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Great Organizations | Great Leaders

All Leadership Development Isn’t Created Equal. Here’s Proof.

New DDI research shows the behavioral—and business—impact of Interaction Management®.
All Leadership Development Isn’t Created Equal. Here’s Proof.

For decades, organizations have been investing in leadership development. In recent years, however, that important investment in building all-important leadership capability has been increasingly characterized as a cost worthy of suspicion and derision. You may have seen some of the headlines:

  • Harvard Business Review has called leadership development programs the “great training robbery.” 
  • The Wall Street Journal, characterizes training programs as a “waste of time and money.”
  • McKinsey Quarterly accuses U.S. companies of lavishing $14 billion per year on programs to nurture their leaders, but with little to show for it.
  • A recent study from LinkedIn Learning Solutions reported that while executives want data showing the business impact and ROI of L&D programs, only 8 percent see business impact data and just 4 percent see proof of ROI.

Negative claims such these paint a discouraging picture of the impact (or lack of impact) an organization can expect to see from a leadership develop program. What’s more, as the heat has been turned up on seemingly every business function to show ROI for every dollar spent, the all-too-common lack of evidence of impact has placed many L&D professionals in a precarious position. If they can’t prove the worth of their programs, how can they justify to key stakeholders that the organization should continue to fund and support those programs?

DDI’s Groundbreaking Research

The impact studies we have done on our Interaction Management® (IM®) leadership development program show something far different: measurable improvement in leader behavior, impact on business metrics—including ROI—and many other positive outcomes for leaders, those they lead and work with, and their organizations.

Knowing that we had these results, we decided to combine them into a single piece of research.

The result is PROOF That DDI’s Leadership Development Pays Off: 40+ Years of Research on the Impact of Interaction Management®, the world’s largest aggregation of impact studies and analyses on the effectiveness of a single leadership development program.

The PROOF research combines data from more than 18,000 leaders who participated in IM® programs and more than 12,000 of their managers, peers, and direct reports—those with the clearest line of sight on how much more effective leaders are after they have been through a program and have developed and are applying new skills. The 186 unique studies from 156 organizations across 44 countries that make up the body of research.

Here we highlight a selection of the findings in the PROOF research.

It's All About Behavior Change

To drive business impact, leaders must change their behavior. IM® has a long track record of quantified behavior change because it promotes the effective behavior leaders need to get results.

DDI measures behavior change by comparing how often leaders engage in effective leadership behaviors after versus before development. Managers, peers, and direct reports provide observations of behavior change. The program participants also report positive change: 93 percent report improvements!

Improvement Across a Full Spectrum of Skills

What makes a great leader? At DDI, we define leadership using competencies—a collection of behaviors that lead to success on the job. The results shown below provide a small sample of the numerous competencies developed by IM®.

IM® is proven to improve critical leadership competencies.

Building Trust 95%
Influencing Others 91%
Communicating Effectively 89%
Coaching for Improvement 85%
Coaching for Success 84%
Managing Performance Problems 84%
Leading Change 83%
Setting Performance Expectations 82%
Delegation and Empowerment 78%
Resolving Conflict 74%

– Percent of effective leaders as self-rated by IM® participants

Improving Engagement

Engagement is a sense of ownership and involvement in a job. Highly engaged employees feel that their involvement matters, their opinions are sought and heard, and they have clear objectives against which to measure success. Organizations understand the value and importance of having engaged employees. Our research confirms that IM® develops leaders in the skills they need to help employees be more engaged.

Millions of dollars are spent by companies each year to address employee engagement—measuring, analyzing, and trying to increase it. Good news: 81 percent of direct reports whose leader attended IM® courses reported that their leader has increased their level of work engagement. This research shows that IM® is all but guaranteed to boost employee engagement!

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Promoting Growth

Because IM® changes leadership behavior at all levels, it is critical in growing your organization’s leadership capability, strengthening your leadership pipeline, and accelerating your leadership talent by compensating for gaps in confidence and experience. The agility of IM® to address your organization’s diverse needs is one of the major reasons why the system has set the standard for leadership development for more than 40 years—and provides equal opportunity for growth and advancement for all!

One of the most compelling results that IM® delivers is the system’s ability to level the playing field for leaders, regardless of their tenure. Whether they have been in their role for 10 years or more or only a year or two, the percentage of leaders who rate themselves as effective after participating in IM® is about 85 percent! The study shows that the greatest impact is on leaders who have recently transitioned into their new position.

Whether leaders have been in role for less than a year or more than 10 years, IM® helps level the playing field.

REAL Business Impact

The goal of any leadership development program is to change the organization positively. Since IM® was first introduced in 1973, thousands of organizations have seen the system positively impact their business in important ways.

While very few organizations evaluate the business impact of their leadership development programs, we have aggregated analyses of 43 unique IM® programs. The impact captured in these analyses include improvements in sales, productivity, and work quality, and decreases in absenteeism, accidents, and production time. In addition, we have aggregated the results from 22 organizations that determined the ROI of their IM® implementation. And while organizations use different metrics to estimate ROI, their returns range from 147 percent to 633 percent!

William C. Byham, Ph.D., is co-founder and executive chairman of DDI, and lead author of PROOF that DDI’s Leadership Development Pays Off: 40+ Years of Research on the Impact of Interaction Management®.

Talk to an Expert: All Leadership Development Isn’t Created Equal. Here’s Proof.

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