The word "executive" has been stretched out of shape so badly that we need to begin by redefining the term. Loosely then, for my purposes in this essay, an executive is a president, CEO, COO or reports directly to one of the above.
Also, for my purposes, we need to bisect the world of training topics into technical (like PC applications) and conceptual (like conflict resolution or strategic planing). Of these two, technical training for executives is the easier to manage.
In general, the members of your company's executive management team are more than 40 years old, and confronting a lot of technology--from e-mail to imaging--that they were not "brought up" with and frequently find threatening. Some hide from it, even today. The rest learn it.
And the good news is that your basic, internal training mechanism (be it part of your systems area, your training area or even a vendor) works for training your executives. Whoever trains your new hires on your systems has both the ability and the credibility to train the executives, with perhaps one modification.
Many companies report that some of their executives resist attending scheduled training classes and request one-on-one tutoring sessions. This may be because of scheduling difficulty or for other reasons. However, it is a simple accommodation to make, and, given the value of the executives' time, it is wholly reasonable.
Incidentally, I've found over the years that when you do get executives into a technical learning environment, they tend to be quick and focused learners. After all, they didn't get to where they are by being slow.
The subject of conceptual executive training is tougher. A colleague of mine gets a laugh by saying that executives are untrainable. What he means is that it is not generally a viable alternative to train executives in conceptual skills using internal resources. Even that more limited statement needs some explanation before it makes sense. The convictions behind it go like this.
First, it isn't economically feasible to develop executive-level training in-house. The number of prospective attendees simply does not balance the resources that are required for research and development.
Second, very few training vendors sell packages aimed at delivery to an executive audience. The reason is the same: It doesn't make economic sense to develop a training package whose potential audience is perhaps 1 percent of a client company's personnel.
Third, even if you have access to sterling, executive-level training material, and a trainer well qualified to deliver it, there is the issue of the presenter's credibility. It is rarely stated openly, but I believe most executives feel they have nothing to learn about management from someone who is "one over and three down" on the organization chart. One candid executive--the vice chairman of one of the 10 largest firms in our industry--said to me, "If I am to be trained, I want to be trained by a peer: someone who is at my stage in their career, who earns what I earn, and who has had professional experiences parallel to my own."
To tell the truth, I did not have a snappy comeback. Stated that incisively, the position has some merit. …