Why You Need to Think of Yourself as a Business Executive First, Learning Leader Second
Keith Meyerson, Director of Talent Management at POWDR joins Blake Proberts on the Strategic L&D Podcast to discuss the need for stakeholder buy-in to deliver results in L&D, diagnosing L&D problems based on the symptoms stakeholders describe, and how to use a needs analysis to move from being a transactional cost centre to a true business partner. Listen to the full episode above or watch below.
Keith, I’d love to start with a bit about your background and what’s led you to where you are today.
Yeah, that’s a huge topic. I’ve been everywhere. I guess I, I started off in training and development. When I was in the Marine Corps, one of my jobs was a water survival instructor. So that’s where I first got the bug to get up in front of adults and teach them. So you know, we’d teach them water survival techniques—in some cases, how to swim. I mean, you know, very fundamental.
My primary job was an intelligence analyst. So I used to get up in front of a lot of people and members of Congress and defence department and yeah, as a young kid, right. So pretty heavy, heavy stuff. So when I got out of the Marines, I went and got my undergrad in sociology. I got my graduate degree in leadership and organisational effectiveness. And I’ve kind of grown up in the learning and development world and expanded into organisational development and talent management before talent management was even a phrase. So really started with learning management systems back in the late 90s.
And then, I was with Tiffany & Company for almost 11 years leading learning and development for their operations and security personnel. So a lot of brick and mortar training, a lot of live classroom training. And I really wanted to implement my first LMS, so that’s why I left Tiffany’s. And a couple years after that ended up leading L&D for Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas, and really started to bridge the gap between learning and performance and succession and kind of connecting the dots. So yeah, so been in high end specialty retail, been in hospitality, I’ve been in financial services. And now I’m, I guess, back into what most people would consider hospitality with my current organisation, which is an adventure sports organisation based out of Utah. So just having a lot of fun.
You have one of the most varied careers, from the military to Tiffany & Co. People have a little bit of an underlying assumption sometimes that the industries are very different, but I haven’t found that in my experience. Are there any underlying threads that that you’ve seen across different industries, within L&D, that are worth mentioning?
Yeah, I’d agree with that statement. I think people are people, no matter what industry or business you’re in, you know, I tell people don’t—I don’t consider myself a learning and development or talent management leader, I consider myself a business executive. I just happen to solve problems through people development. And I think a lot of my colleagues would be better served in thinking in those terms, right? Because we get so focused on measuring our impact based on Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation, when the business could care less about that, right? Did we solve their business problems is really all they cared about at the end of the day.
“I don’t consider myself a learning and development or talent management leader, I consider myself a business executive. I just happen to solve problems through people development.”
So I think that, you know, cultures are unique, the businesses are unique, but we’re still dealing at the very fundamental level with helping people unlock their potential and how are we aligning the skills of the organisation to impact the business in a way that you know, the strategic goals have been set by the board or the, or the leadership team.
So I think a lot of that is, what we all find in any organisation. And L&D sits in a very opportune position within an organisation. When we’re doing the needs analysis, we get to scan the entire business environment. And you know, looking for the root cause of a solution rather than addressing a symptom, right? We want to address the root cause of it. So it’s, it’s sustainable, it’s impactful, it’s measurable.
But we—we’re often put in a position where we uncover things that aren’t just learning issues. They might be process issues, or infrastructure issues, policy issues. And we get to herd cats, and we get to get the right people in the room and say, hey, look, you know, we someone came to us with what they thought was a training problem. Training is just a small part of the overall solution. Y’all need to talk to one another and figure out some of the operational issues whether it’s sales or it or compliance or operations. So I think that’s a unique position and something that L&D finds itself with no matter what the industry, no matter what the organisation.
When you’re doing that needs analysis, are you trying to align your outcomes with business strategies?
Well, it depends upon the relationship you’ve built within the organisation and the credibility and do people see you as a business partner? Or do they see you as a cost centre? You know, initially, most L&D teams will lament about, people just come to us and it’s very transactional, right?
My, my favourite story was at a high-end retailer who the CHRO came to me and said, our customer sat and our NPS scores are really low. And I said, well, what’s your lowest performing category? And she said, friendliness. Can you create a training programme to address that? And with a straight face, I looked at her and said, Okay, let me understand the ask here. You want me to teach grown adults how to be nice to one another? And I’ll edit her response. But it was basically that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. I said, I agree. Can I ask some questions? Sure. How do you define friendliness? What do you mean? Well, what are the behaviours that you’re measuring? And by the way, are you interviewing and onboarding friendly people? Because you’re not incentivising friendliness, because you’ve got your salespeople on 100% commission. She’s like, oh, my God, this is bigger than training, like, yes. Exactly.
