Boosting Profits through Leadership Development: John Topping's Insights (Ep. #87)

Published on
October 31, 2023
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Welcome to "Building Better Managers" with your host, Wendy Hanson, and special guest John Topping, President & COO at BetterManager. In this episode, John shares the results of a recent ROI study conducted by BetterManager.

The study focused on the impact of leadership development programs on organizations and their financial benefits. Wendy introduces John and highlights his impressive career, including his time at Google.

The conversation begins with an overview of the study's goals and participants. Here are the key findings:

  1. For every dollar invested in leadership development, there's a $7 return on investment.
  2. Leadership development is linked to increased sales revenue, with 42% attributing revenue growth to these programs.
  3. Over 85% reported higher employee satisfaction, performance, and promotion opportunities.

Despite economic challenges, the study revealed that 99% of professionals plan to maintain or increase spending on leadership development in the next 12 months. Tune in to discover the incredible impact of leadership development on organizations!

But the conversation is just the beginning of our journey! If you're excited to explore more, we encourage you to download our FREE ROI study. Inside, you'll uncover the strategies that drive financial success and gain the insights you need to make informed decisions about your investment in leadership development. It's a valuable resource waiting for you, so let's continue this learning adventure together!

View the episode transcript


Welcome to Building Better Managers, the Better Manager podcast with Wendy Hansen, where we talk with top leadership professionals about strategies you can use today to create a happier, highly engaged, and more productive workplace. Now here's your host, Better Manager co-founder Wendy Hansen.


everybody to the Better Manager podcast. I'm your host, Wendy Hansen, and I'm here today with our president and COO of Better Manager. I will introduce John in a minute. But as you know, in this podcast, we really want to impart information that's going to help managers, directors, anybody in a company grow, learn and grow. We have lots of programs to be able to do that. Today, we have a special treat because


Better Manager has been involved in an ROI study, return on investment. So you look at all the things that you can invest in and what it brings back. And John is gonna share that with us today. And because it's the last quarter of 2023, it's a time when everybody really wants to reach out and think about what they're doing for next year. So we want people to grow, we want people to retain their employees.


So it's a very important time and it's great to know about there's a good return on your investment. So let me tell you a little bit about John. John is an entrepreneur, accomplished sales executive and leader of people, teams and organizations with a three decade track record of success in high growth environments. He began as a publishing executive for a leading technology media companies.


such as CMP Media and IDG. He contributed to Google's rapid ascent as the director of Google's technology vertical segment from 2002 to 2008. So that's a pretty, he models a lot of things that we do here at Better Manager after all that he learned at Google. And God knows we know that's a great startup. As a Google executive, John led a team that grew its revenue to 500 million.


and was awarded a Luminary Award, given to the top 5% of leaders at the organization in recognition of his leadership ability and bottom line results. John is president and COO of Better Manager, amazing leader, and I'm so happy to have him as my partner. So welcome, John. Thank you, Wendy, that was very nice. Yes, well, there's so much more that could be said about you, but you know, we'll stay there.


And I want to share too that when you joined us in 2019, I was fortunate to get to work with you back in Google. So we already had, we had a little history together, which was great. We did. And you and the leadership team have been so passionate about working with global companies, growing their managers and leaders to make a difference in the whole organization. That's why we have.


businesses all around the world. We have coaches and facilitators all around the world. So there's really been a lot that has grown in this company. And John, when did you first think about, we need to do a data-driven ROI study so that we can talk to L&D leaders and C-suite people and CFOs about what happens with, you know, what's the benefit of really investing in these programs?


Yeah, well, I'll tell you with working with hundreds of companies over those years since 19, what I think has become apparent is a lot of our L&D and business professionals that we work with are challenged still to be able to prove the impact of the great work they're doing in leadership development and how it's connecting over to organizationally.


And so, when we looked at other studies and we looked at what's out there, we realized there's quite a bit out there that, whether case studies or research initiatives that really were qualitative in nature, but we thought what was really needed to take research to the new level was a more quantifiable ROI study that can really start getting a tangible results. And so, we...


