My guess is that the $20 billion weight loss industry does a lot of repeat business. There doesn’t seem to be a magic pill that solves that issue once and for all, though hope springs eternal …

But in the words of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, “hope is not a strategy.” Often, “skinny-pill reasoning” drives the decision to send a promising employee to a one-day seminar with the “hope” of developing a crucial leadership skill. The likelihood of that employee demonstrating a new competency after a single exposure to raw information is roughly equal to the likelihood of someone getting fit by doing one pushup. Good luck with that.

Just like fitness, competencies take time. I’m not dissing the seminar industry here — it’s a great start, and people need the information. I’m advocating for the right tool for the right job. A one-shot data dump prepares your brain and sets the stage for what could be, and seminars do that job well. Lasting change requires an application-feedback loop delivered over time.

Typically, that comes in four flavors:

Formal training

Provides information. This could range from an in-house academy to an outside MBA program, and seminars fall in this category. Testing is the measurement apparatus of choice. This is where the initials behind your name come from.

Peer observation

Sets cultural expectations. Watching those around you frames your expectation about how things really get done.


Provides context. This where you see what they know transform into what they can do.


Provides perspective and direction. Pre- and post-event evaluation, relationship skills, and political savvy grow here.

“Knowing” turns into “doing” when it is part of a balanced approach. If you want to see a new competency demonstrated in a direct report, give them a combination of some “workout time” and a “balanced diet.”