Do your homework and transcend the muddy leadership schlock

Name two words with three syllables each that rhyme and define leadership today.


Maybe you’ve come across something like this in a LinkedIn group, or a Twitter stream, or a Facebook group, or somewhere else online where warm pools of self-congratulatory touchy-feely leadership coaching quotes and blog posts also collect on virtual workplace sidewalks.

Some of us splash through them, but most of you miss them altogether. Because most of you aren’t even on social networks or blogs to read them. You being SMB people management folk.

This won’t make me any friends, I know, but there’s a lot of muddy leadership schlock out there in the greater “people/leadership development” marketplace.

And as I live and breathe…I’m guilty of the schlock as well. So no stone throwing, please.

The reality is that many SMB companies are shouting out as a top priority people/leadership development at all levels. They may have implemented their own internal development programs and that’s great (as long as they’re effective). I’ve also spoken with companies who want and need customized external programs to work in conjunction with what they’ve already put together for various reasons, or as stand-alone programs, and that’s great (as long as they’re effective).

Good news for us in this space. But I find that many SMB companies don’t really know how to get from “we need people/leadership development” to working with outside firms/consultants to get it done right.

My advice to business owners and management (that includes human resources) looking for external leadership development products and services, is to:

  • Initially define what your people/leadership development needs are and what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Define the development results you want to stick long-term and why (improved productivity, retention, communication, management skills, negotiation skills, influencing skills, etc.).
  • Evaluate what you’ve already done internally, the effectiveness of it and what exactly to want to enhance by securing an outside firm and/or consultant.
  • Ask for referrals from your peer groups.
  • Research outside firms and/or consultants that could help you accomplish your development goals. Yes, Google them.
  • Make a short list of the firms/consultants and interview them, preferably with cross-functional folks inside the organization (management, HR, finance, IT, marketing/sales, etc.).
  • No matter how much “stuff” they publish, how many certifications they have, and no matter how much they speak in the space, make sure to ask for customer references and interview them thoroughly. (Reading case studies is great, but case studies are marketing schlock — interview them yourself.)
  • Find out what their customer needs were, how they measured results and how they evaluated the firm/consultant in the end.
  • Lastly, make sure to align what your people/leadership development goals are with your business goals. It’s an investment after all that you want to see impact your organization for the better.

This is business. And the most important part of what drives and grows your business is your people. Do your homework and transcend the muddy leadership schlock.

But for those of you who are online, do splash through our puddles once in a while.

Be better and brighter.

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