Published on 2012/02/22
Would you believe me if I told you that the biggest impediment to getting employees and employers involved in workplace training is the business itself? Or rather, the narrow-minded expectations we have of business growth in this very sophisticated and globalized XXIst century of ours.

Because let’s face it: we all expect to be successful, we all want to be rich now, and we are all secretly hoping to promote the never-ending spectacular growth in volume AND profits of the organizations we manage. Who’s got time for training? Forget that! Who’s got time for THINKING?

Yes. Executive thinking has sadly become a pretty narrow-minded affair. And while we dream of unrealistic growth rates for our companies and our countries, we spend all of our time and money repeating the same mistakes because we only think on airplanes and trains, or in the traffic-jams we slowly push through on our way home at night. The higher up we climb the corporate ladder, the more ludicrous it is for us to be spending so much time on quenching fires that our subordinates should have controlled before us. And why didn’t they control them? Because we never trained them to.

So where does the business case for executive growth start? Well ,let’s start by defining the very notion of growth. In a world made of finite resources, growth does not mean quantity or size, it means efficiency. Becoming a leader is more about becoming a bigger person than it is about having a bigger bank account or a bigger office. And this is the kind of challenge that impacts everything in your life. Not just your job.

Growing as an executive often demands a harsher look at every aspect of your life, instead of a pretty evaluation of competencies at work that don’t translate into your parenting or your partner relationships. And finding the business case for such an exercise of self-discovery is no easy matter.

As executive coach to board level members in Europe, I can tell you that the business case for leadership development CAN and SHOULD be found in the business imperatives. There is no learning to be done if there isn’t a business challenge to be overcome, a burning market necessity to be satisfied, a stronger competitor to be overturned.

But quick-and-dirty ambitions don’t cut it. It is the ambition to win through significance and with purpose that takes a leader to search inside and build a better version of himself.

I guess what I’m saying is that the biggest hurdle to real learning among our executives is the foolish notion that leading is only about winning. You never find the time or the money to stop and invest in yourself when you are constantly racing to be the first, the smartest, or the best in the eyes of others.

If only we began to measure greatness in terms of efficient value generation, that is, maximum value with minimum consumption of resources. We wouldn’t need big houses or big egos, but rather, simple lives filled with noble purposes. We would then be called to become as great as possible in our own eyes, urging each other on to learn as much as possible, just for the sake of becoming bigger persons. In everything we do.

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