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I have finally discovered them! I have worked them out! I thought I knew intuitively… but now that I have seen this class and this trainer, I am sure I know what are the twenty things that instructors do to ensure the failure of their leadership workshops. Yes, failure! I have it in black and white: the ultimate rules – distilled from real life experience –  what to do in a leadership workshop session to ensure its complete and utmost failure. Twenty things, shared with sadness and the secret hope that they could help someone – me included – to do a better job than the instructor in the sad class I saw the other day… 


  1. Avoid phone calls with participants and instead take management comments at face value without verifying them
  2. Do what the client wants “to the letter” and “play it safe” for the sake of getting repeated business
  3. Do not plan a stakeholders follow-up meeting after the class to debrief the workshop
  4. Avoid planning the agenda and do not define in advance the specific tasks that will be used to cover the contents and how you are planning to cover the materials
  5. Do not send any preparation materials or agenda to participants ahead of time. Rely entirely on the client for messaging and leadership workshop announcement


  1. Set up the room with big tables so that people have hard time talking to each other and working together
  2. Assume everyone know each other and do not need to get introduced
  3. Start a 5-day leadership workshop about becoming bigger and better person talking about logistics, where the bathrooms are, what time you have for the breaks. Only tangentially talk about the big picture and the ultimate value of the experience
  4. Start late, and do not pay attention to the people that came on time
  5. Use always the same scripted talk to start the session, the one used for years and learned in 1976
  6. Do not announce what you are going to talk about, and assume that people have read the agenda and know it well
  7. Have the boss of the people attending the leadership workshop to give a speech about the great “life or death” importance of the session. And then let them leave the room for a more important meeting


  1. Spend most of the leadership workshop by lecturing about leadership and expect the attendees to learn from listening. Discourage peer conversations of the concepts presented.
  2. Require “full attention” to the content presented and expect people to remember the steps, especially the ones with a higher level of complexity
  3. Ask only close questions during the class, the ones for which people are supposed to only answer yes: Is this working for you? Do you understand this? Do I need to repeat it?
  4. When giving instructions on the rare group tasks, don’t give time limits and don’t provide a chance to ask clarification on the work to be performed
  5. Announce you are going to pass an important document and then spend ten minutes looking for it while the class is waiting. When people give ideas in a brainstorming session, comment each idea


  1. Never close the day with a recap of the work done, the concepts that resonated with the group and a reflection of the things that were learned
  2. Keep referring to actions as a result of the leadership workshop expecting that those actions will happen despite the interpersonal problems and organization’s inertia uncovered in the needs analysis and never addressed
  3. Don’t collect evaluation forms on a daily basis to take the pulse of the class as far as relevance and usefulness of the session in order to make adjustments. Instead do the evaluation in the last 10 minutes of day 5