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Training Isn’t Dead – But it Should Be

In the text that follows I’m going to poke holes in a process generally accepted as productive, when it rarely is. I’ll likely take some heat over this, and while this post works off some broad generalizations, in my experience having worked with literally thousands of leaders, they are largely true. According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars on leadership based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars being spent on “Leadership Training.” Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago…

An Overview of The Problem
My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs.

The Solution
The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.

The following 15 items point out some of the main differences between training and development:

  1. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  2. Training focuses on technique – Development focuses on talent.
  3. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  4. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  5. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  6. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  7. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  8. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  9. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  10. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  11. Training focuses on problems  – Development focuses on solutions.
  12. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  13. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  14. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  15. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

When it comes to current and future leaders, training will place them in a box, while development will free them from the box. If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them. I have always said it is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not. What say you?

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No Comments

    Sachin Kundu

    September 15, 2011 at 9:05 am

    While I like how you have put the argument Mike, I am not convinced that training is unnecessary or useless.
    What however is useless is no application of training and that happens way too often.
    Infusion of new ideas through training is essential but if it just stays there then the training is wasted

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 9:17 am

      Hi Sachin:

      Thanks for the comment. I should have been more clear in expressing my thoughts. Training does have a place – just not much of a place with respect to leaders. Training is appropriate for orientation, acclimation, and for lower level task specific functions. It is not however of great use for those in senior leadership functions. Leaders require complex, critical thinking and problem solving skills that go far beyond what can be delivered in a training program. Just my two cents worth.


    September 15, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Mike, again a very timely and unbelievable powerful post. Wow, I have just abandoned my training business and re branding it to be a Leadership development company, not a training company. With the focus on coaching and mentoring. This is a brilliant post that I expect many will not understand. I have just bet my whole career and any credibility I may have developed in my local market to do what you are saying in this post. Thank you for being the real deal.

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Hi Bruce:

      Thanks for the kind words and congratulations on repositioning your company for success. I think you’ll be pleased with your decision. All the best to you Sir. 


    September 15, 2011 at 10:01 am


    Thanks for pointing out an important distinction. Managers train ‘yes men’ to be guard dogs of their own power base. Leaders develop other leaders to enrich a healthy work culture.


      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 10:51 am

      Hi Ron:

      I love the guard dog analogy. Your observation about training being for the manager’s benefit is regrettably all too often an accurate one. Thanks for sharing Ron.

    Mark Oakes

    September 15, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Brilliant (and timely) post!


    September 15, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Excellent, I wrote a very similar post today.

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Scott – I just finished reading your post and actually referred it to Mark Oakes below. 

    Wally Bock

    September 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks for another provocative post, Mike. As I read it, I
    realized that I’m working from a different conceptual frame. For me development
    is an umbrella term that includes developmental assignments, self-directed
    learning, mentors, coaching, performance evaluation, and training. Leadership
    is a apprenticeship trade, you learn most of it on the job and from other
    leaders, but training still has a role (though perhaps at 10 percent). The big
    shift I see today is the shift from thinking about training to thinking about
    facilitating learning, which acknowledges that most leadership learning happens
    on the job.


    I think it’s also worth mentioning that training performs
    other functions besides getting knowledge from one head to another. Training is
    the carrier of culture. It’s also a wonderful way for leaders in a larger
    organization to get to know other leaders.

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Wally:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, albeit a bit different than mine. Where we partially agree is referring to leadership as being best learned through experience. That said, experience is often personally and environmentally specific, and merely offers a look into largely untapped potential and opportunity. It is these potential opportunities which are normally exposed and refined through development. Very few leaders ever come close to maximizing their development opportunities, but most more than max-out their training opportunities.  

      Common leaders share training, and to a certain degree experience, but it is the uncommon leader that moves beyond those two realms into discovering what only development can reveal – the refining of their unique gifts and abilities with opportunity. This is a very personal and individual aspect of leadership that cannot be “trained” for – it is discovered, developed if you will.  

      My experience is that training might identify 10% of the landscape that represents leadership fundamentals (the common), experience awakens the mind to about 40% of what a leader will likely encounter beyond training (the shared experience), and development is the opportunity to bring context to the 50% of a leaders world which will be unique to their ability to unlearn, adapt, and grow (the individual opportunity). 

      I think your assessment that our conceptual frame is different is true, but I also believe this helps prove my point:). Thanks for sharing Wally. I always appreciate your insights.