So for me, it’s coming in with almost that consultative approach and helping the organisation understand what we do what we impact versus what we don’t do. Because the last thing I want to do is just be very transactional, and say, oh, I’ll happily put that together, knowing full well, we didn’t do our due diligence, the likelihood that it’s going to be successful is minimal. And then someone’s going to complain that my training program didn’t have the impact that was designed. So you know, for me, it’s, it’s working with the executive team on down and really helping them understand what we do, how we do it, how we can partner with them.
“No one walks into their doctor’s office and says, here’s the remediation that I need. [Our job is] to help people separate, again, the symptoms from the problem.”
You know, whenever someone comes to me and says, Keith, I need a training program, the first thing that I hear in my head is, hey, Doc, I need to discectomy L4-L5. No one walks into their doctor’s office and says, here’s the remediation that I need, right? You walk in and you say, my back hurts. What does the doctor do? She’ll ask some questions. She’ll take some tests, she’ll have you do some strength exercises, she may order an MRI, right? So we can separate the symptoms from the problem, which is couple of herniated discs. And then together we come up with a remediation plan. Well, we can go full-blown surgery. Oh my God, that’s crazy. I don’t want surgery. Okay, well, you could do quarterly steroid shots. Ooh, I don’t like needles. Well, you know what, here’s some Advil and some ice, you know, that will address this. And to me, that’s the same thing that we do in an organisation. Hey, we need a new HRS system. Oh, that’s gonna cost a million dollars. We didn’t budget for that. Okay, well, I need to hire some more people because the data’s bad. And we’re not getting the information. Oh, that’s not going to work at all either. Okay, well, we’re gonna have to put out more reporting. And then our HR teams are going to have to, you know, give us the right information so we can have, okay, I can live with that. Right.
So, to me, that’s our job. It’s to help people separate, again, the symptoms from the problem. So we can, together, put together the right remediation plan that’s accepted by the organisation, that’s efficient, that’s scalable, and again, is measurable and impactful.
Once you’ve understood the problem and the symptoms, do you have a process for identifying what activities you might look to engage to solve some of those issues?
Yeah, absolutely. So to me, the first step is teaching leadership or business executives, how to go through a decision tree on separating symptoms from problems, right. So I, basically it’s a—it was a semester graduate course that I distilled down into a three hour workshop, right? Because no one’s going to go through, you know, an eight week, 12-week course in business.
So it’s starting with, you know, what’s your goal? What’s the outcome? What do you—why do you even need to—why are we having this conversation? Right, so okay, what’s everything that’s wrong? What’s preventing you from—I want to go waterskiing. What’s preventing you? My back hurts, I can’t move this way. Right. So going back to my back analogy, it’s the same way. Okay. I—so practical example, my last role—hey, I want our sales, our new hire sales professionals to sell more out of training. Okay. What’s more mean? Well, they’re selling 29,000? I want them to sell 60. Okay, so you want to double? Well, what’s getting in the way of that? They don’t understand our products. They’re not comfortable in offering suggestive selling or creative solutions. They’re not—right, we go down the list. Okay.
Then I work with my ID team, my instructional designers, let’s create a program that addresses this. Now, there may be other components, There may be, we’re not recruiting the right people. Well, why? Well, we’re having a tough time in this market, because the compensation isn’t aligned. Great. Let’s get with HR and the comp team to see if we can do something about incentives if we can’t work up the bonus, right.
Nothing to do with L&D. But that’s, that’s a pipeline issue about, okay, again, holistically, what’s everything that’s preventing us from being successful. So then it’s sitting down with those groups and saying, hey, here’s what I’m working on. But here’s your piece of the pie. Is this something you’re interested in? Can you devote time and attention to that? And that happens all the time. So we went from looking for, you know, a 2x improvement—$60,000—at a training and, and our first couple classes were coming out selling $130,000.
What a result.
