Busting The Training Myth

Whenever I ask a group of people to identify the learning experiences that accelerated their career, people never identify a training course or any university class as their ‘career accelerator’. It is always an exposure to different companies, functions, cultures or a challenging assignment that had the most impact on peoples careers.

This strengthens my aversion to formal classroom training! I personally believe that in a majority of cases they are a waste of company money and effort. I have been saying this now for many years and slowly a body of formal evidence is popping up that confirms my personal experience, specifically on leadership and competency development.

The Center of Creative Leadership has now found that about 70% of organizational learning takes place on the job, through problem solving and through challenging assignments and other day-to-day activities. Another 20% occurs through drawing on the knowledge of others in the workplace; from informal learning to coaching and mentoring, and from support and direction from managers and colleagues. Only 10% occurs through formal learning, such as the classroom, a workshop or, more recently, e-learning. This insight is slowly becoming the 70-20-10 rule for organizational learning.

The interesting part of course is that most organizations invest at least 80%of their training budgets in formal learning, where little of the learning takes place. Having been there and done that I know why this is happening. It is because it is the easiest way out. It is very easy to ‘outsource’ the responsibility of developing your subordinates to a trainer and blame the ineffectiveness of the training, or the training department, if there is no tangible performance improvement.

So what are more effective sources of leadership learning? The Center of Creative Leadership studies have found that a number of universally important sources of leadership learning stand out from studies different countries across the world:

  1. Bosses and superiors
  2. Turnarounds
  3. Increases in job scope
  4. Horizontal moves
  5. New initiatives
  6. And specifically for South Asia: personal experiences and crossing cultures

So instead of a training course this year for your subordinate, think about how you can create a learning experience that has impact and lasts. Think about how you can help and how you can give your team member a hand’s on learning experience.

– Paul Keijzer

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Joint Leadership

I had a tremendous experience in Panama as part of the Mother Nature CEO Program. One of the great factors of this experience was getting so see joint leadership in action. Earthtrain, the NGO that brought all of us together and organized the Mother Nature CEO Program, is led by two remarkable people: Nathan Gray and Lidar Sucre.

Photography by Duncan Grossart

Nathan and Lidar are both Co-executive directors of Earthtrain. Yes, both of them are jointly responsible for implementing this amazing vision of preserving the bio and cultural diversity of the Maomi Valley Preserve. According to Lidar; the Preserve’s conservation and restoration efforts are strengthening one of the most important areas for the protection of biodiversity in the world.

In all my experience I have rarely seen such a successful joint leadership and having watched them in action for a week, I’ve made a couple of observations on how they pulled it off.

Firstly, both had very different and complimentary strengths. This is of course not uncommon, but what I noticed was that both were very comfortable in recognizing and letting the other person play to his strengths.

Secondly, they were constantly checking in with each other. Whilst making statements, or making sure whether they were on the right track, they stayed in sync with one another. This was not intentional but came to them very subconsciously, and as a result they were never moving forward or making decisions without the other being on board. Although I understand where this can be interpreted as very inefficient and time consuming, they did it in such a natural way that it didn’t hinder their organizational progress, whilst obviously making full use of their complimentary skills sets.

And finally I think what made them work as one unit was the mutual respect they had for each other. This had formed a relationship that had developed over the years into a bond of trust and loyalty that was difficult to break.

I am sure they have gone through tremendous difficulties through the years, to come to where they are now. I admire not only their relationship, but even more so their commitment to their vision. The realization that they would be able to achieve their goal faster and better together than alone has kept them together.

– Paul Keijzer

Mother Nature CEO. Panama 2012

People have always asked me if it is really worth it to fly halfway cross the world, spend a week in the jungle and spend money to join a hiking expedition in the jungle? I never know what to say, because each adventure appeals to different sides of me and I can never think of one specific reason to explain my actions.

The interesting thing is that I nominated myself for this latest opportunity in Panama. It was a moment of instinct rather than having considered all the aspects, and I must admit that going to a country like Panama that I had never been to was the main reason. As a result of my impulsive actions I went with little expectation and during my 44 hour flight to Panama frequently cursed myself for having made this decision.

Now on the way back I realize that sometimes, intuitive decisions are the best decisions. The opportunity and the inspiration I have gained from seeing people who are extremely passionate about a vision and being able to pull off the impossible and at the same time do good for this planet, was in itself worth the trouble.

Another enticing factor was the opportunity to immerse myself for 6 days in the jungle. I was excited at the idea of getting physically exhausted, doing things that I have never done before, meeting amazing individuals and getting to share life stories with people who have very different experiences. Above all, I could not wait to see Mother Nature from close-up in action.

I was reminded of the understanding of how everything in an Eco system has a role and that no one can function without the other. How in some instances a blooming flower has developed a unique partnership with a single humming bird species to get its pollen distributed. How vines piggyback on trees and in then ‘strangle and merge’ with the tree to create a new entity. How plants and animals adapt to counter changes in their environment and of course how everything in nature is about long-term survival and growth.

There are so many similarities and so many things that we in the business world do that are diagonally opposite to how nature works and then are surprised if things don’t work out in a way that is sustainable over a longer period. You might say that we know this of course and this is nothing new, and I can’t agree more. But sometimes it helps if you are being reminded of all these principles and encouraged to apply them again.

– Paul Keijzer

My New Hero

I have a new hero and his name is John deCuellas. He is a linguist from Cambridge Massachusetts whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my adventures in Panama. John is 81 years old and participated with the rest of us team members in the Mother Nature CEO program we just took part in and completed in the jungle of Panama.

This was not like any ordinary program. This was a unique adventure program, with jungle hikes and kayaking, where we slept for days in tents with little comfort and interacted with the natives from various villages. John did everything everybody else did; he hiked for 6 hours, waded through streams, descended on a rope through steep hills, plunged down waterfalls and rapids and contributed to all chores that needed to be done.

81 years old and he had not one complaint. Declining any offer for help and assistance, he just kept going.

I found his strength and willingness at his age to be inspiring, so I had to ask him what it is that drives him to do these things. For him, it was the fun and excitement of doing new things that made him adventurous.

How do you do it I said? And his answer was as simple and humble as you would expect from him; if your mind wants to do it you can do anything.

The funny thing is, I think John will still be doing this when he is 90!

He is my new Hero!

I can only hope I can keep my mind controlling my body and be able to do a fraction of what John does when I am his age.

– Paul Keijzer

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Joint Leadership
Mother Nature CEO

Ten Tips To Turn Around Your Dysfunctional Team

Working with a team means there will always be ups and downs – and as a team leader finding the solution to a high performing team is your responsibility. Here are a few tips that can help you with what you need to turnaround your dysfunctional team:

1. Rid your team of the non-performers.
You will save yourself a lot of time and goodwill with your team members if you immediately get rid of those in the team that do not add any benefits. You will soon notice a shift in energy and a change in the way your team comes together.

2. Fill your team with capable people with the right attitude.
Teams only work well when everyone feels they are working as one and not being slowed down by others. Make sure you hire those individuals that have attention to detail and most importantly always follow through.

3. Be clear of your vision and what needs to be done to achieve it.
As group leader, you need to have a clear picture of what your vision is and of the means needed to accomplish it. Your vision should have milestones so that your team can keep track of their progress in relation to the overall goal. Don’t leave them wondering, let them be clear on what needs to be done.

4. Make your ideas theirs.
People hate being told what to do. Instead of instructing your team on what you want and need done, interact and ask them in a way that will make them feel like they came up with the idea. Keeping team members actively involved in decision-making helps motivate them to work harder.

5. Be generous with praise.
Praise is something everyone wants and it’s one of the easiest things to give. A simple “thank you” or “good job” can go a lot farther than you might think. Praise improvements that you see your team members make and let them know their hard work does not go unnoticed.

6. Schedule regular face time with your team members.
If you maintain the notion of an ‘open door policy’ then stick to your word. The best bosses that are able to maintain the best teams understand the importance of ‘checking in’ and keeping open dialogue and communication with every team member. If it doesn’t happen, the team can start to gradually drift apart.

7. Conduct your performance reviews to be most effective.
Performance reviews are an extremely effective way to communicate with employees and get a sense of where they feel they stand within your team. Performance reviews are huge predictors of team performance and help both the team member and leader understand and appreciate the other.

8. Hold individuals accountable.
If a team member is not pulling their weight, as the leader, you have to call them on that. Approach the matter with honestly and discretion, getting your point across as suggestive and constructive instead of feeling like you are accusing anyone. Other team members who are pulling their weight will appreciate you for taking control of the matter.

9. Give the team recognition and small rewards.
Every member of your team wants to be appreciated for their hard work. Recognizing their efforts and rewarding them will keep them motivated. These gestures can be small and effective. For example, give a shout out to someone during a company meeting for what he/she has accomplished that week. Run inner office contests or games or even try rewards like trophies, certificates, and plaques.

10. Share the ups and downs.
When your company or team does well, celebrate. It is a great way to let everyone know that you’re thankful for his or her hard work. If there are disappointments, share those too. If you expect high performance, your team deserves to know where the company stands. The most important factor is to always be honest.