I need training that …

Our leadership development program needs …

Too often, learning leaders receive requests for solutions. Or they are hemmed in by learning “strategy” conversations that focus on how quickly the team can implement a new training or what technology will be selected to resolve a specific performance gap.

An evolution in mindset is needed, moving from a focus on solutions to a focus on results.

This, according to Christopher Adams of Performance Change Strategies, is the key difference that a performance consulting approach brings to learning leaders and, more holistically, to the bottom lines of companies adopting this approach.

It’s a different way of thinking about our work, Adams told a Learning Leaders Alliance audience in a recent talk. Performance consulting is a “strategic process that produces business results by optimizing the performance of people and the organizations in which they work.”

Focus on results—not solutions

Performance consulting encourages L&D teams to be more holistic and more strategic in how they think about their work. With a performance consulting mindset, a learning leader examines “what are the results that my client really needs to achieve”—and only then begins to think about what solution, or set of solutions, could enable the workers to achieve those results, Adams said.

This starts with the stakeholders who “own” key business goals and needs.

A performance consultant will conduct analysis: What are those business goals and needs? What is current performance, and what is the gap between current performance and the goal?

Once gaps are identified, the next step is identifying the root cause or causes of the gaps. Any specific solution might address one root cause—but it’s often the case that a performance consultant will suggest “set of solutions aligned to address those root causes,” Adams said.

Strategic partnerships & relationship building

Moving from “order takers” who deliver solutions to strategic partners who suggest broad sets of solutions to resolve problems and enable improved performance is not always a simple or quick process.

Learning leaders need to build trust with key stakeholders. These relationships make it possible for learning leaders to gain a broad, holistic understanding of the organization and its needs. Building trust over time also positions the L&D leader to ask essential questions to get at the root causes of performance or skill gaps.

Adams shared experience of asking those questions, being brushed off, then—after additional projects and conversations that strengthened the relationship—being invited by stakeholders to have the deeper conversation, to strategize with senior leaders about the right solutions to critical problems.

Active listening & other essential skills

Successful performance consulting relies on power skills learning leaders have likely honed as they gained experience and influence within L&D, communications skills chief among them.

Building and maintaining collaborative relationships with senior leaders and key stakeholders requires the ability to clearly communicate about problems and solutions, provide and receive feedback, negotiate parameters of solutions, timelines, and project scope—and more.

Active listening is important. Asking the right questions—and follow-up questions—of the right people will lead the performance consultant to a deeper understanding of how things are currently operating and how and why the current environment might be contributing to any gaps in performance or results.

Critical thinking skills are also essential—to identify gaps, link the gaps to root causes, and come up with solutions. Those communication skills then again are handy to diplomatically communicate the environmental and cultural contributors to critical problems and suggest solutions—after all, training is not a solution to every kind of problem.

Finally, data skills. The performance consultant will need both current performance metrics and a way to measure results as solutions are implemented and after new processes are in place.

At the front end, a performance consultant might gather data by talking to top performers, Adams said—and to their managers. Looking for behaviors that set star performers apart from more typical performers can provide ‘should’ data, according to Adams: What the best people do differently or more often or less often than others in the same role provides insight into how to improve overall performance. It also provides context for conversations with stakeholders about potential solutions.

Learn more about performance consulting

Join Christopher Adams, Amber Boyd, and Frank Nguyen at an all-day seminar on the 3 Pillars of Learning Leadership. Examine the role of strategic thinking and planning, business enablement, and data to drive performance—and hone your skills in these key areas. Learn more and register today.