Reducing Seat Time While Keeping Real-World Context in Leadership Training

How blended learning can help you develop more capable leaders

Make your leadership training work with busy schedules and keep real-world application by creating the right blended training re-mix for your leadership program.


Company executives know leadership is a key part of any company’s success. Almost two-thirds of executives in a McKinsey survey ranked leadership development as their number-one concern. And they’re right to place it at such high priority, as the Global Leadership Forecast from Development Dimensions International found, “[O]rganizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.”

It’s not just that your company benefits from having strong leaders. The impact of bad leadership reverberates through a company too. As the Harvard Business Review reports, “If you’re [a high-level] manager doing a subpar job, you erode not only the engagement of those working for you but also the engagement of the people working for them.”

However, fostering good leadership isn’t simple. Leaders are facing ever-more complex challenges within their workplaces, but have less time to participate in leadership development. And although a program may be fit to a specific company’s leadership challenges, the leaders themselves are often left without reinforcement once they’re trying to apply skills on the job.

That’s where blended learning can help. By using a modern approach to blended learning, you can offer leaders a combination of synchronous and asynchronous delivery with a variety of modalities. This approach gives them flexibility to fit in training around their busy schedules, while also taking advantage of tools that can help them remember and apply the leadership skills when they’re in the office.

A New Look at Blended Learning

When we used to talk about blended learning, it was fairly straightforward—mix instructor-led with elearning, rinse and repeat as needed. Now, the explosion of learning and development modalities has allowed us to turn the blend in blended learning into an infinite variety of options. Your approach could be as simple as the flipped classroom, with elearning elements introducing major concepts and coaching sessions to follow. Or it could be as complex as you make it, with synchronous and asynchronous elements—classroom and coaching time, mixed with elearning, videos, simulations, help files and other supplementary tools.

The new blended learning is more flexible than ever. While that certainly means there are more options you have to consider, it also means you can make the right mix for your training program. And it’s paying off. ATD’s 2011 State of the Industry Report shows, “[T]he organizations that captured BEST Awards decreased their total percentage of instructor-led training from 73.5 percent in 2009 to 67.4 percent in 2010. By comparison, the Global 500 companies delivered 63.7 percent of learning content via live classroom instruction. Thus, the best learning and development organizations are making a focused effort to use a more blended approach…”

Whatever your particular remix, ultimately blended learning should empower learners and support business objectives.

Leadership Training for Busy Leaders

Blended learning offers solutions to the problem of the training time crunch. As Sally Hovis says in her ATD article, “Most leaders have limited time to dedicate to learning. A blended learning program with shorter learning assets and content that can be broken into chunks serves this population more effectively than methods that require them to spend hours at a time in a classroom.”

When leaders know they won’t be stuck in a classroom for days, you are helping them find the time to take training. Blended learning makes it easier for leaders to make development time a priority, because they only have to commit to a 20-minute coaching session, a 90-minute ILT piece, or a 5 minute video aid. When time is of the essence, solutions that reduce the time commitment mean you’ll actually get more people committed to making time.

In addition, the asynchronous elements of blended programs make it easier for learners to not only reduce total seat time, but take much of the training at times that work for them. There’s no need to corral everyone into an 8-hour seminar at the same time. You will find buy-in from leaders increasing, when they don’t have to plan weeks (or months) in advance to take a few days out for leadership training. Instead they can talk to a mentor on their lunch break or watch a quick video between meetings to help keep them on track.

Providing Real-World Context and Reinforcement

While synchronous pieces have a place in leadership training, the asynchronous elements prove valuable when it comes to helping leaders apply the principles they learned to their jobs. In an article for Chief Learning Officer, one of the top reasons they list for leadership development failing is not mixing application and content.

They say, “Programs that lack application to leaders’ own leadership challenges are often content heavy and perceived as too theoretical and academic, ultimately creating difficulty for some in translating learning into action. Action back on the job is the real purpose of a program. Design that is overly reliant on application may not provide the frameworks for deep and rich learning.”

You can help leaders remember and apply the lessons learned in the training by giving them asynchronous reinforcement pieces that can be accessed whenever needed. It’s easy to say one thing in a classroom setting or in a broad elearning piece, but when it comes to putting it in practice your leaders may not remember what was said. When you make job aids and other easily accessed resources available, you will increase the success of your program.


You can build a better leadership training experience by using a blended solution to deliver the training. Blended training can help you combat the traditional pushback from leaders that they don’t have enough time, as well as avoid the pitfall of poor real-word application. Create more capable leaders with the right training remix for you.