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For years the Learning & Development (L&D) industry has been treated like order takers. “Create a two-hour web-based training”, “design a job-aid”, or “deliver an instructor-led program in 4 hours” are examples of common orders we receive. Although L&D has the potential to change the lives of our learners, contribute to organizational strategies, and drive business impact, our success is limited if we do not evolve from acting like order takers, and instead, be recognized as consultative learner-centric business partners, also known as Trusted Advisors.
In this webinar Keith Keating, Global Learning Strategist at GP Strategies, will discuss the skills, vocabulary, and behaviors needed to embody the Trusted Advisor mindset. Keith will share insights and best practices to help change the perception your stakeholders may have on L&D being viewed as order takers and establish your team as Trusted Advisors.
Being recognized as a Trusted Advisor is a step in the evolutionary journey of L&D from fighting for a seat at the table to setting our own table and to being a forethought instead of an afterthought.
With a career spanning over 20 years in L&D, Keith Keating holds a master’s degree in Leadership and is currently pursuing his doctorate in the Chief Learning Officer program at the University of Pennsylvania. Keith has experience in a myriad of areas ranging from performance improvement, instructional design, leadership coaching, operations management, and process transformation.
More recently Keith has been leading clients on the design and execution of their global learning strategies. Regardless of the role, everything Keith does centers around problem-solving. He studied design thinking at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and found design thinking was a perfect tool to add to his problem-solving “toolkit.” Since then, Keith has been utilizing design thinking to help clients tap into understanding and resolving unmet customer and future workforce needs. Connect with Keith on LinkedIn and at http://keithkeating.com/.
HRDQ-U offers a curriculum of 80+ virtual seminars for training employees in soft skills. Covering topics from leadership to communication, conflict to change, communication to diversity. Enroll your learners in HRDQ-U Virtual Seminars and let them develop soft skills from their home or office.
From Order Taker to Trusted Advisor – Evolution of L&D
Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar From Order Taker to Trusted Advisor.
My name is Sarah, and I will moderate today’s webinar. Webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions, please type them into the question area on your GoToWebinar control panel, and we’ll answer as many as we can during today’s session.
Today’s webinar is sponsored by HRDQ-U virtual seminars, soft skills training classes, real-time interaction, and expert trainers. Enroll your organization’s learners in HRDQ-U virtual seminars, and let them develop skills from the office, from desktop, to mobile, at www.hrdqu.com/virtualseminars.
Our presenter today has a career spanning over 20 years in workforce futurist, design, practitioner, and learning and development thought leader, is currently pursuing his doctor Learning Officer program at the University of Pennsylvania. Thank you for joining us today.
My pleasure. Sarah, thank you for having me. And good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where in the world you are connecting or listening from.
So thank you for joining us today, for talking about one of my favorite topics, and something I think is extremely valuable and important in our industry, from order taker to trusted advisor. So, before we begin, I want to just share with you a little story in terms of what set me on this path to focusing on being a trusted advisor.
Because I think it applies to a number of areas in our life, and that is maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and I’m sure some of you will relate to this.
So, I’m vacation, and I bite into something, I don’t remember what it was, and as soon as I did, I could just hear the crack, and my heart starts racing that I know that my tooth is now probably in my mouth, but I don’t want to move, I don’t want to even find out.
So, I go into panic mode because I don’t have a Dennis, I don’t have a network, I don’t have anybody there and it was the second day of a two-week vacation.
And so, the first thing I do is I get online, and I Google, and I look for local dentists and I find a few, and then, of course, I look for the ratings that are in there. Then I also post on Facebook to see if somebody else has anybody locally that they can recommend. I asked the resort where we’re staying, so I do a lot of data analysis to kinda figure out how do I narrow this down. And eventually, I narrow it down to one individual and it was partially based on they were the ones that could see me, the next day, first thing. So I go in and I basically show them the piece of my tooth. They do their analysis. They come up with a treatment plan. I am just saying yes, yes, yes to whatever it is. Because the pain at that point was so debilitating. I sit down in a chair; they start doing their work couple of hours later.
I’m out of there. Now, when I think about trusted advisor, that is an experience where I am trusting that individual.
I am trusting, based off some research that I’ve done, based off of feedback, but also the fact that they’re in this position, and I’m in need, and I’m turning to them to help me through this, especially given that, I mean physical pain. So at that point, I kind of do whatever anybody says to try and get out of that.
I didn’t go into that office and tell that dentist what to do.
I didn’t prescribe my solution instead. We work together, we discussed it, and they prescribe to me what that treatment plan would look like.
And I trust them, and so I adhere to their treatment plan, and I think about that, too, a lot of aspects in our life.
When my car breaks down and I need to get to work, I get my car, or I get somebody to look at the car. I’m not prescribing it to them. I don’t know how to fix the car, that’s your job. I’m trusting that you understand the vehicle, and you know what to do when my computer breaks. The first thing we do is we call IT, and IT does their magic behind the scenes. And they fix it. I’m not prescribing to IT what needs to be done. So, I’m sure you’re kind of catching on, right now, what I’m talking about is this prescription.
I think that’s the biggest issue, that I see in my history as a learning and development professionals. So, Sarah said, I’ve been in the industry over 20 years, and for a big majority of that time of my career, I was an order taker, When I started up, until probably the first 10 years, I was an order taker. So, what do I mean by that?
Somebody else identified the problem, somebody else identified the solution, and they told me what to do. They told me to create some sort of training to solve that problem. They prescribe the solution to me, but the reality is, we are the professionals.
