Leadership Systems is 15 years old this October! When I started this organization, fresh out of many years helping to build the Southwest Airlines University for People from the ground up, I never could have imagined where this would take us. Of course, the diverse client group that we have had the honor of working with over the years has taught us as much as we’ve taught them. I wanted to write this to share some of those insights. And, maybe, just maybe, one of these will help you out.
1. The People-Side of Business Is Similar, Regardless of the Organization, Industry, or Country. One of the secrets to our success, that I’m willing to divulge, is that there are real principles that apply when working the people-side of business. Because there are so many variables to account for with people, lots of people believe it is a complete blank slate each time we take on a new client. This, thankfully, isn’t true. Just like an experienced engineer should know the principles of a specific metal, or of water, or of electricity (depending upon their specialty) we’ve worked hard to understand groups, teams, and organizations. We’ve studied and dynamically apply psychological, sociological, management, leadership, and adult learning principles with all of our clients to ensure that we provide an efficient and over-the-top successful deployment of our services. Many organizations’ representatives are quick to tell us how different and unique their organization is—and there is truth in the statement. To us though, those differences are like varied and unique fingerprints, DNA, and experiences of a person. These things make each person different. However, there are standards in bone structure, musculature, and body development that will be quite similar from person to person at a macro level. We appreciate the differences, but our starting point is always with the principles that we are able to recognize.
2. Organizations Like for Their Uniqueness to Be Recognized. We realized along the way that organizations want to be seen for their unique qualities. These are the things that separate their culture from another’s. It is what makes them…them. So, we made a policy that before any deployment of a course or a consulting solution, before any speech or brown-bag lunch presentation, basically before we do anything that affects an audience within the organization, we get to know that organization like nobody else does. We capture the unique language that the people inside use. We get to understand the problems and challenges people deal with on a daily basis. We work hard to see specific examples of people doing the right thing and develop cases that capture the complexity of decision-making the people have to deal with. Going into the organization we rely on principles much like a doctor dealing with a brand new patient. By the time we are providing solutions, though, we are more like a photographer trying to highlight the best side and make it even better than it has been previously.
3. Nobody Likes to Be Punished by Training. What I mean by this is that we all have sat through some bad training. The good ones in our industry make what we do look easy—seamless. The bad ones are horrible and people have experienced really, really poor training that accomplishes nothing in the long run for the organization or for an individual. When this happens it makes it harder for us to convince people that this would NEVER occur with Leadership Systems. If we were a bad fit with an organization, we’d politely walk away from that account before signing any contracts in order to save everyone time, money, and headaches. We won’t take on business when we know the client would not benefit from the type of work we do. With that said, we work so hard to make each interaction with our client organization right, that even if we missed something, we are still 99% on target after the interaction. We apply adult learning principles in the classroom. It is our job to make it easy for all people to learn, regardless of their learning style. We do not allow a situation to exist where many people in any given class walk away feeling like the class was a waste of time. That sets up a situation where people feel that going to training is punishment—this is unacceptable.
4. It’s Not Really Training, Is It? Training for the people-side of the business is almost an oxymoron. Training works when there is a process that once mastered can be repeated over and over to produce the same, desired result. Math, computer languages, assembly processes are examples of this. The people-side of business doesn’t allow for this. Simply, think about the topic of Leading people. If a person Leads today exactly like they did yesterday, even with the same exact followers, they will get a different result from day to day. Same thing applies to organizational culture, ethics, team dynamics, communication, generational differences, customer service, and sales. There are many variables that feed into an end result with any of those. There aren’t formulas, only principles, tools, and wisdom. We don’t provide formulas. We only provide principles, tools, and wisdom. For this reason, we can’t train someone to be successful with these topics, but, we can develop people to be able to know the principles at play, use many different tools as appropriate, and develop their own wisdom. It’s not training we do, we facilitate the development of people and groups at work. We are consultants and learning facilitators.
5. Not Everyone Is Cut Out to Do What We Do. With our own high standards, we are very selective about who we allow to represent us. At the very basic level, we expect people that join us are able to uphold the items discussed above. We’ve learned how painful it can be for everyone involved whenever the items above are not part of the DNA of how one of our representatives work. There are lots of good people with a lot of knowledge wanting to train people. This desire is admirable, but it doesn’t qualify someone to be part of our team. I believe our clients appreciate that. There is a lot of specialized education and/or experience that goes into practicing what we do at a very high level.
There are many other lessons we’ve learned over the years, but these are some of the crucial ones. We’ve cared about what we do for 15 years and we protect our clients and our organization. Unabashedly, I know we do a great job at what we do. I also know that we compete with organizations that have much more overhead in their business and charge much more for the same service. We’ve been brought in to collaborate with other firms in our industry on many occasions and we’ve always wound up in a Leadership role in that relationship.
We’re proud of 15 years in business and hope that our community, our clients, and our employees are just as proud to celebrate with us!