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​When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

​When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

Recently, I have heard more and more new clients mention that their leadership development efforts are not working. People just aren’t changing.

First, some statistics:

Don’t get me wrong - I am entirely on-board with leadership development. But you can only lead the horse to water; you can’t make him drink. What I do believe is that we, as the manager and the employee, are the ones most responsible for holding ourselves accountable to obtaining the fullest potential of what we learn.

An educated man is one who has so developed the faculties of his mind that he may acquire anything he wants. -Napoleon Hill

As a leader of people, we send our employees to leadership training with the hopes of one of two things:

  1. To help them learn new skills and bring out more of their potential, or
  2. To correct some of the “unwanted behaviors” that hold back their potential and productivity

As employees we take leadership training for different reasons:

  1. Because we are information junkies and love to go to training
  2. To get a break from work
  3. To learn and maybe even apply something new
  4. To climb the career ladder
  5. To be inspired
  6. Because the boss made me

Both perspectives (manager and employee) are right. However, expectations on the results from the training will be missed the majority of the time. That is clear from the statistics I mentioned above.

What I have found from these missed expectations are two elements absent from both the manager and the employee.

  • First, for the manager, in either case, whether it is to bring out more potential or correct behaviors, setting those expectations up front and then holding the employee accountable for follow-through is typically not performed.
  • From the employee's point of view, the employee has to have a growth mindset, understand expectations, and be willing to apply and practice what they have learned. The employee will be in a position to hear things about themselves they might not like and to hold themselves accountable for their growth.

When both the manager and employee align with these missing elements, growth is exponential and unlimited.

Let me give you a personal example.

I had a manager a few years back that fell into the “unwanted behaviors” category where their team’s productivity, morale, and turnover were high. After enrolling him in the same Emotional Intelligence training twice, he finally agreed to attend the third time. He accepted he needed to go but didn’t“believe” he needed to go.

Even after attending and receiving the 360-degree feedback that all aligned with the same behaviors that I had seen, he still didn’t want to believe he had a problem. He continued to accept that he needed to make a change, but he refused to believe it. He saw the evidence and had excuses every time we would discuss the progress we hoped he would make.

In this case, pride was a blind-spot for the employee. In the end, the unchanged behaviors for this employee led him to be in a position where he did not like the outcome.

Leadership development is critical and will be powerful for only the willing participants. Expectations drive belief, belief drives behavior, and behavior drives action. Meaning, when you increase the expectation of your willingness to learn, your belief in yourself will change your behavior, and when you change your behavior, you will change your actions. When you reach this level of awareness, the teacher appears, and you will learn.


Kimberle Seale is a strategic leadership coach and business consultant working with individual leaders and business owners to unleash their limitless potential.

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