Change needs leadership

Written by Barry Johnson on 13 December 2017

Perhaps I'm naïve but I believe leadership starts from the top. Ideally, they, the people at the top, listen to the layers below them. Ideally, they walk the floor, observe what is happening and listen.

They recognise a shift in values is needed, the culture is not optimal and being great leaders they act. The CEO passes down an edict. The board allocates funds to train staff. Yes, they really mean it. You L&D professionals plan and prepare.

A common reality. The learning events hit the objectives. The participants are excited, determined and set off back to work. But six months later everything was as it was before. Behaviours have reverted, former inter-department conflicts have reasserted themselves. But why, if the learning events were valid and successful?

This is a question that has been asked often and been researched. The answers have been clear but perhaps not accepted.

A change in culture must start at the top. Not just in decision making but in learning. It is the leadership that generates followers and followers follow what they observe. Solutions? Firstly, all the executives must go through the learning first.

It is the leadership that generates followers and followers follow what they observe.

In this situation, you can feel the resistance and as learning facilitators you have to be tough and all the executives have to be there including the CEO/MD. Well that is a start. Then the managers have to be trained in mixed functional groups They work on the culture shift and solving any inter-function and inter department friction and crucially learn how to implement 70:20:10.

Now we have a foundation to begin.

The next series of learning events will be the key players of departments within and across functions. Learning together is vital and on each event an executive will be part of the facilitating team. Well if you mean it, demonstrate it.

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30 to 40 people for five days residential. Have I been involved? Yes. Within an international corporation events were run in each country. With across nation L&D team for each event and mixed functions on each of the learning exercises. Where interactions were international there were interactors from each nation.

These were not talking head events but exercises, simulations and learning discussions. The discussions were Socratic and after each learning session the groups fed back in an all participant feedback then onto the next exercise, simulation, etc.

A participant selected company issues which were tackled by interested teams working in the evening and presenting on the last day to an Executive Vice President.

All I am suggesting is if the board means it, demonstrate they mean it. This was a fantastic company to work in particularly in an L&D role. The Executive Vice President had his finger on what was happening and planned to happen, and we had a CEO who understood that learning was a crucial function for the business he led.


About the author

Barry Johnson BA, Chartered MCIPD, MCMI is the co-founder of Learning Partners. He has extensive experience in designing assessment events for development and selection and is an experienced facilitator and assessor.​

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