The job of a learning and development (L&D) leader is complex. Not only do you manage relationships with other leaders, departments, vendors and subject matter experts (SMEs), but if you are lucky enough to be more than a department of one, you also need to lead and develop those on your team!
Sometimes this can be more challenging than it sounds; how do you lead and develop other training professionals while also managing the entire training function?
Here are four considerations to keep in mind when leading an L&D team.
1. Remember the difference between training and coaching.
As a training professional, this might seem obvious, but sometimes it is difficult to remove the “training hat” and put this into practice. However, when you are managing other training professionals, it’s important to shift into coaching mode as much as possible, when it’s appropriate. Remember that as a learning leader, you are not only responsible for the company’s overall training strategy but also for growing and developing your people. When it comes to your L&D team, while you occasionally will be training them on a new skill, you must remember to coach your more experienced people. Whenever possible, fight the urge to give advice and instead ask questions that will lead your team to discover answers on their own. Doing this will help you develop a high-performing team of training professionals.
2. Help your team members shift from being order takers to performance consultants.
One of the most valuable things you can develop in your team is how to become a performance consultant instead of an order taker. Too often, a problem arises, and training is called in to train or re-train a particular skill. This is known as ‘order taking’ because training is being requested on a certain topic. But sometimes the problem can’t actually be solved with training; maybe there is an attitude or cultural problem that needs to be addressed instead. Or, maybe the root cause of the problem is something different than what was initially identified. Teach your team strategic alignment; how to ask questions and become a strategic partner by ensuring that training actually produces the desired results for the business!
3. Don’t forget to sharpen your saw.
As a learning leader, you need to model the value of learning by continuing to sharpen your saw. This means that you need to make time for your own growth, development and learning! Time is the biggest excuse given for why people don’t learn new things, but as a learning leader if you and your team don’t make time learn, how can you expect anyone else to? When you learn something new, share it with your team to model consistent growth. Encourage your people to learn a new skill and make it a regular part of your performance discussions. The corporate training industry is constantly innovating and evolving, so it’s important for you and your team members to understand changes in the industry and how you might apply it to your business. There are so many ways to learn new things: Sign up for blogs, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, certificate programs, etc. The options are endless — you just need to make it a priority.
4. Build your leadership awareness.
As a training leader, you might be responsible for establishing or maintaining leadership training for your company. There are several leadership competencies, models and frameworks which can help define skills and processes that you might want to develop. However, in the theme of sharpening your saw, one of the most important parts of leading a team of training managers is self-awareness. This requires the vulnerability to admit that you might not always have the answers and that you are constantly learning yourself. Regularly reflect on your leadership style and ensure that whatever approach you take, that it is authentic to who you are. Ask your team for feedback and ensure that you continue to grow as a leader, because the road to self-improvement never ends, especially when it comes to leadership!
Leadership at any level is not easy, and it can be particularly challenging to lead individuals who are responsible for training others. However, if you can apply these four tips, you should be well on your way to having a strong and engaged training team.