We felt it was time and we wanted to invest in that effort. Yeah. And this study had a lot of depth. So I want you to be able to give our listeners an idea of this. There were a lot of people that were interviewed. And what should we know about that, the depth of the people that were serving? Yeah, absolutely. So our partner, the Fosca Group, who we commissioned to execute this study,


It really did a very comprehensive global study. It's a double-blind study that looked at 752 professionals responsible for investing in leadership development for organizations across the US, the UK, Canada, all types of industries, all types of company sizes, but a lot of them pretty big. So we, you know, 50%...


of those who are studied have a billion or more in revenues. 50% were actually C-level professionals at their organization. So a pretty powerful group that we looked at. Yeah, yeah. Because it's the C-level we want to be able to reach to let them know what their investments are really making for the people in their companies to help them grow. Now, our


ROI study focused on the financial benefits of leadership development to organizations. Can you share with us and our audience what exactly you, what excited you most about the study's results and some of the highlights? Because the numbers are really amazing. And I've heard people quoting them already out there. Absolutely. And I'll get into the numbers a little bit. But I think from an overall perspective, what made this study so unique.


is that it really got into the tangible benefits of leadership development along with the intangibles. From a real broad perspective, what it really showed is that leadership development is a profit multiplier within organizations who are using it. Let me give you just a few data points to drill down on that. One, a really broad one that we were super excited about is that...


The study showed on average that for every dollar spent in leadership development programming, there's a $7 return on investment. That is incredibly potent and that in itself is a useful stat. When you look at that and you drill down in this study a little bit further, it also showed a direct correlation.


to leadership development programming and revenue associated with sales, which is really a difficult thing and there's not much out there, which is why we're excited to see that in the study. So, a couple of stats on that. 42% of those who the study looked at observed an increase in revenue attributed to sales as a direct result of the leadership development programming they were doing. And out of that group, 47%...


credited better performing managers and or direct reports as a reason for that. So I thought that was super exciting. Additionally, what I would mention is the ripple effect of indirect benefits that this study showed. So over 85% of those who were researched or reported that there was higher employee satisfaction.


higher employee performance scores at their organization, and that there was a higher ability to promote from within. So really all that translated into tangible benefits around retention and promotion from within as well, in addition to those great sales revenue stats we just spoke about. So yeah, I'm super excited about what was found on the study. Yeah, yeah. And...


We know we've been saying this for years that people leave managers, not companies. So, being able to invest in those managers like this and know that there's such a great return and that that many people, 47%, an increase in revenue attributed to sales. We also know that we've gotten a lot of feedback lately because when our coaches and facilitators, we're very much into feedback as a company. I heard something just the other day about


one senior leader who was being coached said, you know, I can see the trickle down effect that you're talking about, John, in the development of our people and see the difference that it makes. I agree. We are fortunate enough to see that feedback every single day. And to see it actually quantified in a study was very exciting. Yeah. Yeah, we do get the feedback that really says


You know, this has been a transforming experience and, and that always makes us feel good. But I'm so glad that you and the team really went after the the metrics and how do we quantify all this so we can really show how this is going to happen? Yeah. And is there anything from the study that surprised you that you didn't think was going to be one of the outcomes? Yeah, there were some interesting.


pieces of data in there that I think surprised me. I think first and foremost, as we know, many of us know 2023, the economy's been a bit of a challenging one for many organizations. So what first surprised me was just how much support regardless of that still exists for leadership development. So in the study, 84% said, you know, they're prioritizing leadership development within their organization.


But what sort of knocked my socks off was 99% said that they planned on maintaining or increasing spending over the next 12 months as well. So I think we were surprised by that. We did one of the fun parts of the study is because we looked at so many different industries, so many different company sizes, you can really slice and dice the data in a lot of interesting ways. And from an industry perspective.


We saw this average that across all industries, I think a million dollars was being spent on leadership development or about $444 per person. That's good data to get. When you started to look at the data, I found it interesting that some industries were big outliers on spending a lot, lot more. I wouldn't have known before the study that...


law firms, as an example, are averaging $9 million in spending on leadership development or, you know, over $2,500 per person. And, you know, we saw other high amounts in areas like manufacturing or transportation or technology or real estate. And then conversely, there are some parts of our economy that are under, you know, funding, you know, from the study showed government being the biggest one.


And so, you know, we saw they were only spending $25 ahead on leadership development. Healthcare and insurance better, but still below the average 153. So some of that data, I think, was certainly impressive. And then the last thing I would mention that I think was interesting or surprising, you know, where we started our conversation was we know a lot of leadership development professionals are challenged.


by return on investment. And with that, you would sort of assume no one's doing it. And the study actually showed that a majority, 56%, have calculated or are currently in the midst of calculating ROI. And so that percent was a little bit higher than I would have thought. And I think was encouraging, showing sort of the movement of really trying to get at this. So. Yeah. And...


