Feeling Worthless

What do you say to someone who feels they are worthless, when you know they are not?  How do you convince them they have a tremendous amount to offer when no one is asking for them to participate?  How do you motivate them to pick themselves off the ground when you completely empathize with their plight?

I found myself in this predicament this past week when I was talking with a fellow training consultant that I’ve known nearly the length of my own training career.  This is a very talented learning professional with experience in facilitation, instructional design, performance consulting, and like myself managed entire learning environments.  The phrase, “been there, done that” is an understatement!

For the past several years he has been a self-employed performance consultant, struggling to make a living.  He contributes often in online learning environments, pro-bono speaking engagements, and has written for numerous publications.  All of these efforts as I well know, do not contribute to the checking account, and are supposed to yield referral business.

He said that the excuses for not engaging in his personal services or the products he represents are starting to get over used by a population of highly paid and under-producing training professionals.  I told him that as self-employed people who get paid only when working, that we are hyper sensitive to under-producing people earning a salary, but that this was our choice to leave corporate America.

He then reminds me that it is difficult to re-enter the workforce of salaried people at even a reduced wage, because the competition looks better skilled because of constant corporate employment.  The ironic thing is that most have not produced as much byproduct as their time on the job would indicate.

The world is about to lose a very talented learning professional because the world isn’t hiring him for anything.  I asked him if his finances were okay, and he said he was doing fine.  The money is not needed as much to pay a bill as it is to define him as worthy enough to write a check!

Wow! I was speechless.

What would you suggest I tell my friend?

Diagnosing Progress

With only one week to go, 2012 will only have 10 more months to accomplish our annual goals.  If you have made significant progress in the implementation of your training plans for this year I commend you, and if you are not in the forward motion yet, we need to light you on fire today!

The last two months of the year are bogged down with vacations and time off for holiday events, not to mention budgets that are about out of money, it creates an environment for minimal accomplishments in the training world.  I do not for one second condone this reality as an excuse, but it happens a lot.

So one would expect that beginning in January when budgets are full again and the “New Year” is in high gear that the horses would be out of the gate running at full speed.  Look around your training world and what is happening?  Is everyone focused on work or are they still eating hay in the barn?

Diagnosing Progress should be done at least monthly if not weekly.  Grab that training plan, and start checking off the progress of projects.  By now, you should be well on your way to making your first quarter a productive cycle.  Second quarter should be your best, because starting in 3rd quarter when Summer hits we all know that “vacations” are up and whether you are at work or on a cruise, the work flow starts to decline.  By Fall we are beginning the annual decline again.

When I conduct a Training Physical, the first thing I do is look at the training plan and assess how much has been accomplished.  Of course the first red flag appears when there is no plan with dates, but assuming there is a plan, I am looking to see how closely it is being followed.

You will remember that a training plan is the result of training needs analysis for your company’s needs for the year, and precedes the request and approval for a training budget.  So if everything is in alignment except implementation, it is like dropping the ball at the worst time of the game.

Before this month ends, spend a couple of hours reviewing your progress and adjusting your plan.  You still need to finish the year as a winner, but to win you need to get running!

A Visit From Your CEO

Have you ever spoken with someone who is so far in over their head that they are drowning and still unaware of their circumstances?  What do you do after running across this kind of person?  Do you ignore them, try to help them, or turn them in to the authorities?

As a training person I am inclined to throw them a lifeline and do whatever I can to help this person succeed.  It is probably why I seem to do so much pro bono work because I want people in the training function to learn to do their job and then go do it.

However, I ran across someone who is unable for whatever reason to see they need help from anyone.  This is a training manager, which in my book makes it all the worse because folks like us are always supposed to be in a learning mode.

A past training manager of mine used to compare roles in training with actors and actresses and that both are constantly improving their craft.  Never should either profession consider themselves completed and that we all need to keep getting better.  If one comes to that road and they are in training and say they are done learning, it is time they move on.

So after weeks of trying to motivate this training manager, I gave up the direct route.  I contacted the CEO, and asked for a 15 minute phone conversation.  I sent him my book, The Training Physical ahead of time, and I asked him if he had ever visited the training department.

