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Over Training & Under Developing: Are You Setting Your Team Up For Success?

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

Most of us have likely experienced some kind of training, right? Think about it carefully for a moment.

Have you ever signed up for an online training class to better understand something in your career? Have you hired a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals? Maybe you have paid a dog trainer to help you teach your four-legged friend some etiquette or manners?

Training—in some form or another—is something almost all of us have invested some amount of time into. But when was the last time you focused on development?

Let me now explain—training and developing might sound similar, but they are certainly not the same thing.

We tried looking up online development classes to express this. Guess what we found? Mostly just courses on how to develop software. Conversely, we looked up online training classes. Guess how many hits we got? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 983 million.

What's our point here?

There is, undeniably, a lot of training going on—but where is all the development?

Training vs. Developing: Understanding the Difference

There is a well-known phrase that often gets passed around in reference to teaching people valuable lessons.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

This directly applies to the difference between training and developing.

When we are working with organizations, they ask us all the time about the types of training we offer. Our answer is always a resounding, “Yes, we can do training!” But often, we wonder if it is actually training they are after—what if what they really need is development? And by this, we mean offering guidance on development of any kind—of their leaders, of their teams, of their goals.

Most of the organizations we work with realize that—after working with us—what they are truly after is someone to help them develop their systems and their people.

Many organizations have a qualified fleet of highly-trained, competent employees, but the issue ends up that they are inadequately developed.

At this point in the article, we imagine some of you have caught onto our point and are right there with us. But others are probably just about to stop reading this post because, in your eyes, it might sound like semantics.

But training versus developing is not just semantics. Think about it from a physical fitness perspective. If you enroll in a physical therapy education course, you are approaching health and the human body from an intellectual perspective—you are learning about the system as a whole and better understanding how to train it, take care of it, and heal it. If you enroll in a physical therapy training session, it is likely that a professional is going to walk you through steps to stretch, do an exercise correctly, and heal a part of your body.

In one case, you are approaching from an intellectual, full-perspective circumstance—in another, you are practicing a skill or skills you need to accomplish one thing.

You can sort of see now how training vs developing is not just semantics, right?

An article from Economic Discussion dives into a deeper explanation of training versus development that we think speaks volumes. The article quotes Lawrence Steinmetz, an associate professor from the School of Business at the University of Colorado, who summed up the idea of training vs development in a 1969 study.

The article states, “Training is a short-term process by which non-managerial personnel learn technical knowledge and skills for a definite purpose. Development, on the other hand, is holistic, often aiming at overall personality development. The content of a development program includes conceptual or theoretical inputs, perspective, strategic thinking or focusing on behavioral aspects such as leadership skills, managing teams, groups, etc.”

When to Train & When to Develop

Obviously, both training and developing are important parts of our careers and daily lives, but in a management setting, when should we focus on training and when should we focus on developing?

Consider the following to get a better idea of what might be the right path for a specific circumstance:

Training is:

  • Faster—it is focused on the short-term

  • Based on the present

  • Based on acquiring skills to perform

  • Usually based on new skill obtainment

Developing is:

  • A longer-term engagement

  • Based on the future

  • Based on developing the system

  • Usually based on growing existing skills

If you successfully train an employee to be a manager, then they should have the necessary skills to manage the people and processes that are under their direction. That being said, if you develop an employee to be a manager, they should be able to continue to manage the people and/or processes, no matter what happens or changes.

Why? Because you did more than just train them on best practices for a set number of circumstances. You spent time helping them develop overall and teaching them to think and process how to work in a management role.

Development is more about the how than the what or when.

How to Develop Your Team: We Can Help

When considering training vs developing, ask yourself—"Do I really want to employ a quick-fix solution to your challenge or obstacle?”

Think about it this way. If you train your sales team to say an improved line when closing a sale that overcomes an objection because of apathy during COVID-19, it is likely with enough practice, they will experience an uptick in revenue.

But if you develop your sales team to identify when a client is using a condition (like COVID-19) to put off making a buying decision, then no matter what pops up, your sales team will know how to pivot their closing lines to better respond to any condition.

Sure, it might not be a quick fix—it may take a little longer for the team to develop this ability—but with it, they can fish for a lifetime.

In business, that is what we call a great return on investment (ROI).

Please do not misinterpret us—training is actually a good thing. But too many times, we treat training as the end-all-be-all, quick-and-easy fix when we should be considering the long-term, potentially more difficult approach of developing someone.

We consistently hear stories from clients about their past employees calling or writing to them to thank them for mentoring and developing them—that does not happen all that often with training. Typically, mentoring and developing can totally change the trajectory of someone’s career or life.

So, we challenge you to pick one person already around you and make a conscious effort to help develop and mentor them.

Have you already done this? Do you want to learn how to do this better? We would love to hear your stories and share some of our developmental tips. Just email us at to get in touch!

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