And what about you?

Written by Rob McWilliam on 8 April 2015

As L&D professionals, we’re charged with delivering excellent services throughout the L&D cycle to our customers in our organisations. Our effectiveness is no more strongly felt at the times of year when we’re gathering learning and development needs and putting budgets and schedules together.  And yet, to what extent do we consider our own development needs in this activity and give them an appropriate priority? What signs should we look for?

Many organisations include a needs analysis as part of either the performance management or professional development processes, so some of us will capture our own learning needs via these. I was fortunate to be part of an L&D department that was part of a large global organisation which had an advanced and relatively mature approach to capturing needs and was blessed with a decent internal budget for developing the L&D team. However, no matter how organised or process-driven we are, there are times when we might overlook ourselves – perhaps by accident or by being so busy looking after everyone else.

A case in point came to light for me during a conversation I was having with a newly appointed L&D director. She had been an HRBP in the same organisation who had chosen to specialise in L&D. She now led a team of six direct reports, had responsibility for strategy and had achieved the highest level of responsibility in her career to date. She had enthusiastically explained to me how she was reorganising the needs analysis approach for the managers in the organisation when I asked her, “And what about you?” My question caused her to stop and think. Here are some of the signs I noticed that she hadn’t (yet) considered her own development needs. They also can signal development needs for most senior managers:

“I used to be good at this, but now I’m not sure”

It’s strange how even the most senior managers can have dips in their confidence levels when they transition to a new role. Phrases like this can often give us a clue that the manager feels less confident. The skills, knowledge and approaches that they’ve used to get them this far, sometimes are not the ones to help them to be a high performer in the new role. It becomes seemingly more difficult to admit to feeling less confident the higher your levels of responsibility. We L&D professionals can listen and coach at these times. We also need to listen to ourselves!

“This is all new to me”

Becoming familiar with leading a new department or gaining a promotion can take time. The responsibility for producing a strategy with the eyes of your new team watching can be pressurising. L&D can support here with both formal and informal approaches to learning. Are you experiencing this?

“I’m still settling in”

 The use of this phrase can indicate that the leader is putting off implementing changes until they believe that the time is right or that they themselves are ready. While both of these may be true and well-chosen strategies, it’s vital to check that these really are conscious, wise decisions. In L&D, we can be as prone as any of our colleagues to these ways of thinking. Procrastination can sometimes be caused by a perceived lack of competence or confidence – both of which can fall to L&D to provide interventions to address.

So, remember to include yourself in your organisation’s learning needs analysis – there might be signals of development happening in your very own department or even in you!


Rob McWilliam is executive coach, facilitator and consultant at Change Formation (  He can be contacted via


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