Here’s How To Transform Your Company Learning Strategy From Education Obsessed To Performance Focused

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to win the hearts and minds of business leaders with modern-era learning practices.

I’ve not always won those battles. However, I’ve learnt you don’t always need to.

Here’s a framework you can steal to use in your own strategy development.

How can you influence your stakeholders on modern-day learning design experiences? It’s a question which all L&D pros face.

We’re in 2023 with AI and Metaverses, but our stakeholders want ‘e-learning’ or ‘to get people together in a room’. It’s a huge contradiction of our time.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve smashed my head off a wall as I’ve repeatedly been asked “Hey Ross, can you create some training for our team?”. This is the most mysterious question I’m fed daily.

Do people think I’m a mind-reader?

90% of stakeholders want to tell you the solution to their problem.

This has been constant across the nearly two decades I’ve spent in the industry.

Typically, they fall into two camps:

  1. I think I have a training problem and want you L&D person to facilitate a classroom workshop.
  2. I still think I have a training problem. I want you L&D person to create a point-and-click e-learning experience because I want something interactive.

(Fun fact about the word ‘e-learning’, it’s 2023, and we know that everything is electronic now. You can drop the ‘e’. I promise it won’t hurt you).

Before you pull your hair out, let’s explore why this thinking occurs:

  • Our education system has brainwashed us to believe that ‘learning’ anything must be a designated event.
  • Naturally, this pours over to the working world. If it’s the only system you know, why would you do anything else? The problem is the world of work is not school.
  • Organisations don’t see L&D as performance-based. They label it as education. Which leads many to believe it is nice to have.

Now, it’s difficult to introduce new ways of thinking with such an established attitude towards L&D.

I write about doing things differently in the industry (I know, how devilish of me!).

But this is not easy. You’re not going to walk into a company and change the strategy from ‘here’s our list of courses’ to ‘how can we design the best solution to x problem for this audience’.

You’ve got to play the long game.

Sorry, no easy fix here. You might have to grit your teeth and play along for a bit.

Over this time you can do what I call the ‘Trojan horse’ technique.

When in doubt, build a Trojan horse

Before we get into the meat of this, let me provide context for those who aren’t familiar with the tale of the Trojan horse.

Back in the 5th century (a long time ago) the Greeks and Trojans were at war.

It was not going well for the Greeks. They’d been attempting to break down the city of Troy for 10 years. The siege felt like it would never end. The Greek king Odysseus had an idea that would change the tide of this war.

Odysseus created a new tactic that has echoed throughout the pages of history.

He built a wooden horse. I know, very revolutionary. Odysseus hadn’t lost his mind, he was seeing more clearly than ever.

Winning the war by brute force wasn’t going to work. The Greeks have been doing this for 10 years with nothing to show.

Instead, they created a trick.

One day, the Greeks pretended to sail away from Troy.

The Trojans believed they had given up. Outside the city walls, the Greeks left a wooden horse as a parting victory trophy for their enemies. The Trojans accepted and brought the horse into the city.

Little did they know, not all the Greeks had left.

Odysseus and a group of his men secretly hid within this wooden horse to gain access to the city.

When darkness fell, the troops jumped out of the horse to open the city gates for the rest of the Greek army who had sailed back after their fake departure.

Within hours, the Greeks destroyed the city, concluding the fall of Troy.

The Trojans played the smart move.

What does this have to do with transforming your company’s L&D strategy? A lot.

You can either choose to pursue a fruitless multi-year siege in telling stakeholders they’re wrong and you’re right. Which will 100% end up with them shutting down on you like the unbreakable gates of Troy.

Or, you can deploy the long game and switch to a smarter tactic.

How to deploy your Trojan horse

When a stakeholder wants a particular solution and you know you have no leverage in the matter, don’t fight it.

The battle will be pointless and you’ll likely end up in the same place.

Instead, build the solution(s) they want but drop in 10% of the stuff you know works better.

The play here is to neither give up nor try to start a war.