    Mike Myatt

    September 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks Ken – Great distinctions, and we’re agreed on both accounts. 


    September 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Great Post! You nailed it.

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      Thanks Rodney – most of the time I feel like I’m trying to nail Jello to a tree, but this is a topic I’m truly passionate about. Thanks again for stopping by Sir.

    Michael McKinney

    September 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I’m with you on this Mike. I like your distinctions. Leadership training is necessary and valuable as it
    creates a framework. Like building character, there are rules to follow, but
    eventually they become part of your thinking, your way of viewing the world,
    and your way of behaving. You don’t drift into leadership.


     But, as you say, we place too much emphasis of training and
    not nearly enough on development. I think that’s because, training is easy; it’s a checklist; it’s does and don’ts; it’s
    platitudes. Development on the other
    hand is difficult, time-consuming, requires constant attention, and often has
    as many frustrating moments as exhilarating ones. It requires inside work on
    the part of both the developer and the develop-ee. Development is nuanced and
    one-size doesn’t fit all.


    Training is a part of development. But only a starting point. It’s
    like teaching someone to garden. Teach them about seeds, soil, water and
    sunshine. It’s all required information to garden. But to become a gardener takes time and experience. What
    seeds and when? How much water? How much sunshine? How do you deal with the
    unexpected—good bugs, bad bugs, weeds? How do I know when I am done? Context,
    timing, and application are something you get a feel for by experience and
    gentle coaching along the way.


    Perhaps a little TMI. Thanks for indulging me.

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Michael: Thanks for sharing the observations. I really liked your statement “training is easy; it’s a checklist; it’s does and don’ts; it’s platitudes.” Absolutely spot-on. Thanks again Michael. 

      The formatting of your comment was broken, so I attempted to clean it up as best I could. 

      Mike Myatt

      September 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Michael: Thanks for sharing the observations. I really liked your statement “training is easy; it’s a checklist; it’s does and don’ts; it’s platitudes.” Absolutely spot-on. Thanks again Michael. 

      The formatting of your comment was broken, so I attempted to clean it up as best I could. 

    Ken Garman

    September 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Thanks Mike, great post!
    Leaders are people, so are the led. Unfortunately it’s impossible teach a person to care about others, only that they should although you can example it.

    I think that to a minor degree training can be helpful in that it can enlighten leaders to the concepts of development and the need for change management. (Such as a person reading this post.) You can also teach ways to better relate and create workshops to give them practice, but in the end they have to decide they want to change.

      Mike Myatt

      September 16, 2011 at 12:11 am

      I know you didn’t just refer to my post as “training” 🙂 

      All kidding aside, while I agree that no person can change another, a sincere, skilled and engaged person can help develop someone to a point where they see the need for change, and actually desire to do the work necessary to change. This is something that won’t occur during training, but often occurs during development. Thanks again for sharing Ken.

        Anthony DiMaio

        September 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm

        Mike: Thanks for the article and the post. Thought provoking. Still there is no getting away from the “fact” that leadership is truly a phenomenon. It’s like the lightning from a storm. You definitely can’t teach a person to ‘be powerful’ only the conditions that produce power. YET I loved your article and did pass it along to my 12 closest friends.



          September 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

          Hi Anthony:

          Risky business passing this post along – you might receive a few nasty-grams in response:) Best wishes Anthony.

        Ken Garman

        September 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

        I seriously wasn’t intending to disrespect you or the post in any way. I actually agree w/ you completely, especially after reading some of your answers to other comments about how training is maybe 10% effective.

          Mike Myatt

          September 17, 2011 at 8:39 am

          Hi Ken:

          Oops…did my sarcasm get me in trouble again? I actually agreed with your comment and was just poking fun at the use of the word “training” with respect to my post. No harm was intended and none was inflicted. Thanks again for stopping by Sir.


    September 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Great article Mike. I agree that leadership is growth through development. Field experience whether in the office or out on site is paramount. Training I believe really just documents for entities such as OSHA. True mentorship is the real key.

      Mike Myatt

      September 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      I agree that mentoring is key. I don’t know anyone who’s been on the receiving end of good mentoring who isn’t a big fan. By the way, OSHA is a great example of what not to do – thanks for sharing.

    Karen D. Swim

    September 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Mike, I love your line of thinking here and cannot agree more. A focus on development rather than “training” yields the benefits of giving leaders the breadth and flexibility of further developing natural gifts and personal leadership styles. It also embraces innovation and allows for a diversity of approaches to problem solving. I hope that organizations will take this message to heart and make the shift from training to development.

