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Is Senior Management Smarter Than You?

July 3rd, 2007 by Bob Bly

According to an article in Training & Development magazine (7/07, p. 20), senior executives attend fewer training classes than other corporate employees.

I can only think of 3 reasons for this:

1. Senior executives are smarter than ordinary workers and know more, so they do not require training or improvement.

2. Senior executives are busier and their work more important than ordinary workers, so they do not have time to attend training classes.

3. Training and development is universally perceived by corporate employees as a waste of time, but only senior executives have the authority to excuse themselves, while the rest of us don’t.

Which of the above do you think is the reason for senior management’s exemption from training?

Or is there another reason senior executives avoid training that I don’t know about?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007 at 1:46 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 responses about “Is Senior Management Smarter Than You?”

  1. Gerold said:

    senior executives do not attend normal training classes (where they may sit next to normal people). They deserve personal coaching ..

  2. Jim Logan said:

    I’ll offer a honest and frank answer: 3 – corporate sponsored training is a by far a waste of time and money. Senior managers can excuse themselves from it, opting to take training elsewhere, outside of the view of the office and corporation.

    The reason is corporate training is to career development what microwavable meals are to fine dining.

    I offer that answer as a former senior manager and executive who excused himself from such training as soon as I had the authority to do so. So did my peers.

    When HR imposed training throughout the departments, the executive team disappeared. Mostly because we could 🙂

  3. Riel Langlois, writer of Canadian comics said:

    I think Senior Executives are just pickier about what they attend.

    Corporate employees are often younger and less mature, and see the training days as chances to goof off. They’ll attend anything to get away for a day.

    Senior Executives look at the titles of the seminars and wait for one they actually need.

  4. Robert Kopacz said:

    Having been a trainer for nearly four years with my own sales training program, I can confirm that training is a waste of time, particularly where “soft skills” are involved. Only one in ten of those participating in the training actually get something from it. Many of those being trained do not have the abilities / proclivities to integrate the skills being trained.

    I have concluded that the best effective training is effective hiring. Hire those who either have and enjoy the skills sought, or want to have them very badly (and are therefore motivated to learn it on their own), and training becomes unnecessary. If a senior executive needs training to acquire a key skill needed by the company, then that person shouldn’t be a senior executive in the first place.

    Happy Fourth!

  5. Josh Ferguson said:

    I would like to propose a fourth option, although this may piggyback on #1.

    Senior management has risen through the ranks of lower level workers, taking training for years before achieving their current position. This would mean they have years of training already and need to attend fewer classes just to stay current.

    This may not be accurate but it is a viable option.

  6. Bill said:

    Formerly, Senior Execs could get away with having subordinates actually KNOW stuff. The typical phrases: “Oh, I have a guy (or a “gal”) who does that for me.” They never touched a keyboard (a lower status skill and need). The message was always “I’m the top of the pyramid.”

    Now things are changing, somewhat. Corporate Board members may be called on to use secure proprietary portals to communicated, access key documents, even have their meetings in real time. They must know how to find a terminal and get on line–from Hong Kong, or wherever they happen to traveling. No way around it, they have to be trained.

    I did some work recently on a training program in this area. One of the main requirements was the language had to achieve a tone that didn’t imply the Sr. Exec was being “instructed” like a schoolboy. Also it could not exceed 20 minutes total. These requirements (and others) clearly acknowledged what we all know, which is that Senior Execs define their status in part by having things done FOR them, thus, they shouldn’t be expected to subvert that by learning to DO something themselves. They are touchy about their dignity and can be easily offended. And they have short attention spans.

    Obviously this doesn’t apply to all, but probably to most.

  7. Ted Grigg said:

    I wrote on this very theme relating how web sites routinely make it nearly impossible to call them by phone. I don’t want to put the whole blog here, but you can see it on my site with the title “Dear customer, you are not allowed to contact us by phone.”

    Indeed, corporate policy routinely trumps customer service.

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  9. Kevin Osbern said:

    Well, I don’t think that they are smarter than ordinary workers. But these senior executives will have a lot of experiences and thus they will know more than 1 carat diamond ring, junior-level workers. That is one reason why they don’t attend training classes set for junior employees.

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