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How to Conquer your Leadership Training Challenges

Tips for Shaping Behaviors

Leadership development training often shows us exactly how difficult it can be to change the deeply ingrained behaviors of your learners. It’s easy for leaders to revert to old behaviors after training. Unfortunately, this is common to business transformation in general. One IBM study found that nearly 60% of organizational change projects do not fully meet their objectives. But what distinguishes the successful projects the rest? Our experience tells us it comes down to learning strategies steeped in educational theory best practices. In order to create leadership development training that translates into enduring on-the-job behaviors, let’s look to fields like applied behavior analysis as a basis for immersive eLearning design. 

Applied Behavior Analysis 

ABA is the practice of applying learning theory principles to shape behavior

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the practice of applying learning theory principles to shape behavior. ABA principles are used in education, healthcare, and business management. In order to create long-lasting behavioral change, ABA observes and analyses the “ABCs” of applied behavior analysis: 

  • Antecedent: The event leading to a behavior 
  • Behavior: The action that is a direct response to the antecedent 
  • Consequence: The motivating event following a behavior that increases or decreases subsequent behaviors. 

Decades of research have shown us that the careful control of antecedents and consequents can help eliminate dysfunctional behavior and promote ideal behavior. Moreover, this process can be useful for creating performance maps and basic practices from ABA can be implemented within custom eLearning activities to improve learning outcomes.  

ABA Tactics 

One of the common reinforcement strategies in ABA is a token economy: a system that rewards ideal behaviors with points to be redeemed later for a more tangible reward. This bares marked similarities with point-based reward tactics in eLearning gamification, but gamification strategies tend to use points in a competitive nature or point systems without reward. So, consider how points are being used in your overall learning strategy. If their assignment and value are arbitrary, then you may want to reconsider how points are being used. For example, adding token rewards to on-the-job performance measurement systems can help reinforce newly acquired skills and improve skills maintenance. 

Generalizing Leadership Development Training Skills 

ABA also emphasizes the importance of generalization. For training to be effective, it must enable learners to transfer skills acquired during training to potentially novel, on-the-job situations. Unfortunately, generalization is often overlooked in training; the expectation is that generalization will happen naturally. But that’s not always the case. 

The goal of training isn’t that learners will complete the training. It’s that training will change the behavior of the learner. Inevitably, the situations learners face on the job will not be identical to their training, so being able to generalize hypothetical situations into real work and real situations is key. The gap between completing training and changing behavior is common in leadership training, so part of leadership development must include generalization techniques. 

Immersive Training Modalities 

Creating more realistic training is a useful way to improve generalization. Realistic training can help leadership training translate into on-the-job situations. And there’s evidence to suggest that immersive eLearning experiences like high fidelity simulations can be used to improve learning outcomes. But there are several immersive training modalities that have gained popularity in recent years that can promote generalization.  


Realistic training experiences will help your learners generalize the skills.

Simulations, particularly those with complex branching decision-making storylines, can provide the depth and diversity of experience needed to help learners generalize leadership development training content. Navigating various storylines and reaching different outcomes gives learners more opportunities to apply their skills during training in subtly different ways, better preparing them to face novel situations when they apply those skills on-the-job.  

Interactive Videos 

Videos can effectively convey emotions and the nuanced facets of communication through facial expressions, body language, and tone. Moreover, the visual appeal of video modalities makes training more engaging. You can also add interactive features like real-time prompts for questions or actions to increase engagement.  


Though a number of organizations have found creative ways to use AR/VR for employee onboarding and site indoctrination, the use of this technology for training has been limited. However, there is promise in the manufacturing and medical spaces, using augmented lenses to pull up training around specific machines or creating virtual environments to train on surgical equipment. 


Leadership training stick, like any other behavioral change, can be difficult to maintain long-term. Educational theories like Applied Behavioral analysis offer some suggestions that can easily apply to your training strategy design. But training technology will certainly come into play when creating immersive training assets, like simulations, interactive videos, or AR/VR. Realistic training experiences will help your learners generalize the skills they’ve acquired during training, and they’ll be better equipped to transfer those skills into their daily work.