Be the Chief Learner. Walk the talk of being a visible learner yourself. Create a journal or blog about your own learning activities. Take a few of your organization’s own courses (classroom and online) and really take them — don’t just stand in the back or zoom in and out in a few hours. Wear a name tag, do the assignments and learn.
Once you get the title of chief learning officer, the challenge starts. Will this chapter of your life be a transformational experience for you and your organization? If we define “success” in the CLO role as making a significant difference in the performance and culture of the organization while having fun and being changed yourself, it will be a great trip. In observing dozens of CLOs over the past few years, I’ve noticed a pattern of “habits” of your more successful peers:
Be the Chief Reader. Books, articles and online resources should be part of your visible diet at the organization. Talk about the books that you are reading, the articles that provoke you and the Web sites that really got you thinking. Buy copies of books that rocked you for some of your colleagues. Be the “Oprah’s Book Club” of your company.
Promote Failure on the Way to Success. The mantra of the next-generation workforce will be to create games for, simulate or attempt new approaches that probably will fail before they work. Promote the concept of “failing” one’s way to success. You fell off the bicycle the first few times you rode it, and a great golf swing didn’t just happen overnight. Make failure on the pathway to success an indicator that learning and experimentation really are happening.
Get Scouts. Find a dozen people throughout the organization who will serve as scouts about trends, technologies, models, etc. Approach the people who have the most personal electronic gadgets on their belt or in their purse and ask them to be scouts. Get regular, informal e-mails from your scouts, and splurge on pizza “jawbone” sessions.
Add Silver and Next-Generation Team Members. Hire a learning associate who is younger than 25 and one who is two years away from retirement. They will keep you sharp and honest.
Challenge the Compliance Hurricane. While you have a large responsibility to keep your organization in legal compliance, is it time for you to occasionally push back when a dumb ruling comes down the line or from an external regulator?
Create a Sandbox. Experiment with learning approaches or interventions. Create an internal lab to try new models. Take one new-hire class and blow up the orientation model. Find an off-site Web provider to allow you to experiment with technology that your internal IT provider won’t get to for another three years.
Translate Business to Learning and Learning to Business. When you are with business units, translate the jargon of the learning field (LMS, Level 3 objectives, needs analyses) into business terms. When you are with learning colleagues, the same task applies to business terms (e.g. capital depreciation and wage/hour costs).
Ban Bad Stuff. Find a few things to passionately oppose. One CLO has a sign in his office that says “No Jerks,” signifying a 100 percent zero-tolerance of rude behavior. Another colleague has a pin she wears that says “No Spin.” Don’t be afraid to say no to threatening organizational behavior.
Join a Board.Find another company that is not competitive to yours and join its corporate board. You have much to contribute and learn. I sit on several boards, and it is the best business learning I do all year.
Coach and be Coached. Be a coach to another CLO and find one to coach you. Marshall Goldsmith and I coach each other 10 minutes a day by telephone. It keeps us focused and accountable.
Stay Awhile. There is a trend of rapid turnover in the CLO ranks. Settle down, buy some books and posters and make a commitment to authentic change. It takes time and patience.
Becoming a CLO is the easy part. Making a difference for your employees, your organization and yourself is the real work.
Elliott Masie is the CEO of The MASIE Center’s Learning Consortium. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Filed under: Talent Management