What we can learn about Corporate Training Programs from The King’s Speech

The King had a speech deficiency.  He spoke poorly.  He stammered.  Badly.  He needed to speak well.  His people needed him to speak well.  And he took the steps (the many, many hours of steps!) to learn how to speak better.  And then, he spoke better.  Maybe not perfectly – but noticeably better.

The King and his Coach

Yes, I’m a little behind in my movie watching.  I just watched The King’s Speech.  Winner of four Oscars, including best picture and best actor, it is the touching story of one man’s bold and consistent attempts to overcome a speech deficiency.  The man happened to be the King.  And, after trying a plethora of speech therapists and speech coaches, his wife finally dragged him to a rather strange, but successful, speech therapist/coach.

But, notice the obvious.  The King did not go to one weekend seminar, or one month’s worth of classes, and then master this skill.  His new-found teacher, Lionel Logue, was at his side time and time and time again.  With drills, and rehearsals, and coaxing, and coaching, and encouraging, and correcting, over and over and over again.

And in the hour of his most important speech, at the beginning of the Second World War, the King ordered “Get me Logue.”

Yes, I read up on the facts behind the movie, and yes, the film makers took some dramatic liberties and truncated some of the chronology.  But the real story makes the same point:  Logue worked with, very closely with!, the King, for a long period of years – many years!

In other words, a weekend seminar has little chance (let’s make that practically no chance) to bring about the changes and learning needed for so many jobs.  Successful training is not a one-day-seminar thing.

I occasionally read an article that paints a pretty dismal picture of the value of corporate training – some form of the “training doesn’t work” argument.  But, we already all know this.  Deep in our hearts, we know that it takes a rare (very rare!) pupil to go to a seminar, or read a book, and then successfully implement all of its recommended job-improvement changes.  It takes reinforcement, repetition, constant reminding, refreshers, and one-on-one coaching for the mere mortals among us.

Oh, the weekend seminars, the day long workshops, can be great starting places.  And the good leader/manager can identify the ones who are “good targets” for the next steps by the way they “return” from such training opportunities.  But it is in the next steps that the needed improvement comes.

And those steps must be repeated, over a long haul.

Corporate training does not fail.  Corporate training without a lot – a whole lot! – of targeted follow-up fails.

The King had a speech deficiency.  He spoke poorly.  He stammered.  Badly.  He needed to speak well.  His people needed him to speak well.  And he took the steps (the many, many hours of steps!) to learn how to speak better.  And then, he spoke better.  Maybe not perfectly – but noticeably better.

It took many, many hours of coaching (years!) for the King to get better.  I suspect there are things we all need to work on for many, many hours — even years.  That’s one lesson I got from watching The King’s Speech.

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As they introduced the Best Picture nominees, the Academy Awards played the words of the King’s speech behind the full montage.  Here it is.  A terrific montage!

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