developUs Blog

October 23, 2017 in Blog

Training – It’s Not Always the Solution

I consider every client I work with a job, so I’ve had lots of jobs over the course of my adult life. In one of my former full-time roles, before formally launching developUs, I was responsible for identifying training opportunities for leaders across the organization. It was a $5.5B organization, so when I called training providers to say I was evaluating their course for use, they often comped me a seat. It was just that way that I ended up a 15-year public speaking veteran in a public speaking class.

I sat in the back of the room, and the Director of Faculty sat next to me, who was also there to evaluate the instructor. He was the new to the organization, and this was a portion of the onboarding process. We chatted during breaks over the course of the two days and ended up having drinks at the hotel bar after day one. Three hours later, we had shared our backgrounds, design philosophy, facilitation approach, and a host of other professional details. Eight months later he called me and offered me a job, building a ridiculously amazing selling course designed specifically for users of a CRM.

Did having the training on my resume attract the attention of prospective clients? Nope. Did my public speaking skills improve as a result of participating in the class in such a way that I was offered a job based upon my new skills? Nope. Going to that training did, in fact, land me a job, it just had nothing to do with the training itself, and more about who was in the room. We get it – there are some roles (mostly highly regulated roles) that require certain training and certifications to qualify – we are not oblivious to that fact.

The point here is that training is very infrequently the solution for career advancement or performance improvement.

The Three Other Things

WHAT??? BLASPHEMY! That’s right – the owner of a training company just told you that training usually isn’t the solution. So what is?

Be a Life-long Learner

It’s not so much what you learn, but that you do learn that increases your chances of changing performance, both personally and organizationally. Do you attend training because you want to learn and grow? Have you as a leader created a “learning organization” where learning is valued? Center for Creative Leadership calls this being learning agile, and let me tell you; it’s a ringer. What was the last thing you learned? More importantly, what are you doing differently now as a result of that learning? It’s not a rhetorical question; please share it with us. We love to celebrate learning, no matter how big or small!

Expand Your Network

We didn’t win that opportunity because we went to training, we won that opportunity because we took the time to cultivate a relationship with a like-minded professional. Meet people, and build REAL-ationships, not just RE-lationships. Find common ground with people you meet. Get curious about them. Ask how you can add value – how you can help them. Skip the networking events where people run around and shove business cards in your face, or where the conversation rarely goes deeper than politics and pleasantries. Find individuals who are of interest and ask them to meet outside the confines of the networking group’s structure. Grab coffee or lunch. If you are leading a team, make certain they have time to meet new people, set up cross-functional opportunities for people to make connections, pay for membership in professional organizations, and hold people accountable for getting a return on your investment.

Do Something Other Than Training

Find a mentor. Get a coach. Read a book. Ask for feedback. Go to lunch with someone completely different than you. There are many ways to develop yourself outside of attending training. Do all of them, and do them on purpose – with the goal of learning something that you can apply. Part of our role is to help leaders understand what’s causing the gap in performance. Training, when done correctly, builds skills. So yes, training is the right solution when it is a skill that needs construction. Meaning, if leadership exhibits an undeveloped skill set, then yes, let’s create training. But, more often than not, people know what to do, they just aren’t doing it. I refer to this as the Knowing-Doing Gap (we love this book-link at the bottom) So often; we find in our discovery/analysis process that skills are not the biggest issue, there’s a gap in communication, expectations, process, engagement, and the granddaddy of all of them, accountability. The 70/20/10 rule ( has worlds of merit, and the best part is that 70% of what continues to develop leaders is not expensive training!

To Train or Not to Train

So yes, the CEO of a training organization doesn’t always point to training as the first and best answer; we call ourselves an employee development company. The solution we develop for your organization could be anchored around accountability, coaching, or something more formalized. Bottom line, we help leaders be better leaders and teams be better teams.

Let’s talk about how we can partner to develop your team; it might not be training!

Here’s the link to the book we referenced & recommend. Knowing-Doing Gap:

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