We’re the ones that should be prescribing the solution, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today, is evolving from where we’re being dictated to, where they’re prescribing to us, where we’re actually able to be a consultative business partner and prescribe a solution to them. So, I’m going to turn the camera off just so it’s a little less distracting for. all right.
So, for years, we have been treated as order takers.
I’m sure many of you will relate to that and doesn’t have to be just in learning and development, although today that’s going to be sort of the focus of what I’m talking about. And it is time for us to evolve for a number of reasons which we are going to be talking about. So, my question is, just to answer this.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Hey, I need a 30-minute web-based training, too.
Do this. Hey, can you create a one-day training on leadership and development?
We need a job aid, so that our team is how to work with new system?
Could you just make a training so that we can change their behaviors, then we hear things like, No, no, no, no. That’s not what we need. What we need is five, or six months later, they come back to us, and they say, hey, that training that you made, it didn’t fix their behavior, didn’t drive that change.
These are all order taker mindsets from our business partners as they’re coming to prescribe solutions to us, and this is what we want to try and change. And I hear this all the time. Even now as I tried to evolve to being a trusted advisor, I still get these types of requests but there is a skillset that we can help to manifest and cultivate that helps us change this type of behavior. And so it’s time for us to evolve into being trusted advisors.
Alright, so, order taker versus trusted advisor. So, I kind of gave a little bit of an example of what it means to be an order taker. But I want to break that down into little greater detail and give some definitions. So, in order taker, is someone who takes an order or request without providing consultation feedback or customer advocacy to understand what that order is for what that problem is that that order is trying to solve.
So, it’s not just, I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t take orders, because in our line of business, I think someone’s gonna probably always give an order to us. But it’s that key point about providing consultation feedback and customer advocacy. That helps us evolve to being trusted advisors. And so also with an order taker, it’s about not practicing or not given the opportunity to practice due diligence with art, or sometimes aren’t necessarily trying to be order takers. But our business partners, our stakeholders might already CS as that. And so they may not be giving us the opportunity to be practicing trusted advisor ****. So, these are some concepts of order takers.
Now, for a trusted advisor, trusted advisor is somebody that has demonstrated that they are trustworthy, they’re credible and they have the confidence of their client, and this takes effort. They are recognized as a strategic advisor and a partner. And I’m going to talk towards the end of this session about how, what this looks like in real life. Currently, one of my roles is the head of the Global Learning Network for General Motors. And when I started with GM about five years ago, we were 100% order takers. And I’m going to quickly share with you our journey from being order takers to trusted advisor, how we measure it, and what we’ve put in place to help us around that journey.
And then lastly, a trusted advisor has a seat at the table now, here. A lot of people in the industry talking about, hey, Learning and development needs a seat at the table lead, a seat at the table. I personally believe we just need to build our own table and invite our business partners, and our stakeholders to our table, we should set our sights a little bit higher, rather than just trying to sit at somebody else’s table. I’ll share some examples of that as we go through. So, just from a definition standpoint, this is the difference between order taker and trusted advisor.
Now, my question for you is: In your current role today, which one do you think that you play more of an order taker or a trusted advisor?
So, on the right-hand side, you should see the poll open, pop up. Just come. This came on your screen.
Go ahead and then click on that, and select one of those, and let me know where you are. Sarah, what do you think that you are in terms of your role today? Are you more of an order taker or a trusted advisor?
I feel like I go back to. Other parts of my trusted advisor.
I like that you said that, because I don’t think that it’s via Mary, It’s strictly one. Or the other, there are going to be situations where, yes, you may be an order taker, because it could be that was the right solution, or it’s a small task, or its compliance and regulatory. That’s kind of the area where I think we tend to be the most order takers, because there’s not a lot of leeway when you’re talking about government, or legal or regulatory requirements. So, I do think you’re spot on, that we do, vacillate, back and forth. What have we seen in terms of the poll?
So, we have 40%. 60% saying they’re trusted advisor.
Nice. I would say that’s about the average of what I see when I’m having these discussions. I just want to make sure that you can see my screen.
You can, can see your screen, but it looks like you’re out.
Yeah, perfect. Alright, so good. So, we’re looking at a 40, 60% ratio. So, again, as I mentioned from my, for the first 10 years of my career, I was 100% an order taker. I didn’t even know the concept of being trusted advisor.
I don’t even remember someone coaching me that I could ask questions that I could push back, that I could advocate for better solutions or for understanding more. It was more of just ingrained in this mindset that, Yeah, the business gives you an order, and you execute on it.
And it really wasn’t until I was introduced to design thinking that I started to understand this concept of putting the learner first, and thinking about them in everything that we do, and evolving to be a trusted advisor. So if you’re not familiar with design thinking, I highly encourage you to add design thinking as a skill set in your toolkit. It definitely empowers you on your journey to being a trusted advisor. If you’re really great framework to work with on moving from problem solving to problem finding, to make sure that we’re looking at the right problem first. Because oftentimes, and I’m going to throw out a number.
It’s sort of an arbitrary number, but what I hear in the industry, approximately 80% of the orders that we get for training isn’t going to solve it. There’s an underlying root cause problem that is manifesting that they’re trying to mask or cover with having training be that solution to fix that problem, where in reality training isn’t going to fix it. It could be process related, which is typically a lot of the challenges that we see, and just putting somebody through a 30-minute course, or a one-day course isn’t going to solve that, will change their, their behaviors, the much bigger systems thinking approach.
