What attracted you to learning and development?
Helping people and organizations. People often need new skills and knowledge to help them do their jobs better and progress in their careers. If people can thrive in their careers and better provide for themselves and their families, they can improve the quality of their lives. This is pretty cool and our “why” at Innovative Learning Group.
Tell us about creating Innovative Learning Group in 2004.
I started ILG when my previous company closed. It was either look for a new job or start a company. With minimal overhead and no debt, I was confident that opening a company was the smart move. In 48 hours, I was welcoming employees to my basement. It was me, five employees, six clients and multiple projects in process. Today, ILG has a corporate headquarters with 19 on-staff employees, more than 170 clients, and more than 2,300 projects completed. I’m very proud to say that ILG celebrated its 15-year anniversary in March.
What lessons throughout your career helped you get to where you are now?
I attribute my success to hard work and taking a practical, hands-on approach to running ILG. I’m very clear about what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at, and I make it a point to surround myself with talented people. It’s very natural for me to set a goal, determine the steps I need to get there and then work the plan every day. When I was growing up, I played instruments and sports. I learned you can’t start the recital piece the day before the concert or get in shape the day before the big game. You have to show up and practice daily with intense focus on the task at hand.
What’s your favorite piece of career advice?
Get out of the office and get engaged with a professional association. It’s not enough to just be a member. You have to get on committees and join the board. That’s how you build lasting relationships and learn new skills.
What factors are important in improving performance within an organization?
First, the organization must have a culture around expecting and supporting performance and results. With that as a backdrop, an organization shouldn’t just have a training department. The “training” department must have a broader scope. Not every corporate problem is solved with employees taking an e-learning course. The department must take a more overarching look at all the factors that impact performance, many of which are environmental.
What’s the most important thing an innovative leader of a company can regularly do to remain effective in their organization?
Great question, but it’s really hard to pick just one thing. I’d have to say that first you need to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally: Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and use an executive coach. Second, you have to live your company’s values. And third, you really have to get out and visit clients, and get an understanding of the challenges and issues they’re facing.
How do you view failure as it relates to innovation within your organization?
To me, failure is such a harsh word. I don’t see things as being a failure and don’t feel like we’ve had one in 15 years. I prefer to look at things as an experiment, and ask: What worked? What didn’t? It’s about trying new things, evaluating the results, and adjusting accordingly.
What are some of your favorite practices for gathering feedback from employees?
I just did this, in fact. As part of ILG’s annual business planning processes, I asked employees to email me their input for our SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — exercise. The insightful responses blew me away. Then, I followed up with one-on-one conversations to peel back the onion and gain an understanding of the comments at a deeper level.
Looking ahead: What’s in store for learning and development at ILG this year?
Partnering with learning leaders at our clients. I’ve consulted with many corporations, and let’s face it, the job of a learning leader is not easy. Part of ILG’s mantra this year is to help our client organizations focus on the five things I believe learning departments must look at: learning strategy, learning experiences, learning technology, learning execution and, finally, the internal marketing to get the word out about all the great things learning departments do.