Friday, August 16, 2013

"And that sort of stuff ..." Do we believe what we teach?

It was a simple, off hand comment I overheard from a Learning and Development person
after we discussed some training focused on building leadership trust, recognition behaviors, team building and effective communication.  These behaviors are the heart of what makes leadership effective ...

BUT ...

It was the response that "we teach that sort of stuff..." which made me cringe.   I really wasn't sure what to make of it, but it dawned on me that I have heard that sort of thing before ... many, many times.  I have heard trainers, OD specialists, Change Managers, and HR team members refer to these skills as some peripheral set of tools in an offhanded way.  That's troubling. 

It's almost as if we don't really believe what we teach, yet we know, from research, experience and hard fought skill that these skills are essential for leadership success.

It's almost as if we believe this 'stuff' is good for other people, but not for us. 

It's almost as if somehow, we see these tools and techniques as things we discovered to help others, and we will somehow enlighten them. 

My father had a phrase: "Practice what you preach."  It has stuck with me for years, decades, a lifetime.  Essentially he meant, in his practical way; "if you think something is important enough to use as advice, you need to act it out.  It needs to be real.  Otherwise it is just words."

Implications to our practice (and my own practice):

When people who are not among the Training, Development, OD, and HR ranks hear us refer to training and skills as though they weren't essential parts of leadership, we diminish their belief in us and in the process we so boldly proclaim. 

This isn't just 'stuff' ... it isn't just a course someone takes.  It is real flesh-and-blood action that influences team members and organizations.

We need to take it seriously ... or others will not. 


  1. Jim, I think the issue is broader and deeper. Leadership is not learned in a classroom. We can arm people by providing them with clear expectations, frameworks, tools, foundational knowledge and skills ... but, and it is a big BUT, the real test and the real learning is day-to-day, in interacting with our people, trying to inspire, coach, mentor, and advise them.

    1. Agreed Don. I fully understand that ... I'm just concerned about a laissez-faire approach in conversation. "All that stuff just struck me pretty hard as 'it's just something we do.' Does that make sense?