No Budget

Over the past two years I have gotten the response, NO BUDGET over 200 times when pitching companies to send participants to the LeaderSurf leadership development program.  One would think I must be pitching the program to startups and small companies, but the reality is that Fortune 500 publicly traded companies have been my core rejecters.  At first, I was surprised, then frustrated, but the reality is that NO BUDGET is actually code for I don’t have the authority to make a decision about leadership development and I am not willing to seek out the person who has the authority.

According to the ASTD, US companies spend over $170 billion dollars a year on training and development.  With a staggering figure like that the $6,800 all inclusive program I have been pitching seems like small potatoes.  Companies are investing in employee development, but they are making poor choices.  Numerous sources from Deloitte Consulting to the Harvard Business Review point to the fact that the majority of leadership development programs fail to improve leadership capability, yet companies continue to invest in traditional classroom-based programs.  Andrea Derler in her article in Chief Executive wrote, “ While real-life, experiential leadership development approaches have shown to lead to better outcomes, most companies are still stuck with traditional programs featuring (sometimes-uninspiring) instructor-led, classroom-based training events.”  The challenge is in shifting the paradigm.  Experiential leadership development is sometimes classified as boondoggles and touchy feely.  While a few programs warrant those titles, most are well organized and impactful experiential development opportunities.


So much of the traditional classroom curriculum should be classified as training.  Training is much like teaching, it is one directional and focuses on predictable and consistent outcomes. The goal is to teach all participants the same information such that they leave the program having absorbed the same knowledge.  This approach is just wrong.  Experiential leadership development programs are learner centered. They are facilitated versus taught.  Program goals and outcomes are tailored to the specific needs of each participant.  These learner-centered programs are higher impact because they are focused on helping each participant meet his or her program goals rather than a universal set.

There is some irony in the NO BUDGET excuse.  Those that reject the LeaderSurf program because of NO BUDGET lack the leadership needed to pursue development for their team members.  They presume someone else is handling the leadership agenda and that it is out of the scope of their job.  If leadership development is about building self-awareness and empowering people to make smart business decisions, those claiming NO BUDGET are victimizing themselves.

Surfboard participating companies.png

Do optics outweigh results?  That is the dilemma.  The LeaderSurf program has hosted participants from global organizations like MetLife, FCB Global, The Motley Fool and others.  Participants have hailed from three continents and various industries.  The program is honored to have had several companies send multiple participants to different sessions because they believe in the value of the program.  With every participant having rated the program five stars and some incredible articles having been written by past participants, one would think the results would outweigh the misperception that those uninformed have of the program.  That just is not the case as of yet.

Like anything disruptive, the naysayers will call it crazy until a tipping point has been reached.  For organizations looking to build leadership capability, drive innovation and to maintain a highly engaged workforce, a program like LeaderSurf can be the anecdote to boring classroom learning.

Yes it takes a small budget to invest in developing leaders, but more important than the budget it takes leadership.