Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Selling L & D Solutions: Start with a Needs Analysis

One of the things I often hear from learning and development professionals who are new to consulting is the challenge they have around “selling.” Like most people who go out on their own, they’re experts at (and inspired by) what they do, but they soon realize that there are other aspects of the business they need to attend to – the administrative, the financial, the marketing, and, of course, the selling.

My suggestion is to not think about it as “selling.” Instead, think about it as helping a client achieve goals, overcome challenges, and fulfill needs. It’s about asking good questions (needs analysis), communicating effectively, building relationships, and mapping learning solutions to performance needs – all the things learning and development professionals do on a daily basis.

But how do you get started? It helps to have structure. Step one is, of course, to identify an opportunity. Consider this scenario. You’re at a networking event and are introduced by a former colleague to the VP of Engineering at a large hi-tech company. After exchanging backgrounds and pleasantries, you ask what her current biggest challenge is. She shares that one of her project teams is struggling to meet deadlines for deliverables. There have been two instances so far on a current project where mistakes were identified too late, causing delays in the timeline, and additional cost. As the conversation continues, you learn that team members seem to operate independently, each focused on their part of the project, with little team synergy or communication along the way.

Learning and development opportunities generally fall into two categories. One is where the client just knows that development is a good thing and they have the budget to do it. They don’t necessarily have a problem, but they want to invest in a team development activity that’s more meaningful than bowling or a ropes course. The second category is where they know they have an issue, but they’re not sure of the cause or how to fix it.   

You’ve gleaned from your conversation at the networking event that the engineering project team falls into the second category. Through several follow up emails the next week, you manage to set up an initial meeting. The next step is to prepare for the meeting. What do you need to know before you go? What questions will you ask once you’re there?

Obviously, you want to know as much as possible about the organization and the individuals who will be in the meeting. Are you meeting with a decision maker or is this initial meeting at a different level? What is your goal for the meeting? What does your agenda need to be to get there?

Remember that this meeting is all about the client, not about sharing your menu of solutions. Prepare questions that will help you understand their goals, challenges and needs, as well as:

  • The business goal that is not being met
  • The impact of it not being met
  • Skills and behaviors that are “mission critical” to the business, or impact all employees
  • Performance deficiencies within these skills and behaviors that have the greatest negative impact
  • Expected or desired performance levels

As you think about your goal for the meeting, include what you want the client to do after the meeting – Introduce you to the next level up? Schedule a next meeting? Connect you to others in the organization?

Making the time to thoroughly prepare your questions, agenda, and goal for the meeting will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Lead on,


Friday, June 2, 2017

Effective Dialogues Improve Team Performance

In today’s workplace teams come in a variety of flavors: department teams, project teams, virtual teams, global teams, cross-functional teams, permanent teams, temporary teams, task force teams, self-directed teams and combinations thereof.  Each of these has its own inherent challenges.  Common among them, however, is the need for effective dialogues. Here’s how to achieve them.

Establish communication standards.  Whether it’s about sharing ideas or resolving conflict, it’s essential to develop and implement guidelines that encourage and support open communication. That includes communication media. Email may be acceptable for information exchange, but issues should be discussed in person or, if that’s not practical, by phone. Guidelines should cover:

·         Using a common language (especially important for global teams)
·         Identifying trigger words and phrases to avoid
·         Emphasizing effective listening strategies
·         Promoting an understanding and appreciation of varying communication styles
·         Scheduling regular meetings

Identify and address barriers to open communication. Barriers to communication generally fall into three categories: physical, emotional and environmental.  Support effective dialogues by removing any physical distractions (these could range from a noisy conference room to a bad telephone connection). Work to understand and appreciate the diverse styles of your team and create opportunities for the team to develop a mutual understanding of each other. As they learn to consider each other’s style and frame of reference, they’ll learn to minimize the emotional reactions that get in the way of effective dialogues.

Create guidelines for managing conflict. A certain amount disagreement on a team is natural and necessary for innovation and optimal performance. The key is how you channel and manage it.  Give your team tools for dealing productively with conflict by working together to create conflict management guidelines. Emphasize respect and active listening. Include feedback best practices. Encourage a dialogue that begins with points of agreement and develops from there. Ensure that the focus is on the issue at hand rather than personalities. State the team goals and expectations clearly and concisely and remind the team of their mutual commitment to those goals.

Evaluate and improve. Like any relationship, team relationships need to be nurtured. Make time for a periodic “check in” through an open dialogue specifically around how team communication is going. Encourage those who are typically less vocal to weigh in. Identify areas – from team feedback and your observations – where improvements could be made. Then make them.

Lead on,


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Disrupting Talent Development with Revolutionary Assessment Tools

Employee engagement in the US has been hovering at about 30% for a decade. Despite numerous attempts by companies to move the needle via surveys, engagement initiatives and tantalizing perks, the majority of employees remain mostly “ho hum” about their companies, their jobs, their leaders.

Gallup, who does ongoing analysis of employee engagement, had this to say, “Creating a culture of engagement requires a company to take a close look at the critical engagement elements that align with performance and with the organization’s human capital strategy. Managers and leaders should keep employee engagement top of mind – because every interaction with employees can have an impact on engagement and organizational performance.”

So what’s a company to do? How do they get that closer look at critical engagement elements – effective leadership, a sense of purpose, career development, communication, meaningful work – to motivate and retain employees? One tool that companies use is psychometric assessments. Yet many of the companies that use them are using the same old assessments year after year, some of which were created back in the 1940s. As someone once said, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.  Many of those older tools are mired in old thinking. They focus on “typing” people or putting them into categories or boxes without acknowledging the vast complexities of the human personality. They measure human doings versus exploring human beings.

It's time for a different approach.

Lumina Learning is disrupting the world of talent development through its revolutionary psychometric tools, which are bias-free, jargon-free, empirically measured, and based on the Latest Big 5 research. The Big 5 Personality Traits are:
1.       Open to Experience
2.       Conscientiousness
3.       Extraversion
4.       Agreeableness
5.       Neuroticism

National Geographic’s publication Your Personality Explained, called the Big 5 the cutting edge approach to measuring personality because it doesn’t categorize people as “types,” but rather empirically and scientifically measures each of their 5 personality factors for a more unique and comprehensive picture.

Typing individuals not only limits their potential, but can give them an easy out when explaining their behavior. For example, if someone is typed as a take-charge personality, they may think it gives them license to step on toes or be overly aggressive to get things done. “That’s just who I am.”

Lumina Learning’s assessment, Lumina Spark, recognizes the complex contradictions that make each one of us unique. For example, an individual may have both introvert AND extravert qualities; they can be tactical AND strategic; they can focus on results, AND also care about the people.

The Lumina framework embraces the fact that each individual possesses opposing personality traits. It’s “AND” thinking versus “EITHER/OR” thinking. Lumina embraces the paradox. 

Lumina Spark achieves this more comprehensive view by looking at 8 aspects and 24 qualities, and measuring these along a continuum to create a unique portrait for each individual. And it goes deeper.  Each quality is measured for three personas:

1.       Your Underlying persona – who you are most naturally
2.       Your Everyday persona – how you “show up” based on what’s required of you at work
3.       Your Overextended persona – how you behave under stress

The Lumina model is built around understanding ourselves and others so that we can adapt our behavior and communicate and work better together. Individuals are complex, and should not be placed in boxes, limiting the beliefs about their effectiveness, their capabilities and their ability to develop and expand.

“Spark” employee engagement by giving your people the latest tools to discover and apply their full potential.

Want to learn more? Contact us at info-us@luminalearning.com to learn about upcoming Lumina events.