The Great Training Robbery

Robbery 53073401_sMuch as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!  

Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.  

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Engendering & Embedding Engagement for a High-Performance Culture

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It often seems that people stand in the way of their own success. They get so focused on whatever they are trying to achieve that their thinking becomes habit, they fail to see, let alone consider, other options and their thought patterns and consequent behaviours become shackles. This inevitably limits outcomes and inhibits their own success. That is why there is more than a little validity to the old cliché, “You are your own worst enemy.” It takes an outsider to identify their issues, and even then they may not always change.

So perhaps, rather than a cliché,  we should consider it as a statement of fact. Doing so immediately makes it universal and demands remedial action. Particularly if you recognise the implication that it also applies to any CEO or business leader! Then you are compelled to take a closer look at yourself and your role, and ask yourself, “How am I impeding my success and that of my organisation or team?”  

Opening yourself up to this possibility is only the beginning. It does not provide any answers in and of itself. Furthermore every situation is unique and different which makes it unlikely that there is a single solution. Yet, much of our rigid thinking is the result of inadvertent acceptance of collective thought, whether it is called ‘conventional wisdom’ or whether it is simply unconscious influence. Recognising that provides a good starting point in the quest for solutions, not least because it suggests that your issues might not be as unique as you think.

Let me illustrate what I am getting at.

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Truth, Trust & True Leadership

Blame 56142883_s“At any level of management, you took the job knowing that the role put you in charge and on the hot seat for every success and failure on the team — no exceptions.” Those words from Liz Ryan pack a powerful punch and certainly grabbed my attention. I don’t know whether you will agree or not, and in any case you need to read the whole article “Stop Blaming Your Employees for Your Leadership Mistakes” to appreciate all the lady is saying. I do hope, however, that you will agree it is food for thought.

That is definitely the case with her later line that “If you blame people for your stumbles, you won’t see your own part in the incident.” This had me wondering whether a failure to understand this is perhaps the root cause of the science-practitioner gap in leadership that I described in my last blog.  With trust increasingly becoming a major topic in management and leadership circles this is definitely a question worth following up.  

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How to Improve Real-World Leadership Practice

“The science of leadership is well established.” So says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London. This premise enables him to conclude, “There is no real need to advance it in order to improve real-world practices. We should focus instead on applying what we already know, and ignoring what we think we know that isn’t true.”  (“What Science Tells Us About Leadership Potential”, taken from HBR.)  

That makes it sound so simple. Would that it were so! Given the professor’s own statements that, “Its key studies are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders” and “This science-practitioner gap explains our disappointing state of affairs”, we appear to have a major problem.

Several questions spring instantly to mind.

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Avoid the Unfortunate Consequences of The People Paradox

Have you ever heard of The People Paradox? I hadn’t either, although I was well aware of Lord Acton’s famous quote that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Well, apparently that’s not just a bon mot: power does corrupt. Certainly according to research cited in the HBR.

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Human Governance: Golden Rule or Platinum?

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Last week I wrote about The Golden and Platinum Rules in the context of Customer Experience. Today I want to discuss them in the broader context of human relations before, once again, narrowing the perspective and looking specifically at their role in the workplace. But, first let’s ensure a common starting point.

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Customer Experience: Golden Rule or Platinum

For some time now, I have been aware of the Platinum Rule. I have, however, remained sceptical and largely ignored it. After all, the Golden Rule has worked for the human race for millennia and underpinned much of what has been good. I don’t see how it can suddenly become invalid. But that is not enough: it is simply resistance to change. Finding out whether my doubts are justified requires a closer look.

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A Better Way than Worker Cooperatives and ESOPs

I have recently noticed a spate of material on the subject of worker cooperatives. The most interesting was the Forbes article “For Some, Worker Cooperatives Emerge As An Alternative To ESOPs” which made me wonder if worker cooperatives were a new trend.  If so, it certainly provides food for thought.  

The article suggests that worker cooperatives are a result of changing demographics and a means of addressing the disruptive effects of generational change. Perhaps, but their providing a solution for only “some” implies that ESOPs (Employee Share Ownership Programmes) are the only other option. While history certainly entitles both to be options, being the only two suggests rather limited thinking. After all, both have their shortcomings, which – at the very least – warrants exploring other possibilities.  

