Mark Hinderliter

By Mark Hinderliter

The ROI on Leadership Training

The ROI on Leadership Training 150 150 Mark Hinderliter

The Dirty Little Secret

The dirty little secret about most leadership training is that it doesn’t stick.

Training alone doesn’t turn into improved leader performance.  HBR, Forbes, and Inc. Magazine have all reported that American businesses spend billions of dollars annually on training that is not a good Return on Investment – largely because people go back to their old ways of doing things.  In times with tight budgets, companies still need to develop their leaders, but can’t afford to waste money.

The Three I’s of Leadership Development

When I was the head of Human Resources for a global, billion-dollar company, I delivered leadership workshops for all levels of management all around the organization, and consistently received rave reviews.  However, as the head of HR, I still continued to receive calls about managers that were leading in ways that were counter to our core values and what we taught in these workshops. I remember thinking, “What is going on here? I taught these managers how to lead people based on solid principles that were in line with our core values.”  I came to the realization that for leadership development to be effective, it must help the leaders transform the knowledge into applied skills.  As a result, I redesigned the program to follow the three I’s of personal transformation: Insights, Implementation, and Integration.  The objective of the three I‘s is to transform knowing into doing.

Transform Knowing into Doing

In any areas of life, we can have a knowing vs. doing gap.  We know what to eat to maintain optimal health, and yet, we don’t always do it. We know we need to exercise regularly, but don’t always do it.  (I am talking to myself here, feel free to listen in).  We know the Golden Rule for how to treat people, but don’t always do it.  With leadership, knowing leadership principles and not applying (doing) them is the common gap in leadership development, as described in my own experience.  To close the knowing vs. doing gap in leadership, I developed what I call The Three-Legged Stool approach to employ the Insights, Implement and Integrate transformation model.

Leg #1 – Insights

Teach a leadership model that provides a framework for learning.   In his article, Mental Models: Learn How to Think Better and Gain a Mental Edge, James Clear states that “Mental models help us understand the world we live in. They guide our perception and behavior. They are the thinking tools we use to understand life, make decisions, and solve problems. Learning a new mental model gives us a new way to see the world.”.  The model I teach is called the Diamond Quality Leadership (DQL) model.  DQL is a model of six leadership practices I developed from two years of research.  These six practices represent the insights stage of development.  A summary of the DQL model is below.

Leg #2 – Implementation

Virtual Delivery of the program. Once COVID-19 prevented us from meeting in person, I re-formatted the delivery of the program.  The delivery now consists of eight modules that are delivered in ninety-minute Zoom sessions spread out over four months.  Before each session, participants are given content (from the DQL materials) to study.  Then in each Zoom session, we work through different exercises to deepen the understanding of the content.  After each Zoom session participants are given the assignment of identifying a key insight from that module and implementing it on the job over the next two weeks.  In the next session, they report back to the group about their experience with implementing their insight.  As part of the process, participants are put into small learning teams to provide peer coaching to each other to further the implementation of the knowledge and skills.   I have found that the virtual delivery of DQL over four months (along with peer coaching) is much more effective than the old-school, two-day workshop.  It allows participants to opportunity to learn and implement the insights on the job.  Virtual delivery also saves the client company travel costs.  Note: I highly recommend Dr. Denny Coates’ book titled Peer Coaching Made Simple.  It is a straightforward, easy read guide that provides the mechanics of peer coaching.

Leg #3 Integration

Think, Do, Reflect, Modify.  Dr. David Kolb’s Experiential Learning (ELT) model teaches us that we learn best by doing.  Kolb’s ELT model is a continuous cycle of Think, Do, Reflect and Modify.  This approach supports the integration stage of development.

Let’s illustrate with an example.

  • Think.  Pat (a participant in the leadership program) decides some coaching is important for the development of one of her direct reports.  Pat thinks about and plans for the coaching session.
  • Do.  Pat puts the first coaching session on the calendar with her direct report and does the coaching.
  • Reflect.  After the coaching, Pat reflects on it. What went well? What can be improved upon?
  • Modify.   For the next coaching session, Pat modifies her coaching to incorporate the improvements she identified in the reflection.  As a result of following this experiential learning approach, Pat’s leadership skills are continuously expanding.

This integration stage of learning closes the knowing vs. doing gap.  Once Pat masters the coaching skill, she moves on to develop another leadership skill.  Working on mastering one leadership skill per quarter adds up like compound interest.  To keep up this discipline, it is important for Pat to identify one or two people that will provide peer coaching, as discussed above.  Peer coaching provides encouragement and accountability to support Pat in staying the course in her development. As Pat is expanding her leadership capabilities, the company’s ROI grows along with Pat’s growth.

As you are evaluating leadership development programs, keep an eye out for how the program helps people integrate the leadership skills and obtain the ROI needed for this development. Feel free to reach out to discuss.  My email is


Dr. Mark Hinderliter works with clients to develop people strategies that align with their business strategy.  His experience as a Senior Vice President for a billion-dollar global enterprise along with a PhD in Organization and Management are a unique fusion of real-world experience and academic credentials.  His superpower is leadership development.

Mark is a United States Army Veteran.  He is the creator of the leadership program Diamond Quality Leadership: Leadership Skills for Today’s WorkforceMark is the host of the bi-weekly LinkedIn Live event called The Great Retention.

You can follow Mark on LinkedIn at