    Mike Myatt

    September 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I love your thought here: “Applying action to ideas cements understanding.” – wish I’d thought of that one:). Thanks for stopping by.

      Ludfi noor

      September 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you for the risk of sharing…Courage is Alive!

    Mike Myatt

    September 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    While I wouldn’t see an MD who didn’t go to medical school (but then again you cannot receive an MD without going to medical school), neither would I go to one who hadn’t spent considerable time developing their craft. 

    I also wouldn’t say there is “no” coaching and developing in business today, there just isn’t enough of it. Entities that don’t develop their leaders will suffer as a result of it.

    Enjoy your leadership course. 


      September 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      I agree with you,Mike,about the MD and I feel like Skeptic might have been off track with this statement by confusing “training” with education.  I think the difference lies in the voluntary acceptance of knowledge.  “Training” implies (at least in this forum) knowledge that is imparted by a person to people who are made to attend these meetings due to a superior’s wishes.  Education, on the other hand, is the gaining of knowledge by putting oneself in a place to receive that knowledge voluntarily.  This brings me to my point that the argument you pose of training vs. development is one that exposes the culture of the American corporate handling of knowledge. Who gets it and how.  The hierarchy decides what knowledge is important. What would happen inf the lower ranks decided what they wanted to know? And wouldn’t that information “stick” longer? So, maybe the answer would be to have resources available for those who want to “develop”…



        September 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm

        Agreed – thanks for sharing the astute observations.

    Mike Myatt

    September 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Hi Amanda:

    I like your comment that training is “an enabler of development.” If more people understood this perhaps training would be more valuable. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe trainings not dead – just wounded:). 

    The Fioras Group

    September 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Two different approaches – training and development – each with its own application scenario. Training communicates information – development communicates possibilities and enables aspirations.


    September 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Am going to have to respectfully not disagree but rather take issue with your position Mike.

    And while I recognize that you’re employing polarization to make a point I have to in return polarize here a bit by pointing out how appropriate it is to have the piece following yours at least in the brief I found yours to be a part of; be titled “Is weak language ruining your presentations?”

    Applying universal generalizations and definitions to “training” and then to “development” carries with it huge assumptions. The issue shouldn’t be focused on narrow and static definitions but rather on wide and dynamic approaches.  
    Ironically you end your POV talking about boxes. What I find broken  is the “either, or” mentality that creates those very boxes rather than the “and, if” thinking that goes beyond them.
    I agree with all of your points on the need for development. Who wouldn’t. An effective coach can develop an amateur boxer into a professional class champion. But it takes training to maintain that development, win titles and become a leader. It’s all matter of perspective. 
    No industry can claim to be free from narrow minded fundamentalism or resistance to evolve. The training and development industry is in a state of becoming as well. Luckily we have thought leaders like yourself to remind us of what we can all grow into.

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 8:14 am

      I agree with your statement “The issue shouldn’t be focused on narrow and static definitions but rather on wide and dynamic approaches.”

      That said, controversy (polarization) stimulates thought and dialog – of this I am guilty as charged:). I do often play the role of provocateur, as it’s an effective tool for challenging thoughts and positions. As I’ve mentioned in a few other responses, this post clearly works off broad generalizations and stereotypes. Sans some of your caveats, I believe it to be more accurate than not. Thanks again for sharing. 

    Randy Hall

    September 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm



    Thanks for the thought provoking post.  I certainly empathize with the concept of
    development versus training.  I once
    renamed an entire department within a Fortune 25 company from “training” to
    “learning and development” for the exact reasons you pointed out.


    What I have come to believe over time though is that
    training itself is not bad, only bad training is bad.


    The only reason we ever implement training or development is
    to change performance, and what we often mean by that is changing behavior.  I believe behavior change happens in
    individuals when four things are present:


    TThey want to

    TThey know how

    TThey believe they can

    TThey see others doing it


    That last one can be unnecessary in the case of a few rare
    individuals but that’s another discussion.


    Training, when it’s done well, serves the purpose of helping
    people understand how to do something differently and therefore is a critical
    part of behavior change, again, if it’s done well.  Done poorly it is simply, as you have pointed
    out, a waste of time.