You find opportunities to weave in new ways of thinking and approaches into existing experiences. You’ll then compound this play over time.

What I’ve found is stakeholders typically get excited about that 10% bit and want more of that. It’s not a 100% win rate of course.

And, it has to be something that delivers a clear impact. You can’t do something different to have it fall flat and kill your own play.

The idea is to be strategic in your order-taking.

You can’t expect people to change because you tell them to. It takes months even years to wind hearts and minds.

It’s worth the effort.


  • Don’t preach, show.
  • Don’t start a war when you’re an army of one. Make small changes over time.
  • Be a strategic order-taker.
  • Change takes longer than you think.

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How To Get Useful Feedback On Your Learning Experiences

Most feedback from L&D courses is useless.

Don’t believe me?

Think about the common questions on post-course surveys.

Classics include 👇

> Were you happy with the course?

> Was the pace ok?

> Did the coach entertain you?

I’m taking the piss here a bit, but you get my drift.

Questions like this provide little use in knowing what works and what doesn’t. So, how can we do better?

Read on my friend.

Introducing B.A.R

Let’s keep this simple and tactical.

We want to gather 3 pieces of information to construct a useful piece of feedback.

1/ What was the knowledge level and/or skill confidence before the experience?

2/ What was the knowledge level and/or skill confidence after the experience?

3/ Would they recommend this experience to others? And, if so, why?

These 3 answers will give you the most useful feedback to take action.

The bonus is they’re easy to answer (think of short attention spans here people) and act as a testimonial you can share with future potential participants.

Don’t overcomplicate this.

Cut through the noise, get to the stuff that matters and make improvements based on this data.

You’re welcome.

FYI, I stole this idea from SEO expert Brian Dean. Another example of a technique from the marketing playbook that helps the L&D community.

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Don’t Panic! Slow Growth Is The Key To Long Term Success

“Build a 6-figure business in 60 days with my obvious framework that I copy and pasted from the other 100 people posting the same thing for too much money here!” – is what I’m greeted with on doom-scrolling trips on LinkedIn in particular over the last year.

I’m not here to moan about the ethics of such posts (I hope that’s obvious), but rather about the meaning behind the words. 

These posts are part of a wider movement trying to suggest we can all create huge wealth and knowledge in x days by doing x obvious things which those who spent 40 years building a successful career didn’t know. 

Hmm, really?

I don’t like the vibe of that. It’s too black and white thinking in a world that isn’t (what world is?). Outliers exist in life but come on, let’s leave the matrix for a few minutes.

I’ve talked about not everyone needing or wanting to ditch the path of traditional “9-5” careers before.

And I think this connects with the whole movement of messages like I shared above and other narratives like “escape the rat race” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day”.

It’s clickbaity.

When I see those clickbaity posts and headlines

A lot of content promotes urgency, speed and so much hyperbole about an impending apocalypse if you don’t achieve something in the next x days that you’re left on a heap of mental failure.

(Phew! I’m getting nervous just reading that back).

In the real world, everything takes time. That’s the kicker. The one thing we can never replenish is the exact thing we need to invest more in. 

Whether it’s money, careers or our families – they need time.

Yes, I know we want everything right now, but it’s a fantasy we try to tell ourselves while doing the hard work. The good thing is a lot of success is found in the slow game.

Slow growth is highly underrated

When I first heard the term Slow Growth, I thought it was crazy. 

I learnt about this from the aptly named Slow Growth Academy which focuses on the power of slow growth (obvs!). I instantly fell in love with the concept, especially with its connection to careers, skill-building and amassing experience.

In a world of instant gratification, people want results in 5 minutes, not 5 years. That’s not how life works, sadly.

Things take time to build.

You plant seeds, nurture them and harvest the rewards in the future.

Deciding whether or not to invest in something for 5 years matters not because those 5 years are going to come and go whether you do or you don’t.

We all look for hacks or secrets when in reality there isn’t one. Do the work, embrace slow growth and you’ll be better in the next 5yrs than you’re now.

