The Curse of Training: Why We Hate It and What Can Save It

Randy and Carmen are back! And this week, they’re talking about training. No… don’t leave! You’re going to want to hear what these two have to say about this important topic.

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Podcast Transcript

  • (Music)
  • Randy:  Welcome to the Evolutionaries Podcast. I’m Randy Harrington.
  • Carmen:  And I’m Carmen Voilleque.
  • Randy:  And today we’re going to talk about training and … .
  • Carmen:  (Laughs) But don’t, don’t leave. Don’t stop listening. (Laughs)
  • Randy:  I know. I know. And this is exactly right. It’s like, “Hell, I don’t want to listen to that, oh geez …”
  • Carmen:  “Oh my God. I don’t want to listen to that one!” (Laughs)
  • Randy:  “Training, oh my gosh.” That’s exactly that … that’s what we’re actually talking about right now is that uh, uh, training as a word has really just been …
  • Carmen:  Big thumbs down.
  • Randy:  It gets beaten up all the time and I have to confess, I’m one of those people who throws training under the bus constantly …
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  When … when I’m working.
  • Carmen:  Yes.
  • Randy:  Either as a speaker or as a consultant or whatever.
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  Uh, because …
  • Carmen:  As do I.
  • Randy:  It’s misapplied, mismanaged, misdelivered and so frequently worthless that it … it … it actually deserves the reputation. It’s like saying fast food is unhealthy.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  Well, yeah.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  It kind of is.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  So, (laughs) you know …
  • Carmen:  Yeah.
  • Randy:  Let’s just get over it and tell it like it is.
  • Carmen:  Yeah.
  • Randy:  On the other hand, what we want to make the point about today is that it is integral. It’s critical.
  • Carmen:  Yes, yes. Well, fast food may be unhealthy, but we do, in fact, need food.
  • Randy:  There you go.
  • Carmen:  So, you know …
  • Randy:  And making it quicker and you know, convenient isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • Carmen:  It’s not a bad impulse. (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Right. It’s, it’s …
  • Carmen:  So the motives are in the right place.
  • Randy:  Yeah, exactly.
  • Carmen:  By the …
  • Randy:  It’s just uh …
  • Carmen:  So, so the outcomes are, are often questionable.
  • Randy:  So you wrote a, a blog recently that’s gotten a little bit of traffic here. It was, uh …
  • Carmen:  I did. I did. I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago called Training’s Reputation Takes Another Blow.
  • Randy:  Yet another and uh …
  • Carmen:  Yet another blow uh, with the IRS fiasco.
  • Randy:  The I … and now this has been around in the news for at least a year.
  • Carmen:  Yeah.
  • Randy:  But because of the IRS Tea Party kerfuffle …
  • Carmen:  Yeah, yeah, kerfuffle. Let’s call it that.
  • Randy:  Uh, it sort of came back up again …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  As IRS people are now in front of Congressional committees …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … and having to testify.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … and of course, the very first thing that the Congress people want to do [00:02:00] is flout the fact that they had a meeting …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … at a resort.
  • Carmen:  They ate food there.
  • Randy:  They ate food.
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  And it was nice food. Most of it was reasonable …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … was like prepared. (Laughs)
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … and warm.
  • Carmen:  (Laughs) They got gift baskets.
  • Randy:  They had gift baskets, which is inconceivable.
  • Carmen:  It came out to about $25 a person, if you can imagine.
  • Randy:  Madness.
  • Carmen:  I know.
  • Randy:  Not only that, but the executives who were speaking at this meeting had videos that were humorous.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative) It seems they might have had fun there.
  • Randy:  Uh, in … I know, which …
  • Carmen:  … is a big problem.
  • Randy:  To equate the IRS with fun or …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … or … and one of them was a Star Trek parody …
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Where they paid $50,000 to make a video.
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Where they were introducing these new concepts …
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  … and they had used this Star Trek parody.
  • Carmen:  Yeah.
  • Randy:  … and the Congress people were quick to say, “That is a serious waste of time and money.”
  • Carmen:  Yes.
  • Randy:  Yeah, and uh, here in Eugene, uh, we’ve recently had the experience … Eugene, Oregon … our school administrator was recently roasted because two special education teachers …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … at the end of this school year …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … went to a trip to learn about new techniques in special education …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … in Hawaii. Yup, they got on a plane. They went to Hawaii and they went to a conference and then they came back. And the paper found out about it. The paper asked the school administrator. The school administrator said, “Yeah, that was the wrong signal to send.”