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The Power of Remarkable

Outstanding 123rf_10470826_sIt could hardly have been better timed. After writing last week about achieving the remarkable, I received a newsletter from Charles Bennett, Partner and Thought Leader at The Focus Group, illustrating what achieving the remarkable means when it comes to customer service. In it he tells a powerful story from his experience. Like any good story it inspires and demands retelling, so it is with great pleasure that I share it with you. Here it is in Charles’ own words, exactly as I received it.


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Achieving the Remarkable

Remarkable 123RF 48999371_sLike millions of people all around the world, I have been enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games. Watching top performers at the peak of their abilities is always good but the Olympics are special. They offer a unique combination of competition and camaraderie that creates a WOW! that uplifts athlete and spectator alike.

There can be no doubt about the intensity of the competition. Every athlete is striving to stretch beyond anything they have ever achieved before and prepared to endure massive physical discomfort in the process, which is what makes it such compelling viewing.  Nevertheless, the competition somehow still, ultimately, seems to become secondary. Goodwill and good sportsmanship is manifested in a way it isn’t in any other sporting arena.

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Employee Engagement: Not ‘Love for Work’, but ‘Love at Work’

Talking about love at work is a surprisingly daunting prospect. Whether that is by default or design, it seems the word love is seldom, if ever, used in a commercial or business context.  It is, however, something that needs to change.

The words of the old song, “Love Makes the World Go Round” may be more metaphor than fact, but they nonetheless point to a fundamental truth: love is a substantial power. The energy of love is seen as a motivating force in nearly all philosophical and religious thinking.  And, no matter how it gets distorted, its role in driving human behaviour also makes it a significant scientific subject, integral to shaping organisation design and development.  Thus we definitely need to talk more about love in a work context.

Fortunately, that seems to be happening. Recently I have come across a number of examples, but possibly the most significant is Duncan Coombe’s “Can You Really Power an Organization with Love?”  - in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, no less. He cites Sigmund Freud’s statement “love and work … work and love, that’s all there is” to rebut the idea that this universal good is inappropriate in the workplace.  More significantly, he goes on to say that “love isn’t as absent from the workplace as one might think.”

You may accept that more readily if you think of love as being a power like gravity. Each and every one of us is affected by gravity and its effects are the same for everyone. So with love, which inevitably and universally, determines how we behave. Even in the workplace. And even when we don’t talk about it.

Coombe – perhaps most exciting of all – describes love as being like an operating system, supporting “the ‘apps’ of strategy, finance, etc.”, adding that, “When you have a great operating system, the apps work better, independently, and in relation to each other.”   Clearly you will want to optimise your operating system. And, the likelihood is that, even if not consciously, you are endeavouring to do so.

If you doubt that, you only have to think about all your efforts to create employee engagement. After all, at its most fundamental, employee engagement boils down to getting your employees to love their work more. Understanding this will help you refocus your efforts and ensure that they bear greater fruit. 

How? By recognizing that it is about more than just a person’s job. Employee engagement inherently aims to build a ‘love for work.’ This, by definition, creates a bias towards a focus on the individual role. But getting someone to ‘love their job’ is not the same thing as getting someone to ‘love their work.’

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While the latter certainly incorporates the former, it goes so much further. Work is a more macro-perspective and deals with all the inter-relationships. It incorporates the whole enchilada of the organisation; its purpose, how it goes about fulfilling that purpose and how it creates an environment in which every individual employee is able to personally develop, grow and strive to fulfil their own personal potential while contributing to the optimization of the organisation.

Ultimately you could say it boils down to the authenticity of your employer brand that I described last week. Unless every individual is able to be authentic and integrate their hopes, wants and needs with those of the organisation – unless your people are able to love what they are doing and the environment in which they are doing it – you will never create an authentic organisation that operates at its fullest potential.

It doesn’t matter what words you use to describe it. But remember Kahlil Gibran’s words, “Work is love made visible.” In the end it is all about love. If you love your organisation, you have to love the people who work in it, and vice versa. That means recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters.’


If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.