All right, So, um, there, we’re faced with order takers are trusted advisors in our life probably on a daily basis. So these are just some examples where I think about interactivity that we have where something could be an order taker, or it could be a trusted advisor. So, Sarah, when you think about lawyers, would you consider a lawyer, an order taker, or a trusted advisor?
Trusted advisor, 100%. I don’t know, I don’t want my lawyer to take an order for me. That’s, that’s their expertise.
They’re the ones that are supposed to have that knowledge. Hopefully, to be able to guide me, their clients. It’s the same thing in our industry in talent development and learning and development. We are meant to be the practitioners and the experts giving, advice, giving, guidance, giving best practices to our business partners, so we want them to see us in that same manner.
What do you think about fast food Drive-thru, order taker, or trusted advisor, order taker?
Definitely an order taker. I mean, there are times I think that they do try and be a trusted advisor, maybe by upselling or offering us, you know, some type of different combo. But for the most part, they’re an order taker. And that’s not meant to be negative. But their role is to literally take the order that will give me what about waitstaff?
staff? is an order taker, as well.
I would probably say both, because I expect, in some situations, and some restaurants that, that that wait staff, they’re trusted advisors that they have. You know, how many times you go in and say, hey, what do you recommend on the menu? When you’re asking them, what they recommend? You’re putting them in that position of being a trusted advisor because they’re the ones that have, hopefully, try the food. They’re the ones that we’re trusting to give us guidance in that direction. Same concept with L&D. We want our business partners to ask us, what do you recommend for this problem? What do you recommend that? We order off this menu? and give that guidance and perspective, because, again, we are the professionals here where the experts, and that’s what we have to help our business partners see.
OK, so, Trusted Advisor. A couple of questions for you to ask yourself as you’re moving forward as you think about your relationship with being order takers and trusted advisors, think, first of all, how have you been treated as an order taker? So, I gave about five examples earlier when our business partner comes to us, and they are already prescribing the solution to us.
And then, the next question that I would think about is, how did you respond when you received that order?
That’s really the indicator between being an order taker, a trusted advisor. Do you just accept that order and begin working on it in a siloed approach? Not having access to a lot of information, or do you ask more questions? Do you try and understand the bigger picture? Do you try to encourage them to think a bit broader and get to that root cause analysis?
And do you ask what happens, or excuse me, what would happen if you asked why? And this is such a basic question, but it’s a really important question. When we’re thinking about being trusted advisors, is, why the five whys, the first time, somebody tells us something, they’re just giving us, that superficial information. But when you ask why, again, it allows you to dig a little deeper. And then you ask, why dig even deeper and deeper and deeper, until you can get to that root cause analysis.
Just think about these questions, as you’re moving on, your journey to being a trusted advisor.
So, how did we get here?
Are transactional, so first of all, … has been around for a long time, but we tend to be transactional in the sense that that’s what makes us order takers. We’re given an activity. We executed; we create this transaction. There’s often a fractured approach in L&D. There’s no specific systematic approach. We could have decentralization centralization; we could have Hybrid. We could have internal R&D function, external OMB functions. There could be an LLB function in every business unit. Which is how GM it’s setup. We don’t have a chief Learning Officer. And every business unit has their own learning function and their own learning teams and their own goals. And so that fractured approach makes it a little bit difficult for us sometimes to evolve to being trusted advisors. Compliance and regulatory, a big reason why we are seen as order takers.
Sometimes we have limited budgets that are defined by other groups, purchasing, or procurement. Or IT may be defining the budget. And so we’re almost handcuffs sometimes at how limited that we are based on somebody else outside of our own group. Sometimes we can be limited in the tools and technologies that we’re trying to use to reach our learners at that moment of need. Where they are, again, could be by IT, could be by purchasing procurement, could be by regulations in the organization, and so if we’re limited to the different tools and technology, we can try, we may be viewed as order takers as not being innovative, not being a good business partner.
In some ways, we’re limited to old thinking.
I love the L&D industry. I think it has the potential, sometimes to be very inclusive, which we absolutely need. The flip side to that is when we open our arms, and we allow anybody to say that they’re in learning and development, it means that we lose a little bit of that rigor, a little bit of that expertise of those practitioner skills. And so, when we have people who are representing the industry in LNG, who maybe aren’t completely trained or don’t understand, what it means to be a trusted Advisor, that test and negative precedence with our business partners.
And so, that keeps our business partner thinking that old way that we’re just order takers.
But there is a huge value aspect to being a trusted advisor. So, Fair. I want to ask you what you think the in your opinion, are. Right, or wrong Answer? What’s the value that you can bring as a trusted advisor to your clients or to your business partners?
Trusted advisor gives you higher guarantee of customer retention for sure.
Customer retention, absolutely.
Trust, so that they’re continuing to come back because they value you, and that’s really what it, what we’re talking about the end of the day, is we want our business partners, our stakeholders, our learners to value the expertise that we’re bringing to the organization. Because at the end of the day, our goal in L&D is to help advocate and support our learners, and therefore drive business processes, drive business performance.
So we’re all working towards the same goal. Sometimes I just wish they would get out of our way and let us do that. Let us be the trusted advisor. There’s lots of value that comes from this one, we can help to increase organizational value. Many academics, many professionals recognize, Now learning is great, L and D is great, brings lots of value, except when the going gets tough, and there’s economic downturn, or there’s cost cutting, were often the first ones that get cut. And so, the way that we can help advocate against that to submit ourselves in the organizations to be trusted advisors, because we do have the potential to continue increasing organizational value.
We can drive operational excellence. Because we understand the business more as being a trusted advisor, rather than just being transactional.
