Company X is a health care organization committed to providing its medical and administrative staff state-of-the art training and development. Company Y is a gifted innovation firm committed to creating great impact through design. Company Z, a law enforcement organization, puts members of its workforce through leadership development training regularly. Company A, a financial services organization, invests significantly in leadership, management, culture, and diversity and inclusion training. And Company B, a hospitality organization, puts its executives through leadership training to help them inspire their teams more powerfully and give more effective feedback.
All of these companies want their staff to be well versed and fully trained in their specific jobs as well as in management and leadership practices. They do their work, do their due diligence for the right types of training and the best ways to serve their workforce, provide the training (some keeping it internal and others bringing in outside partners), and then send their people back to their jobs waiting for it all to kick in.
In many cases, it does. The training works, skills are up-leveled and people are better at their jobs (though they may still be tired, busy and overwhelmed). In some cases, it has light impact, with slightly noticeable upgrades in skills and abilities (and people may still be tired, busy and overwhelmed).
In some cases, especially when the people who went through the training are leaders, the training does more harm than good. They return to their jobs “trained and skilled up,” but they may still be busy, exhausted and overwhelmed, and the way they “do” their new skills makes their team members and colleagues feel not great, not inspired, not seen and not cared for.
The intentions for training in all of these cases are solid: give employees tools and resources to be better at what they do, build team and community, create a shared skill set and language in the company, and improve performance individually and collectively. The skills taught are on point — excellent, even. The people who go to the training, for the most part, want to be there. The people affected by the people participating in the training are, for the most part, happy for their leaders and colleagues to have better skills. Yet, in many of these cases, the training results are either “just OK” or have the opposite of the intended effect on connection, inspiration and morale.
In many of these cases, while the participants learn to “do” the skills — to be better at giving feedback, at leading, at communicating, at navigating conflict and/or at practicing their craft — they don’t learn to “be” the skills. If they do, they tend to, and even prioritize, their own well-being and energy in doing them.
In other words, they’re missing the “soft stuff.” They’re missing nourishing and working what I call their Intentional Energetic Presence® (IEP). They’re missing that secret sauce that makes people feel seen, connected, inspired, present and energized. Our IEP is how we show up. It’s being intentional about the energy and presence we bring to anything we do. It’s the intangible way of being that the most effective leaders and influencers have.
Like food coloring in water, our IEP colors how we feel — and how we make others feel — while we “do” our skills and competencies. Our intentions, energy and presence are ever-present. We may just not have clear awareness of them, or be able to put words to them.
People feel our intentions (or lack of intention) toward them and our presence (or lack of presence) when we’re with them. If our intentions are not clean and clear, if we’re exhausted and burned out, and if we’re not present, it does not matter how many skills we have, we’re missing the opportunity to make the most positive impact possible. In some cases, we’re even creating more harm than good.
Consider the leader who receives great feedback skills training and then walks into a feedback conversation scattered, hurried and in a state of judgment toward his employee. He may be giving good feedback, but he will not have the impact he wants (and needs) to have. His employee will not be able to receive it fully when the leader gives it with that type of energy. In this case, the leader is missing a clear intention of service as well as positive regard, energy and presence.
Consider the leadership team you just put through training. The leaders return to work saying they’re now trained (maybe even certified) in the latest “leadership initiative.” Their staff members are excited. The leaders “do” the leadership skills, but they don’t tend to the intentions, energy and presence essential to accompanying them. They leave their employees feeling worse and confused. Now, you have a gap in trust and credibility, and employees likely are not inspired to give their best.
Consider the person you hire who has a gorgeous resume with lots of skills and credentials. She may even make you a lot of money, but she makes everyone around her feel small, “less than” and disregarded. This “A” player will quickly cost you in trust, team morale and other “A” players’ performance levels. Meanwhile, other employees will wonder why this behavior is tolerated and will learn to match it, avoid collaborating with this person altogether or leave your organization.
Consider your top performer, a go-getter who serves everyone, stays late, says “yes” to everything and attends all career development opportunities … but is exhausted, burning out and not taking care of himself. This type of behavior is not sustainable and will likely cost you more in the long run.
What Is the Solution?
The solution is so simple that we miss it all the time: Make sure that your training tends to the soft stuff. Make space for, and even prioritize, the intangibles. Invite learners to consider and “do the work” around the intentions, energy and presence they bring to their skills.
Ask these five questions:
- What is my intention?
- What is the energy I’m bringing to the table?
- How am I nourishing my energy so that I have the energy and stamina to do this work?
- What is my presence? (How present am I?)
- How am I showing up as I do this skill?
Awareness is most of the battle here. Once people have awareness of the soft stuff (which is really titanium) and their IEP, they have power.
The most powerful way to create change now? Start with yourself first as a talent leader and human being who is working to create change and level up the abilities and impact of the people you work with. Apply these questions to your life, your leadership and even to your process as you create programs that serve. Then, see what happens. Your workforce — and your bottom line — will thank you.