In February 2021, I met a consultant who wanted to sell us leadership training. A young man with a lot of energy and ambition to show how good his product is. We sat for an hour in our company office, and the presentation started. And he talked, talked, and talked. So many words and I did not found even one sentence that will give me the confidence to come to our CEO and say, “Hey, I found a great new leadership training. Can I invest 60 000 Euro in it?” At the end of the meeting, the young guy asked me the first question, and it was, “Do you think that this training will be a good fit for your managers?” Lovely, but this was the first question in our almost an hour conversation, and my answer was “NO.”
Disappointed, the guy took his stuff and left our office. But still, after the weak presentation, I thought that he had much potential of becoming a good salesperson. Doing short research on LinkedIn, I have found that the young person visiting us at our office was with not more than three months experience in the consultancy business and did not ever work in soft-skills training or actual sales. So then I moved to the website of the company he presented and found different products that maybe we could have used in our development programs.
One of the products (type of training) looked promising, and I decided to give the young guy a second chance. So now both our companies work together and achieve results by developing our people’s potential.
The story I am sharing with you looks like a happy end but is more like a horror. Too often we meet consultants who want to sell us a product that suits only their needs and understandings. Too often, we must meet with people who do not even ask what progress we have made up to now and start selling us solutions for situations or people they have never seen or experienced.
In my experience, I have always tried to negotiate the best product for the teams I was working with. And always I have strived for the most comprehensive product offered. I hope it is the same with you as an HR or a leader, investing in your people’s development.
Choosing the best product or training that suits your needs is a tuff job. Here is some sign that has helped me with the process during the last ten years.
Start with WHY?
The first step is not in the hands of the consultant or the leadership programs seller. It is in you. Often I see leaders who see training and decide by themselves that this training will be helpful for their team. And then the agony starts. It is crucial, to begin with, data from the reality the couple lives and works in. Understanding the environment, looking at the goals set for achievement, talking to the team members to know where they struggle most is a crucial step to prepare the best training for the team. Not equipped with this information can quickly turn everyone to the shiniest proposal instead of making a real impact within the group.
When I joined my current company, the first problem I have identified was that the leadership team was struggling to deliver sustainable results. The Procurator of the company office for the country worked this out by sending the leadership team to regular leadership training, covering similar areas. They have had gone through this training three times, and the results still did not appear. The Procurator was furious about this; the leadership team – bored from listening to the same things repeatedly. The effect of the training was more damaging and led the senior leadership team into a defensive position about the training and the trainer. “Not surprising – you will say,” but according to a Gartner material published back in 2019, sixty-one percent of the activity fail because of this simple reason. Therefore, it is all-important to get into the history and explore what has happened, good and was lacking, delivering results in time. Teams and people are different – what has worked for a LinkedIn or Google employee may not fit your company, team, or industry. That is why the history of the team’s ups and downs is a good building block for future success.
Identify possible solution providers with expertise
Gone are the days when a single training was meant to be successful in every industry. The complex environment, the attitudes, the cultural norms, and many other factors are now essential if training is intended to deliver accurate results. Back in 2019, I have met with a training provider providing sales training. They were excellent at giving training for aggressive sales. Unfortunately, our company is not an assertive seller but more like a caring mother for its clients. Our deals are not on the field and are not meant to happen at every price. Our clients come to us because we care about them, and we are in a unique position on the market where we exist to chose clients we will work with. So you can imagine how disastrous the meeting with the sales representative was. The lady did not understand even a word of what I have shared with her and got out disappointed, thinking only how inadequate we are to the training solution she sells. The story continues with the same lady I met at an event later the same year. I was one of the speakers, and she was in the auditorium. At the same time, presenting our company model, there were many questions from the people in the room. But what was more surprising was that this same lady, who was furious about our interaction, came to apologize and admitted that she has now understood why I declined her offer for the training she was selling.
I came out of this situation with a partner and friend, who helped me reach the right providers in the industry and add value to our company’s success.
It is always good to keep in touch with possible partners, but what a good leader does is establish relationships and ask for help from those who can answer the company and team needs, values, attitudes, and environment specifics. No matter how good he is in his area, everyone else can harm or slow down the processes in the company instead of helping to speed them up.
What have you already tried?
The most intelligent question anyone can ask you
Here we come to the essence of this post. You have found the provider who offers what you need; the attitude is correct. It is passing to your understandings and expectations; the program looks full and covers everything from A to Z . Still, after all these signs of a promising partnership, you are not convinced that you should start.
Why is this normal? Many consultants and trainers try to offer a complete program of what they deliver, scratching out everything that has been achieved so far. It is a kind of Ego thing, and no matter the consultant, everyone tries to do it. It makes the program longer, the pressure harder, some of the knowledge you and your team have already gained is repeated. No one is winning from such an approach, but still, many training consultants and providers are doing it. If you see a static method to what will be delivered as a training and the context of the program cycle, you will need to pay strong attention. This might not be your consultant or trainer.
I don’t say that you will need to skip everything you already know, but delivering the same theories will be harmful if there is no practical implementation. People can read alone. They do not need someone to present the same approach. What they need is someone to show them how this theory works in practice. And suppose as a leader you will have to chose a consultant or training provider. In that case, you will need to understand how this person or organization understands and values you. Your team members’ time and actual value will be brought to your team after the training event or program is delivered.
Watching out for the intelligent questions the consultant or the provider asks can save the leader and its team much precious time and add real value to future success.
Many organizations do not see the value of the training because of the consultant’s behavior, the salesperson, or the provider as a whole. But what every leader must understand is that there are no good or bad providers, consultants, or trainers. Everyone has come to training with one purpose in its head – to help others succeed by building skills needed to save today and win the future. Choosing the best solution for the team is in the hands of the leader. And this solution depends on the environmental factors and the level of understanding of the leader. Asking himself and the provider the right questions can build the right profile of the training and help the team grow and succeed now and in the future.