We want to be systems thinking, and we want to be connected throughout the business, and doing that helps us improve efficiency and effectiveness. It helps to increase the value of L&D. It helps to reduce costs.
There’s always enough money to do it right, the second time.
So, I find that in my career, when we go back and we look at project, and we come up with the budget, there’s never enough money to do it right the first time. But, once they’ve realized their mistake has been had, then suddenly there’s all this extra money to try and fix it. The second time Well, we want to try to alleviate that. We don’t want to get to that second time. We want the first time to work together, understand the root cause analysis, become a better business partner. So, there’s not an increase in costs later on.
It allows us to gain access to increasing talent capabilities. We’re able to move from an afterthought to a forethought. That’s one of the biggest progressions I’ve seen in the industry that I’m constantly working for, is I don’t want us to be thought of after somebody has identified the problem, they pick the solution, and now they’re telling us, execute it. We want to be brought in to being a forethought.
So as soon as that problem might be identified, they’re asking us to help dig to that root cause analysis and understand more about what that potential problem is.
And if L&D can fix it, or help to fix it, not make LLD fix it because it’s not always an L&D solution.
It helps us be more customer centric and more learner centric, and it helps us be more inclusive, because, again, we’re working with our business partners and our stakeholders. Another challenge that I see in the industry is, L and D is often considered a siloed function. We’re off completely on our own, but being a trusted advisor in systems thinking, and integrating with the other business units helps us to be inclusive, so that all of these values can be achieved.
So, we’ve talked about the difference between an order taker and trusted advisor. We’ve talked about why you want to be a trusted advisor because there’s a lot of value of it. But here’s an important aspect, just because we want to be a trusted advisor doesn’t mean that our organization is ready for it. So, there are some specific questions that you have to ask yourself and evaluate your environment to make sure that your environment is ready to see you as a trusted advisor. I have particularly work environments where they were absolutely not open to seeing us as a trusted advisor. We were a vendor; we were an order taker. We were there to do exactly what they told us, and they did not want to change that mentality. So, it’s important for you to measure that maturity so that you’re not banging your head against the wall. completely frustrated, wondering what it is you’re doing wrong. It may just be that culture that you’re in is not willing to see you that way. So you have to ask yourself a couple of questions.
The first: What’s the maturity level of your team of the learning function?
This is an important question that you’ve gotta be honest with. And to do that, you’ve gotta look at, what are the skill sets.
Are we, actually, a mature learning organization? Do we understand the practitioner skills of being L&D? Do we understand measurements? Do we understand the science of learning, or is this a new learning function? Is it filled with subject matter experts that are from the business? That’s an example from GM. When we started our Center of Learning Organization, it was mostly filled with subject matter experts from the business. So the learning team wasn’t very mature, but it’s important to recognize that so that you can get on that path to maturity so that you can build up those skills.
Otherwise, if you don’t have those skills, how can you go out and convince your business partners that you can be a trusted advisor when you don’t technically have the skill set yet to be advising in a trusted manner? Instead, you’re an order taker, so look at your team, figure out what’s the maturity level of your team. What’s the maturity level of your business partners or other business units or your stakeholders? Meaning, how do they treat other back-office functions like L&D? How do they treat you in terms of looking at your annual demand plan, or looking at strategies? Do they seem open to having feedback and discussions with you, or do they seem very strict mindset that they’re just executing orders, and they don’t seem to be open minded at all beyond that?
Then lastly, what’s the maturity level of your entire organization? What’s your organizational culture like? Is there a learning culture in your organization? Do the, does the C suite to the Executive Support Learning, did they support your function, or are you basically, all alone? Are you trying to fight the good fight, but you don’t have the support from your senior team?
That’s an important awareness to recognize, because that’s going to help indicate the maturity level, and whether or not they may accept you as a trusted advisor, because the reality is, they may not. So, these are things that we have to be aware of. So, here’s a quick five stage in this maturity scale that I like to use. So Stage one is where you’re a pure order taker. That could be just a training administrator. Or in other words, could be, you’re just, we’re just an afterthought.
That has been, as I said, good half of my career being treated that way.
We retreated that way at the Center of Learning when we started at General Motors about 5 or 6 years ago, and then slowly we’ve seen that maturity level increase. So after that, stage two is where you’re a training manager.
You’re managing training initiatives but you’re not yet there as part of the conversation and that’s where stage three comes in, where your learning consultant, where you’ve been invited to join the discussion. Usually, it’s still after the fact, or somebody else’s identified the problem, Somebody else’s decided learning is going to solve that. But they’re starting to consult with you a little bit. Stage four is more focusing on the performance aspect. So now they’re talking with you, they’re inviting you to a discussion. But now you’re starting to demonstrate your value by talking about performance, and how we can continue to drive performance improvement through learning and development. And then stage five, that’s where were offered a seat at the table, or you’ve made your own table. And we’re a forethought were brought in are right at the beginning, or we don’t wait to be brought in.
We go out to our business partners, and we have those strategic conversations with them at the table that we have created.
So that is one way to help delineate yourself from being an order taker to being trusted advisors, is you are the one that are starting those conversations with your business partners, proactively rather than reactively which is often how L&D is treated. So it’s a five stage maturity level scale that you can consider just keeping in the back of your mind as you’re trying to figure out where are we and how do we evolve to get to that stage five for trusted advisor.
Alright, so when you’re building a new relationship and you want to find out if you’re trustworthy, what do you do? So, this is like the conversation I started off with in terms of the dentist, I go to Google, I go to Amazon, and look at the reviews.