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  If that had been a conference in San Diego, it would have been okay.
  • Carmen:  It would have been okay.
  • Randy:  But …
  • Carmen:  But if it was in Hawaii …
  • Randy:  In Hawaii, no sirree bob.
  • Carmen:  And so, here … here’s … here’s our beef, I guess. It’s not so much that there maybe was not inappropriate spending by the IRS. And this is taxpayer money and I think that there certainly are some uh, valid questions being raised there, but that the conversation is not around the content quality. [00:04:00] Did they learn anything at the training? Was the training important? Um, do people need to be developed?
  • Randy:  Right. Well, I can tell you if you’ve been to any conference in the universe, you know that there are certain things that people expect in a conference.
  • Carmen:  Right. (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Food.
  • Carmen:  It’s like …
  • Randy:  … is like the one … (Laughing)
  • Carmen:  You know, I … I have two big things to say here. (Laughing) So first one is, um, I have, by the way, been sent by an organization I used to work for to that education conference in Hawaii.
  • Randy:  Uh-huh. (affirmative)
  • Carmen:  Not the special education, but regular education conference.
  • Randy:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Carmen:  And it is one, to this day, one of the very best conferences I have ever attended. I still have notes from it that I refer to. The papers that were read there, the research that was done and presented, it was phenomenal.
  • Randy:  It is. It’s cutting-edge.
  • Carmen:  And I’ll tell you something else, I didn’t see very much of Hawaii when I was there …
  • Randy:  Right.
  • Carmen:  … because that conference was rigorous.
  • Randy:  Right.
  • Carmen:  So that’s … that’s one thing I’m going to say. (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Uh, cool and … and you know two … two … it’s been very interesting because there have been a number of people writing letters to the editor saying, “Shame on you, administrator, for not standing up for your people, first of all. And secondly, what do we expect?” I mean, people have to …
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  … we want … we want world class education here.
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  But, but, “My gosh, if you have to go someplace nice to get trained,” uh …
  • Carmen:  Conferences now can only happen out in the desert … (laughs)
  • Randy:  Yeah, I think …
  • Carmen:  Where you … (laughs)
  • Randy:  Inner city destroyed.
  • Carmen:  … Where you joked and said to me, “And bring your … you have to bring your own tent … ”
  • Randy:  Bring your own tent and a little pad …
  • Carmen:  … and your own little ball … (laughs)
  • Randy:  … that you can sleep on and …
  • Carmen:  Yeah.
  • Randy:  … and … and camp out with.
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Yeah, I … I mean, it’s just … it’s absolutely ridiculous. Now, I think this is … this is a reaction from the economy. I think the fact that …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … we are you know, the economy is so beaten up, the idea that people would spend money to travel anywhere to do anything …
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  … was crazy there. From 2008 to 2011 …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … you just didn’t do it. Uh, your travel budgets just got slashed.
  • Carmen:  They did.
  • Randy:  … and you didn’t go anywhere.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  But I think we suffered as a result of it because whether we like it or not, we are human beings who actually need to [00:06:00] physically get together …
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  … to have conversations. You and I have been trying to get off the road since we started this job and we never have.
  • Carmen:  Yes, we’re always coming up. Uh, anybody who knows us well, every week, we have a new idea for how we can work in our pajamas and never go anywhere.
  • Randy:  (Laughs) And yeah, you’re going to hear one later in the podcast, actually.
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  Uh, but you’re exactly right. But it turns out it just doesn’t work that way.
  • Carmen:  No, it turns out that people have to get together to get things done.
  • Randy:  There you go.
  • Carmen:  The … already … already I can feel all the people out there disagreeing with me. I just, I am cringing right here. Um, in this virtual world, you know, we work remotely.
  • Randy:  Yeah.
  • Carmen:  I’m all for remote work. I’m all for remote training. I think we need to do more of it. I just had a fantastic meeting via video conference yesterday.
  • Randy:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Carmen:  It was great. It was just brilliant and …
  • Randy:  But did you know the client ahead of time?
  • Carmen:  I did.
  • Randy:  See? Well, there you go.
  • Carmen:  And once a quarter that client insists that I fly … this is in the south.
  • Randy:  Right.
  • Carmen:  This is quite a long … planes, trains, and automobiles to get there.
  • Randy:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Carmen:  Insists on paying for me to come there in person once a quarter. And those … those video conferences work …
  • Randy:  Because …
  • Carmen:  Because …
  • Randy:  You were there once a quarter.
