A decade ago, American organizations were largely unaware of the predicament they faced. The initial wave of Baby Boomers (many of whom occupied senior leadership roles) was set to begin a mass retirement. Many organizations were completely unprepared. Then something curious happened. The recession hit and many would-be retirees stuck around. In one somewhat morbid sense, the recession turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By now, succession planning routinely takes generational demographics into close consideration. Generational-oriented training is mainstream.
So how does your organization or team address generational dynamics from an awareness perspective? Are you at least having the conversation? Given how many employees find themselves at odds with colleagues of different generations, it’s worth thinking ahead. Here are some ways to make the conversation a productive one.
I’m constantly surprised at what passes for “leadership training” these days. Then I remember that most leaders work in business operations and their involvement is often extracurricular. I’ve also noted how easily many business operators are impressed with the leadership development support that comes their way. It’s almost as if the simple fact that the organization is investing in them speaks louder than the concepts or structure.
Regardless, if you are going to invest in a leadership event, it’s an opportunity for excellence – whether you are an executive, manager or training expert. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Just having an event doesn’t guarantee success. Incorporate these best practices.
A recent Bersin study reported that U.S. companies invest over $2,000 in leadership development initiatives per company leader. That’s great news. But is it worth the investment? Just because an organization has a leadership development program doesn’t mean it’s successful, does it?
I’ve been privileged to help develop several leadership development programs (LDPs) in my career and I can tell you no two are identical for the simple fact that people and organizations are inherently unique – different cultures, different missions, different situations. While I don’t believe there is a perfect approach to building an LDP, there are definitely pitfalls. If your organization has one – or is thinking of investing in one – don’t fall short for one of the following reasons.
I was asked to sit in on a large group interview several years ago that a group of managers was conducting. There were a handful of openings and they wanted to efficiently select several candidates to move to the next level. I was supposed to provide input after the fact. In hindsight, I think I did more harm than good.
Have you ever taken a personality assessment? What were your results? Were you an INFP? A “high D and low I?” A fire with a bit of earth mixed in? An eagle or an otter?
If you spend much time on social networks, you’ve probably even seen personality quizzes that blend with pop culture. Which Lord of the Rings character are you? Or Disney character. Or past U.S. president. Personality assessments are definitely trending right now.
Now before you get the idea I’m about to start hating on personality assessments altogether, I should mention first off that I’ve taken several myself and helped administer them in professional settings as well. Some of the assessments I’ve worked with are Myers-Briggs (probably the most popular), DiSC (my favorite), and FIRO Business and I’m familiar with several others. I’ve also worked with strengths assessments and 360 degree assessments.
Clearly, there are many benefits to personality assessments, so let’s start there.
You’ve just been assigned to fix a problem or design a solution for an organization, department or team. Maybe you’ve been brought in as a consultant or joined a cross-functional task force. Regardless, management wants results. Where do you start?
Just like in medicine, the last thing a change practitioner should do is prescribe before diagnosing. You don’t want to “fix” the wrong problem. That usually just makes things worse and hurts your credibility.
So how do you diagnose an organization?
Everybody wants competence. We want it for ourselves. We expect it from others in our organizations. We demand it from the people and organizations we purchase from. But how do we figure out if we’ve got it? How well do we develop it in others? Where do we even start?
Back in the 1970s, Gordon Training International developed a learning model called “The Four Stages of Competence,” which has also been linked to Abraham Maslow’s work. There’s something helpful about breaking an idea or a challenge down into smaller parts, and competence is no different. If we can understand which stage both we and our followers are in, we’ll be much more useful. Here are the Four Stages of Competence:
All of a sudden you get put in charge of building a new training course for your organization. It could be leadership training, professional training or technical training. Doesn’t matter. So you do the hard work of analyzing the learning needs, developing objectives, designing content, coordinating the event and finally delivering the course. Mission accomplished! That is, until management asks for the evaluation results to find out what difference the course made. Now you’re just insulted. After all the hard work you put in, management thinks your course may have been a flop? The nerve!
This may be how you feel about evaluation… unless you have a built-in evaluation plan. In that case, you’ll be ready to hand over the results of your training before management even asks for it.
So how do you evaluate learning programs? In this post, I’d like to summarize the Kirkpatrick Four Levels of Learning Evaluation.
I remember the first time I asked my supervisors if I could sit in on an interview they had scheduled with an outside candidate. I figured it would be a good learning opportunity as well as a break from crunching financial numbers. (This was during my first job out of college, before I got into leadership consulting). To my surprise, both supervisors looked at me like I had just told them aliens had arrived on our planet and wanted to tour our facilities. I went back to my desk trying to figure out what was so absurd about my request.
Sitting in on an interview might have been awkward for that role, but since then I’ve participated in many job interviews, observed the process and helped identify skills needed for future job roles. Talent acquisition can get complicated sometimes, but I constantly find myself referring back to three simple questions my friend Brad once shared with me about how to determine if a candidate is a good fit for the team. I’d like to share them with you.
When you were growing up, you probably spent hours sitting in a classroom listening to teachers deliver lecture after lecture in school. Now, as an adult employee, the thought of sitting through company training seems boring, unproductive, pointless and wasteful compared to actual work you could be doing. And if that’s what you think, your colleagues are likely thinking the same thing. The great news is that learning organizations are shifting their methods. But tactics aren’t the best place to start. They never are. First, your organization needs a new learning mindset. Here’s how you can get one.
Following are six specific ways many organizations have traditionally thought about training – with a culture “shift” for each one.
“So Nathan, tell me what you do for a living?”
“Well, I’m a consultant.”
“A consultant? But what do you actually do?”
This is a typical conversation whenever I meet anyone new – and not just me, but for most folks in my profession. I don’t know why, but it’s always been a little tricky to explain what, in fact, I do for a living. “I solve problems,” or “I help people clarify what they want,” or “I build management solutions” are typical responses. A past employer taught us to say, “I help clients move from issue to outcome, with pace, certainty and strategic agility.”
The truth is that I help management understand their needs and then help build solutions to meet those needs. Since my specialty is organizational and talent development, the types of needs I address are usually related to the people and leadership side of organizations. My colleagues in other specialties do the same thing, but with finance, marketing, customers, supply chains, technology or countless other areas.
Whether you are officially a “consultant” or are a specialist, program manager, project manager or just plain responsible for some type of organizational change, I’d like to introduce you to a basic consulting methodology.
It’s been said that the term “change management” is a misnomer because if you are trying to “manage” change, you’re already too far behind! Change must be led from the front. Because of that, when I first discovered John Kotter’s eight stage process for creating major change in a university textbook (and published in his international bestseller Leading Change), I knew I had stumbled onto something incredibly valuable.
So how do you go about creating change in your organization? Change seems like it should be simple enough – until we experience resistence from people who want things to stay the same. What’s the solution?