    Here’s my central question for the people thinking about
    this:  If someone conducts a workshop
    that causes people to think differently about leadership, make choices relative
    to what kind of leader they would like to become, understand the path that they
    would have to take to achieve that and clarify for themselves what great
    leadership means in their world, would that be training or development?


    It would be hard for us to say that that kind of experience
    wouldn’t be of some value but clearly it differs from the traditional
    definition that we have come to associate with training.  Admittedly, it will have less value if not
    surrounded with the right culture, coaching and additional development, but
    that kind of experience is likely a necessary component of performance improvement
    in the leadership arena.


    There’s a lot of really bad training out there and it has
    given us the feeling that all training is of little value.  I once worked with an organization where
    people said that ”coaching” in their world meant being called into the office
    by your boss and told what you were doing wrong.  Coaching isn’t bad, but that kind of coaching


    We need better training. 
    And we need a comprehensive approach to developing more effective
    leaders.  Our future depends on it.  But training, done really well, may just be a
    critical part of that process.


    Thanks for letting me participate.  And thanks for making us think.



      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 8:05 am

      Hi Randy:

      If my post inspired that thought stream, then I’ve done my job. Thanks for sharing your observations and experiences. Your participation is always welcome. Thanks again Randy.

    Martin Schjoll

    September 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Very interesting post; you spurred some internal interest. Leadership theorist since inception, have continually challenged and/or contested an argument based on the concept that people are either naturally born leaders or they are trained  (sometimes through learned behavior) to specific leadership skill sets that later develop into individual leadership style/s. Either way, an effective and successful leader is one that continually practices leadership.
    Regardless, training provides a foundation to build upon and reduces the risk of missed opportunities.  Traditional leadership theories are no longer accepted in today’s psychosocial society. For a major corporation to successfully implement a paradigm shift in leadership theory, current leaders within the organization may need initial training. It is not until they completely understand the paradigm shift that development can occur. A very important aspect is buy-in.
    Case in point:
    Traditional authoritarian leadership theories do not mingle well with transformational and shared leadership principles. Those leaders need to be trained so they can be later developed; otherwise, it will take years and many headaches for an organization to successfully complete the shift. Training and development work hand-in-hand.
    Great Post!
    Best Regards,
    Martin Schjoll

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:57 am

      Martin, I agree in principle, but not necessarily in practice. With regard to your case in point, training is only truly effective to a certain level, and most commonly after buy-in exists. I would suggest that leaders are much more likely to reach buy-in through coaching and mentoring, and less likely to do so through training mandates. My guess is that we’re not that far apart, but are more than likely dealing with definitional distinctions. Thanks again for sharing.  

    LeRoy Dennison

    September 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Mike, I am disappointed to read you comment “I really liked your statement ‘training is easy; it’s a checklist; it’s does and don’ts; it’s platitudes.’ Absolutely spot-on. ”  

    Truly effective training is not easy to design, develop, and deliver, but great leadership training happens daily in the military.  The U.S. Coast Guard’s “Senior Petty Officer Leadership & Management,” “Junior Officer Leadership & Management,” and “Chief Petty Officer Academy” are great leadership courses.  Unlike civilian leadership training courses, these are immersive courses where the trainees actively participate; they don’t just listen to someone going through a check list, nor is it simply a networking event.

    I concur that follow-on development is essential, but leadership development begins with effective training.

    LeRoy Dennison
    Master Chief Petty Officer, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:51 am

      Hi LeRoy:

      I’m a product of the military as well. Much of who I am as a leader was “developed” during my time in the service. The corporate world could learn much from how the military builds leaders. 

      When I agreed with the statement you cited, it was in context to how most civilian training is conducted, and quite frankly many training programs just phone it in. They are indeed checking a box. This is clearly not the case with military training. Nevertheless, all the training in the world absent development will simply yield unrecognized potential and wasted opportunity. 

      Thanks for sharing LeRoy. 


    September 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Mike, this is a very well written critique, but I fear you may be a bit too facile with some of the items on your list. One in particular offends me as a visual artist, that training is mechanical. Some certainly is, but some is not–and I am referring to training in the visual arts when I say that. I also want to point out the simple fact that development includes training. Training is essentially the repetition of actions that allow one to develop skill. Malcom Gladwell did a good job explicating this with his “10,000 hours” premise in his book “Outliers.” To the degree that training becomes a rote exercise, its results may be equivocal. Nonetheless, I really wish our young children were exposed to the rote training routines of yesteryear when it comes to their ABCs, phonics, and times tables. As a college professor, I cringe at the number of utterly under-prepared students in my classes who not only don’t spell well, but are too lazy to use spell check to do anything about it, who can’t do simple arithmetic in their heads, and whose attention spans inhibit any effort to concentrate. Sometimes “training” is unpleasant. But ask any world-class athlete how he or she attained to greatness, and part of the answer will include doing a lot of unpleasant, exhausting, repetitive training. Sometimes medicine doesn’t taste good but you still need to take it.

