Is it Time to Show Our Vulnerability?







All too often I hear protests from the Learning and Development or OD Department – we just get lip service! OR they aren’t serious about us! OR we are not maximised! OR we are only there to accept blame when something goes wrong. With true leadership being optimistic and self-confident, this is surely not the behaviour of L&D leaders but rather L&D maintainers (and disillusioned ones at that)! Is it time to turn the tables not on others but rather ourselves! Is it time for us to be placed in the centre of vulnerability – and perhaps only then will we see the picture clearly!

Vulnerability is the art of exposing elements that would otherwise remain closed or hidden. When this is done in a non-supportive environment it can be quite damaging and damning, when done in a supporting environment, it can stimulate growth, innovation and creative solutions and when done privately with ourselves, it can stimulate much needed reflection and connection.

Ready for some reflection? Let’s get to the barest level of vulnerability – almost naked one could say with the following question:

Could the business exist and survive without your L&D Department’s input?

If the answer is yes in any shape or form, then the L&D function is simply not adding value, and should stop disbursing the blame to external parties, and accept that we simply do not add value. There may be a myriad of reasons why we don’t such as we are not placed in the organization where we are empowered to add value, that is not the desired use of our time or many others too, however the bottom line is that we are not adding value. In today’s discerning balance sheet, that equates to L&D being ‘surplus to requirements’ and would be the first thing to go (which is commonly the case).

If you find yourself in this situation coupled with a supported and collaborative environment, what can be done to stimulate all the advantages of being vulnerable?

Ask the right question(s)
Ask the right question(s) to the right people
Ask the right question(s) to the right people at the right time

Ask the right question (s)

What is the right question? We can only discover this when connected to the bigger picture, and know the answer to the question what is it that the organization wishes to be. Once knowing the desired state, we can identify the necessary and supporting action, and with that natural linkage of cause and effect, the one who asks the right question will be forearmed with the logic required to hold a business-enabling conversation.

Ask the right question(s) to the right people

When opening the discussion, we clearly are entering the sphere of business-enabling capability. This capability will be in the hands of the business drivers, not identified by titles but rather by impact. Ask yourself what are the priorities of the business on paper, and as seen in everyday reality? Ask yourself what does the L&D department have capability of adding to that impact?

These people are looking for discussions that have been well researched, with fact, with evidence and with business reasoning behind it. To become one of the ‘right people’ you need to be seen as credible. So perhaps another question may be what does credibility draw from?

Ask the right question(s) to the right people at the right time

There are key strategic times in the business cycle. When an L&D operative is acting outside of the business cycle, out of sync with business targets and disconnected from the vision and mission, the function can have no chance to be considered a business function. Perhaps an inquiry into the business mechanics would reap some inside information not considered previously, and all supporting mechanisms such as the scorecard and its measures could be aligned to the organizational scorecard (which it should always have been anyway).

For the L&D Department to become credible and an integral business component, its time to reflect upon ourselves and not react to others. We can surely not collaborate on a business level until we understand the business and its needs through the eyes of the value seekers and holders. Like it or not, the L&D department is NOT just about the people. ‘become’ responsible and serve the business as well as the people.

How clearly do you see the picture now?

Debbie Nicol, Managing Director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, and creator and author of the ‘embers of the world’ series, is passionate about change. She works with both traditional and contemporary toolkits that move businesses and executive leaders ahead, whilst working on leader and organizational development, strategic change and corporate cultures.

« Who Killed Change?