The Importance of Leadership Training

Are you setting up your best people to fail?

By Melanie Dowhaniuk, EVP Marketing & Business Development

Importance of Leadership Training

Most leaders have never had formal management training. They have simply been promoted as a reward for their hard work.

I can tell you it wasn’t very rewarding when my co-workers – and friends – at Tim Hortons were suddenly expected to take directions from a young teenager. I often tried to do the worst chores myself so I could avoid asking my colleagues to do them. They wondered what it was that made me suddenly better than them. I couldn’t please anybody: my boss tried to tell me I had to delegate, and my colleagues pushed back when I asked them to do the usual rotational chores.

I then moved on to become a solo-preneur in marketing, and there was a lot of trial and error. I was accountable for all tasks and often just figured things out as I went along. Being accountable to my clients and answering to myself was still easier than leading a team.

Great leaders are trained, not born

Trying to transition from leading an independent, one-person business to leading a growing team was tough. I had all the best intentions to invest the time to mentor my young stars, but I wasn’t the expert, either! I also didn’t even think to start with a discussion on what they wanted and needed to succeed.

Almost 16 years later, I see the same pattern in businesses across all sectors. A ton of diligence is put into an initial hire – hiring committees consider education, experience, personality fit, and more before they offer someone a job. So why are high-potential employees being promoted into management roles without this same diligence? How can they be expected to develop new leadership skills overnight? A fantastic concert pianist could likely not conduct the symphony successfully without skills-specific training.

Providing opportunities for leaders to learn and develop these skills is key to keeping high-potential employees engaged. In a recent survey, 31% of Canadian leaders said their managers are not effective at supporting their leadership development, and 40% said they expect to have to change organizations to progress to higher levels of leadership.[i]

From my experience working with senior leaders, some of the most common gaps in leadership development include coaching and feedback as well as building team effectiveness. I also often receive complaints about the lack of communication, decision making and project management skills across all levels of their organization.

Training employees leads to retaining employees

Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s report on Millennials At Work found millennials were more interested in learning and development than in other kinds of benefits, including cash bonuses. They are also interested in moving into leadership positions: 52% of respondents said they’d choose a job that would let them advance through the ranks quickly over one with a higher salary.[ii]

Engaged employees are more likely to stay with their employers, according to a Towers Watson global workforce study, and managers play a big part of that engagement.[iii] Managers account for at least 70% of the discrepancy in employee engagement across business units, Gallup found in their State of the American Manager Report.[iv]

The many benefits of leadership training

Leadership training does more than foster a positive work culture and keep high-potential employees engaged: it’s better for your bottom line. A number of companies included in a 2017 study calculated the return on investment for their training programs and found that it ranged from 147-633%.[v]

An effective people-management strategy includes leadership training. And there are many benefits to investing in leadership development. Providing training opportunities for your employees can lead to:

  • A more engaged workforce with more opportunities for your people
  • The creation of a healthy environment where leaders have the opportunity to grow and be engaged, thereby maximizing discretionary effort
  • A staff with the skills to develop their own teams and mentor their employees
  • A work culture that attracts and retains talent by demonstrating an investment in people

Remember that it is your people that often create your business’s competitive advantage. There should be as much emphasis on developing people as there is on researching and developing a product or technology.

 As organizations are pressured to do more with less, each individual contributor is critical to supporting the business. Leadership training will ensure a healthy and positive work environment where both the business objectives and the individual employee’s needs are met.

 Ask for help, and shadow leaders you respect. Ensure joint accountability for your success.

Provincial funding opportunity

In Ontario, there is government funding available to support skills development. Under the Canada-Ontario Job Grant program, your company can qualify for up to $10,000 per employee for training costs. Companies with fewer than 100 employees can qualify for more than 80% coverage of training costs, while companies with more than 100 employees can qualify for 50% coverage.

To learn more about how leadership training can impact your bottom line and drive enterprise goals, contact


[i] Global Leadership Forecast 2018. (2018). Retrieved from

[ii] Millenials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[iii] 2012 Global Workforce Study. (2012). Retrieved from

[iv] State of the American Manager Report. (n.d.) Retrieved from

[v] Byham, W.C. (2017). The Business Case for Leadership Development. Retrieved from


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