That’s the non-obvious ‘secret’.

I share this as I believe it’s of value not just to my fellow L&D and Marketing friends, but to anyone. We’ve had this strange movement of productivity gurus peddling the “hustle” culture of quick results with low-quality outputs.

If you research some of the most successful businesses and people in traditional careers, you’ll find their growth was slow.

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has spent her entire career at the company, starting as an engineer and working her way up to CEO over 43 years.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has worked at the company for over 25 years, starting as a member of the technical staff and working his way up to CEO.

Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, worked at the company for over 30 years, starting as a systems engineer and eventually becoming CEO.

These people are products of slow growth.

They consistently show up, do the work and acquire new experiences. They don’t preach any secret hacks to achieve this.

Patience, I find, is the most underrated thing with growth. We’re playing an infinite game, not a finite one.

I look at slow growth like a board game. There are times when you’re on a roll and accelerate, and others when you’ve hit a blocker and get pushed back 3 places (I’m looking at you Monopoly).

We’ll all get there eventually. We just have to play our game.

Slow growth in action

Let’s be clear, I’m not against the “move fast and break things” movement at the micro level. As long as we learn from those experiences.

But applying that to the macro level with an overarching strategy is dangerous.

An example of slow growth in action is Apple.

They’re mainstream now, yet we’re once the outliers of their industry. It’s hard to imagine, but Apple was not the industry’s de-faction leader; only a hardcore set of consumers purchased their products.

Apple blew up once the iPhone landed.

However, a lot of people only think about them from that time in 2007. In reality, they’ve been around since the 70s – scaling, falling and scaling again.

They grew slowly and now own the market.

Apple’s growth has been a 40-year-plus journey. It’s 30 years if we were to stop at the launch of the first iPhone. Think about it, they’ve been working 3 decades to have their best decade ever!

We just assume it’s always been that way. So, why do we think that we need to get there any quicker?

The concept of slow growth does not apply to just the working world. It applies to all areas. It strikes a chord with me as an L&D nerd. Learning to be a better human is the ultimate example of slow growth.

Continual development in an ever-changing world never ends. No one just gets the answers one day or figures it all out. It comes in time and with experience.

So, don’t panic if you don’t know everything, don’t have the skills or your business is not in the exact place you want it to be right now.

The power of career compounding 

People want everything now. But, the overnight success story is BS.

The smart ones focus on decades not days. We often look at the end product, not the long journey that paved the way for the current success.

Compounding small changes over time leads to HUGE results.

This is true for many aspects of life. Most certainly for our skills and careers. I tell people to invest in their career currency as much as they can in the early phase of their careers.

Your career currency is made up of your knowledge and credibility in a subject. And guess what that needs? Yes, you know it – time.

This is a slow game too. None of us can cheat time.

I’m pretty sure James Clear would like slow growth

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This Is What Makes A World-Class Manager

I believe that looking after and leading other humans is one of the most challenging roles we can take on (outside of raising children of course).

That’s why we could all use a little help in putting our best foot forward.

Below, I’ve compiled data from a high-performing organisation to inform and inspire our own discovery on this topic.

There is no straightforward approach to building world-class managers.

No one has all the answers, sadly.

But, we have lots of data and experiences from those who’ve walked the walk from which we can learn.

What we can learn from high-performing organisations

Back in 2008, Google launched Project Oxygen aimed at discovering what makes a great manager at Google. 

Although this research focuses on the walls of Google, there’s much we can all learn about the role of management at one of the world’s largest and most profitable organisations.

This project kicked off in 2008 and continued until the end of 2018, accumulating a decade worth of research.

In their original findings from 2008, Google identified 8 behaviours on which they educated their managers, and of course, many other organisations copied to do the same in pursuit of similar success.

An update was released in 2018 which scaled to 10 behaviours to reflect the world at that point, including👇

Google’s data showed a strong statistical relationship between these behaviours and the effectiveness of managers across all corners of the organisation over the decade.

We could agree that these ten probably cover most, if not all, of the behaviours we look for in people managers.

