Case Study – Why Aren’t They Listening?

Brad Harrison is a training specialist in the human resource department of a large pharmaceutical company. In response to a recent company wide survey, Brad specifically designed a 6-week training program on listening and communication skills to encourage effective management in the company. Brad’s goals for the seminar are twofold: For participants to learn new communication behaviors and for participants to enjoy the seminar so they will want to attend future seminars.
The first group to be offered the program was middle-level managers in research and development department. This group consisted of about 20 people nearly all of whom had advanced degrees. Most of this group had attended several in-house training programs in the past, so they had a sense of how the seminar would be designed and run. Because the previous seminars had not always been very productive, many of the managers felt a little disillusioned about coming to the seminar. As one of the managers said – “Here we go again: a fancy in-house training program from which we will gain nothing.”
Because Brad recognized that the managers were very experienced, he did not put many restrictions on attendance and participation. He used a variety of presentation methods and actively solicited involvement from the managers in the seminar. Throughout the first two sessions, he went out of his way to be friendly with the group. He gave them frequent coffee breaks during sessions and promoted socializing and networking.
During the third session, Brad became aware of some difficulties with the seminar. The attendance had dropped to about only 10 managers. Although the starting time was established at 8:30am, attendees had been arriving as late as 10am. During the afternoon sessions, some of the managers were leaving the sessions to return to their offices at the company.
As he approached the fourth session, Brad was apprehensive about why things had been going poorly. He had become quite uncertain about how he should proceed. Many questions were running through his mind: Had he treated the managers in the wrong way? Had he been too easy regarding attendance at the sessions? Should he have said something about the managers skipping out in the afternoon? Were the participants taking the seminar seriously? Brad was certain that the content of the seminar was innovative and substantive, but he could not figure out what he could change to make the program more successful. He sensed that his style was not working for this group, but he did not have an idea about how to make a change and improve sessions.
Questions:
1. According to the situational model of leadership, which style of leadership is Brad using to run the seminars?
2. At what level are the managers?
3. From a leadership perspective, what is Brad doing wrong?
4. What specific changes could Brad implement to improve the seminars?

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