  • Carmen:  The in-person …
  • Randy:  That’s right.
  • Carmen:  … human relationships and interactions and discussion happen create the grease that makes the wheels turn. You know?
  • Randy:  Absolutely.
  • Carmen:  So I … I do think that people have got to come together. You had a … a great experience recently that you were telling me about uh, someone, a CEO talking about uh, training we did so long ago.
  • Randy:  Oh.
  • Carmen:  We had forgotten than we done it.
  • Randy:  Oh yeah. Uh, this was uh, uh, a CEO who had uh, he came up to me and said that one of the most important experiences she’d ever had was something that took place at one of our boot camp experiences.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  And we used to uh, run these boot camps. And they were intense. These were three … three-day uh, experience. We had a, uh, the very first one was run by uh, myself uh, a Navy SEAL uh, who’s still working with us, uh, Steve Alberg, hoo-yah, Steve Alberg and a submarine [00:08:00] captain, a guy named Jeran Binning, who was a piece of work. And these boot camps were intense leadership experiences. And this woman said to me, “You know, that experience I had there was the best thing. It made me believe I could actually lead an organization.” And it’s irrelevant what little nuanced piece …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … that she experienced there, but she couldn’t have had that virtually. She could not have had …
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  … the epiphany that she had …
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  … over the Internet.
  • Carmen:  I do um, a coaching program for women who are moving in to uh, senior-level positions, chief, chief level …
  • Randy:  Right.
  • Carmen:   … C-suite, and actually bring them to Portland, Oregon, where I live. And I have a strong network of phenomenal women there. Uh, we usually handpick and customize uh, a group of around six or seven of them, go to those businesses, study, uh, those different environments. Go spend time with those women, interview them, you know. Go out to dinner. Do the whole thing. And the women who have gone through this process, and it’s three days, have said it absolutely transformed the way they think about their career, their philosophy of leadership …
  • Randy:  Yup.
  • Carmen:  … and their belief in themselves when they go back into their organization.
  • Randy:  Seventy-two hours of a deep dive looking into different industries and hearing different points of view.
  • Carmen:  Being pulled out of your myopic …
  • Randy:  There you go.
  • Carmen:  … little world um, and experiencing something that surprises you.
  • Randy:  That’s right. So, let’s … let’s get back to the training piece real quick.
  • Carmen:  Okay.
  • Randy:  So here’s some … some of my pet peeves about training that I think are easily fixed. Number one, don’t dumb down your training so much and don’t … don’t design your training for the lowest common denominator constantly. I’ve literally been in a meeting, a training meeting, where someone said, “To begin the system, press the green button.” Let’s practice pressing the green button now. “To stop the system, press [00:10:00] the red button.” I am not joking. “Let’s practice pressing the red button.”
  •   And people were asked to walk up and practice pressing a button. I was just like, “Are you kidding me right now? I mean, it was just like … It was insulting. It was repugnant. It was terrible.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  And that so often what happens when well-intended trainers put together something that ends up being, you know, literally something that could be in a preschool.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  I mean, I’ve … I’ve seen it that bad before.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  So I think we have to raise the standards on training. We have to push people in training. We have to allow for failure in training. And that’s something else we never do.
  • Carmen:  Right.
  • Randy:  Uh, in our … in our general systems.
  • Carmen:  Well, another piece is we will take somebody … this is the mistake I see constantly … ake somebody who’s good at doing something in your organization and then say they should train everybody on how to do it.
  • Randy:  (Laughs)
  • Carmen:  Then …
  • Randy:  (Laughs) Hey, William. You’re a good sound engineer. I want you to train all these other guys to be sound engineers. (Laughing) He’s … he’s shaking his head and gesturing. (Laughs)
  • Carmen:  And so what we’ve done is …
  • Randy:  (Laughs) It happens. I’ve …
  • Carmen:  … we have devalued the expertise of someone who is a teacher who … that … that there is actually a profession here, teaching and learning and you know …
  • Randy:  Bingo.
  • Carmen:  … facilitating …
  • Randy:  Yes.
  • Carmen:  And what we don’t do is we don’t invest in making sure we’ve got excellent facilitators and instructors.
  • Randy:  There you go. And so … it’s not that training is bad. We could … I don’t want to go too far down this path, but …
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  … but … but we misapply it all the time. The other big thing that drives me crazy is we, we want to train around soft issues like leadership or train around soft issues like project planning management. And sure, there’s some technical things you can learn there, but generally speaking, that is the stuff of coaching. That’s the stuff of working with people of being, you know, side by side in dialogue, actually practicing.
