What’s Your ROI?

Are you and other leaders at your organization skilled at developing people? Unless you are exceptional, the answer is probably, “not really.” Sure, you might be doing things to train staff, but what would their honest feedback reveal about how much they’re actually growing, or how much they believe their leaders really value their development? If thinking about that makes you uneasy, then maybe there is something in this post for you…
Take a hard look at what most organizations are doing and what do you see? – fortunes spent on conferences, retreats and seminars, special speakers, online learning platforms, and training of all kinds, yet what is the impact on organizational effectiveness? As one senior leader commented to me early in my career, “What is the ROI on these conferences I am asked to endorse?”

It’s a fair question. In many cases, it’s probably marginal at best. Maybe a rare nugget here or there or a little wind in the sails. A box gets checked for the board report. HR stays busy and duly employed. A guru makes a name for himself. “Special employees” get a break from the monotony of regular work and perhaps a subsidized trip to visit relatives or an old college roommate while the majority wonder, “Where is the love?”
Too cynical? Maybe, but in lean times, won’t the staff development budget be the first thing cut? Yet in the lean and turbulent times in which we currently live, most orgs are not questioning the paradigm. They’re frantically moving the same events online, making a poor product even poorer, in my opinion. (But at least you don’t have to wear pants!)

So just what new ideas am I proposing? Well, first a disclaimer. This little polemic rant is not meant to discount the hard work of HR professionals who want to see their organizations thrive. It is aimed squarely at leaders who can sometimes forget that developing people is their job. So instead of a new idea, how about an old one from the model for all Christian leaders. Jesus’s first “brand commitment” to his disciples was not for a generous salary or a great work environment, or even to be a part of a high-performing team changing the world. It was a commitment to their development – “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)

Granted, “discipleship” is not a familiar concept to us, at least in the West (most people think it’s a program you download from the internet), and most leaders are not quite ready to walk on water. But what if you, like Peter, chose to step out of the boat, and perhaps get some formal training in how to coach your people. Sure, you might flounder a bit and perhaps feel foolish on occasion. It’s not an easy skill to master, but it’s worth every penny of investment and will produce incredible returns, starting with increased commitment among your staff. Just look at Peter. When the fair-weather friends began to abandon Jesus, he asked Peter if he might leave as well, to which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

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