All participants in Gotara’s leadership training programs progress on their goals, and 99% apply what they’ve learned to their daily work. That’s because we found effective ways to counter a common challenge many organizations face: the stalling of managers in leadership training programs. 

After three years of upskilling, coaching, and mentoring women in STEM+ roles and their managers, we’ve gained invaluable insights into the dynamics of leadership training. We’ve identified key patterns and reasons behind this stagnation. Now, we use this knowledge to support strategic leadership development for the overall success of diversity and inclusion initiatives within the STEM+ industry.

Here are the factors that often slow progress in executive upskilling programs and, more importantly, our strategies to overcome these barriers.

1. Lack of Time in Leadership Positions

Managers are expected to hit the ground running and quickly become overwhelmed with all the responsibilities on their plate. Can they really take time off to train and upskill for multiple hours a week? You’ve got to be kidding. Attending all the meetings on their calendars alone leaves little time for other tasks.

Managers must deploy strategic initiatives, deliver results, and lead their teams. Training that doesn’t directly and immediately apply to that manager’s unique situation and perspective gets labeled as a waste of time. This causes leadership training programs to stop being a priority.

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How we counter the lack of time in our leadership training programs

Gotara coaches and mentors use nanolearning with quick and targeted coaching sessions lasting 15 minutes or less — all tailored to address specific queries and deliver actionable guidance. This way, managers can seamlessly integrate these concise sessions into their busy schedules, eliminating the need to block extensive time for upskilling. And the hyper-personalized nature of the content ensures that it aligns perfectly with their current needs, making it straightforward to follow through and put into practice.

2. Cultural Expectations within The Organization

When technical talent receives the “opportunity” to test their leadership skills in real-world scenarios, the promotion rarely comes with instructions. This trial-by-fire approach creates a sink-or-swim situation, where newly appointed managers are expected to navigate leadership waters with no map or compass.

This cultural expectation of relying solely on “natural leaders” and innate leadership skills is counterproductive. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership must be developed, honed, and refined like any other skill through ongoing learning and experience.

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How we manage cultural expectations for organizational success

We use industry reports, original behavioral data, and testimonials to emphasize the impact of an ineffective manager or a prolonged ramp-up period. Data highlights the time wasted and long-term costs resulting from weakening talent instead of investing in leadership training programs from day one.

3. Resistance to Ask for Help

Upskilling is necessary when transitioning from a technical role to a management position. Unfortunately, in many organizations, the mere suggestion of such a necessity can be met with skepticism and resistance. Because it’s often viewed as an admission of weakness or an unspoken taboo.

Without this perspective, organizations can’t unlock the full potential of their technical managers. While a significant asset, technical brilliance rarely translates to effective leadership. And no one should feel the need to apologize for that.

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How we drive organizational change when managers don’t ask for help

We merge leadership development and problem-solving because practical application is critical to building leadership skills. So, as part of our training, we direct our efforts toward addressing essential business issues. New management skills are developed when we empower professionals to tackle real-world problems with tangible and sustainable solutions. They develop new leadership skills while driving organizational success.

4. Fallacy of Objectivity

We can all fall into this trap — the illusion of objectivity. We believe we possess a clear and unbiased perspective, making us overlook the need for external guidance. Our bias blocks critical thinking and convinces us that we can handle all challenges. So, we underestimate the value of external input, which can quickly cause a manager to stall in a training program.

In reality, no matter how experienced or knowledgeable we may be, there is always room for growth. Acknowledging our need for assistance is the first step toward effective leadership training.

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How we counter the fallacy of objectivity when working with aspiring leaders

What makes Gotara’s leadership training programs different is our firm commitment to using data and facts to guide our methods. We create content and strategies that technical people can easily understand and appreciate because they love to have clear facts and practical solutions. These data-driven strategies enable leadership identify and address biases, enhancing their decision-making and performance. 

5. Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is a natural human response, often influenced by psychological factors and sometimes dynamics within a workplace. Some organizations encourage employees to maintain the status quo without even knowing. This can happen when there is a lack of clear communication, a failure to address concerns or a prevailing culture that values tradition over innovation.

An illustration of a man holding up his hand, gesturing "stop".

How we fixed it to optimize productivity and drive ROI

We fight the fear of change by empowering individuals to take charge of their development instead of depending on upper management directives. When individuals have a say in what leadership skills they want to improve or which aspects of their work they’d like to enhance, it reduces the fear associated with change and instills a sense of ownership and control.