    Lennart Thornros

    September 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hello Mike,
    I think your observation is correct. Reading your clarifications following other comments I agree fully with you except in one part. 
    We agree that development of leader skills is the only way to get a good leader. That does not exclude that a set of skills has to be trained and developed. You are saying that there is difference depending on one’s position in an organization whether the emphasis should be on development or training, if I understand you right. I disagree with that. I think everybody needs to learn the skills and everybody shall develop their leadership. In my opinion the best organization has only leaders who can at least lead themselves. To develop the leader in everybody pays big dividends.

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:36 am

      Hi Lennart:

      I don’t think we’re in disagreement at all. Training has a role at all levels, and so does development. My premise is that the ratio of training to development is often applied in a static method without regard to position, role, responsibility, etc. Moreover, the more we skew the ratio in favor of development the more productive and evolved the workforce will become.  


    September 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    If you substitute “management” for “training” and “leadership” for “development”, you have another powerful list.

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:28 am

      Hi Carol:

      You’re just trying to get me to open-up another can of worms aren’t you? 🙂 Since Warren Bennis first started pointing out the differences between “management” and “leadership” it has spawned many a frothy debate. Thanks for sharing your observation Carol. 


    September 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    The premise of this doesn’t agree with the article. The article talks about leadership development. Training is still necessary in many cases but development enhances the training.

    At least that’s what I take from this.


    September 17, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I had a great conversation with someone the other day about the fundamental misunderstanding of learning. Ken Robinson does a great job of explaining it. Or school systems have taught us that retaining information is learning, when it really isn’t learning at all. Retaining knowledge about being a leader isn’t learning to be a leader. Learning takes action and development. Great post, Mike. I typically read your blog, and this is by far my favorite post you have written recently. Keep it coming.

    Micah Yost

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:24 am

      Hi Micah:

      Thanks for the kind words. It’s been said that “knowledge is power,” but I’ve found that it’s the prudent and effective application of knowledge that leads to the desired outcome. Static information that is not acted upon holds little value, and information that isn’t developed to its highest potential simply is wasted opportunity. You, Ken Robinson, and I are on the same page here. Thanks Micah. 


    September 17, 2011 at 3:24 am

    I have been in the education field for 30 years and have lost count of the number of hours I’ll never get back whilst being ‘trained’.
    Regular, on-going, long-term professional development (or learning) is the answer.
    Have you read anything about evidence-based development, Mike?

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

      Hi Gerry:

      Thanks for your comment and the kind words. In answer to your question, I’ve read a few pieces about evidence-based learning in academic journals over the years. The practice has long been applied in the fields of medicine and science, and has become a rather hot topic in corporate learning of late. Most leaders naturally use evidence-based learning, even though they might not refer to it as such. To ignore the evidence of experience (good or bad) is to operate in a vacuum of old information that may not be relevant at all. Thanks again for sharing Gerry…

    Greg Waddell

    September 17, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Mike: While I tend to agree with you, I hope the point you are making is not lost in the semantics. What you’re really talking about–in my opinion–is good pedagogy. ANY good teacher understands the concepts you mention. So, IF training inevitably and always means all the things you say it does, then you are exactly right. I could, however, envision, a Leadership Training process that incorporates many if not all of your suggestions. I can also envision a Leadership “Development” program that fails to do any of them. So, instead of worrying whether we call it Training or Development, maybe our focus should be on Good Pedagogy which always understands that learning comes through a process of joining theory with action.

      Mike Myatt

      September 17, 2011 at 7:10 am

      Hi Greg:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You and a few others have seen through my ruse…Much of what I write is meant to challenge and provoke in order to stimulate conversation and help people refine their thinking. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of my post, this piece works off some broad generalizations, and I’m hoping as you are that the meat of the post isn’t lost in a semantical debate. Thanks for reading between the lines Greg.

