Have You Applied the Nudge Theory to Your Organization’s Leaders?

by | 2 minute read

The lead­ers in your orga­ni­za­tion are like­ly doing well. They’re mak­ing sol­id deci­sions, hir­ing good peo­ple and meet­ing their goals. But, do you sus­pect they could be doing a lit­tle bet­ter? Is more invest­ment in lead­er­ship train­ing the answer? Or should you try a dif­fer­ent kind of devel­op­ment?

Why Training Fails

The deci­sion to invest in addi­tion­al for­mal lead­er­ship train­ing can be expen­sive, espe­cial­ly if the end result isn’t what you hoped for. In his Gallup col­umn, Vib­has Ratan­jee says, “50% to 60% of exec­u­tives fail to achieve the strat­e­gy they were hired to exe­cute with­in 18 months of tak­ing the job.”

This fail­ure could stem from train­ing that empha­sizes a set of expect­ed lead­er­ship behav­iors. The best peo­ple in any orga­ni­za­tion find their way into lead­er­ship posi­tions because they exhib­it the kind of behav­ior that con­tributes to the entity’s suc­cess.

At too many com­pa­nies, lead­er­ship train­ing grooms these indi­vid­u­als using a stan­dard cur­ricu­lum. What you end up with is group think. Your best and bright­est employ­ees can start to lose their edge and their unique abil­i­ties. They may wor­ry that their ideas won’t fall with­in the guide­lines of your organization’s ‘lead­er­ship prin­ci­ples.’ While there’s a place for lead­er­ship guide­lines in every orga­ni­za­tion, you must leave room for lead­ers to adapt and grow.

How the Nudge Theory Succeeds

The nudge the­o­ry holds that lead­ers do bet­ter when they apply their innate abil­i­ties to a sit­u­a­tion. In your com­pa­ny cul­ture, lead­ers might all tend to have stand-up meet­ings and move quick­ly from one top­ic to the next. If you have a leader who is more delib­er­a­tive, give that per­son breath­ing space. Allow them to take time, with­in rea­son, to make deci­sions the way they always have. The end result could be a bet­ter deci­sion and a more agile strat­e­gy for your orga­ni­za­tion.

Nudge the­o­ry can also improve the lead­er­ship abil­i­ty of team mem­bers who pre­fer to avoid cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. You can broad­en the expe­ri­ence of a promis­ing leader and build their con­fi­dence by ask­ing them to take on a big­ger respon­si­bil­i­ty. For exam­ple, man­ag­ing a cross-functional team to com­plete a crit­i­cal project could pose a huge chal­lenge. When you give that leader sup­port and encour­age them to work out­side their com­fort zone, they’ll rely on their innate abil­i­ties. With some per­son­al­ized coach­ing and sup­port, they’ll devel­op oth­er skills that will improve the orga­ni­za­tion as well.

One size does not fit all, espe­cial­ly when it comes to lead­er­ship train­ing.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Research for Sales­Fu­el. She holds a Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont and over­sees a staff of researchers, writ­ers and con­tent providers for Sales­Fu­el. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was co-owner of sev­er­al small busi­ness­es in the health care ser­vices sec­tor.