There is always that one person at every training who questions everything you do.

They push every one of your buttons and relentlessly try to prove why they are right, and everything you are teaching them is wrong.

When working in the field of organizational leadership and training, you learn early on that while most people are willing to attend a training session, they do not actually want to be trained. As expert trainers, we’ve also learned that there is usually at least one person who wants to learn, but is afraid to do so.

This case study is an example of one of those training sessions. There was one individual who had the desire to change, but was very much afraid of what that change might be like.

The true purpose of leadership training is for everyone in the room to leave feeling empowered, regardless of their job title or where they stand in the organizational chart.

The Session Breakdown

The company in this case study was having issues with client retention. In hopes of solving the underlying issues, they gathered their members to participate in team training.

The session began like most others. We asked the participants in leadership roles to consider themselves, their leadership styles, their perspectives, and the happiness of their employees. We asked them to analyze the employees who remained with the company, those who left, and those who opened up to the leadership team.

The company’s CEO shared with the team that he considered himself to be a “servant leader” and that there was nothing he needed to change. He felt his role was making the company run.

While sharing this openly in the room, we paid close attention to how his employees were reacting to his personal assessment. It was clear by their body language that they did not agree with their leader’s perspective.

In this specific situation, it was not hard to realize that the leader of the company was not reaching the employees. This also meant the employees were not being heard and, therefore, not utilizing their full potential at work.

The focus of any leadership training is for everyone to find their voice. We asked the leader of the company to share with the others in the room what he felt was going right, what was being handled properly, and what he felt needed improvement. Every employee listened to what the CEO had to say about the state of the organization. Then, the CEO shared what he expected from each employee in the room. Can you guess what happened?

Most of, if not all, the employees strongly disagreed with the CEO’s expectations of them. As trainers, it’s our job to watch how people react to what is being said. What we saw was employees going silent, shaking their heads softly, and looking to the ground.

When the CEO was done sharing his thoughts with the team, one of our trainers asked him to step outside. Once he left, we asked everyone to get into small groups of five to discuss what they had heard. We had them write down their interpretation of what was shared and then develop a team-building plan within their small group. They had 45 minutes to complete the tasks while one of our trainers left to meet with the CEO to talk about leadership.The rest of us remained in the room with the employees.

After some time, the employees began to open up about what they believed to be wrong, why it was wrong, and how each aspect of what they wanted or heard was hurting them and, in turn, hurting the company. This is what happens when people are put into a corner — they either lash out or cower. The solution is not to force employees to act in a specific way, but for organizational leaders to step up and handle the situation with empathy and understanding. Change can only begin when everyone has the freedom and desire to listen to and share perspectives. This positive approach to change will result in empowered employees who support your company’s success once they are included in it!

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