said...

Funny, Dan! I wonder about the footprint from traveling to the wonderful fly fishing experience?

Although caring for the environment is important, I get tired of the way everyone seems to be jumping on this green bandwagon. I think it cheapens it, frankly.

Looking forward to hearing about your leadership development ideas in the next post.

Fred H Schlegel said...

There are also a number of managers who are more interested in a vacation than they are in learning anything. Funny program. Bet it succeeds.

Wally Bock said...

Bravo, Dan. Alas the situation is not likely to change. Most of the really fun stuff is aimed at people with real purchasing power. It tends to be the top 'o the org chart execs who wind up going to "recreational training." As long as they get to go, they'll keep buying. And no one will ever know because no one actually tracks if training does any good.

Mike Rogers said...

Pretty funny stuff Dan, and right on the mark. I have believed for some time that we just don't get it when it comes to training, not to mention leadership development. Most trainers do what I call "spray and pray" after we pay. That means we pay then they spray what they have to say, then pray (if they even care) that we retain and apply what we learn.

Ironically I just posted an article on my blog last week titled "Most Leadership Development/Training is "Stupid." I looked up the word stupid and this is what it said "given to unintelligent decisions or acts; acting in an unintelligent or careless manner."

Any way, thanks for spreading the word about stupid leadership development programs.

Clutch said...

I went to the website and looked them over. While the press release may be a bit over-stated, there seems to be more than silliness here. They look like they have things to offer, though it will not be for everyone. That the founder has found useful metaphors for business in fly-fishing shows creativity and innovation that others may enjoy.

I think that this group is being judged too harshly without due diligence.

Let the buyer interview the consultants at StreamStrategies to assess the value proposition. Some orgs are so damn serious and buttoned up that they need a less-formal approach to training.

And, no, I'm not at all related to StreamStrategies nor will I benefit in any way from speaking my opinion.

Dan McCarthy said...

Clutch -
Thanks, I respect your opinion, and I'll stand by mine. At the risk of being close-minded, I'm not even going to try to understand (and I did at least look at the site) how "green training" and fly fishing is going to develop leaders.
It does, however sound like good fun.

Clutch said...

It's all in the details of the design and the delivery.

There are too many silly, stupid, careless, and unethical leadership development programs out there, no doubt.

There are also WAY too many "safe, certain, boring and virtually useless" leadership development programs conducted by mainstream training corporations and universities.

Sometimes creative approaches offer ways of learning that SOP didactic methods cannot.

I guess I am surprised that you are attacking something that it doesn't seem that you have researched very well. Seems like you are judging a book by its cover ... Kind of like attacking sushi, oysters or caviar before you've tried it.

Due diligence is required. Caveat emptor.

Dan McCarthy said...

Clutch –
You’re right, I didn’t research this program. And you’re sort of right in that I’m biased towards a more mainstream, “tried and true” (but not boring and useless) approach to leadership development. I like action learning, simulations, case studies, group discussion, leaders teaching leaders, coaching, feedback, and stretch development assignments. I’m highly skeptical of “fringe” approaches, and by not taking the time to try and research them all, I may be missing out on some innovative and effective approaches.
And you also busted me on the sushi, oysters or caviar – I’ve never tried those either, but claim not to like them.

Clutch said...

LOL :-)!

I am a leadership consultant, and fifteen years ago I used to do a program not dissimilar from EST. Though I have to say that it *was* more management-science contexted, we let people opt out when they wanted to, and that there was much more psycho-dynamic and behavioral science rigor to the program. And maybe 4 out of a thousand people (who held firm faith-beliefs) *did* accuse us of having a cult-like program. But we did have many raving fans, though we eschewed the whole dependency angle that the cults seek to cultivate.

I migrated away from that consulting firm due to differences with management in the way they handled client engagement assignments. I set up my own firm and developed my own training process which focused on emotional intelligence in leadership. My clients got some useful things, that, when combined with coaching, made a positive difference in their management.

Now I, like you, use "action learning, simulations, case studies, group discussion, leaders teaching leaders, coaching, feedback, and stretch development assignments" along with structural change management as my primary leadership development consulting tools. What I offer as a differentiator is that I really know what makes people tick, as I have an experiential database of thousands of people who I have coached deeply WRT leadership. That, combined with keen observations of "what doesn't work" in LD/OD allows me to offer exceptional value for my clients.

On another note, while I acknowledge that the "Tony Robbins" approach to personal (leadership?!) development may help some people some of the time, I also know it as having a half-life of about 2 weeks for most people, and is, as you would profess, a waste of knowledge.

So I am especially skeptical of "fruit-loop" approaches. At the same time, I know that there are some very effective approaches that diverge from the mainstream, sort of like Apple vs PC.

In the end, that is why the due diligence is required.

Thanks, Dan, for the dialogue, and your skepticism about the problems with loosey-goosey programs. Let's just make sure we don't throw the nuggets out with the sluice water! :-) Cheers!