Well, but, but that’s the goal, right? It wasn’t. We need training. Why? Well, because we don’t have training. Okay, great. Well, what’s the result? Right? What do you—we should not rest on the fact that it’s too hard to measure the impact of L&D programs. No other part of the organisation gets away with that. We shouldn’t either. We need to be held accountable to the same KPIs as the organisation is. I’m here to solve business problems. I’m not here to make—I do make fun training, but that’s not the goal. Right. The goal isn’t to make it fun. The goal is to make it impactful.
“I do make fun training, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to make it impactful. We need to be held accountable to the same KPIs as the organisation is. I’m here to solve business problems.”
I get it is really hard in L&D, but aligning with that ROI is where you start to get that engagement with senior leadership.
Exactly. You build that credibility you build that relationship. But you know, Blake, I think, in a lot of cases, saying it’s hard is a cop out. Because the business—it’s almost we complain we don’t have a seat at the table, but then we’re not showing our value. It’s we’re not, we not advocating for anyone to hold us accountable, like the rest of the business. And I would say, you know, most of the time the business comes and says, we have this enterprise-wide problem. I need you to have an enterprise-wide solution. When, when we should be saying, you know, what can I alpha and beta test this with a pilot group, so I can isolate and control all the variables? So I know the results are due only to what we’re bringing to the table. That way we can QA. At the end of the day, if there’s any improvements, which there hopefully will be, no one else is taking credit for that, you know, marketing’s not coming along, finance isn’t coming along. Oh, we have a new price structure. Oh, we have new commercials or new print?
“We complain we don’t have a seat at the table, but then we’re not showing our value. The only way we’re going to get that credibility [is] if we can isolate our impact.”
Great. We did this with a pilot group, and we’re comparing it against everyone else. So, you can’t take credit for that. And it’s not a he said, she said or look at me, it’s—that’s the only way we’re going to get that credibility, if we can isolate our impact. And the only way to isolate it is to do it with with test groups.
When you are isolating with those test groups, are you putting together a budget or some form of proposal higher up the chain?
Yeah, so it depends, to give you the consultant answer. It depends, right? It depends—like, what are we doing? Because a lot of times, the budget is just human resources, right? If I have an internal design team, I am just giving them a project to work on. So I’m not using external support, where I may need a budget for that.
We had underperforming sales teams that the organisation felt was a function of leadership. So I took the underperforming stores, their leadership teams, through an assessment, and then a workshop and then measured pre-workshop, post-workshop, sales figures, not only within their areas, but also compared to their peers who didn’t go through the same intervention. We saw five point increases on sales percentages with the team, the teams that we worked on. So we moved these underperforming locations from below the midpoint to above the midpoint.
And very minimal investment, really, the investment was my time in running a workshop, and there was a small external investment of an assessment that we ran to get an understanding of team dynamics. But again, very, very small from a budgetary consideration, but the impact more than paid for that investment. And then we established the credibility and we showed this, again, we’re showing sales increases. So you can’t get better than that, demonstrating impact.
Do you find that technology plays a big role in A/B testing, or do you run it on an ad hoc basis depending on context?
My feeling about technology is it should be an enabler, right? You don’t build your strategy around technology. You need to take it into consideration because it’s obviously a significant investment. But, you know, learning and development’s been around long before the technology has been around. So, in a lot of these cases, and some of these examples I’m referring to, the—there was no technology other than the online assessment, which could have been done manually if, you know, someone put a gun to my head and said, we’re not going to pay for this. I could have figured out a way. But the rest of it was, you know, a two-day workshop with me facilitating.
So, for some of these, no, technology’s not an issue. But again, these are it depends upon the industry, it depends upon the culture depends upon the business. If I’m, you know, we’re in a post-pandemic world now. So distributed, remote workforces are now more the norm than they have been. So, how am I getting instruction to a distributed team? I’m not flying them all into a conference centre anymore. We’re doing it, you know, through technology. So their—technology can help make these more efficient. But again, these things were all needed way before we ever had the luxury of the technology.
In terms of that distributed workforce that you mentioned, how do you manage the capability of that workforce? Do drill down into the skill sets that those people have and benchmark or baseline them?
So now you’re getting into the technology? Right? So this is how you can leverage technology from a skill assessment and utilisation perspective.