I want to let people know that in the show notes, we're going to put a link to the full study so that you're able to go on and see that because I think that will be really important. It's about 25, 26 pages long. Yeah, a lot of great data. Please take a look at it. Yeah. John's given us the overview, but there's a lot of data that you might want to study. So I would definitely check that out. And I think a lot of what we do, John, is...


We're into quality. We're into making sure that all of our team members in all roles in the company really are working hard towards this. It's lovely to see the culture in our company really support this so that people are really trying to make a difference, the coaches, the facilitators are all very well trained, and everybody has business experience. We actually have lots of people that join us.


because they know we're in a continual learning process at Better Manager. They like to be part of the community. They like to learn from each other. So we've been very fortunate about, fortunate and picky about who we bring on our team, no matter what their roles, whether it be engineering coaches, facilitators, product people, so I think that's great. Yeah, that's very true. And


What are some of the other big takeaways from the study that will allow L&D leaders to build a case for funding? Because that's what they need, a lot of them. We have a wonderful partner council that we have communication with some of our customers. That's really what they want is what are some of these development programs like executive coaching, group coaching, and programs such as Essential Conversations, all things. If you go to our website, you'll be able to see that.


that we use for managers, emerging managers, and senior people. So what did you get from the study about that? What does it prove? Yeah, yeah. You know, I put myself in the shoes of those L&D professionals. I think there are a few big takeaways that really help make the case internally that this study helps with. You know, one which we've been mentioning is that it truly is all of the things you just mentioned.


and that we're in business of doing are profit multipliers, not cost centers. And I think the tangible results in the study helped to prove that out. But I also think a second thing, and the study goes into this a lot, is there are a lot of intangible benefits from whether coaching, training of any level that drive efficient and effective teams. And so the study really teased that out.


are increases in work quality, productivity, peer-to-peer communication, engagement, which obviously all organizations are trying to drive, and project efficiency. So these all came out. And what's interesting is because you can look by different variables, roles, company size, you can see how that morphs and changes. But in aggregate, this thing was super strong of showing those benefits.


And then I think the third one, which we've also mentioned, is that, you know, sometimes in any given organization, an L&D professional can feel like they're on an island and it's an uphill battle of the fight. And I think what this study shows is that within your peer group, number one, companies are starting to get this and understand this ROI and this impact. And that's showing up in terms of some of the commitments and the spending. And sometimes it's nice to just be armed with that.


when you're in your own individual situation, trying to make a case for why programming is gonna benefit the organization. So I think those are some of the key things I would mention. Yeah, that's great. And I alluded to our great team of people and we have a very strong NPS score, both in coaching and with our training programs. What do you think makes us unique as a company of better manager? Yeah.


So, you know, I think I would start with our philosophy. And I think we talk internally at Better Manager about really a double value gap that exists right now that managers who we are working with on behalf of our organization have to close. And I would describe that as one part of that gap is the need to change mindsets and how team members, how they feel.


how they feel connected to the organization and its vision, how engaged they are, how empowered do they feel, are they bringing their best self. And really, you know, a manager has to do a good job on all that. At the same time, they have to change performance. You know, they have to work with those same team members on how they're contributing and how they are, you know, accountable to the goals and the vision of the company.


And that's no small task, you know, particularly in the current chaotic environment that our partners exist in. So now getting to what makes us unique in doing that. So that's our philosophy. But in order to achieve that, and you mentioned this just moments ago, it absolutely starts with our community of coaches and training facilitators. And the great...


lengths we go to to find the best of the best and those who not only have the experience in coaching and facilitation to be able to help change mindsets and change performance, but the actual experience of leading others, and that we find people with 10 plus years so that they can bring that into play and be able to work with managers on the challenges associated with that double value gap.


I think another thing I have to mention is the great work you and your team do in cultivating that community and making it a place where they are constantly learning and they're engaged and they love working with us and with that on behalf of the organizations. I think that absolutely translates to the results we see.