The funny thing is that before Google conducted this research, they funded another internal research project to prove don’t managers don’t matter in a modern organisation!

Instead, they discovered that they do and they better find out what makes them great.

The turning point came in how the team defined manager quality.

They did this based on two quantitive measures: manager performance ratings and manager feedback from Google’s annual employee survey.

To their surprise, this data revealed that managers did matter.

Not only did they matter. They discovered that teams with managers were happier and more productive. Who would have thought, eh?

How can you do the same in your organisation?

No doubt, Google’s findings inspire us all, but how do we find out what makes managers great in our organisations?

Well, lucky for us, Google has made this method open source for all to use.

The team recommends that to determine what makes managers great, we should consider these three questions:

1/ Do managers matter in your organisation? 
Explore external research and internal input like surveys or interviews to determine if people managers matter to your team members’ performance and happiness.

2/ If managers matter, whom do you need to convince and how? 
Google used internal data to convince engineers and leaders that managers matter.

How will you convince your organisation?

3/ What makes a great manager at your organisation? 
Google found ten behaviours of successful managers – you might find you have two, three, or twelve.

Internal data, like employee survey results and interviews, can help uncover the elements of good management at your organisation.

You can also explore external research through, you guessed it, a simple Google search to get started.

What might you discover?

If, like me, reading research like this gets you excited to do the same in your workspace.

Although I like the behaviours that Google have listed, we could certainly add a few pieces to make this even better.

One thing that stands out for me is Emotional intelligence.

Though not specifically called out in the ten behaviours, we can see a few areas where it would overlap.

Nonetheless, the lessons learnt during the pandemic have brought this behaviour to the forethought of how we lead (and so it should).

Teaching people how to be more emotionally aware and lead with empathy can only be positive moves, right?

Hopefully, this edition has given you some food for thought, data to utilise and some idea on how to take action in your practice.

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A CV (Alone) Won’t Land Your Dream Job, Learn How To Stand Out From The Crowd

A common misconception in the careers game is that a CV is a passport to today’s best opportunities in our economy.

This is FALSE!

Let’s talk abt this… ⬇️

The competition is huge

There are abt 8 billion humans on planet earth today. Let’s say (hypothetically) 1 billion work in your industry.

Of those 1 billion, let’s say 450 million have the skill set to do the role you’re doing today.

That’s a lot of competition, right?

If all you have to compete with the rest of these people for opportunities is a CV. Do you think this is enough?

Do you believe the playing field is level??

It’s not. Many have created advantages to navigate the game and produce better opportunities.

Here’s how…

Create an advantage

We all have a platform to create career advantages, and that thing is called the internet.

Yes, the thing we’re all on right now!

You can easily:

➡️ Build a niche following on social platforms
➡️ Show your work on a website (thanks Austin Kleon)
➡️ Contribute knowledge on video platforms
➡️ Share value through a podcast
➡️ Start a blog and teach others to do what you do.

The point is that the options are out there to build a profile that gives an advantage over others in the same field. This is something I talk about in depth in the How to win in the Careerverse playbook.

Think about it…

Would you rather read a document that talks about what someone can do or see what they can do?

The internet provides that gateway.

As Austin Kleon says, SHOW YOUR WORK!

This realisation has been the thing that has led me to the most opportunities in the last 2 years of my 16 + year career.

Showing what you can do gives an advantage over just talking about what you can do.

Not one or the other, combine both for maximum results

This isn’t about dumping a CV entirely.

It’s about what you can add to the toolkit alongside that CV. If you go with just a CV your chances are much lower than going in with a CV, a portfolio page and other publicly shared work.

Look at the CV like a product subscription service.

It’s the main entry point, but what are the sweeteners you can add to give you an advantage in customer conversion?

I find the more senior you get in an org, the more a cv becomes redundant. Most, if not all those hires are based on relationships. Whether that’s right or wrong to do is a topic for another time.

Give yourself the best chance for success in the career game, folks.

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