        Greg Waddell

        September 18, 2011 at 5:09 am

        After further thought, I must admit that the word “Training” does carry with it a certain level of authoritarian superiority that “Development” does not. We train dogs. We potty-train children. Training conveys the idea of transferring skills from one to another. Development, on the other hand, describes a more natural, organic, process that includes not only the influences of the “trainer,” but many other influences such as a learning organizational culture, structures that encourage development, and relationships within a larger group.


    September 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I relly enjoyed and agree with your post. While training is important, development is essential. Business leaders would benefit from developing their people. Great post!

    Leanne HoaglandSmith

    September 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Great piece and great list.

    As to #11 – Training focuses on symptoms while development focuses on solutions because the real problems have been identified.
    #16 – Training is transactional; Development is transformational.
    #17 – Training is acquisition of knowledge; Development is the application of knowledge.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    P.S. My practice was established over 15 years ago to focus on development and yet HR, executives and even other trainers still do not get it. Maybe because development takes more time and is not a quick fix.

      Mike Myatt

      September 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Leanne:

      Thanks for your contribution to the conversation. I appreciate your observations. 

    […] posting by Mike Myatt provides a well thought out rationale why old school training isn’t dead but it should be regardless if  it sales training, leadership training, etc. should die a quick death. Another […]

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    September 22, 2011 at 3:47 am

    development and training has the need of discipline and determination, it always adds up to a successful training

    Kyle Dover

    September 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    How can a person write 500 words to discuss a concept that he chooses not to define?  You spend an entire paragraph sharing your narrow, self-serving definition of training, but don’t spend one sentence to define what you mean by development.  You list what you see as the differences between your ideas of training and development, and all the wonderful effects that “development” will create.  Oddly enough (or maybe not) you never define what you mean by the word development or describe what a person would actually DO to create all these wonderful effects.

    My consulting group is contemplating the idea of a blog, so we went searching for examples of what people see as good blogs.  I won’t ever judge from one example, but I’m somewhat disappointed to see the material I’ve been seeing, with this post being a very solid example of my concern.  If you have a specific idea about what you mean by development, it would be interesting to hear your description, and then have a dialogue about it – but platitudes should never replace critical thinking.

    I have been in the “development” business for over 30 years.  I see a useful role for both training and coaching, as well as other methods that can develop perspective and skill.  I believe that it would be a good use of time to discuss when and how training can be useful, and also when other methods can be more effective and what those methods are and how best to use them.

    Is anyone here up for that discussion?

      Mike Myatt

      September 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Kyle:

      Thanks for stopping by, and I’m sorry that my lack of “critical thinking” has offended you. I certainly welcome dissenting opinions here, and most people in this community are always up for a discussion.

      It is true that I chose not to define development, nor did I define training. Rather I wanted to highlight characteristics of each, and let people form their own conclusions as they related to their personal experiences. But hey, since you asked:

      DEVELOPMENT: bring out the capabilities or possibilities of; bring to a more advanced state: to cause to grow or expand: to bring into being or activity; generate; Synonyms for development are: expansion, elaboration, growth, evolution; unfolding, opening, maturing, etc. 

      TRAINING: Repetition of an action (drill, exercise, practice, rehearse) so as to develop or maintain a skill intended for use during an introductory, learning, or transitional period usually under a form of supervision: Synonyms for training are: indoctrinate, inform, instruct, tutor, etc.   

      The problem with static definitions is they don’t take into account context or environment. The post was intended to elicit a discussion, not to provide a rigid definition of something which must be uniquely constructed based upon situational dynamics. 

      Since you’ve been in the “development” business for 30 years, perhaps you’d like to share your definition for discussion. If you decide to start blogging please send me a link when you launch. Best wishes for continued success Kyle.

        Kyle Dover

        October 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

        Well, I suppose the most useful thing to do is to overlook the sarcasm and try to respond to the question.

        I recognize that all of these words are what our group refers to “empty words,” which, to me, means any word that can be defined however the speaker/writer chooses – with “leadership” being a wonderful example!

        I have never written a definition before but, for me, training is about acquiring existing knowledge and skills, and I believe that well-designed training can be very useful.  Again, for me, knowledge acquisition and skill development typically go hand in hand, so the reference to medical training would be relevant.  The physician begins by seeking to acquire an existing body of fact, theory, and practice.  A leader can also begin in the same way but unfortunately, with leadership, there is little consensus over what is the most useful collection of facts, theories, or practices.

