If you have ever had work associates respond this way upon offering them a leadership workshop (or maybe felt this way yourself at such an invitation), your company culture may suffer from trust issues. If you are someone they trust, they will attend. If you are someone they do not trust, then you need to attend. It’s all about going from great to greater, and there isn’t anything insulting about that at all.
So, how can you offer someone a leadership development program while managing the stigma some people wrongly create regarding the nature of such a program? The best way to answer this question is through some common scenarios:
- Us vs Them: Too often top management sends “them” [meaning middle management or even “certain others” on their SMT] for “help,” not realizing if they themselves experienced an awakening through an experiential leadership program, the need to send others may dissipate. More importantly, it becomes a lot easier to create buy-in to attend a program when you can say that you yourself had already benefited enormously from it earlier.
The solution: Have a top tier manager attend (perhaps with succession planning in mind) so that he or she can say, “I’d like for you to experience a program I attended several years ago that made a huge difference in my life and how I work with others. I’d like for you to have the same chance. I’ll email you a link; take a look, and let me know your thoughts.”
- Stereotyping the first attendee: Sometimes the first to go from a company is that brilliant, well tenured engineer/chemist/banker who is so task-focused that occasionally people’s feelings get inadvertently sacrificed, thereby lowering morale and productivity. Unfortunately in a company where communication is stifled and insecurities abound, the next person offered that same opportunity is afraid of being stereotyped according to the first attendee.
The solution: Find words that convey you’re extending a gift because you value this work associate and want to support their upward mobility. You might say, “I’ve found this personalized leadership development program that is designed to support managers to the next level according to whatever their current needs, and I’d like for you to take a look at their website and see if you find it a good fit as you expand your job role here.”
In both instances you are offering a gift in support of something more. It is not a punishment. It is a vote of confidence in them. You are investing in them because you think highly of them and want them to retire there. Secondly, you are not dictating that they must attend, but rather you are allowing them to make a decision based upon the information offered. Assuming you have chosen a program that has great appeal, and assuming you present it from a place of support and not criticism, there is a great likelihood they will attend. People tend to trust when they believe you genuinely care about their well-being with no ulterior self-serving motives.