Communication and Leadership Training are Never Wasted

A colleague sent me a link from a Fox affiliate in Philadelphia in which the “journalist” goes on a rant because the State of Pennsylvania spent nearly $20,000 for four days of communication skills and leadership skills training. The anchor loudly insisted that the State had “wasted” tax-payer money because: a) they had no business hiring managers who didn’t already have the entire skill set they needed and b) $20,000 was too much to pay.

In my not so humble opinion, the entire story was based on at least three entirely false assumptions:

  1. Bosses and Managers come into the workplace with all the skills they need.
  2. Managers and bosses are born leaders.
  3. $20,000 for 15 managers is exorbitant for four days of training.

First of all, in my field of information technology, if any one applicant claims she/he has all the skills required, chances are excellent that the applicant is stretching the truth. Information technology is a veritable alphabet soup of technologies and programming languages: PHP, CSS, SQL, Java, VB, C++, HTML; need I continue? An IT manager would need to have many of these—and communication and leadership skills, too!

In the same way, the managers in question—Human Resource managers—need specialized knowledge. The news anchor basically insulted the entire profession by insinuating that HR managers were only about communication and leadership skills. What about employment law? What about screening applicants? What about helping people move onward and upward in their place of work?

Second, how many managers do you know that are born leaders? Managers have proven expertise in their fields—leadership skills they can learn. Years ago, I worked for a large HMO. The HMO offered a management course to new physician leaders twice a year. You see, the managers were chosen because of their expertise and success in their given specialty. Only an outstanding internist could manage the Internal Medicine department; a superb cardiologist managed the cardiology wing.

Third, $20,000 is a bargain! That’s less than $2000 per manager across four days! I can tell you that the physician manager’s course cost significantly more than that. And judging by the physician feedback—and the HMO’s commitment to the management program—the money was well spent. Using the medical analogy, I wonder if this anchorman would prefer a physician who had great communication skills, but had no diagnostic skills whatsoever? Doctors don’t go to medical school to learn communication skills…

I did post a comment to the station along the lines I’ve discussed. I ended my comment—and I will end this blog with this:

I think we can forgive the State of Pennsylvania for investing in its HR experts. We can’t forgive this station for having a broadcast “journalist” who appears to know nothing of journalism; nothing, that is, except for sensationalism and muck-raking.

If you absolutely must, the here’s the link to the news video

Joel Kleinbaum

2 Comments on “Communication and Leadership Training are Never Wasted

  1. Even if you have great skills to begin with, all fields change, knowledge grows – if people were still managing the way I was taught in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s unlikely that they would be able to attract and keep the talent they need today.

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