So there are products on the market where you can—so there’s learning management systems, which are a siloed independent system. And then there’s talent management systems, where learning management systems may be a part of a broader tech stack, such as succession planning, performance management, competency assessments, career planning, things of that nature. So when we—and this is what we’ve done in the past—is we’ve taken validated job descriptions, we’ve kind of isolated okay, what are the skills required to be successful in this role? We build a competency model with levelled behaviours around that. Right, because communication skills are important at every level of the organisation, but someone that’s on the phone eight hours a day, it’s going to be more transactional, versus the C suite, which may be more strategic and more visionary. Same competency, different behaviours.
So we align the models and the behaviours to the role. And as part of a talent management suite, we could then link the learning resources on the LMS side to the competency and behaviours on the performance side. So now we can start either doing self assessments—and from a career pathing standpoint: I’m in this role, I noticed that the organisations posted a role that’s outside my hierarchy. That’s really interesting. Let me take a competency assessment to see where my gaps are. And, oh, amazing. The system is recommending a development plan because it recognises the gaps and pulls those resources and presents them to me.
“We align the models and the behaviours to the role. And as part of a talent management suite, we could then link the learning resources on the LMS side to the competency and behaviours on the performance side.”
So we’re conversely, high post selection, we’re going to assess people based on this. We could use observation checklists, we can use job task analysis, whatever we want. And we could say, in current role, here’s some gaps in your performance. And the system, again, is going to recommend these, these, these offerings for you to remediate those. All in the background.
Now, the HR business partners or the HR teams, or the business teams could now actively see who has what skills, who’s working towards closing what skills, do they align with future needs of the organisation. Now, maybe I want to put these people in talent groups or pools, and I’ve seen some organisations where they need to know every shift, who has what skills, so if they’re doing, you know, some OSHA regulations around lockout tagout, or they need somebody that’s CPR qualified on every shift, and they’re trying to do workforce management, they could leverage the skill capability and identification in our learning and talent systems to see, oh, okay, here’s, here’s who I have at my disposal, versus wondering and hoping if they have the right people available.
I imagine you probably end up with a pretty good database of the organisation. What are some of the uses for that data you’ve got from mapping and assessments?
So, very high level and this wasn’t a data mapping exercise, just shows you the capabilities of the system. We had just launched this at Neiman Marcus, back in I want to say 2010, 2011. And we were opening up e-commerce in China. And I’ve pulled everyone’s resume information in, so I had, I had knowledge, skills, ability—I had a tonne of data points. Learning courses, performance evaluations, right, hipo identification through succession planning, all of the—all of this at our fingertips.
She called, I’m on speakerphone, I’m in the system and she said, hey, Keith, I know this is a crazy question to ask. But you know, we just opened e-commerce in China. And I’m like, oh, I know where she’s going. So I’m already typing, and she said, I’m just curious, is there any way for us to tell how many Mandarin speakers we have? And I said, I said, we have five, would you like them over the phone now or should I email you their contact information? She says, you just knew that the top of your head? I said, no, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. It’s right there in the system for me, and then that, oh, okay.
And I said, yeah, let me—you know, let’s talk about this. Because do you want just Mandarin speakers? Or would you like Mandarin speakers who have had, who have a college degree in a certain, in a certain area? Or do you also want to know, and/or, have they taken any leadership development courses? Or have they received an exceeds or better in their last three performance review? She’s like, alright, you’re just showing off now? Like, yes, I’m just making the point that whatever data point you want, we can pull from the system because that’s—and that, to me, that’s the advantage of a talent management system over an isolated learning management system, because now we can aggregate these data points, and have a collection of people based on on those different points.
So let’s say, oh, we want to open up a new location in, in Oregon. Great, what are the parameters? What’s the search parameters? So now I could do—I used to call it the Car Maps Buyer’s Guide, right? Because then I could put in all of these feature sets all these datasets, and it will return me a list of, of people from 100%, match down to zero. And now maybe I only had people at 75%. Great, let’s pull them in and target those areas of development so when we’re ready to open, we’ve got staff that are, that have identified through succession planning, hey, I’m willing to relocate to Oregon, that’s a data point that I can pull into that search.
Did you find that staff retention was affected positively by that database?
From an engagement perspective, yes. I mean, every, every engagement survey that I’ve ever been a part of in every single organisation, the number one or number two opportunities is going to be I want more learning and development from my employer.
And we’ve seen those numbers positively impacted when we do things like this. Because now we’re directing people to say, hey, look, go look at the open roles on our internal website, go take a competency assessment, if you’re interested in that role, see how far are—you are away from it from a skill gap perspective, and now the system is going to recommend a learning path for you. So you can now take control of your career, and you could start working towards that.
