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Seriously

“We wanted to update our legacy leadership and development programs with a streamlined content management strategy with a more consistent offering across our diverse employee populations. We conducted surveys, focus groups and executive interviews to identify our key learning objectives of improving project management, leadership and strategic thinking skills.”


Yes, really.


Someone actually wrote that in a white paper published on their website to brag about their “results.” And no, I won’t mention who wrote it because it could be almost any organization.

First of all, what does a streamlined content management strategy mean? Streamlined for whom? And why? To save costs? If so, why not just hit “delete” on and cut the costs to zero?

And doesn’t “a more consistent offering” across diverse populations sound like an oxymoron? Wouldn’t diverse populations suggest diverse offerings to support diverse needs? Maybe “diverse” means something different than different.


And, to understand needs, don’t we already know that surveys, focus groups and interviews are the most costly and least effective ways to clarify that people really want or need? If you were a consultant going in cold to an organization of one or more people, would it be a good guess that they need to improve their project management, leadership and strategic thinking skills? If there was even one example in the history of the world where everyone had those skills down, that would be a white paper worth reading!


But maybe wanting better results is too much to reasonably expect. As I wrote in previous articles, maybe these issues are only worth solving in serious environments.


Think of professionals who work in serious environments (serious as in failure means people die or are seriously injured, relationships and reputations are damaged beyond repair, etc.). Do these professionals accept “offerings” based on surveys of the most popular preferences or opinions? Or do they demand programs that are proven to improve performance in the key areas of their work? Would these professionals accept popular offering for the peers they need to depend on when the stakes are high?


Have you ever heard objections to investing in corporate learning and development programs that start with, “People just won’t do it because they are too busy (or it’s too hard)?” And they probably have the survey results to prove it!


If the ultimate goal of a leadership program is to make it easy when it’s convenient, that goal is where the ultimate problem starts.


People tend to live up to the expectations of their leaders especially if they respect those leaders.


And it’s hard to respect leaders who don’t respect you. One of the ways to show respect for someone is to expect more of them than what’s easy or convenient — to demonstrate that you believe they are worthy and capable of achieving better futures. Isn’t that ultimately the challenge of leadership? Shouldn’t that be the same challenge of a leadership program?


Maybe a better definition of a serious environment isn’t about life or death consequences.


Maybe it’s more about caring enough to do what’s hard (or even dangerous) when we’re busy because other people are counting on us.


Maybe a serious environment is one in which we really need (if not demand that) leaders who seriously care.


And if you’re a learning and development leader who accepts “easy and convenient” as the best you can expect from the people you’re entrusted with leading, an uncomfortable “dark night of the soul” might be what’s needed to wake up from the nightmare of pathetic expectations that disrespect who you could be. It might be worth of finding the courage to demand of your peers as well.


If you believe you’re one of those leaders, what do you really care about? Does anyone else know? Do they believe you? Why should they? What do you expect of them? What can they expect of you?


Seriously.

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