I talk to people to find out, hey, who do you have in your network? These are kind of the same things that we want to be doing in LMB.
And oftentimes, marketing ourselves is really an important way to be building up that trusted advisor ship.
So, again, rather than thinking of ourselves as a silo off in the end, Edge. Waiting for somebody else to bring us in order, but proactively going out there. Having this conversation, and building a brand about your group, the value that you provide, and the different capabilities and skill sets that your team has, so that you get that word of mouth out.
one approach to this is, I often try to look for champions in the organization, and champions could be at any level, but it’s people that you are developing relationships with that are out in the business, that you know are going to spread the good word about you and the work that you do. Because they see it, they’ve experienced it, they believe in it. So there’s always going to be negative people who maybe hate learning and development because they just view us as test taking machines, or they hate the learning management system, But oftentimes, there’s a lot of work that we have to do to break away from the LMS equaling L&D, LMS is just one tool or one function within learning and development. We are a lot more than that, so identifying champions and building relationships with them can really help to start change the mindset and the business.
It also helps give you direct access to the business, if you’re looking for subject matter experts, Work. you’re looking to just tap in and to understand maybe, some of the challenges that are happening in the business, so that you can figure out how LMB can better support your business partners.
So, to build on that, the question that you should ask yourself, when you’re thinking about your capabilities in your team, why should anyone ask for your services?
And this is a question that you should really spend some time thinking about, because this is part of your marketing campaign. This is part of your story. You know, we have to prove our worth.
Chances are that those outside L&D, they don’t know our strengths, and most likely, they don’t care, and it’s not necessarily their position or need to care. It’s our job to help them recognize the value, because, right or wrong, individuals are focused on their own business unit, their own projects, their own value that they need to be executing on. We’re here to help support them. And so we have to be our own advocates of our strengths and our value proposition. And so, what’s your reputation? What do you think your business partners would say about you? And if you don’t know, you should find out.
You should be conducting interviews and that minimum surveys with your business partners on a re-occurring basis once or twice a year to stay connected with them, to understand what their opinion is on you.
I’ll talk more about this in a little bit because it’s something that we do very proactively at GM. And we measure it with Net promoter scores.
And it helps us measure our hope for growth with our business partners every year and helps us stay connected with them.
So, another part of this is thinking about what words that you use to describe what we do in learning and development.
Training is not necessarily a fun word, so I tend to not refer to what we do as training, I refer to it as performance support, as learning and development.
I refer to us as problem solvers. I believe that’s what we are, we’re here to help solve problems within our business unit, within our organization.
So, think about what’s your elevator pitch. What’s your 15, 32nd pitch? When you’re with somebody of how you would describe what it is that you do, the value that you bring, so that it sticks with them, so they have a better understanding of what we do.
And GM, we’ve had a big marketing branding issue because our LMS was named the Center of Learning, and our function is also named the center of Learning. and a lot of our learners do not like the LMS its archaic, we have a lot of challenges with it. It takes them away from doing their job, because they have to sit down at a computer. And so when we did a lot of qualitative research through design thinking, everyone kept saying we hate serve learning, and we hate the center of learning, and we would all take it personally because it felt like they were talking about us, but they were more referring to the LMS. And so that was a really good aha moment for us to focus on marketing and separating the tools that we use from who we are.
So just make sure you’ve got your elevator pitch. You understand key words that help describe what it is that you do.
All right. Switching gears, a little bit, I want to talk about how we demonstrate the behaviors of being a trusted advisor. That is all about trust.
At the end of the day, trusted advisor ship is all based on trust. There are five components for building trust.
Here’s our credibility, reliability, our intimacy, our intention, and our communication. So, I’m going to drill down to each of these in more detail.
So, our credibility, credibility is, what’s the quality of us being believable or worthy of somebody’s trust? What’s our Austin …? And that’s a really important delineation there, or authenticity, how authentic, or we’d be, how, real or weeping. And so there’s three things that help to establish our credibility.
Our knowledge of our stakeholders, business partners, clients, and learners.
Knowledge of yourself and knowledge of the field of learning and development.
So I’m gonna start with our stakeholders, business partners, client learners.
However, you wanted to describe, it is critical that we understand them, that we understand their culture, not just our culture. one of the challenges I find is that we have our own language in learning and development. And when we go outside of our bubble and we start using our language, people’s eyes gloss over, because it’s not their language, it’s not their culture.
So we have to position ourselves and pivot to understanding the culture of our business partners, our stakeholders, our learners, so that we’re speaking their language, not our own. We need to understand their values and their objectives.
Not necessarily our objectives of what we’re trying to accomplish, but what they’re trying to accomplish. And we need to use that vocabulary. We need to use those objectives, and we need to make sure that we’re connecting all of the learning objectives back to those business goals, so that they recognize that we not only understand their objectives, and what they’re trying to accomplish, but we’re making sure to link back the training initiatives, the learning initiatives, to those objectives. And we’re measuring it on top of that, so that we can show the value or the proof.
We need to also be knowledgeable of ourselves.
What’s our value? So I talked about this a few minutes ago, understanding the value of view of the value of your team, some key words and phrases. Your elevator pitches. Understanding your experience as a practitioner.
What’s important to note, here is expertise.
Just one second. Sorry, did you lose my screen?
Site presenter: OK, perfect expertise does not necessarily equal trust in facts.
Sometimes, considering yourself an expert puts on Blinder’s, there’s research now saying that expert equals fixed mindset and we want to have a growth mindset up through the game.
We want to have a growth mindset, not that, it’s doing that.