And then we wrap that around coaching opportunities and mentoring opportunities. And because it’s not just, I’m going to check the box, take these learnings, and I’m going to be the next CHRO, right? There’s a lot more to it than that. What do we need to do as individuals? It’s not the straight vertical climb anymore. It’s more of a lattice, right? I need to be well-rounded, I need to understand other parts of the organisation. I don’t, I don’t know IT as well as I should, maybe I could find some projects that I could work on as part of my development to better understand what they do.
So, yeah, we see increases in engagement. I can’t give you retention numbers, but I know that it definitely reflects itself on the employee engagement survey.
You mentioned that during those survey processes, people always say they want more L&D opportunities. Yet there can be a gap between the engagement of learning opportunities and the outcome of people asking for more. Why do you think that is?
My experience has been it’s not a field of dreams. If you build it, they’re not coming. You provide 10,000 learning objects in an LMS—the reaction we’ve heard is, I don’t even know where to begin. That’s too much. And people are dissuaded.
I think you need to target specific areas for training, it needs to be relevant, it needs to be performance support. If if I’ve stated that my career path is from where I am now to CHRO, I need to be presented with learning opportunities that fall within my area of interest. And I don’t need all of this other extraneous stuff. Now, it’s there. And maybe if I’m, my feeling with HiPo talent is they’re gonna find a way. They’re gonna find a way. Whether we provide them—I’ve never once said to my boss, gee, I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish this project you just gave me. I might be thinking that, but those words are not coming out of my mouth, right? I’m gonna go to Google, I’m gonna go to LinkedIn, I’m going to find someone that I can collaborate with, I’m going to study, I’m going to learn. And I’m going to present myself that I’m a competent, qualified, individual.
“HiPo talent… they’re gonna find a way. For everyone else… we need to be very prescriptive and targeted. I think the best way to approach is to be very targeted, and make it extremely relevant to the individual’s needs.”
So, I think internally, we see HiPo talent does that, like, we don’t need to train those people, they’re gonna find a way. I think for everyone else, we just can’t blast them with volumes of content, we need to be very prescriptive and targeted. It’s this, it’s this push-pull. If we’re sending recommendations and suggestions that are relevant to them, we’ve seen more engagement with those courses than the—and you’re not off on that 10,000-word learning object offering. I’ve done that. I’ve had catalogues of 12,000 learning objects. Now, some of them, not just the learning their audio books and their PDFs. And they’re, you know, there are all sorts of distributed material. But again, it’s, it’s overwhelming when you do that, I think the best way to approach is to be very targeted, and make it extremely relevant to the individual’s needs.
Are you going back to those skills, capabilities and competencies that you’ve measured to make those relevant?
Well, I think it’s that, I mean, the skills need to be relevant, right. But most people don’t think in terms of skills. Most people, it’s just in time need. Like, I don’t know how to do a VLOOKUP. That’s not going to be in any competency model, right? And it used to drive me nuts early in my career, I’m like, go to Google type in VLOOKUP, you’re gonna get a 30-second video, I don’t need to pull you out and put you in a training course. Right?
So it’s, it’s this, we, you know, we need to find those areas of performance support, which people need in the moment without asking, you know, IT the same question over and over, or asking L&D the same question over and over, right? How do we, how do we give people easy access to the information from a skill perspective, but then also from a role perspective, right?
So, you know, most people would say, I’m a good—you know, not me, personally—I’m a good communicator. Well, what does that mean? How are we defining communication, right? Or, I’m a first-time supervisor, I don’t know how to give feedback, right? Just taking an eLearning course on that may not be enough. There needs to be some follow up and some practice and encouragement and some role plays, right, that I’m not going to get just from taking eLearning.
“We need to find those areas of performance support, which people need in the moment. How do we give people easy access to the information from a skill perspective, but then also from a role perspective?”
And I might not even—it again, it’s the old statement: You don’t know what you don’t know. Right? I’m a noob. Unfortunately, a lot of people—well, I got promoted to supervisor. So I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done, because it got pretty me promoted. They don’t even have the realisation that oh, no, no, no, no, what you did as an individual contributor will derail you as a supervisor, because now you’re working through others versus it being your own effort. So now, your behaviours need to change, your skills need to change, you need to think of, you know, what your role is, is completely different. So I think, you know, it’s up to us to help people with those transitions, from individual contributor to first-time supervisor to mid-level to senior. Those are major points in a person’s career progression, if they go down the people leadership side, where I think it’s really incumbent upon us as an organisation to really help people understand how to make those transitions.