        Development, for me, is a more difficult word to define.  Generally, I consider development to be about the person, where training is more about the content.  About 10 years ago, I created a new capability development model for organizations, derived from the work of Bob Kegan.  If you are familiar with Kegan’s work, you know that he focuses on “perspective” which is VERY loosely defined as a kind of lens on the world that alters perception, understanding, and skill.  Again, very loosely, he describes development around the idea of expanding perspective and, as a person develops, this broader perspective changes almost everything about how that person engages the world – including how they understand and apply previously acquired knowledge and skill.

        If you stipulate the idea of development being focused on the person, then there are numerous ways to encourage another person’s development including but not limited to…
        -coaching (when designed to develop independent capability, not on the “guru” approach)

        -pursuing unique experiences, provided the person reflects on what they did, the effects on himself and others, and the potential change in viewpoint

        -training skills to another person, and struggling through the wide variety of roadblocks that come with helping another person acquire knowledge and skill

        I have no idea if this post responds to your request for a definition or not.  Hopefully, it will provide more fodder for the discussion.  Our blog will be called Anyone Can Lead and it is (slowly and painfully) under construction as I write.  I hope to see you there.


    October 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I think your post hits the mark brilliantly and, with your permission, plan on using it in a presentation to the fire service.  For me, no place are your comments more evident than on the fireground or a large scale emergency.  Well trained officers run a safe, by the book incident.  Well developed officers run a scene more like a symphony conductor.  Their ability to come up with innovative solutions to life and death problems is a testiment to their ability to think under tremendous pressure.  It shows in their performance that their training has taken the next step into education.

      Mike Myatt

      October 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, and please feel free to use the material. Anything I can do to help first responders I consider a great privilege. Thanks for what you do. 

    Smith 245

    October 5, 2011 at 1:02 am

    You obviously haven’t been developed or developed anyone in the recent past or you would find more value in it. Leadership and management techniques may be easily learned but not easily applied.

    TLW 64: Let’s Talk About Dialogue

    October 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    […] Training Isn’t Dead–But It Should Be (N2Growth blog) […]

    Peter J

    October 6, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Leadership is being able to motivate and inspire others.
    It is something that encourages a new direction for a group and that can come from anyone who is born with this capacity or has developed it.

      Mike Myatt

      October 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Peter:

      I like to keep things simple as much as the next person, but your definition of leadership may take it a bit too far:). Leadership is far more than inspiration, motivation, and encouragement. While a positive, encouraging attitude is important, to distill the practice of leadership down to these three characteristics leaves much open for debate and discussion. An inspiring, motivating, and encouraging person without wisdom, discernment, experience, character, etc., is likely more of a pied-piper than a leader. That said, I agree that leadership can come from anyone willing to develop the requisite skills (more than three). 

      I took a crack at defining leadership here if you’re interested:  


    October 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I love the title of this post Mike and completely get the point you’re trying to make.  I started leading my first teams in my early 20’s and had no formal leadership “training”.  It was all “sink or swim”.  I learned through experience.  Then, somehow found myself working for a consulting firm that focussed on leadership development and sold boat loads of leadership “training”.  It’s interesting when you enter an industry from the line (my background is sales and marketing not training or hr).  The problem, as I see it, is that most organizations feel that they have to put a “check mark” beside the “we’ve trained our leaders” box and then stick everyone in a classroom for a few days and hope it works.  The average manager returns to his or her desk and deals with the backlog of emails and work in their inbasket and shelves their binder full of ideas.  The main benefit I gained from working in a consulting firm focused on leadership is that I got to think and develop my leadership continually over the time I was there.  Training on it’s own doesn’t provide learning sustainability.  Development does.  We need fewer “fire-hose” methods of helping leaders build skills and more “slow drip and absorb” methods to help leaders become leaders.  Tools like mentoring, coaching and peer forums all give leaders the opportunity to reflect and discuss their experience and translate their insights into new actions.  Training definitely plays a part, but without application and reflection, it doesn’t do much.  As we’re fond of saying in our organization, “leadership isn’t learned in a binder, baby.” 

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    Mary Claire Farnell

    September 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

    In my opinion training and development should go hand in hand. Training is acquiring a set of skills such as decision making, people skills, technical skills etc… but development is putting these skills into good use in such a way that you become more equipped with knowledge and find yourself transformed in a positive way. I’d like to highlight the word positive because some people may acquire skills and new knowledge, but these very same skills may affect their personalities in a negative way as they become egoistic, insensitive and power trippers.

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