Ask An Expert April 2018

Ask an Expert

Q: In all of my work with clients over the years, I’ve always wondered just how “sticky” The Leadership Challenge content is. How much do leaders retain and practice their learning once the workshop is over? Has anyone conducted research around this issue?

A: My colleagues and I at International Leadership Associates have asked ourselves that same question. Rather than relying on the typical end-of-class evaluation, we also wanted to assess how much, if any, of the content had stuck. And recently we took action to see if we could uncover some answers.

We created a brief survey that consisted of four basic questions:
  1. How much of the lessons learned do you still remember? 
  2. To what extent do you still utilize the lessons learned at The Leadership Challenge® Workshop you attended? 
  3. How likely would you be to recommend The Leadership Challenge Workshop to your colleagues? 
  4. Compared to other leadership development programs you've experienced, how would you rate the impact of The Leadership Challenge program on your overall development? 
The survey was sent to over 800 prior workshop participants, most of whom had joined us for one of our three-day residential programs that included outdoor experiential activities in addition to classroom learning. About 40% of the surveys were returned “undeliverable,” which was not particularly surprising since we surveyed back to 2010. Of the nearly 500 survey responses we did receive, we discovered some very interesting and gratifying findings.
  • 78% of the respondents said they remember “Quite a Bit” or “Most” of the lessons from the session; 20% indicated they remember “Some” of it
  • 65% said they still utilize the lessons “Quite a Bit” or “All the Time; 33% responded “Some of the Time”

  • 91% said they were “Likely” or “Highly Likely” to recommend the program to others 

  • 85% said the impact of this program on their development was “Very Good” or “Superior,” when compared to other programs 
Note: Interestingly, when asked about this last question regarding other leadership type programs, respondents were often unable to even recall ones they had attended—let alone the content!

What’s especially impressive is that some of these responses came from participants who attended one of our programs as long as 8 years ago, and it was both still memorable and having an impact!

We found the results of our small survey to be very affirming. We instinctively know that many, many of the leaders we have engaged with have made intentional and lasting changes in their leadership as a result of their experience. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for me to hear from a participant of years past about the impact The Leadership Challenge still has on him or her. And our research indicates that what we hear anecdotally is not the exception, but more likely the rule.

The bottom-line is that people do learn, embrace, and even make new habits out of the Practices. For many, leadership is very much top-of-mind today, not just “something else” they hope to get to when they can. To me, that is pretty much what developing and improving one’s leadership capabilities is all about. How sweet is that?

Steve Coats, Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is managing partner and co-owner of International Leadership Associates, a leadership development education and consulting firm. For over 25 years, Steve has taught, coached, and consulted with executives and all levels of managers around the world in leadership development, team development, personal growth, change, and business strategy. Steve can be reached at



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