In this article, we asked Ken Shelton past editor/publisher of Leadership Excellence magazine and author of Beyond Counterfeit Leadership, to provide some insight into whats coming in 2017.

Why do the best learning, training, and development (LTD) programs still suffer setbacks (i.e., failures to develop people who are better able to deliver desired results) and pushbacks (i.e., funding and ROI challenges) even from those who purport to champion the training cause?

The answer, I suspect, is because LTD professionals, like MLB players, face constant change. Even the best hitters in baseball only get a hit one-third of their time at bat because of better fielders and pitchers who can throw masterful fastballs, curves, sliders, and change-ups.

Hit a Change-Up or Upcoming Change

This year, the LTD community needs a “Big Hit”, and to get it, they need to follow the fundamentals of great hitters: First, learn to recognize what pitch is coming out of the pitcher’s hand; don’t commit to swinging until you know the pitch; look for fastballs first and adjust to off-speed stuff; don’t try every time to crush the ball; take a short-swing, fast wrists; wait-and-be-quick. It takes repetition, diligence, and drills with a coach who knows how to teach pitch recognition. Practice hitting hard line drives to opposite field when faced with off-speed pitches.

The Change-Up is an effective pitch when there is a 10 mph differential in the speed and no change in the motion or release—it almost guarantees a weakly hit ball if contact is made.

Hope to Change ‘Up’ Not Mess Up

Whether you are a champ or a chump, Forrest Gump or Donald Trump, down in the dump or a home plate ump, you need to identify the difference between a ball and strike, a curve and a change-up. When we change, we all hope to change up—to progress, not regress; to fly up and away, not down and out; to move forward, not backward; to run bases, not crawl in stasis. We want to jump up—not just sit like a bump on a log, a rump on a dog, a hump on a hog, a dump in a bog, a stump in a cog, or lump on a frog. We want to be excited about the anticipated change—to sing with Tony in West Side Story: “Could be! Who knows? There’s something due any day; I will know right away, Soon as it shows” and not sing with Bert in Mary Poppins: “Winds in the east, mist coming in, Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.”

What Changes Are Up-Coming

So, what changes are upcoming in 2017 for the LTD community?

  • Learning: Fewer classroom sessions, unless participants are led interactively; more transfers, more experiences, more international more transfers out of comfort zones
  • Training: We now go from profiles and assessments to the best possible development path for you and your team. LD is being customized and now personalized for individuals, as opposed to the one-size and system fits all.
  • Development: Break out of the More leaders like us syndrome—the theme song for centuries; more diversity with unity, customized development based on profile.
  • Leadership Development: Broader selection criteria than height, appearance and political correctness; better documented ROI; personal development added to ensure fitness and freedom from debilitating and time-wasting habits and addictions.

In all of this LTD, we will see more emphasis on the three pillars of motivation outlined by Dan Pink in his book Drive. He notes that once you pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table, three factors of intrinsic motivation lead to better performance (and personal satisfaction): autonomy, the desire to be self-directed; mastery, the itch to keep improving at something that’s important to us; and purpose, the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond ourselves. This year, fleet-of-foot Road Runners may finally be passed by intrinsically motivated Wile E. Coyotes who, energized by autonomy, mastery, and purpose (not extrinsic carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments) will shift into overdrive, transcend the ordinary and find greater meaning and higher performance.

Change for Authenticity

Like hounds, we humans have a nose for authenticity. We can often sniff out the unique scents of leaders—their personality, character, and style. As leaders, we emit a signature scent that others can detect, discern or sense. When we touch people or objects, we leave behind our scent. We may try to disguise it, but others can sniff it out! They can even smell emotion—fear, anxiety, sadness, happiness—because strong emotion is accompanied by increased heart rate and blood flow, which sends tell-tale body chemicals quickly to the surface. Trying to mask strong feelings with casual smiles may fool some friends, but it won’t fool our best friends.

By using our nose, not our eyes, we can detect the world of difference between the “rats” and “fat cats” who moves in stealth along the walls and halls of institutions and real leaders who exude a wealth of integrity, principle, character and courage.

One American leader promised “a chicken in every pot.” Now leaders are promising “medicinal” pot for every person. With so much pot, we may soon see a “chicken” (yet someone who is called a “leader”) in every post!

Like Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, I have warned thousands of organizations: “Be careful what kind of leaders you’re producing here.” Most want more of the same kind of leaders they already have, for better or for worse. If the top leaders are not explicitly saying, “We want more leaders like us,” that’s the implicit message being received by those who hire, select, train, and develop next-in-line leaders. Hence, as former Yankee Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Even when Class Acts come along, we may expel them if we do not recognize them by sight or scent as being “one of us” or sufficiently “like us.”

To all so-called leaders who are downsizing the bodies, executing the souls, minimizing the minds, stabbing the hearts and amputating the spirits of good people in cannibalistic cultures, I warn you: Whatever you are doing to get ahead in the world—dress for success, stress to compress, redress to depress, gain access to get press, guess names to suppress, promise more pay but give less, create mess to oppress—may fool some (or most) of the people much of the time, but if it’s not the Authentic You, it won’t fool your Best Friends or best employees.

Yogi Berra also advised: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” My frank advice is more along the lines of Frank Slade: when you come to the crossroads, choose the hard path, the right path, the path made of principle that leads to character, integrity, courage, and authenticity. Otherwise, sooner or later, you will be sniffed out by dogs and dubbed a hog, like Bernie Madoff: and that’s a bad tradeoff!

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Ken Shelton

Ken Shelton served for 30 years as editor/publisher of Leadership Excellence magazine and was recognized in Dubai with the 2015 Global Business Leadership Excellence Award by the World Leadership Congress. He is the author of Beyond Counterfeit Leadership.
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