A Learning Leader

You would think I just discovered the last easter egg on the lawn this week when I found a training director that was focused on her own professional development.  My heart is still racing, and I wonder if I will ever find another Learning Leader again!

Okay, it was not that exciting, but when you factor in that this is a veteran training director, who manages a staff of 50+ in training to support a 16,000 employee company, you have to give her credit for a very bold move.  When she realized that a training delivery competency she and her staff are missing was in the virtual (webinar) delivery environment she launched an effort to train the trainers.

Although she had been trying for months to elevate the concept of developing these skills in her staff, she finally threw her arms up and said “we don’t have all day to wait for a decision, so I am enrolling myself.”  And to my surprise, she put her own money on the table instead of billing the company she works for!

I asked her if she was really giving up the fight to prepare her team members since she was developing her own competencies first.  (It is probably a good idea to mention at this point she works for a health care organization.)  She replied “Physician Heal Thyself!  If I fail to walk my talk about professional development, I have lost the battle and the war.”  This lady is my new hero!

It is a much different approach than I have taken myself, but I am eager to see how the war ends.  If only the General comes out trained then this was a complete failure of leadership.  However, if the team lands up getting trained, then she really is a Learning Leader!

Lousy Training Equals Lousy Company

For anyone that knows me or has read The Training Physical, you are well aware that I see a very direct link between the success of the company and the health of their training function.  I found myself pushed in a conversation this week that had me betting that any company with a lousy training department was also a lousy company to work for too.

Since that conversation I have been trying to keep account of companies and the quality of their training departments.  I am finding that companies that lack a good training department lack or at best struggle to have success in the business they are in.

It goes back to the purpose of training, and that is to prepare employees to engage in the work that the employer needs done to meet company goals.  If employees are not prepared, some will learn on their own, but the optimal success will always be a fleeting dream for the company.

Likewise, find me a company that is exploding and very successful and you have an engaged workforce.  Training is the catalyst for that engagement, and usually they are knee-deep in the ongoing employee development process.

If you are a training manager, I want you to realize the power you have to make your company successful by doing your job well.

If you are a senior leader in a company, I want you to realize the lack of power you have to reach your potential if your training function is not involved and doing their jobs well.

So if Lousy Training Equals a Lousy Company, I believe the counter is just at true.  Great Training Equals a Great Company!

What is holding your company back from all it could be?

Shopping Without A Purpose

In order for the learning function to achieve results, it is vital that the reason for training is crystal clear.  I firmly believe that before any training solution is applied that we must know what the changed behavior will look like.  We must be able to trace the behavior change to an improvement in the job results.  If we can’t do these things, and head off to the training store, we are shopping without a purpose.

Many of us will roam the shopping mall just window shopping.  We are looking, but not for anything in particular.  We are in an impulse shopping mode, which is the store’s marketing department’s goal to get us to buy something we had not planned to buy.

Training should never be shopping without a purpose, and in today’s economy especially, what an utter waste of time and money to be sitting in a marketing webinar, surfing the internet, or talking with sales representatives about training programs that may or may not help move the organization forward.

The other day I was talking to a window shopper who was enamored by every twinkling light she saw in this training store window.  When asked what performance area she was seeking to improve in the workplace, she began to rattle off an array of things she wanted to do.

I asked her for the number one priority, and she said “everything” is on the to do list.  So I rephrased my question to the most important task, and once again I was told “everything.”  When I tried a third time by asking her which item will have the greatest impact and if ignored could cost her job, bingo, she picked one.

Have you ever gone shopping for more than one person in the same trip, and you had no idea what to get anybody?  She was just this focused about spending her company’s training dollars.  What happens is that people will either purchase the shiniest object they find, or give up completely.

In my book, The Training Physical, I spend a lot of time encouraging training managers to completely define their objectives before shopping or looking at any training solution.  Not every sales representative is going to help people with this step, as it is their job to sell their products. 

If a training manager is shopping without a purpose, they will ultimately buy something and the purpose will be defined by the vendor.  The same as the store window in the mall will demonstrate why you must buy what they are selling too!

And for those who believe “learning about new programs” is a good use of your time before you need to implement things, I would like to encourage you to spend your time focusing on implementing your training plan, or you could find yourself implementing your resume instead.

A Tale of Two Training Departments

Whenever we hear of a big company buying out a small company, we usually see the employees on the smaller team as the losers and never the winners.  Well just like David and Goliath, I am watching this scenario play out between two training departments, and the smaller guy is winning.

To paint the picture here, we are talking about a company with about 2000 employees being bought out by a company with about 35,000 employees.  Each have training departments and yet you can imagine the size difference between the two are significant.

Yet as this blog has talked about quite often, it is not the size of the training function that matters as much as the health of that department.  In our example, the health of the smaller company is pretty good, but most importantly the training leader himself is the consummate learner.  He is one of very few training leaders that self-evaluates and seeks regular feedback on improvement.

The larger company is bogged down in titles, authority, and individuals seeking the spotlight all the time.  They are appalled that anyone would dare evaluate their kingdoms to evaluate their department’s health, and make a lot of costly mistakes because no one is monitoring their return on the investment.  They have gotten so big that they seem indispensible and are not accountable to anyone.

Enter David through a merger, and Goliath now must demonstrate which path is better for the company to follow going forward.  While David has always had to demonstrate value and return on investment, and that their programs, systems and methods produce results.  Goliath is unable to demonstrate any tangible value or return on the vast amounts of money that they have in a training budget.

Senior Management has been hit in the forehead with a rock.  While it did not knock them down, it has caused them to look at David as a valued partner.  The smaller training department is now leading many initiatives, and my guess is that in a few months, David will be tasked with fixing much of the combined training efforts.

All I can say is three cheers for the healthy training leader!