Survey Says...the People Want Greater Leadership Skills

This past December, we invited our entire database to participate in our annual, 3-question Training Planning Survey. A majority of the people on our list work in, or support, project management. A trend we’ve observed is that each year a growing number of PMs are interested in developing their leadership and management skills; greater than the number interested in project management training. Out of 30 course topics listed, the top choices were:

2017 Survey Course Topics
Out of the top 17 courses considered for 2018 training, 11, or 2/3 are “professional development”, only five are project management courses, and one, Microsoft 365, is a general administrative skill.

The Nine Principles of Self-Leadership28.89%
Leadership Skills for Non-Supervisors28.89%
Managing Organizational Change26.67%
Performance Management24.44%
Persuasive Presentations22.22%
PM with Microsoft Project22.22%
Microsoft Office 36522.22%
PM Training with Simulation20.00%
PM Fundamentals20.00%
Creating a Culture of Innovation20.00%
Effective Customer Communications20.00%

Click here to see the complete list in order of planned interest.

LEARNING POINT: People working in or with project management, recognize the need for leadership and management training to improve their performance. Fortunately, Merit’s professional courses are not only very enjoyable and informative, and like our PM courses, they qualify for PDUs, CEUs, CPEs, and CLPs.

Training Formats

We saw a rather dramatic shift this year from our previous surveys in terms of training/learning format preferences. In the December 2017 survey, the web-based learning format was most preferred at 52.27%; significantly more than the full day, on-site format at 31.82%. These top choices flipped for the number one position from 2015.

In 2015, “Full day” was the top choice selected by 54% of respondents and web-based, self-paced learning was second choice at 41.7%. Below, you can see the other variations that occurred over the past two years.

Training Format2017 Response Percent2015 Response Percent
Full day, live31.82%54.2%
Web-based, self-paced learning52.27%41.7%
Series of one-hour webinars36.36%37.5%
2 or 3 sequential days13.64%12.5%
2 or more sequential 1/2 days15.91%12.5%
A single series of 1/2 day webinars13.64%12.5%
Several whole or half day trainings offered weekly9.09%8.3%

LEARNING POINT: Web-based, self-paced learning options were preferred over in-person instruction. Our respondents were also more interested in learning from a series of one-hour webinars, which are also self-paced, independent training formats, than full day, live sessions.

"Influencers" in Selecting Training Sessions

When respondents were asked to rate the importance of the following traits in their decision to select a course, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning Not at all Important and 5 meaning Very Important, the educational Topic was clearly the most important trait — and we did expect this.

The surprises were related to how important the location of the course is and how relatively unimportant the credentials are. Please see the chart below:
"Influencers" in Selecting Training Sessions
Considering there are about 600,000 certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) worldwide that need 60 PDU credits every three years, and similar figures apply to SHRM and CPA credit requirements, we expected that earning credits would have ranked higher in importance.

So, we would love to hear your thoughts on why these trends are moving in this direction.

  • Why do you think people are seeking independent learning opportunities more than in-person learning events? Is the freedom to choose their best time more enjoyable than in-person learning where people share their experiences?

  • What are the two most important criteria in your course selection … and why?

Please leave your comments below, we’d love to hear your feedback. Thank you very much for reading and for giving us your thoughts!

Growing Today's Strategic Leaders

Growing Today's Strategic LeadersIn an ever-changing business environment, leaders need to be nimble, scanning the horizon for opportunities, adjusting their strategy, and involving employees in the process.

How does your organization develop and create a strategy to make the business successful? Traditionally, the top of the pyramid created the strategy, and everyone fell in line. But in today’s fast-paced business environment, leaders need to build strategies that respond to external changes. They need to collect data from every source possible, including employees, who often have key information about customers, the market, and internal systems. And they need to create strategies that make sense, are simple to communicate and make it easy for employees to develop tactics to support the strategy.

As leadership styles continue to evolve in a changing workplace, strategic leadership is shedding its top-down strategy in favor of teamwork and cooperation. In order to adapt, business leaders need to refocus their strategies to incorporate the perspectives and ambitions of the employees that will be part of the plan, according to the book “Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success,” published in part in Training magazine.

“Too often, leaders assume that once they have the direction figured out, everyone should just align with it,” authors Richard Hughes, Katherine Colarelli Beatty and David Dinwoodie write. “While they may not say it exactly, the fact that human emotions, needs, beliefs, and desires are part of the change equation is often frustrating for those in leadership roles.”

Chief learning officers and team leaders should work together to incorporate employees and company culture into the leadership strategy. This helps avoid the disruptions and frustrations that employees can cause to a single-vision plan, Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie explain.

Beyond developing a more holistic leadership strategy for business leaders, there are two other important skills that can create successful, effective leadership:

1. Learn to Anticipate

Ever-changing business climates make trend anticipation one of the most critical skills for a strategic leadership plan today. In the article, “Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills” by Paul J.H. Schoemaker, Steve Krupp, and Samantha Howland in the Harvard Business Review, the authors note several examples in which companies like Coors or Lego failed to see the long-term trends of lower calorie beer and electronic toys in their respective industries.

To be successful, a business must anticipate the changes that might impact its strategy when opportunities or obstacles arise. Part of developing leadership skills should include identifying and capitalizing on signals from both “inside and outside the organization,” according to Schoemaker, Krupp and Howland.

2. Focus on the Day-to-Day Questions

A modern strategic leader can’t make every decision him- or herself. In a changing market, the organization’s employees are on the front line, and need to respond in the moment. This underscores the importance of seeking regular and frequent input from your staff and designing your strategy to include the decisions your employees will make each day, reports Forbes. Employees’ actions determine the implementation of the strategy, so if the plan isn’t actionable, they won’t be able to comply with the strategy and may interfere with goals.

As Time magazine explains, the best way to be a successful strategic leader is to execute your vision. If you or your employees cannot understand or embrace your vision, your strategy needs more clarity or an adjustment. Often, this requires simplicity. “The most powerful strategies are often the simplest, because the simplest strategies are the ones most likely to be flawlessly executed,” CEO of The IT Transformation Institute Charles Araujo told Time.

Executive leadership training can assist a business in developing an effective strategic leader with the consideration, foresight and realism needed in the modern workplace. How will you grow your strategic leaders? For proven executive leadership training information from Merit, contact Jim Wynne at or visit our website.