Ye Olde Leadership Training: Five Things to Bring Back

Last Christmas I received a copy of Lesley M.M. Blume’s book Let’s Bring Back. Based on her highly entertaining Huffington Post column of the same name, it’s “an encyclopedia of forgotten-yet-delightful, chic, curious, and other commendable things from times gone by.” Inside you’ll find short and witty descriptions of phenomena such as Beautiful Train Stations, Hula Hoops, Nightcaps, and The Stork Club.

A bit of this kind of thinking is, in my opinion, sorely needed in the world of leadership training. I therefore humbly submit my own list of things to “bring back.” What would you add?

Let’s bring back:

FIVE-DAY BEAUTIES. In the 1980s and 90s, one often saw leadership development programs that lasted an entire week. At my old company these were known as “five-day beauties”—I think because the facilitators liked them so much (five days of work!). Today it seems almost unthinkable that a company would allow employees, no matter how senior, five whole days to learn something. But let’s be honest: does a 2-hour webinar teach anybody anything? I mean, it takes daily practice for a month to learn how to type. Honestly, who’s going to emerge from a half-day workshop as a noticeably better leader?

ROLE-PLAYS. I know. I hate them, too. The sentence “Hooray, we get to do a role-play!” hasn’t been uttered once in the history of the world. And, because people don’t like them, they’ve been cut from many management training programs. But think back to a time when you went to a company training class and, later, actually changed your behavior. I bet it was because you’d been forced to do a role-play—or something like it.

WINDOWS. I’m not talking about PCs vs. Macs; I’m talking about the things in the walls of classrooms that let in natural light. Increasingly scarce, nowadays.

KOOSH BALLS. Like Nerf balls, only fuzzier and more psychedelic. They used to be a staple of ice-breakers and energizers. (“How quickly can you toss the Koosh ball around the circle in a specified pattern?”  “When you’ve got the Koosh ball, it’s your turn to speak!”  Etc.)  Sometime in October 1995, Black Monday arrived for Koosh balls. Instructional designers gave them up. Why is a mystery, since participants never fail to love a good Koosh-ball activity. Maybe the Netscape IPO had something to do with it.

OUTDOOR LEARNING. Don’t think rocks and ropes; think your favorite high-school teacher who let you have class outside, on the grass, on a beautiful spring day. Wasn’t that great? Of course there were no laptops, no LCD projector, no flipchart stand, and no stale muffins. Maybe that’s what made it great.

About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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