OK, I’m going to keep going. We want to have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. And so I am passionate about using the word practitioner rather than experts, because practitioner in any way that we are practicing what it is that we’re preaching, what it is we’re talking about. We’re actually doing it. So it helps us move beyond just theory and it’s a little bit back before being quote experts. We want to be learned at all, not know at all. Which is Microsoft’s one of Microsoft’s mantras.
It’s also important for you to have a point of view.
So, and I shared this because I know a lot of individuals in L&D that one of the differences that sets them from being a trusted advisor and an order taker is the fact that they don’t have a point of view. They are just listening, and they’re executing, and they don’t see that they have value, based on their experience. And so it’s important to make sure that you develop a point of view about all aspects of our industry. And maybe that’s true, just basic research, and understanding what other people are saying. If you’re an academic, you’ll remember literature reviews. I always encourage my teams to do stretch assignments based on literature reviews, read 10 pieces of academic literature on a specific topic, write a paragraph summary about each one, but then to figure out what’s your point of view, based on what you’ve read, and also what your experiences, your point of view can really be that key that separates you from being an order taker to be a trusted advisor.
The field of L&D. This really helps establish our credibility, and this, I cannot emphasize enough, because not a lot of people understand the rigor of this. You should understand the science of learning.
If you don’t, research, it gets some key phrases, understand the difference between Piaget.
Understand the different modes of, of learning concepts of learning sciences. There’s a book that I absolutely love. I highly, highly recommend. It’s called Make It Stick. It’s all based on research. It really talks about the important components of the science of learning, so make it stick. Understand the industry or competitor trends that are happening, not only in L&D, but also in your industry, your business.
Have outside stories’ use cases in data points.
What I find is when people are lifelong employees of organizations, they get so siloed and myopic with their blinders on in terms of everything that they know is for and about that organization. But it’s so important to understand what other people are doing, how it’s worked elsewhere, and how it’s failed elsewhere. So, get those stories. Understand those use cases. Look for those data points.
Join ATD, or CLO or some sort of organizational learning and development talent development.
I’m getting the wound. Would you call that?
Totally dry and blank.
All right. So just join an organization so that you can learn more from others. I think that’s really important too, to learn, but also to share and give back.
Be a critical thinker. You know, you want to question everything, and then find actual research as you’re doing all of this. Be skeptical of what you read, what you hear. Especially if there’s no citations.
We want to try and avoid just opinion pieces. Because it’s a lot of what I see, especially on LinkedIn, and on Google, is just a lot of opinion pieces, but I want to, I want to find the actual research. So, that there is data that backs up the point of view. It backs up why we’re suggesting what we’re suggesting. In fact, there are three important criteria that I would consider for successful research. So, Sarah, I’m just going to pitch it to you for a second. What do you think is, one is you’re thinking about a problem that you’re trying to solve, or you’re trying to learn something new, and you’re researching something online, what do you think is an important criterion for research?
one criterion. Sources, where are you getting your information from non-biased information, such as using Google Scholar.
Absolutely. 100%. So I’d say, I’m going to build on that. There’s a couple of things. So one, the number of citations, what I love on Google Scholar is that it tells you how many times something has been cited.
Now, that is another fail proof data point. You know, you could have the wrong information.
That’s been cited 3000 times, but I would rather pull from a source that has the, potentially, some errors and cited 3000 times than a source that has never been cited at all.
I also look for references in the content that’s fit to play. You can tell an op-ed piece, is when they are just sharing their point of view and their opinion.
But there’s no data points in there, and there’s no references in the content, so I look for references. And then, of course, your source. I personally avoid just Google.
I use Google Scholar to try and get to that academia, the research, the journal articles, because they’ve got a lot more rigor that goes into getting those published since simply somebody just publishing an op-ed piece.
So, a couple of things to think about in terms of your research when you’re trying to build your knowledge and build your credibility.
one thing that I like to do that helps build my credibility is when I’m working with my business partners to really demonstrate that I’m a trusted advisor. I bring that research with them. So it’s not, I’m not always talking about my point of view because I’m just one person. But I believe that as a practitioner, my job is to have connections with as many resources as possible to absorb as much information as possible into curated, we are curators. And so, part of that means, I need to be out there researching information and bringing that back to my business partner, so that they can see the actual research that’s associated, that supports what it is that me or my team are suggesting as trusted advisors.
All right, so, the next one is Reliability. How reliable are you for accuracy?
Honesty, or consistent, or repeated achievement?
So, that means showing up, delivering consistently, are you predictable, and are you dependable?
Hit the wrong button. So, these are very important, because we want to establish that type of pattern, that type of cadence, so that they begin to trust that.
And I would say, for me, it took about a year at General Motors to build this reliability for them to see that my quality of work was consistent. That I always delivered the same type of quality. I always showed up.
I was predictable, so in this case, predictable is good because predictable builds trust. It means that if they gave me a task where they asked me to do something, and I repeatedly did it, I became predictable that I was going to follow through, be reliable, and achieve the work they asked me to do.
Also, dependable. Showing up, being honest and being accurate.
So three key components of developing reliability.
So next is intimacy. Farah did.
Screen pauses on the Reliabilities.
This is not my friend today.
Technology. All right. How about? Are you on intimacy now?
Perfect. All right. Well, that’s actually how this feels written now a little intimate with my computer technology issues.
So, intimacy is your closest association with, or detailed knowledge, or deep understanding. So when I talked earlier about understanding your business partners, this is really where you’re starting to build that intimacy, or that affinity, or that familiarity. And some people don’t like the word intimacy, but it’s extremely important when you’re building relationships. And you’re building trust. And so there’s two components to intimacy I’ll talk about right now.
