Healthy Leaders


Leader Development Assessment:

Tom HornTom Horn

Recently on The Navigator’s Glen Eyrie campus, more than 130 leaders along with a few guests converged for an annual developmental experience. Why do we put such effort and expense into bringing leaders together? How many times have we all gone to a gathering and when it finishes we leave with a positive feeling and even a few new insights? However, weeks or perhaps months later, we are hard pressed to remember anything of substance let alone any change in our behavior. Is the effort and cost invested worth the results?

Unfortunately, I find few people willing even to entertain such a question. If an organization releases funds for a gathering and the location, content, and participants make it mildly attractive, many leaders will attend. How can organizational leaders committed to good stewardship of resources be satisfied with little or no post-gathering assessment?

Articles by training magazines and associations tell of budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on training and development every year. Few organizations can substantiate any significant positive behavioral or organizational change from such expenditures. We have learned to expect such lack of accountability from our government, but if we are honest, we should acknowledge that this practice has infiltrated our own organizations. We can and must do better when we are doing so for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

No one has influenced the arena of thinking on training assessment more than the late Donald Kirkpatrick. His Four Levels of training evaluation created in the late 50’s are so simple, yet so very neglected:

  1. Reaction: Here, organizers seek to discern to what degree participants react favorably to the training. Often a final evaluation asks questions to affirm that people left “feeling” good.
  2. Learning: Here, organizers seek to assess to what degree participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitudes, confidence and commitment based on their participation in a training event. In almost every gathering, participants will get some fresh idea.

Rarely do training events go beyond these first two arenas of evaluation. The result is that organizers assess the worth of the training based on feelings and some knowledge gained. I am reminded of the verse in James 1:22 where readers are exhorted to not settle for feeling and hearing,

But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:22)

If individual leaders and organizational trainers have a proper sense of stewardship of their time and funds they will never be satisfied with just these two easy means of evaluation.

  1. Behavior: Wise organizers will assess to what degree participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job. Now this takes effort, time, and expense. No wonder few organizations invest in such post-event assessment.
  2. Results: Wise organizations want to assess to what degree the targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement. The most powerful results are those that facilitate a critical mass of leaders making behavioral change so that organizational culture changes in ways consistent with strategic initiatives.

This is our fourth Leader Development Institute and we have progressively enhanced our approach to training so as to engage participants with different learning styles and provide time for processing foundational concepts.

How well are you doing at seriously applying what you take time to learn? Let us be doers!

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Tom Horn