Aug 25

Do You Want to Develop Your Leadership Talent? What is Inaction Costing CEOs?

Learning is something that is very important to me, one of my core values, and so I probably do more than my fair share of professional and personal development programs. What I find the biggest challenge is not the program, which is typically excellent, it is the follow-up. The implementation when I get back into ‘real’ life.

The learning, doing the reading, listening to great speakers is wonderful, but if you do not do the follow-up work, if you do not act, you do not get the outcome you are looking for.

Have you ever done this? Gone to a course or attended some training, or gone to listen to a great speaker, and it has been amazing? In the moment you get the insights and ideas, and inspiration, but you do not have the follow through?

So, you miss out on all of the great benefits, outcomes, progress, achievements, and joy from moving towards the thing that you identified was important to you?

What I notice when I am working with organisations is this exact pattern is in play.

For example, I have many people who talk to me about some of the challenges that they are experiencing in their organisation. It may be around particular teams or members of teams. It might be about the leadership talent pipeline and bench strength. It might be about how they get from where they are, to where they want to be at the next level. So, they have some sense of what they would like to be different, how they would like the future to be, and they talk about it and they consider the options.

They may even talk to me about how I can work with them to help them develop their capability, put things into action, elevate leadership bench strength, or build their aspirational future. And then they do not act.

So, 12 months later, they are operating in exactly the same conditions. Perhaps they may face added challenges, obstacles, or opportunities, yet they have not made progress.

There are reasons for this. It might be because they are not quite ready for it. It might be because they feel like they are very busy at the moment, or it might be because they do not want to spend the money on building their future.

“The greatest failure of all is the failure to act when action is needed.”

John Wooden, Basketball Coach

Now here is the truth. If you do not do anything about it, it is not going to change. Talking about it, considering options, pondering, does not make the difference. It is taking the action that makes the difference. Agreed?

Years ago, Simon Bowen introduced me to the concept of the Cost of Inaction.

When you make the choice not to act, not only do you not make progress with the things that are important, not only do you not gain the benefits of investing in learning and development, in elevating the practice of leadership, in overcoming the challenges, or implementing those great aspirational programs, you also continue to suffer the consequences of the current situation.

The cost of inaction is the continuation of all of the things that arise in your current set of conditions or your current situation.

It might be the turnover of your people.

It might be low levels of engagement.

It might be low productivity and performance.

It might be a lack of collaboration.

It might be limited innovation.

It might be poor customer experience which costs you customers.

It might be high absenteeism.

An inadequate succession plan.

The choice not to invest, the cost of inaction looks like this. You miss out on the benefit, and you incur the cost of inaction.

Here is an example. Imagine you are running a project that has a daily burn rate of $ 10,000. The leader/s of the project are not fully equipped to take it on, and as a result the project is going to run longer than originally scheduled. If the project runs over one week, that is an unplanned cost of $ 50,000. If it overruns by a month that is an unplanned cost of $200K. If it is delayed even further the unplanned cost becomes higher. The cost of inaction.

These are costs and risks that, if you were to make an investment in creating the future, an investment in your people, an investment in your leaders, you would be mitigating. And in addition, you would get the benefits arising from this same investment in developing your people.

To develop a true return on investment to inform your decision making about developing your people, you need to consider both the benefits gained from the investment, plus the reduced cost of inaction. The cost you avoid by acting.

Sometimes I scratch my head and I wonder, what are people thinking?

What would it take to get leaders to act?

To invest in their people?

They would gain not only the benefits, but also reduce the risk and cost of inaction. Reducing exposure, reducing vulnerability, staying relevant, staying current, maintaining a great talent pipeline, maintaining a future perspective.

What do you think it would take to act?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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