The relationships and the empathy factor. So the relationships.
It’s important that we understand all of our stakeholders not just learning and development and not just started business partners, it’s our responsibility to think about the organization as a system.
So systems thinking all of these parts work together to achieve the same goal a system and an organization cannot be successful just on one specific business unit thinking of itself. And so we can be that integrator.
We need to understand finance, purchasing procurement, we need to understand our learners, our business in the C suite. So some people ask me, well, why do I need to build a relationship with procurement and purchasing?
Here’s why. Let’s say that you’ve got 16 business units in your organization.
Those business units when they have a need. Typically, if you don’t have a strong relationship with them, the first thing they do is they go to purchasing and they say, hey, we want to open a purchase request for some sort of training solution.
And then purchasing opens that. They go find the vendors; they bring them in loveable as well.
We want to help the advocates of, hey, purchasing before you go out, Engage us.
Help us be proactive. Help us be a forethought. Bring us into that conversation because if it’s a training solution or vendor that you might be looking for, A, we might be able to solve it already internally or be we might know who you should be going out to in terms of sourcing for that work.
For finance, it will say why do we have to build a relationship with finance?
Well, at the end of the day, the CFO is responsible for understanding every aspect of all business units, and the CFO is accountable for defining how much money gets invested in learning and development. Finance is our friend. We need to understand the vocabulary, the measurement, the terminology that finance uses, so that we can speak the same language.
Often, finance, kind of laughs it.
Learning and development, because we’ll make statements like, hey, we have measurements for Roy that show that we’re, you know, these millions of dollars’ worth of value. And finances say, no, that’s not true, ROI. Because it’s very subjective. You don’t know the different inputs and outputs, that may be impacting that, and finance isn’t wrong.
But if we understand how finance measures, we can then pivot the way that we’re measuring as well. And so building these relationships really helps to strengthen our ability to be recognized as a trusted advisor. The other thing to take into consideration as you’re building this relationship is that they also may be order takers. Somebody may have passed them an order, and they’re just executing it to us. And so that’s why it’s important for us to practice empathy to take that into consideration. Because they made the under pressure, they may be trying to fulfill something that their boss told them to do, which their boss told them, and we’re just along as long line of the chain of order takers. And so having empathy is really important there. And to do that, we ask questions.
We use unpacking questions to try and figure out what the problem is that we’re trying to solve for qualitative research or empathy research.
If you’re familiar with Design Thinking, our job is to listen and ask more questions and listen more so we can gather more data points as many data points as we can. And also, part of the empathy is being discreet and having discretion.
And so, what I mean by that is, example, not bad-mouthing other business units or other people individual, because that is part of how we build trust is when we, when we have this relationship with somebody, and we think, oh, I can make a joke about somebody else, or I can share some feedback about a different business unit. The minute you do that, the person says, well, what makes me think that they wouldn’t do that about me, to somebody else?
And so, to be a trusted advisor, it means, to be respectful, to be empathetic, to be professional, and to have that discretion.
All right, Intention, what’s your why, what’s your purpose? What’s your motive? This is really, really important. I would say there’s three things here.
Do not sell proactive versus reactive and your attention. So here’s what I mean by that. I don’t believe in L&D that our job is to sell anything. Our job is to have the biggest toolkit possible. I want to have 20, 30, 40 different tools in there. I want to know every type of learning technology tool out there. I wanna know every vendor that’s out there. I want to test them out, I want to figure out what works, what doesn’t work.
I want to have a point of view on them, so that, based on the problem that we’re presented, we can go in the toolkit, and we can find a tool that may solve that business problem if a tool is appropriate or inappropriate. And so it’s our job to curate the vendors. I don’t want to introduce any vendor directly to my business partner, without me, already vetting them without me truly controlling that conversation. Because at the end of the day, that’s my reputation on the line.
And so, before a vendor comes into play, I’ve vetted them, I understand the business problem, I understand how this might work in our business unit.
And I understand, or have talked to, other clients who have used that tool so that I’ve got some experience with it.
I think it’s also important in terms of not selling that we focused on having disclaimers, disclosures, or sponsorships in L&D. or, I guess, most fields, but focusing on L&D. We have shiny objects syndrome, no, first it was, e-learning was going to change the world, then it was LMS, is we’re going to change the world. Now, it’s …, learner experience platforms are going to change the world. We’ve got a lot of people that have an agenda, that are trying to sell these solutions. Typically, it’s the people that work for those companies.
It’s our job to help see through that.
And to make sure that we are aware of any disclaimers, disclosures, or sponsorships of people pushing an agenda.
Our agenda is to support the business, to support our learners so that we are driving performance improvement not to sell any type of solution. Just because somebody on LinkedIn said, hey, and L XP is going to solve all your learning problems.
Learning technology tools are an enabler to help us get to a solution, but it is not the solution.
Being proactive versus reactive. So look for opportunities with your business partners. Think of continuous improvement. I believe that there’s huge component of being a trusted advisor is, again, not being reactive, to being proactive, and going out and having those discussions. And looking for those problems we’re learning may be able to help solve something, rather than waiting for those opportunities of those orders to come to us.
We want to move, from fixing what’s wrong to enabling what’s possible.
Can we do this by proactively having those conversations GM we do this twice a year. We will have a conversation towards the end of the year with our stakeholders, just to help define what the strategy is for the next year. And then we have a check in six months later to make sure that that’s still the strategy and approach that we want to be working towards. Then, we have in-between conversations, Of course, to make sure that we’re still on Target. But we’re proactively having those conversations rather than waiting for somebody to come to us.