Have you seen any practical examples of something that’s maybe a little bit outside the box, in terms of some other learning sort of opportunities, that have worked well?
Yes, I, you know, one of the examples I was alluding to before was based on Patrick Lencioni’s table group, it’s called Five Dysfunctions of a Team. And it’s really reframing is familiar with it? Yeah. You know, I started out as a participant in a workshop, because I was part of a very, very, very—did I say very?—dysfunctional leadership team. We wouldn’t, we wouldn’t just, you know, run over, back over somebody with a bus, we’d go forward and then back again, and make sure the job was—I mean, it was just cut this cutthroat, it was there was a terrible environment.
So, we recognise the need that we had to do something. We went through it. So now I say, you know, I’m not just the Hair Club for President. I’m a member too. So you know, when I’ve used the workshop, it’s great, because I come from a place of, hey, this worked for me, this isn’t just theoretical. This is actionable. And for me, my favourite part of the pyramid is the accountability and reframing accountability, and teaching people on a team. I always tell people—it’s one of the questions that I asked during the workshop, how many of you feel that you’re part of a team and everyone raises their hands? Like, you are so not part of the team! Because what would you do right now, if one of your teammates wasn’t doing their job? Would you say something to that person? And they’re like, oh, no, that’s not my job. That’s the boss’s job. I’m like, well, then you don’t understand what it means to be on a team.
And I’m very limited in my analogies. I have a military background and a sports background, right? So American football, right? If a, if a lineman misses a block, and the quarterback is sacked, do you think they’re waiting to have a conversation with, with a coach when they go to the sideline? Or do you think that there’s a very robust conversation happening in the huddle, right? Somebody’s grabbing somebody by the face mask going, dude, you missed your block, if you ever do that, again, you’re not going to hear the end of it from us, right? It’s immediate feedback to correct the behaviour. And everyone understands it’s for the betterment of the team to get the results we’re looking for.
So helping teams understand accountability isn’t the boss’s job, it’s everyone’s job. And you could do it in a constructive way, where you can pull someone aside and say, hey, from a charitable assumption standpoint, dude, you seem to be really struggling here, what’s going on? How can I help, right? Take it from that place of I want, you know, you’ve always been awesome at this, I noticed it’s slipping, it’s affecting our results. Let’s not go talk to the boss, let’s you and I work this out.
So I think that helps—to me why I love it so much, because it really helps to set the stage on having the culture that you want. You want to build that trust, you want to have that teamwork, you want to feel that you can come to work, and you don’t have to play CYA, you know, cover your backside. It’s, it’s, I know that people have my back and I’m going to have theirs. So, I think workshops that engender that type of culture are going to be extremely impactful in the right organisations.
Have you seen that approach take a team that might not have that trust and performance and culture, and change it?
Amazingly, yeah. So, I implemented it. I implemented it at an organisation with underperforming teams. And we watch the sales increases. But the—which is validation, right? But for me, the fun part is, this is self sustainable. You know, I do a one-day, two-day workshop, when I’m done, they never need to see me again. So we did a pre-assessment, a post-assessment to get an understanding of how the team feels about the team. So we went from completely red pyramids. For those, for those that are watching the pyramid is the five levels of dysfunction. It’s put in a pyramid. And if you do an assessment, it’s a traffic light. It’s red, yellow, green, right. So based on the scoring, and we’ve gone from completely red to completely green, which is an you know, pat on the back for the team. But then when you look at the resulting sales increases, now you see what the business impact. Because it’s one thing—oh, everyone feels better about the team. Oh, great. Let’s do trust falls. Right? That it’s not, it’s not why we’re doing it, right? We’re doing it because we want a business outcome.
So yeah, so I—and what I ended up doing with these teams who are very nervous about holding one another accountable, we, I had each one of them come up with their own safe word. So if they needed to have a conversation with a colleague, they would say—instead of saying, hey, let’s go for coffee, which could mean let’s go for coffee and be like, hey, you want to go grab some popcorn. And then the person on the receiving end would go, okay, let me calm down here. I know what’s about to happen. Let me prepare myself, this isn’t going to be a bad conversation. I might be called out in some behaviours, but I’m being called out because this person is interested in me. If they didn’t care about me as a colleague, they wouldn’t want to have this conversation. They’d let me fail.
