customer service and trainingRecently a training director asked for a customer service training workshop. As we discussed what she was looking for, it became clear she wanted “customer courtesy” or “smile 101” training. I asked about senior leaders’ active involvement in building a customer-centered culture. Nope. They wanted her to fix the frontline to make happier customers.

Been there, done that. It’s a waste of time. Servers not served by their managers and the organization’s systems and processes don’t produce happier customers. They reflect the culture and processes of their organization. In fact, training them to care about customers often backfires since they become even more frustrated with apologizing to customers and finding workarounds for systemic problems.

This has been a recurring issue throughout my consulting career. Too often, we’re asked to “fix them” — frontline staff or supervisors. Dunking participants in the training tank might change some behavior. But it doesn’t last.

A recent issue of Harvard Business Review included an article summarizing research on the most effective learning and development executives or chief learning officers (CLOs). In “The Transformer CLO,” the researchers concluded,

“The fast-changing nature of business today requires organizations in every industry to constantly enhance their capabilities. This presents an opportunity for CLOs to take on a more proactive and strategic role than ever before — to be transformers, not just trainers. Transformer CLOs are positioning employees to succeed in their current jobs and adapt to future changes. They’re making learning and development an integral part of their companies’ strategic agendas. It’s a profound and important shift.”

This is a vital strategic issue for Human Resource, Learning and Development, Systems, and Safety professionals often asked to “fix them” with yet another program. Change or development efforts that are bolted-on rather than built-in to operations and actively led by line managers is the main reason up to 70% of them fail.

Tomorrow we publish my February blogs in the March issue of The Leader Letter. The culture compass in this issue evolved from decades of research and application on best practices for successful organizational change and development. Learning and Development is one of the six compass points. But it flows from, and integrates with, the other key areas to move beyond development dipping. “Let’s Be Frank” shows how a leader evolved from his personal purpose to shifting his team’s culture by deepening spirit and meaning. We’ll also look at the culture and leadership issues underlying the delegation dilemma. Strong cultures and highly effective leaders move delegation beyond empowerment to “empartnerment.”

May this issue help you to move from partial and piecemeal programs to sustained leadership and culture shift.