6. Lack of Trust in Online Courses and Coaching Programs

The managers’ tendency to stall in coaching is sometimes rooted in their accumulated experience and understandable skepticism. From their perspective, the question arises: “What can an outside coach offer that I haven’t already learned through years of hands-on experience?”

Moreover, the skepticism extends to the coaching industry itself. New managers might be wary of “coaches” who have never held leadership positions or led teams. The concerns are understandable, as such coaches often offer generic, one-size-fits-all advice that may be irrelevant to their problems.

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How we build trust with new and senior leaders

We work with a carefully curated team of STEM+ advisers. These professionals have not only walked in a manager’s shoes but have also encountered and successfully resolved similar issues throughout their careers. This real-world experience ensures their guidance and insights are immediately applicable and genuinely beneficial. Managers can trust that the advice has been tried and tested in similar situations, increasing its credibility and effectiveness.

7. Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is a mental roadblock that inhibits new and expert managers from making leadership and management decisions and taking action. The thought of potential errors reflecting poorly on their competence and ability to lead grows into anxiety and a reluctance to take risks.

Depending on the company culture, this fear can also alter perception — mistakes become career-limiting obstacles, causing them to become overly cautious and hesitant, avoiding challenges that could otherwise fuel their development.

An illustration of a woman with her arms around herself and her head down, obviously fearful.

How we counter the fear of failure in leadership development

Our approach encourages confidentiality and mentorship to empower managers to confront their situations and take decisive action. We created a platform where conversations between participants and their mentors happen in a 100% confidential setting so individuals can openly discuss their concerns, doubts, and challenges without fearing judgment or repercussions. This confidentiality instills trust, as participants know they can share their thoughts and vulnerabilities without fear of failure or exposure.

8. Lack of Feedback and Evaluation

IIt’s easy to stall in training when no one’s there to measure progress. Many leadership training programs fail because there’s no strategic planning or a transparent system to assess and track ROI. 

Individuals find staying motivated challenging. At first, it leads to stagnation in training because participants have no sense of direction and purpose. The next thing, they quit. And their companies stop investing in leadership courses.

An illustration of a businesswoman wearing a cape and standing with confidence.

How we use feedback to build essential leadership skills

Gotara’s structured programs provide access to real-time dashboards that allow participants to evaluate their progress, identify areas of strength, and pinpoint areas that require improvement. This feedback mechanism empowers individuals to take ownership of their development journey with responsibility. Individuals and their managers can monitor progress and collaborate to meet development goals.

A Word on Peer Pressure and Office Politics 

When harnessed positively, peer pressure and office politics can do wonders for leadership training programs. They have the potential to motivate managers to engage more actively in upskilling, creating a culture where learning becomes a shared pursuit.

On the other hand, peer pressure and office politics can also wreak havoc on upskilling, coaching, and mentoring initiatives. When managers perceive training courses as a punishment or a potential threat to their current positions, they may resort to manipulation or political maneuvering to maintain the status quo. This detrimental approach stalls training programs and discourages managers from investing time and effort into developing new leadership skills.

How can you fix this?

Outsourcing training can be a strategic choice if an organization aims to build a robust pipeline of leaders. External mentors and coaches can offer a fresh perspective, reducing the influence of internal politics and power struggles that might otherwise block performance management initiatives.

This external approach fosters objectivity, provides a broader range of learning opportunities, and allows organizations to offer consistent training experiences to all aspiring leaders. Furthermore, companies can demonstrate their commitment to investing in their talent pool by outsourcing. This motivates managers to engage more willingly in training, as it becomes a clear path to advancement and success within the organization.

What’s Next in Leadership and Management Upskilling

Many factors can influence a manager’s journey through a leadership training program. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with their ability to rise. Managers are more likely to stall in leadership training programs due to a lack of collective capacity to uplift them.

Managers at all levels need the right environment, support, and mindset to grow and develop leadership skills. The power to break the stall is with the organization, and the right time for action is when a new tech expert reaches a management position.

A company that aims to build a solid pipeline of leaders must implement proactive initiatives to unlock the full potential of its managers and drive your organization’s success. And Gotara’s transformative upskilling, coaching, and mentoring program can help with that. Together, we can start building a robust pipeline of future leaders for your organization.