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Figure or Forget: Is Your Leadership Training Really Working?

Every organization depends on robust, intelligent leadership to steer them towards their goals and meet their objectives, making leadership development programs central to organizational success. However, without thorough evaluation, these programs may under-deliver or even fail completely. According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, just 40% of leaders considered leadership programs in their organizations as ‘highly effective.’ The glaring reality of such ineffectiveness underscores the importance of evaluating leadership programs.

The Need for Evaluation

Evaluations offer insights into whether a program is a valuable investment and how it can be improved to maximize overall effectiveness. To ignore evaluation is to risk wasting both time and resources on ineffective or inefficient approaches. As Victor Lipman, a leadership coach and Forbes contributor, points out, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Strategies to Evaluate Leadership Programs

To ensure that your leadership programs are as effective as possible, consider adopting the following strategies:

  1. Feedback Surveys: These measure the participant’s impression of the program. Use questions regarding the program’s impact on their leadership skill set.
  2. Goal-Setting: Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for each program and evaluate the extent to which these goals are met.
  3. Behavioral Change: Use 360-degree feedback tools as part of pre-and post-training assessments to see if there are changes in leadership behaviors.
  4. Business Impact Analysis: Measure the program’s impact on business metrics such as employee engagement and turnover rates, productivity levels, customer satisfaction scores, or financial performance.

Key Areas of Focus

When evaluating leadership programs, focus on the following areas:

  1. Relevance of content: Is the content relevant to the needs of the organization and the individual participants?
  2. Application in the Workplace: Are participants able to effectively transfer the knowledge and skills they have gained back into the workplace?
  3. Inclusion of Actionable Steps: Are there clear, actionable steps that participants can take to implement what they have learned?
  4. Follow-up: Is there a system for reviewing and providing feedback on the implementation of learning in the workplace?

In conclusion, the evaluation of leadership programs to assess their effectiveness is not an option but a necessity. With the right strategies in place, an organization can ensure its leadership development initiatives live up to expectations, instigate meaningful change, and drive organizational success.

What you should measure:

Level 1: Reaction

  1. Did the content meet your expectations?
    • (Scaled from 1: Not at all to 5: Completely)
  2. Please rate the overall quality of the program.
    • (Scaled from 1: Extremely Poor to 5: Excellent)
  3. Were the learning materials provided helpful?
    • (Scaled from 1: Not at all to 5: Very helpful)

To assess reactions, ask your participants these questions immediately after the completion of the program:

Level 2: Learning

To understand what the participants have learned, include these questions:

  1. Please rate your understanding of the subject after attending the program.
    • (Scaled from 1: No Understanding to 5: Full Understanding)
  2. To what extent do you feel confident about applying what you’ve learned in your role?
    • (Scaled from 1: Not at all confident to 5: Very confident)

Level 3: Behavior

For measuring changes in behaviors, consider asking these questions a few weeks/months after the program:

  1. To what extent have you incorporated the skills learned from the program into your work?
    • (Scaled from 1: Not at all to 5: Completely)
  2. Has the training improved your ability to lead teams/effectively execute your leadership responsibilities?
    • (Scaled from 1: Strongly Disagree to 5: Strongly Agree)

Level 4: Results

To capture the overall results and impact of the training program, use these questions:

  1. Has the training had a positive impact on your team’s performance?
    • (Scaled from 1: Strongly Disagree to 5: Strongly Agree)
  2. Have you seen any improvement in your key performance indicators (KPIs) since the training?
    • (Scaled from 1: No Improvement to 5: Significant Improvement)

By leveraging this survey and gathering these insights, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of your leadership program’s effectiveness allowing you to update your training procedures as needed.

Authors & Resources to Reference

The following are reputable authors and resources to guide your evaluation efforts:


  1. Gurdjian, P., Halbeisen, T., & Lane, K. (2014). Why leadership-development programs fail. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from
  2. Lipman, V. (2018). Want To Develop Your Leaders? A Quality Assessment Is Key. Forbes. Retrieved from
  3. Kirkpatrick Partners. (n.d.). The New World Kirkpatrick Model. Retrieved from
  4. Brinkerhoff, R. (2018). Telling Training’s Story: Evaluation Made Simple, Credible, and Effective.
  5. Phillips, J. & Phillips, P. P. (2016). Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think about Learning Investments.
  • Kirkpatrick Partners – Their “Four Levels of Training Evaluation” model is a universally recognized standard for evaluating the impact of training.
  • Robert Brinkerhoff – His book “Telling Training’s Story: Evaluation Made Simple, Credible, and Effective” provides a comprehensive guide for evaluating training programs.
  • Jack Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips – Their book “Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think about Learning Investments” offers insights into how top executives perceive and measure the success of training programs.
  • Harvard Business Review articles on leadership training programs evaluation.

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