  •   You know I’m … I’m a big fan of Chip Kelly, a football training and, and my big piece [00:12:00] about that is he teaches people to play football by playing football. If you go to a Chip Kelly practice, you’re playing football. And if you are going to be taught something, you’re pulled off the field as part of a substitution in the game where he says, “Oh, do it this way instead of that way.” But none of this redundant drills and stuff. It’s … you learn by doing.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  I love that. We should have more of that, especially in organizations. This is where the … the big gap is. Because we can’t coach, we punt to training.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  And then we, we don’t fund training because if we do, then we’re going to get yelled at by people in the press who think, “Oh, well, look at those extravagant thing you’ve done.” You know?
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative) Well, and the other trap that you fall into is to say … I see a lot of organizations say, “Okay, we get it. So you learn by doing. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to cancel, just eliminate the training department completely and now it’s all going to be on-the-job training.” But you know, with the coaching on the side by supervisors who have no idea how to coach …
  • Randy:  That’s right.
  • Carmen:  … and so how do you train the trainers? How do you coach the coaches?
  • Randy:  Yeah.
  • Carmen:  And that’s a piece where bringing people together can be extraordinarily beneficial. You know, a place removed from the work where they can practice …
  • Randy:  That’s right.
  • Carmen:  … and screw up and role play …
  • Randy:  That’s what we want to be doing more of.
  • Carmen:  Well …
  • Randy:  I mean, frankly, that’s what we do.
  • Carmen:  We’re … we’re coming full circle here, what we’ve been um, hearing now is that people are uh, getting an appetite back to invest in these kinds of group development …
  • Randy:  Right.
  • Carmen:  … experiences.
  • Randy:  So what … what was it … what would it look like if we bring six CEOs together and work with them around how to develop their senior teams, where they get to learn from each other in a safe environment, but in an aggressive environment where they’re going to be pushed to the edges?
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  Love it.
  • Carmen:  Yup.
  • Randy:  And that’s what we ought to be doing a lot more of.
  • Carmen:  All right. So you heard it here first.
  • Randy:  [imitates fanfare 00:13:55].
  • Carmen:  We are going to …
  • Randy:  Big announcement.
  • Carmen:  … double-down.
  • Randy:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Carmen:  … on [00:14:00] these experiences.
  • Randy:  Yeah.
  • Carmen:  Group experiences.
  • Randy:  Because you know, I’ve talked to the clients that you’ve had up in Portland. And they are … it’s literally kind of a religious experience for them when they … when they come away from that. And I’ve talked to … I was just doing a speaking circuit this past spring and people came up to me that had been in my boot camps 10 years before. And said to that day, that was the most significant thing that they had done as far as, uh, executive development and learning. And aren’t … why aren’t we still doing those?
  • Carmen:  (Laughs) Why aren’t we still doing those?
  • Randy:  Well, we’re not doing those because …
  • Carmen:  Interest waned, honestly.
  • Randy:  Well …
  • Carmen:  I think so.
  • Randy:  Well, we were in alignment with a larger organization that was setting them up and it was … it was exasperating. There was a lot of reasons.
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  But we need to be uh, we need to be doing more of that.
  • Carmen:  All right. We shall.
  • Randy:  So … so with that here … go … if you have a training department, be nice to them, but also be honest and direct and aggressive with them in terms of what you like and don’t like about it. Demand more challenge out of the training that you have. And make sure that uh, you know, to … to use a phrase that Todd Davidson of Travel Oregon uses all the time, great evolutionary, he says, “What’s the highest and best used of that resource or that training catalog?”
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  Just bring that criteria. What’s the highest and best use? And you know what? It might be that you need a creative video to help, you know, your national organization see your leadership in a different light. And if … if that costs $50,000 but it completely changed the culture of the organization to be what you wanted it to be, great.
  • Carmen:  Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
  • Randy:  Now, if it was a $50,000 boondoggle, yahoo fun time, then yeah, you should be slammed for that, but …
  • Carmen:  (Laughs)
  • Randy:  … but let’s use highest and best used as this strategy.
  • Carmen:  Absolutely. And if you would like to learn more about how to build a world-class training organization, go check out my blog, Training’s Reputation Takes Another Blow.
  • Randy:  It’s uh, on our Evolutionaries website.
  • Carmen:  Yup, areyouevolutionary.com.
  • Randy:  There it is.
  • Carmen:  In there.
  • Randy:  Bye. [00:16:00]
  • (Music)