Leaders are Expensive: How Deep Learning can Create Positive ROI


In the world of business, there are only a few things as familiar and as important as ROI – return on investment.

In fact, one might say that it fights for the number one spot on the list of the 5 essential elements of any business.

When looking at ROI, we are often looking at the financial returns of a product, strategic move, or some investment that we are seeking a return. This isn’t a complicated subject but what I would like for you to consider is the ‘thing’ that you are investing in.

I recently sold my home and had a great conversation with the closing attorney. We were talking about how much paper there is in the world of real estate and tossing around ideas on how it can be more effective. He said to me, “Second to my staff, my most costly expense is paper.” What I should have replied with was, “You and your leadership are the most costly part of your operation because you all are the literal brains of the company.” But I simply said, “I can see why – it’s a lot of paper” - a lost opportunity.

As you contemplate all the critical components of your business (aside from the technology, the policies and procedures, or your customers) consider that it is you and the leadership of your company that are the most critical of all. Like the story I shared above, you and your leadership are the literal brains of the business. For this reason, it is important that we consider how we invest in this critical component.

Most professional improvement programs focus on improving functional skills. They are brute force attempts to make skilled professionals more skilled – better, faster, stronger – the bionic men and women of the professional world. But functional gaps are often not the cause of leaders unable to operate or perform at new levels. What we see most is a lack of awareness that hinders their growth and the maturity of their leadership.

In many cases, what hinders their growth and the maturity of their leadership is the way that a leader interprets the situations and circumstances they find themselves in. It is the way that they integrate this information against the backdrop of their experience, meaning making, and current atmospherics. All of this happens in silos within the mind without significant connecting, synthesizing, and linking which are reflective learning skills necessary to realize areas of improvement.

So how then can we create a positive return on investment on our most critical component of our business?

Studies conducted by PwC, have shown that 86% of companies that have engaged in executive / leadership coaching have at least made their investment back. They've attributed coaching to generate "learning and clarity for forward action with a commitment to measurable outcomes". The benefits of increased productivity, well-balanced positive leaders, team effectiveness, improved communications and more, far out way any cost associated with the investment and its return is hugely beneficial to the individuals and the organization.

Furthermore, executive and leadership coaching has the ability to maximize potential and unlock latent sources of productivity while creating new awareness. This new awareness opens a world of opportunity. Have you ever told yourself, “If I only new then what I know now, things could have been different”? New awareness provides increased choices to which decisions and actions can be made. Without this new awareness, leaders are left with potentially stale information from which to make decisions. Coaching provides an avenue for establishing a decision advantage – enabling leaders to use their own wisdom to be more adaptive, innovative, and creative against the same problem they face in their organization.

So the next time you are considering the professional development for yourself and your leaders, consider a comprehensive program that involves the heart and the mind – developmental training and coaching.

Source: The referenced study, ICF Global Coaching Client Study, was commissioned by the International Coaching Federation but conducted independently by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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