You know, I think the other thing I would mention is, you know, we talk about, you know, the one on one coaching, the group development we do with group training and group, group coaching are, you know, we have practical assessments, we have asynchronous tools that support all that. These are all great components. But I think part of what makes us unique too, is our ability to really pull those together into really continuous learning plans for the organizations we work with.


that can be connected to the people within their organizations that are most critical and most important to changing those mindsets and changing performance. And that's whether that be the business unit leaders who are drivers in that organization for being tasked with executing operationally the vision that the C-suite is coming up with, whether it be


mid-level accelerators at an organization who are often the glue of change management and whether it's successful or not, or whether it be emerging new managers in an organization who, if they are developed and trained correctly, actually can hit the ground running and starting to have impact. And obviously, conversely, there could be problems if they're not. And so I think what makes us unique is honing in on that.


and our ability to bring that great community and these learning plans together to really drive the impact this study has shown about. And what I really appreciate about our sales teams and our customer success managers is we are consultants. We're not trying to sell you a solution, we're trying to help you develop your people. And I think the way that our sales and CSM people go about that.


really is a differentiator for us. You know, absolutely, I would agree with you. And let me mention one thing on that, because I'm glad you brought it up. This study actually showed the small group of people who actually stop spending or decrease their spending on L&D often has to do with they don't have the ability to execute operationally, and that they need help, and that they know they also have


the people going through this programming. And I just want to point out, because I do think it is part of the special sauce, the better manager is having a world class customer success team that works with our organizations to make sure that isn't the case. And that and that success is happening. And so I absolutely would point that out is something I think we're unique. Is unique about us. Yeah. And, you know, you've talked about engagement and good engagement leads to great productivity.


which is all if we have a good culture that people feel like we care about them and passing that onto companies when we work with them. That's a big part of what we do. And in our coaching, you can always hear these stories about people making a difference. And we've coached thousands of people over the years since we began in 2017. So we have a really good track record and we've learned a lot and we keep learning a lot. And so,


I do think it's incredibly important that now we get some meat on the bones in terms of helping L&D people be able to get some of the resources that they need. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Now, in the future, we talked a lot about ROI today, and you gave some great stats. What do you hope for our partners in 2024? What's your hope, John?


Yeah. Well, I'll tell you, at the broadest level, my hope for our partners is that they are seen in 2024 as a profit center rather than a cost center. And they really do deserve to be seen that way in terms of what they do for their organizations. So, that is my greatest hope for them. Because the work they do is so important on behalf of their organizations.


I think from our perspective in 2024 as a support to that as their partners, I see our role continuing to really help them measure the steps along the way of those behavioral changes and ultimately be able to connect the dots to the more tangible ROI that this study showed. And so we're busy as an organization really as we circle into 2024 looking at our in-


I guess, developing out our platforms that support everything we do to be able to really support that for our partners in 21st. I'm super excited about that. Yeah. And for people that want to learn more about what we do, go onto our website, bettermanager.co, and there's a little button on there that says, Let's Talk. So that would be a great place to lean in and say, just to have a conversation with somebody.


about what are some of the things that we do, how we could help your organization. I think, you know, really being able to move that forward next year. And as you said, we have a lot of companies who look to us, they have very small learning and development teams. And before they were maybe trying to do it themselves, let us do this internally. But then they realized that that's not always very cost effective because we develop, we have a great team of people developing all our.


our materials and content providers. So it makes sense for them to be able to use us in this way and be a partner. Because we always talk in coaching about being a thought partner. I think our sales and you have proved that we're thought partners to the L&D people too. And hopefully the C-suites and CFOs. Absolutely. Yeah. So thank you so much, John, for...


being with us today and sharing this. Everybody check out the show notes so that you can really see the full study. And you can also just go onto our website and where it says, let's talk, bettermanager.co. You could always write in the comments place that you want more information about the ROI study. And somebody will get back to you because we're really here to serve and we love having partners all over the world.


which is really very, very valuable to be able to work in this virtual world and bring people together. Even though we're very hybrid now, we help solve a lot of those issues for people that are coming back to the office, that are partially in the office. We want to be good thought partners to you all. Thank you all for being with us today and thank you for tuning in to Better Manager podcast.


Today was a special treat because you got to meet our president and COO and good friend because I know what John stands for in life. He walks the talk. I appreciate that on behalf of the company and everybody who works here, John. Thank you. Thank you, Wendy, and I appreciate you. It was fun. Yes, great. Have a wonderful day, everybody.


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