There is nothing as refreshing as a beginning. A new job gives you the chance to learn from both the successes and failures of the past, to demonstrate what you are capable of doing and to simply reinvent yourself. Even if you are not new to your CLO role, the new year creates the opportunity to start a chapter in a continuing story. Here are three of my favorite “beginning” strategies:
Create a Personal Board of Directors
This is not the formal “executive learning governance council” that many organizations have. This is a group of trusted, personal advisers. Every CLO needs people to turn to for valuable advice and support. Select them with care. Don’t pick the usual suspects. Choose a cross section of people who will give you perspectives you don’t hold and relationships you don’t have. Find people you respect who can help you accelerate your professional learning and enhance your capabilities.
The best personal director I ever had was a highly successful, former executive. He had a keen insight into how the company worked. He knew about the less obvious yet high-potential opportunities. He helped me identify the possible landmines, and he was savvy about the historic, unmet needs of my company. Another of my favorite advisers was from an entirely different bent. She was the leader of a nonprofit and was one of the best leaders I have ever met. Don’t be afraid to find people outside your industry. They bring a new view that can profoundly energize your plans. By the way, be sure to make the task rewarding for your advisers, or you will find their other priorities make it nearly impossible for you to get their time.
Advance Your Boss’ Goals
This sounds simple, but I am always amazed that people so often ignore what their immediate manager tries to achieve. The most successful CLOs are in full control of their egos and see that the CEO is really the head of the learning organization. Maybe you are lucky, and your CEO has a real appetite for learning. If not, you still can create a direct link between the organization’s business direction and the learning agenda. For example, I love the way Ted Hoff at IBM has found a way to support CEO Sam Palmisano’s drive to use new IBM technology and service offerings as a way to provide learning opportunities within the company. Look for that which drives your CEO’s business agenda and find the most direct way to employ learning to support its advancement. Ask your CEO to take an active part in sponsoring these learning efforts and to lead the creation of a learning culture. There is no substitute for the active learning leadership of the most senior leader in your company. Your job is to make it attractive and rewarding for the CEO to be the No. 1 advocate for learning in your company.
Celebrate Your Clients’ Achievements
Start planning a learning conference in 2007. Invite organizational leaders who have a passion for learning, as well as the people who are responsible for learning and development in each business unit or department. Get some of these learning professionals to make presentations about what they do and how it makes a difference for the business. Also, specifically ask some of the clients who successfully use your products or services to make presentations about their experiences. Invite a provocative outside speaker to challenge and inspire the group to work together to advance learning efforts in your company. Make it a festive celebration of achievement, collaboration and new ideas.
A new CLO has the opportunity to enter an organization only one time. To a significant extent, what you will be able to do depends on the way you enter. Classic errors such as coming in with all the answers or an unwillingness to learn from the history of efforts that preceded you are fairly obvious. Less obvious is the cultural context in which you must work. If you will engage a personal board of directors with cultural insight, ensure learning efforts support the CEO’s priorities and make your clients the heroes through the use of methods such as a learning conference that features their success, you are sure to make the most of your new job and this new year. May it be your best!
Fred Harburg is a managing partner at Venture Works and has held numerous international leadership roles at IBM, GM, Disney, AT&T and Motorola. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Filed under: Technology