So it’s, it’s that reframing that makes it sustainable. And now you hold the leader accountable. So every team meeting, first five minutes, let’s talk about the five dysfunctions. How are we doing? I mean, I remember the first time I went through it, we went through the course and then one of my buddies who was called out on this, he never complained or offered a dissenting view during the meeting. It was always afterwards. He’d call me up, he’s like, that was a bunch of garbage. I can’t believe that he’s doing that. So when he, he—that came out as a behaviour he wanted to change. So the first time he did that after a meeting, I’m like, Charlie, it’s like what, like, dude, next meeting, you’re gonna have to go tell everyone you fell off the wagon. It was like an AA intervention.
He goes, no, I’m not gonna do it. I’m like, I’m gonna give you the opportunity to do it. If you don’t do it. I’m gonna call you out. He’s like, you know, dude, we’re friends. I’m like, no, this is more important than our relationship. This is the team dynamics. Sure enough, next, next time, we had a team meeting, he’s like, all right, I slipped up. Here’s what I did. And everyone was just so appreciative that he came forward. And you know, everyone was encouraging. And it works. It really works.
If you had to distil down to somebody new to HR or L&D trying to be strategic, what would you say the biggest lessons from your career to date?
The first thing that comes, comes to mind is being right does not always mean it’s going to work or it’s—or you’re going to be effective. I think, whatever—we need to take whatever we learn whatever our discovery is, whatever our recommendations are, and they need to be framed in a business context.
Because we might have the best solution in the world in our own minds, but when we meet with stakeholders, if we’re not going to get the buy in for whatever reason, it, it’s not advantageous to push something through that the organisation has told you, they’re not going to buy into it. Even if you, you know, gun to your head, you know this is the best thing ever, and it’s going to change—if it’s not, if you can’t influence and negotiate and get people to see it the way you do, then you need to consider other options. Again, we’re in the business of solving business problems, so we need to think of ourselves as as, as business leaders and business executives.
“We’re in the business of solving business problems, so we need to think of ourselves as business leaders and business executives.”
Nowhere else in the business would it be acceptable to tell people, I don’t care what you think, I’m the expert, we’re doing it my way. Right? And that’s what they’re going to hear. And I’ve made that mistake numerous times in my career, right. So I’ve, I’ve learned from my own hardships. So I think for me, it’s really thinking about it from a business perspective first, and then trying to align your solutions so they will be accepted and adopted and scalable and impactful. And, you know, did you have to sacrifice something? You may have, right, but are you still getting a positive result versus no result? And I think that’s, that’s what more people need to look at it, the way they should look at it.
And lastly, where can people find you if they want to reach out and say hello?
Yeah, I’m on. I’m on LinkedIn. It’s my full name, Keith Meyerson. I think the only other Keith Myerson that comes up on any Google search is an artist in New York, and I still get emails asking about my artwork, not the—I am not the guy.
But yeah, LinkedIn is probably the easiest, best way to find me. And I mean, I’m, I love paying it forward. I love helping and sharing and my feeling has always been if, if someone’s going to devote their most sacred resource, which is time, into listening to what I have to say, I’m absolutely going to find the time to share that with them. So yeah, I’m happy, I’m happy to be to make myself available.
This is a transcript from the Strategic L&D Podcast, where we venture through what key L&D opinion leaders are doing today to ensure they’re delivering a strategically impactful L&D function. If you want to stay up to date with our latest releases, subscribe to our learning and development podcast. We’re on most common podcast platforms, including Spotify and Apple. You’ll also find us in video form on our YouTube channel.
Related Reads on This Topic
Why You Need to Focus on the Bigger Business Picture Before Learning Impact
Discover why you should start with business strategy theory when designing truly impactful capability and competency programs…
How the ‘Mess’ of an L&D Problem Provides Structure & Drives Outcomes
Learn why you should spend more time diagnosing learning needs and how to spend L&D budget more effectively…
How L&D Can Deliver When the CEO Delivers a Capability-Led Business Strategy
Learn how to do bottom up and top down capability assessments, as well as why more data doesn’t necessary mean better for L&D strategy…