A High Tide

One of the greatest things about working in learning is the boundless curiosity of those around you; unfortunately it can also be one of the worst things about our profession too. We are, far too often, enamoured with the latest shiny thing and, as such, open to the accusation that we’re “fluffy” rather than commercial.

Yet our role in business is simple: to make it better. Our job is to improve the quality of our people and make the organisation better at what it does. As Sergei would say “simples”…

So why do we often get it so wrong?

At a recent seminar one of the Chief Learning Officers in attendance remarked that he’s started to remind himself to make sure he understands the problem and the context around it before he offers his client a solution! It sounds like an obvious statement but we’re all guilty of doing it…it’s the curse of the expert.

In a world where an organisation can mandate mindfulness training for its top executives – ironic but true – because it’s the latest thing and all the cool kids are doing it, we run a real risk of diminishing the importance of learning in business and the value it adds.

To help me avoid these very pitfalls, I’ve been working with my own coach to develop a set of guiding principles. A way to ensure that my own philosophy, whilst important, never strays to far away from the commercial reality of the business I serve.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with the whole list but I will share one with you that I think is important. More so, because of some of the things I’ve come across recently that are actually happening!

Number three is “there’s no such thing as talent”. We’ve stopped using the word in our business – because it isn’t fair and inclusive. If our job is to identify those with the ability to stretch and grow, the process must be accessible to everyone.

Our approach is called MyJourney, because we believe that we’re all on our own personal journey,  needing different things at different times – and it has a self and peer nomination process, so it’s open to anyone in the organisation.

You still have to be assessed but if you’re through, you’re through. Anyone can identify the talent that shouts, we want to find the talent that whispers too.

I recently heard an L&D professional profess to not only abandoning the Nine Box Grid – which I actually agree with – but to having removed all form of assessment entirely because “none of the people we identified were ever promoted”, and anyway, all assessment is biased!

So let’s deal with the second part first because that’s easy – it’s supposed to be biased, you clown! That’s the point.

As for the lack of positive results, if none of those identified ever climbed the ladder then you’re not assessing for, or identifying, what your business is looking for. Perhaps, you decided what to assess for before you asked the business what it wanted…

Stop looking for the “talent” – they’re unicorns. Identify good people with the behaviour, knowledge, skills and experience your business needs to be a success and help them turn up the intensity.

One of our divisional MDs said to me recently “I don’t want you to train all my people for me, I want you to help me tap into the wealth of experience we have, and share it effectively, to make everyone better.

That’s smart thinking, because a high tide raises all the ships…

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