by Alan Willett


“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”


Leadership is the number one factor in organizational and team productivity.

In one of my Masters of Science courses, I learned an important truth. In his course, “Software Engineering Economics,” Barry Boehm explained he had learned (from his analysis of hundreds of system development organizations), that the factor of leadership was greater than all others. Greater than factors such as experience in programming languages, choices of development methodologies, and even knowledge of the customer domain.

Boehm determined that the factor of leadership was 4.18 times more powerful than all the other factors. (Yes, he was that precise with his data.)

I found the same thing true with my research and work with hundreds of more organizations. In my own book, I wrote that the first immutable law of speed for leaders is:  You own the accelerator for the speed of your own work and the work of those that you lead.

No one argues with me on that truth. Yet, many leaders find it very hard to get the training or coaching they desire and need.

Here are some compelling ways to get your executives to invest in your leadership skills and abilities.

  1. Speak the language of the executives. You will need to present your case to an executive who owns the budget.  What are the executive’s concerns for the business? How will this investment help you solve their problems?
  2. Focus on value. When you ask for something like this, you are making a personal commitment to provide a return on investment to your organization.  What will the benefits to the organization be? Can you show how this will increase your contributions to speed and profit?
  3. Ensure it is highly recommended.  Do research.  Have others experienced a high return from the experience you want to invest in?  Consider asking past “graduates” about the value they received.  Their words will be compelling.
  4. Show your commitment. Be prepared to explain your commitment by detailing in the time you will put in and how you will pursue getting maximum value from the investment.  Further, you should promise a final report showing what you learned and how you are enacting those learnings in the organization.
  5. Have conviction. The biggest factor in your ability to “seal the deal” on your organization investing in you is your conviction.  I always got the investments I needed in training, coaching, technology.  I had the conviction that it was right for the organization. The first sale is always to yourself.

Do these steps. If you have sold yourself on how important it is, you will find that making the case to your executives is much easier.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett