5 Moments of Need

Experience Matters | Do Something!

Published On: March 9th, 2022
Experience Matters | Do Something!

This blog is excerpted from the Performance
Matters Podcast. In
this episode host Bob Mosher sat down with Doug Holt, the Executive Directors of the
Training Institute at the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency
(CIGIE), to talk about their approach to learning and how Doug is getting
others to join the party!

Bob Mosher (BM): I am extremely excited for today’s podcast as I get to spend time
with a dear friend, one of my heroes in the space, and a learning leader of
great stature in our area. Mr. Doug Holt. It’s great to have you here. Doug,

Doug Holt (DH):  Thank you,
Bob. I’m really glad to be here excited to have this chat.

BM: We’re kindred spirits around our strong feelings about the direction
of L&D and that it should be all about performance. We both bang the drum
around this shift—shifting away from training-first and instead putting
performance-first. What was your “aha” that changed the way you view training?

DH: I vividly remember it; it was at an ATD event. And you were the
presenter. This was maybe eight or nine years ago at this point, but your
comments really filled in the answers to some of the major questions I was
asking myself about the L&D profession as a whole. For example, “if
training works, why doesn’t it work?” “Why is it that we always must make a
circumstantial case to demonstrate ROI, if I can use that term, instead of a
direct evidence case?”

So, as you were sitting there going through your methodology and
general thoughts about the L&D field, suddenly everything made sense and I
think I went up to you right after and said, “Hi, I’m Doug, and I want you to
come talk to us.” That was it.

BM: We did, and so the journey began. But why do you think our
industry finds this shift so hard?

DH: Well, I think there are a number of factors that come into play.
I’ll list a few, but I’m sure there are more.

First one is we’re shaped by our experiences and our collective
experiences. Learners in the K through 12, or K through college model, or
slight variations thereof, it’s what we know. And you can look at most of what
happens and see yep, that’s the K through 12 model really. One of the things
that I used to do at DIA when I was trying to make the point that we need to do
things differently is I would put up an image of learning in the Middle Ages. It
was a guy standing at a lectern talking to rows of people who were just kind of
passed out because they were so bored. In my presentation I’d say, “you see
much difference between this and what we do today?” And of course, the answer was
always “no, it’s largely the same”. In my mind, we’ve been doing the same thing
the same way since the Middle Ages. So that’s some pretty significant shaping,
that would be number one.

Number two, in my experience, most people enter the learning field
as a collateral duty, to fill some kind of role that they don’t know much
about. That’s how I got into it. They learn what to do from those who preceded
them, who learned from the people before them, and so on and so forth. It’s
sort of a hand me down, here’s what I know. And I’m going to teach you what I
know, there’s no right way to do it. There’s just lots of flavors of the month
that we encounter, and people run to this one or that one. But there’s no sort
of central standards that people tie to, or body of research that people know
about, or whatever, you know what I mean, it’s just kind of like we’re all
winging it.

Number three, and this is a big one—administrative convenience. It
is much easier to do Monday through Friday, eight to five, I just bring you in,
do the teaching thing and then turn you lose and you go back to work the next
week. As opposed to, I have to figure out a way to chunk your learning to bring
you in for a couple hours here, a couple hours there, maybe make some virtual
kind of things. And you know, that’s really hard to do. And so, we default to
the thing that we know. I also think that practical reality really does work
against us in a lot of ways and that it’s often hard for learners themselves to
engage in ways that research might tell us they learn best.

So, it’s that combination of things, and others, but it’s a pretty
steep hill to be pushing this rock we’re pushing up.  

BM:  Well, I think
that plays perfectly into my next question. For those listening, who are going
to make this pivot, what challenges lie ahead for these learning leaders and
their teams who want to embark on this performance-first journey?

DH: You have to first understand that you are the outlier, you are the
heretic, you’re the different one and you have to get comfortable with that. I
love it.

Second would be resistance and that could be from within your own
team. They may not be comfortable with it; they may not understand it. You are
going to get some resistance from your team and it’s not personal. It is just
different. Some people within the team will gravitate right to it, others will
not. Then, some will be in the middle, but you have to be okay with it and work
with people over time, meet them where they are and grow together until you get
to a point where everything’s working.

Third, unlearning and relearning. And this, I mentioned up front,
that I was originally hired because I didn’t know anything. And I found myself
saying the other day, from here on out, I’m only hiring people who don’t have a
clue about anything to do with learning so that we can work with them; it’s
much easier to work with a blank slate. I then thought, oh my gosh, you know, I
have become the person that hired me. I reflected on it, they were hiring me to
do traditional things, maybe in nontraditional ways, but traditional things.
And the struggle previously, or the struggle that they were fighting against, was
applying traditional learning in a nontraditional format, but it was still

So, it’s a lot easier to work with people who are starting from
knowing nothing than it is to start from a base of people who have really
worked in this field for a long time and have deeply ingrained beliefs or are
simply just accustomed to doing it this way.

That brings me to another one—the ability to maintain strategic
patience. This is probably the hardest of all the challenges because you run
into so many delays and roadblocks and frustrations. So, it’s just maintaining
a view of the North Star. Therefore, this is one of those things where you want
to involve everybody upfront. But the practical reality is, you can’t, you have
to work with a smaller team. So, then you have those folks who are in and those
folks are out and managing the relationships becomes very challenging. And then
when do you bring them in? You know, there’s a point where you have to expand
the circle here, but when and how and have you burned bridges by that point
that you know, they don’t want to be in your circle anymore? Because you didn’t
let them in at the beginning? Yep.

And then the last thing, once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
Once you’ve seen the flaws of the traditional and the goodness of the new. It’s
just going to be the thing that gets under your skin. So, if you’re not
prepared to have something under your skin that’s pushing you forward every day
and making you crazy that you haven’t fixed it yet. Don’t get into it, because
it will absolutely do that.

BM: Perfect. So, appreciate you’ve always been so willing to share the
good, bad, and the ugly of what you’ve been through. So, appreciate your candor
and directness about the whole thing because like my dad always said, “there’s
good things in everything”. And as L&D professionals, there’s never been a
better time than now for us to support performance in this way. 

For Bob and Doug’s full performance-first discussion, listen to the
full episode.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up to date on all the latest
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