And lastly, your attention, seeing the bigger picture. So, again, our role as an integrator, our role as a curator, rather than being siloed.
We want to help form the pictures for our business partners, connect them to maybe other business units, connect them to other individuals who may be having the same problem.
It’s one of the biggest values I see from our perspective, is that when we’re truly connected to the business, different parts of the business, we will then start to see, Oh! Wait, our engineering is having this type of problem. Well, you know what, safety actually has a similar problem, And I know that they’re both looking for maybe, VR solution. So, let’s help them partner together to find the right type of tool. So we can use and leverage economies of scale, We can have one contract, et cetera, et cetera. So, it helps us be a trusted advisor by integrating and seeing the bigger picture. Study your competitors, understand what’s happening in terms of future of work, What the 3-to-5-year evolution is, or is being talked about, so that you can bring that information back.
If you’re not familiar with future literacy, I would add that to your vocabulary and to your Google Scholar research and get familiar with some of the concepts of being future literate so that you can bring these discussions to your business partners proactively.
And, lastly, communication.
Our job is to be bold and to be provocateurs, to make sure that we’re asking the right questions, and asking more questions.
Asking for feedback, so that we understand where it is that we’re headed, where it is, that our business partners CS is being headed. How their relationship is going. And I say feedback, I’m not suggesting that we give feedback, because that’s often when we hear the word feedback, that’s what most people’s mindset jumped to his. Oh yeah, I can give feedback. Now, this is asking for feedback. So you can open that door for communication. You remember when you’re asking for feedback, The intention is for you just to listen and absorb that feedback and process it, not to immediately defend it or address it, right.
Being transparent with our business partners really helps to create that trust around that trusted advisor ship, being honest, and having difficult conversations.
This one is a tricky one. Being able to say no without saying no.
So, Sarah, I wanted to ask you, what one tip or what’s one trick that you use? How do you say no without using the word? No.
I don’t think that that will work. But have you considered this instead using some sort of redirection?
Mmm hmm, absolutely. I would say asking more questions. Like one of them that I use is wine. now.
Why? Why this?
Why do we need training for this right now?
Why not in six months, or why not six months ago? Or I’ll flip them, and I’ll just play devil’s advocate and say OK, what happens if we don’t do this?
What are the outcomes from that?
What would happen if I truly believe that this is not the right solution for this problem that they’re bringing to us, Then I will say to them, here’s why You don’t want us to do this. And I’ll actually use a cost benefit analysis around why they don’t want us to do this.
Saying, no, is not easy.
It is a skill set that we have to develop. And it looks like my screen again, in just a second, here.
All right. There we go. So it’s a skill set that we definitely have to develop. But it does take practice. And so, again, it’s a quick recap. We’ve got about one minute left here. So, trust is built. Credibility, reliability, intimacy, intention, communication. And so how do you change their mind? Well, first of all, it’s not easy.
It takes time to change the perceptions and beliefs and to build a brand. But it can be done. It happens slowly. Being a trusted advisor really requires knowing when and how hard to push the influence. Sometimes, we don’t want to push. Sometimes, if we can see that, that business partner is completely closed off. If we used our scale, and we figured out, hey, look, they’re not even open to this. From a maturity level standpoint, we may not want to push hard. We just slowly plant those seeds over time, and hopefully, they’ll begin to see us as a trusted advisor. But here’s the thing. We can still act like a trusted advisor.
We can still offer a best practices and research, and our practitioner skills, whether or not they want to accept it, that’s up to them, but by slowly doing that, we can begin to change their mind. When I think of it like that old saying dress for the job you want, will act like the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated as a trusted advisor, so I’m going to act like a trusted advisor.
Alright, with that, I know we are right at time here, so let me just switch to the last screen, Sarah, and then we can open it up and see if there’s any last-minute questions, or we can follow up, as well.
So you’re getting that one area through today.
Question, what’s the most challenging aspect of changing the stakeholder’s mindset from order takers?
That’s a great question.
So, the most difficult aspect, I would say, is, pushing back, is, is that no understanding how to influence and how to respectfully respond when you disagree with something. And I think that, again, the best way to kind of recap is asking the question, why now? What if we didn’t do this? What would happen maybe even begin conducting a cost benefit, that cost benefit analysis of why you don’t want us to do this. Because the cost that it might take, it might not produce enough value or results to show any return on investment. And then making sure that we’re using research to back up our, our discussion points, and so it’s taking it away from me.
It’s taking it away as being a personal appointed, my point of view, but I’m showing you data.
And I find that when you’re producing data or evidence, it makes it more easy.
It makes it easier for our business partners to digest that because they’re not looking at it and thinking, oh, we’ll keep doesn’t know, but it’s actually well. You know, Harvard Business tells us the store McKinsey tells us this and those are typically reputable firms that people trust. And so I look to pull in and other trusted advisors where I can to help build up my own credibility. Great question.
Great, and then that does bring us here to the top of the hour.
Alright! And today’s webinar, sponsored by HRDQ-U virtual seminars. Be sure to check out our curriculum, more than virtual instructor led online seminars to www.hrdqu.com/virtualseminars for more information, and make sure that you join you on your favorite social media site for quick access to all of our latest webinar events, and you can find us at HRDQ-U. This is all the time that we have for today. Thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you, Sarah, appreciate it.
And thank you all for participating in today’s webinar.
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