He had not, and asked me why I was calling him.  I said, if you will take 10 minutes out of your day and visit the training manager, it will be crystal clear.  I told him to ask to see the “Training Plan” for 2012, and to ask “how training impacted the business in 2011?”

I got an email from the CEO yesterday, with a brief sentence.  “Not impressed with the answers I got from my visit.”

I emailed him back and asked if he wanted to improve the health of his training department?  I’m thinking we could perform a training physical, and put some changes into place that could benefit everyone.

He replied that, “this is a tree that no longer wants to bear fruit, and those are the kinds of trees you can’t fix, they must be cut down.”

Wow!  He was spot on, and yet I was concerned that he might throw the entire training function out.  I called him, and to my surprise he had no such intention.  He said, “Oh no Jim, just because one tree is dead doesn’t mean you cut down the whole orchard.”

This training manager is going to either lose their job or be reassigned.  And for the health of the organization this is the right move.  Now they will have the opportunity to find a better fit to run training.

My question for you today is how would you handle a visit from your CEO?  Could you show you are healthy enough to remain or would you land up in the woodpile?


Training Leaders Need A Spine

You may be thinking that of course training leaders need a spine.  They are human beings after all, and all human beings need a spine.  Gee, Jim how insightful is this gem of information?

Well I am noting with regularity that training leaders that have a spine challenge the status quo and often go out on a limb to explain the value and purpose that the learning function provides in their organization.  Likewise, spineless training managers run around moaning about their circumstances and look to blame other people and lack of budgets for the inability to implement training solutions.

Being a training manager is not easy if you know your role and insert yourself into the processes when applicable.  Not just when you are invited!  Too many training managers sit and wait to be invited to a meeting, or the proverbial “seat at the table.”

I write for other publications, and was asked recently to write quarterly for an online digest that targets Board of Directors for the banking industry.  However, first I had to submit ideas for columns that I might be able to write.  I have been writing for this same organization’s HR/Training Digest and they wanted to see if I could be diversified in my advice.

I first looked over past issues to see what had been written in the past, and I thought it was all good content, but directed only to a director’s own job functions.  I broadened that notion of job function to job responsibilities, and came up with the position that a director must rely of the bank’s staff to implement a lot of processes that ultimately the director is responsible for, but not personally performing the tasks.

“Sound like you still want to talk about training” was the response I got, and I replied, “yes.”  I challenged the concept that directors need to make sure that a bank is focused on succession planning, management development, and change management in this ever-changing economy.  Staff needs to have these skills to perform their roles and responsibilities and if not the Directors would be held accountable.  Those concepts resonated and I got the writing job.

Training Leaders need to fight the good fight, and that takes a spine.  Leadership in general is about knowing what is right and fighting the wave coming at you and if your spine is strong, you can win, and so does everyone else!

The CEO is a Manager Too!

I was meeting with a client last week to review a training needs assessment that was measuring management and leadership skills.  Much to my surprise, the CEO joined the meeting and participated in ways that will launch real change in this organization.

In the course of our conversation the CEO said “As a manager I……..” and I blinked twice.  It was not what he said that followed, it was that he led with “As a Manager.”  Although every leader is a manager too, it is rare to hear one state it so emphatically.

I commented that rolling out management development training will be so much easier for this organization because of the conscious understanding that this CEO has that he too is a manager.  That he uses the skills we were discussing they need to develop in supervisors and managers in this organization.

The poor guy looked puzzled that I was making an issue over this, so I spent a little time talking about the sales process that is often needed when introducing new training.  Although the needs assessment strongly supported that employees would be on board with the training, it will be so much smoother with the CEO personally understanding how this training will benefit them.

I left this meeting with a positive feeling about implementation, and the buy-in that these employees will have going forward.  Half of the challenge of any training is after the training program has been implemented.  We need to always be looking for internal supporters of our training efforts, or it becomes just another event with little return on the investment.

Sometimes we call these folks sponsors of a training program, and I am guilty of only finding these folks on very big initiatives.  Well, this past week I was reminded that we need these folks for every initiative.

Add Cheerleader to your list of supplies the next time you package up a training solution!