My question is around building the skill sets needed to be a CLO. I have 11 years in the consulting industry, centering around change management specifically as it applies to end-user training. Prior to consulting, I was a college professor, so I have experienced multiple learning environments and student challenges. What does it take to get over the hump of a training manager/training lead to that position of leadership? I feel like I am missing a key piece of information/training/experience that would validate my experience and help direct my job search.
I started my career at Qualcomm as an intern. I was a single-person training organization and I did everything from ordering the muffins for classes to designing curriculum and creating an enterprise training strategy for the CEO. Hard work and perseverance led me to my current leadership role. I run into great training managers almost every day. What separates them from highly successful CLOs isn’t necessarily their skills, it’s the way they think and act.
CLOs have a broad perspective. They think holistically about how the work they do directly impacts individual and organizational performance. They continuously learn about the business and about learning. They are visionary and masterful at creating a compelling case for the value of what they do. Creating a learning organization — one that values the learning function and its deliverables — is difficult, especially today when companies are struggling to survive and are more focused on cutting costs than business growth. Try to find a role in an organization that truly values learning. Attend conferences, stretch your thinking and network with folks in and out of the learning profession. The more you grow as a person and gain formal and informal learning experiences, the more ready you will be for a leadership role in learning.
In the April 2009 issue of Chief Learning Officer, you say that external executive coaches are being overused in organizations. First, the person who sent the original question is not using them at all, as far as we can tell from his question. Why would he be concerned about overuse as opposed to proper use? Secondly, you made the assumption he is talking about external coaches, which I don’t think is clear from his question. When I was at ADP in the late 1990s, I helped develop an internal coaching program for leaders that was very effective and, last I heard, was still in use. An internal program presents lots of interesting possibilities about targeting use, development of high- potential candidates, and so on. Clearly I am a fan of what can be accomplished with coaching. I do agree, however, that organizations do need to exercise caution. Moderation in all things, right?
Thanks for your comment. I fully agree that proper use of executive coaches is essential and too much of anything can be a bad thing. What I have seen over the years, and what my comments were based on, is an increase and overuse of external executive coaches. The heavy reliance that some companies have on external coaches minimizes a key management role — that of coach and mentor. Based on your support of internal coaching programs, you obviously agree that a manager’s role is to coach and develop their employees. As you suggest, internal coaching is an excellent example of how organizations can use internal leaders to build the leadership capabilities of their staff. Hopefully, more companies will adopt effective internal coaching programs like the one you created.
I am considering starting my own company to create training for small- to mid-sized-companies that do not have their own training development department. Is there a market for that?
There are lots of opportunities for vendors to assist companies with their development of employees. Many companies, both large and small, outsource their training assessment/evaluation, design, delivery and measurement. The key for starting your own business is to conduct significant market research to determine what competitors exist and find a niche. Create a company that can offer a product or service that can fill a critical gap in the marketplace. Small companies are in unique positions to be flexible and creative in how they operate, so that could be an interesting niche market for your company. Best of luck and let us know how it goes.
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