Driving through my hometown this week, I’ve seen the Little Leaguers on the ball diamonds. With their oversized bats and still stiff mitts, they are slowly gaining knowledge and foundational skills with the hopes of someday making it to “The Show." Coaches teach young pitchers two primary pitches, the fastball and the change up (the traditional curveball has received criticism due to the strain on the arms of these developing adolescents). It would be ill-advised to teach them sliders, splitters, and knuckleballs at this age.
Here in Madison, we have a collegiate summer league team, the Madison Mallards. Some of the top college-aged prospects in the country descend on the Northwoods League each year, to further hone their craft. Their dreams of professional baseball careers are perhaps more realistic than those of the younger Little Leaguers, and their developmental needs are more complex. They spend time studying film of opposing team pitchers and batters. They concentrate more on bat speed than simply making contact. Squeeze plays, hit-and-run baserunning, and baseball strategy dictate their development.
Drive an hour east, and the continuous improvement efforts of those fortunate enough (and skilled enough) to be playing at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, are even more specific. In addition to their individual skills, much of the development is focused on developing the individual competencies in ways that positively impact the overall success of the entire ball club. Nearly everyone is a specialist on the diamond. Whereas an infielder in Little League are routinely shifted between roles, at the Major League level, the intricacies of each position have made for few true utility ballplayers anymore. At that level, baseball has become a specialist’s game. And their “training” is consistent with that specificity of intent.
Similarly, in organizations, development at one level differs significantly from development at another. Front-line supervisors have specific needs that may or may not be met by off-the-shelf, static information provided in a pre-recorded webinar format, but surely second and third-level management and executive leaders need much more specific, targeted, and customized attention. Off-the-shelf training programs simply won’t “fit the bill” for organizations looking for truly impactful and effective leadership training.
So, as you evaluate the next generation of training programs for your organization, be mindful of the performance-based effectiveness of the options available. Steer clear of the one-size-fits-all programs that provide flashy, yet shallow impact. Your organization is unique. Your leaders, individually and collectively, are unlike the specific leaders of any other organization (in skills, personality, and ability). So, take the time to put together a program that respects the individuality of your leaders and, ultimately, your organizational culture and needs. In the end, you need to decide...Is your organization going to stay in Little League, or make it to "The Show?"
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