Lessons for Product Owners & Training Leads, Part 2

Part 2 in a series of 2 blogs

The first part of this blog, Team First, not First Place: Lessons for Product Owners & Training Leads, was about Robert, a global executive for a large telecom company, thrust into an enormous training task by his leaders. There were LMS problems, and the training curriculum doubled while the deadline to complete it all was moved up three months. Because a director wanted to be first. Robert and his team had a two week notice.


Culture and past experiences with his leadership dictated that Robert should not challenge what was being asked of him. “I need my job.” He told me. “They look at you poorly if you challenge them, or complain about completing the training.”

There are so many levels of wrong within this situation. Robert’s leaders are wrong, and Robert is wrong. To name a few, respect for people, communication, limiting WIP, owning your learning, servant leadership, team first, customer focus, quality learning management systems…can you see the opportunity for all to learn, here?

One bright spot: Helen, an associate from another team, had completed the training back in August.  In fact, she had all sorts of problems with the LMS, told everyone about them, but no one did anything about it. The early warning was there, if leaders and training experts were listening. The thing about Helen is that she talked too much on team conference calls, driving Robert mad. But this time, her long winded style came in handy for giving Robert and his team tips on how to quickly navigate the courses. Helen was very enthusiastic about helping the team, letting her teamwork values shine. We could use a few more Helens in this world, and we should listen to them more, too.

Feeling stressed but committed to complete the training, Robert worked on the modules during the day, and every evening through 10 p.m. After working an entire weekend on the training, he was finished.

Well, almost. Two of the courses listed as incomplete, even though he completed them. To complicate things, the system wouldn’t let Robert go back into the course to complete them, either. So close, and yet so far. After several phone calls and explanations, the IT support team was able to help. All Robert had to do was repeat courses.

And so he did. Then, poof! It was over. So was Robert’s retention of what he learned.

This is where a lot of people would have polished off their resume and beefed up their Linkedin profile. Robert might still do this, but for now, he is too tired to care.

Robert and his team members gave up their customer focus, evenings, weekends, families and friends, and sleep to make sure their team would complete these 90 courses by October 1. They tolerated shoddy leadership, a sketchy LMS, and a shifting-sands training curriculum. There was no doubt they would make it, because this determined group did not want to face the wrath of their “leaders.” No one wanted to lose their job. Yes, their team would finish first, at all costs.

The recognition for their monumental task? A short email from their director, and a separate one from their manager. “Thank you for completing the training by October 1. We appreciate your efforts.” Robert barely noticed the leaders’ tepid response. He was too busy catching up with his job and his family.

When you are led by intimidation, many employees have to dial down their expectations for recognition way down. I have a feeling Robert didn’t have any expectations to be recognized. This training Odyssey was a way to keep his job, not to learn. A way to keep his leaders happy, not to grow his expertise and skills.

Was the director under similar pressure? Get your teams to come in first, or you’re on the list for the next round of layoffs. Make sure you come in first, so they don’t have anything to hold over your head. Was this a result of trickle-down intimidation? If yes, was the director’s performance at all inhibited by LMS problems? Did someone change the rules of the game mid-stream for him and his managers, too?

Robert and his team will never know. They are too busy digging out to care about what drives their leadership to win at all costs. And, they are too busy digging out to remember what happened in 90 courses of “training.”

One thought on “Lessons for Product Owners & Training Leads, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Team First, Not First Place: Lessons for Product Owners & Training Leads | Francie Van Wirkus

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