Do You Want to Train Your People or Do You Want to Fix the Problem?

Welcome to my new website. Today is the official launch of (no fooling!) This blog article is the first official article on this site.

Almost without fail, whenever I’m initially invited in to meet with Human Resource directors, corporate training directors and even business owners or other C-Level executives companies, not-for-profit organizations and governmental agencies, the reason is usually for a discussion on training of one type or another.

In these situations it is typically around the articulated need of leadership training, communication training, customer service training, etc.

When I ask more questions to learn how they feel “training” is going to help I usually learn that they have grossly over estimated what “training” can be expected to do.

Often there are issues occurring in the work environment that training can not help and often times will make the problems worse.

If you’ve read my most popular white paper report “The 7 Deadliest Sins of Leadership & Workplace Communication” you’ll know that A Lack of Directness in communicating can be devastating to a work environment.

Throwing “training” at a work environment problem that is caused by A Lack of Directness, which means it is steeped in low trust and respect between team members, will exacerbate the problem not resolve it. This plays out in almost every training I deliver when there are none of the managers or organizational leaders in the trainings.

At the end of the trainings at least 30% of the feedback forms I receive respond to the question “what could have been better about this training?” with “if all of our department team members, including our managers and other company leaders had this training.”

If the individuals most responsible for the team or organization’s culture and performance are not participating with their team members, the training to “fix” a problem is guaranteed to do more harm than good.

Another issue is that often the issues the training addresses offer solutions that require sensitive or challenging conversations between individual participants in the training. Since the open forum of the training environment is not the appropriate environment to address these issues head on, participants become frustrated and resentful of the training and it just reinforces the negative situation.

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about:

Yesterday, in a meeting with the VP of Human Resources and  VP of Operations for a large manufacturing firm, the first half of which we discussed management and leadership training for their middle managers and shop managers, I used the phrase “toxic” to describe some of the work environments I’ve helped transform.

The VP of Operations shot back in his next breath, “toxic, hmm, that’s what we’ve got.”

I said, “then, training ain’t gonna fix it.”

They both nodded their heads in agreement.  The conversation took a turn in a new direction.

We began focusing on inviting in the President/CEO and other senior leadership team members to discuss addressing issues at the very top of the organization.

And, training will not be on the agenda, at least not initially. It is going to take some significant team development and trust building activities (and I don’t mean the stupid ropes course) and consistent accountability to a new approach to leading and communicating in this company.

So, we’ll see how it goes.

But, the next time you think you need “training” for your organization ask these questions –

“Why do we want training? 

“What is “real problem” are we trying to solve?” (for example: Is it a true skill deficit in a particular area or is it really a behavioral and attitudinal problem we are trying to fix?)

If there is a specific skill deficiency then customized training may be the answer. If it’s behavioral and/or attitudinal training is NOT the answer, and I suggest looking at more facilitation group discussions and open forum 2-way feedback models to identify the real underlying issues causing the problem.

If that’s the case then ask these questions:

“What is happening we need to stop happening?

“What is NOT happening we need to start happening”

“What is the cause?”

If you have identified that you need “training” to solve a behavioral problem, for which you do not know the cause, you will be throwing a lot of time and money at something that will not resolve the issue and most likely will make it even worse. If this happens, call me and we’ll fix the situation the right way.

’til next week, make it a great weekend!

4 thoughts on “Do You Want to Train Your People or Do You Want to Fix the Problem?

  1. Steph says:

    Love the new site! What struck a cord with me in this post is the team building and trust that needed to be restored. Sometimes leadership has a hard time acknowledging that it’s more about that than lack of training… not to mention their role in the trust building. Why and what are a great questions for startng point… thank you!

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m pleased you found value in this post and I hope I can continue to offer value to you and others who visit my blog. Your positive reinforcement motivate me to keep looking for ways to add value to the world.

  3. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being moved to comment. Leaders default to “training” because they think its a quick fix and if they throw ‘training’ at the issue they can say they tried to do something about the issue but their people just don’t care enough, and all they want is more money and benefits. It’s a way of shirking responsibility and taking the easy way out in the short term, but its usually wasted money, throwing good money after bad. Instead if they would invest some additional time and energy in really looking at what’s going on in their organization and how they, themselves are leading, it would pay dividends 10-fold over the investment, whereas few training dollars really show a return that can be quantified.

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