Building High-Impact Leaders

I am teaching a workshop to a group of HR and Training Leaders on what it takes to build managers and leaders within their organizations.  It has been a topic of discussion across America in nearly every industry for years, and yet what may be more important than talking about it is the actual building of High-Impact Leaders.

Many companies have realized way too late that management and leaderships skills are not naturally part of our DNA.  Somewhere down the career path we all need to be trained how to perform these skills from basic management to strategic leadership.  Some of us were lucky and learned from a combination of training programs, mentors and coaching opportunities.

The real impact of not training or creating mentoring and coaching environments is a group of highly skilled subject matter experts that now struggle to lead organizations in these changing times.  These poor souls are unable to fix issues to take their company in a better direction so they are competitive or even keep the doors open.  The companies that have trained manager and leadership skills have redesigned their environments and are sailing into better seas.

In my opinion (after some 20 years in learning development) you need to get started on something and make a plan and commitment to add to your momentum each and every month or quarter.  Constantly taking the pulse of your organization and adjusting your course is important, but getting beyond talking about what should be done and doing something would go a very long way in most companies today.

I love to fix problems, but what I really like to do is prevent them by leveraging the learning function in a more proactive approach.  If you need help getting started, just let me know!

A Year Without Learning

I was reading an article by Kevin Wilde, the Chief Learning Officer at General Mills in the March 2009 issue of Talent Management magazine.  He is telling readers about a CEO who in hindsight after cutting the training function the previous year is very uncomfortable with the accomplishment report he has prepared for the Board of Directors.

It would seem that the funds that had been allocated to the training function was a positive savings of expenses, but the time that was freed up for employees that no longer needed to attend training events was not as productive as he had planned.  He was however quite pleased that newly promoted managers where not bothering senior executives with mentoring meetings so his execs could focus on work.  Anyhow, his concept of succession planning was letting the cream rise to the top like in the good old days.

By the end of the story, our CEO has realized that next year has to be different.  He realizes that he has lost some of his top talent, especially “this new generation” to companies that focus on personal development.  Replacements have been easy to get, but overall the company has had to settle for “C” level performance overall.  If they go another year without learning, he fears that the company will fold.  In the end, there may not have been much training, but the CEO did learn something. 

Although I would hope that this article is complete fiction, I’m sure it is based on too many companies today who feel that the learning function is expendable.  Sadly, you may be working for a company that felt training should be cut and the budgets for learning were the first to go to keep the company afloat.

I would hope that no company would go a whole year without the learning function before realizing the damage that decision has caused to their future success.  Cut backs are different, and there are ways to engage cost-effective learning even in today’s economy.  But friends, never ever go without learning completely.  It is just not a prescription for good health!

Why Do We Need To Change?

Change Management has got to be one of the least enjoyable programs I’ve ever had to train, because often it precedes a big announcement that no one wants to hear.  How often do we train the skills in dealing with change or helping other manage through change, or even leading change initiatives as a proactive skill set?  It is no wonder that most employees cringe at the very word “change” if it is always attached to a “Gotcha” Moment!

Unless you have been living in a hole for the past few years, we are now dealing with more change than ever before.  Much of it is good change, and yet our bodies and minds are challenged with dealing with change constantly.  If we haven’t learned how to recognized the phases, and process through each one, we will drive ourselves nuts trying to keep up.

I have been gifted with a special life that has been filled with challenges both personally and professionally.  I say gifted because I want to remain positive in this writing, and hindsight has allowed me to see that most if not all of these challenges have allowed me to grow, learn and become a better person for having experienced these moments.  However, to be honest with you, I am the type that just hates having the rules change once I have learned them.

When we factor into our lives what is going on with the world economy, the uncertainty of our jobs or income, things can get out of hand.  Communication is key, and bless the news media and the internet, we don’t lack for details on how bad things are and how bad they are going to get.  And yet, it is these same outlets of information that can feed our ability to work with change and not just be freaked out by it.

As an old fashion training guy, my advice would be to learn the basic skills on how to deal with change.  If you are a training professional, make sure you are teaching live sessions on change management to everyone.  NetSpeed Leadership has a great 3-hour module called “Meeting Change with Resilience” that is easy to implement.  Email me at for a free preview!

What I hope you will learn is that all change comes with some loss and if you look hard enough usually comes with some gain.  Yet to finally answer my question “Why Do We Need To Change?” it is because change won’t stop happening because we sit still.  The world is still revolving and things are happening whether we participate or not.  So why not get on the ride, and get involved within the change?  Why not explore the opportunities and if you need help, email me and let me know.

What Have YOU Learned This Week?

A close friend of mine was asking me on Friday what I had learned this week.  To be honest I found the question out of the blue and out of context from what we had been talking about.  Even with the knowledge that she is a fellow learning professional that is focused on employee development didn’t make it sound anymore relevant.

As I stammered trying to understand what the heck she was asking, I started recalling everything I had done wrong and what I would do differently the next time if presented with a similar circumstance.  She replied that reviewing our failures is a part of the process, but she wanted me to focus on things I had learned to apply, to which I replied, Huh?

For 20+ years I’ve been promoting learning to others in my role as a trainer, designer, performance consultant and even as a CLO.  Heck, I have created and nurtured several learning organizations and learning environments and preach the gospel of everyone should be a continual learner.  So when asked what I learned this week I took it for granted it must have been something.

My friend suggested I keep a journal of what I learned and how I learned it.  Nothing fancy, in fact I am just using a pad of paper.  By the end of the day I had written down 10 thoughts, insights and things that occurred to me as possibly useful to someone.  I then found myself sending off two emails before the end of the day that took some of this new knowledge and put it to work for a couple of clients.  By the end of the day I was actually surprised by what I learned, and the variety of ways I was picking up the information.

This week I am planning to keep this journal up; if only to send my friend one whopper of a list this Friday!  It would seem I am a constant learner, but I was very out of touch with what I had been learning.  I also realized that sharing things I had learned was probably more important because it was knowledge I was applying.

So if you are game to trying this exercise, plan yourself a weekly task to share something you learned.  Post a comment each week about something you learned, and remember to tell us how we can apply it in our lives.  If it is a blog, pod spot, or website, include the link so we can all get the information first hand.  And if you try something out from a comment in this blog, tell us how it worked for you.