These days, the challenges faced by learning and development professionals go beyond the realm of training design and delivery. One challenge that often looms large are the unrealistic expectations from senior stakeholders or clients. These expectations can take many forms, but a common thread is the belief that L&D professionals possess magical powers, capable of transforming the individual performance of everyone in the company with astonishing speed, covering every conceivable topic, and do it half a day at virtually no cost.
In the face of these demands, as L&D professionals we can feel like we're walking a tightrope between ambition and reality. And more often that not, we shoulder that burden because it's in our DNA to be as helpful as possible. However, working our socks off to be everything to everyone isn't always the right things to do: Not for the business, not for individuals and certainly not us!
Whilst it's not easy to push back and say 'no', sometimes it's the right thing to do.
Challenges and Practical Solutions:
- Set Realistic Expectations Upfront: Initiating any L&D project with a candid conversation sets the stage for a smoother journey. It's essential to define the scope of what's achievable within your resources and time constraints. An open and honest conversation helps align expectations right from the start, reducing the risk of misunderstandings later on.
- Prioritise Based on Impact: The pressure to cover everything for everyone is a common challenge. Instead, prioritise your efforts based on impact. Identify the areas that can bring the most significant benefit to the organisation and start there. Use the 80/20 rule to take a focused approach which will be more effective.
- Educate Stakeholders: Many times, unrealistic expectations stem from a lack of understanding about what is actually involved with designing and delivering training. Take the time to educate your stakeholders about the time and effort needed to create quality training. Take them behind the scenes of L&D and help them appreciate the importance of a well-thought-out training programme.
- Manage Expectations About Timeframes: Quick fixes may sound appealing, but the reality is that significant performance improvements often require a more extended period. It's vital to communicate this to your stakeholders, emphasising that investing the necessary time will ultimately provide better and longer-lasting results.
- Demonstrate Success: Have evidence of past programmes that have brought success, and what factors made them successful. It's highly unlikely that the most impactful L&D intervention was a half-day workshop or 90-minute elearning course that was delivered in isolation. Do stakeholders want to tick a box or achieve real outcomes?
- Collaborate and Delegate: L&D professionals often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Don't hesitate to collaborate with other departments and delegate responsibilities to subject matter experts or harness the power of user-generated content. Sharing the load and expertise can lead to more effective training without overburdening yourself. Remember that sometimes good enough is good enough!
- Continuous Communication: To stay on track and manage expectations, engage in consistent communication with stakeholders. Keep them updated regarding progress and any challenges you encounter. Regular communication fosters trust and understanding.
- Say No When Necessary: Saying no might be one of the hardest things to do, but sometimes it's the most responsible thing. Diplomatically decline unrealistic demands, providing a clear rationale behind your decision. Offer alternative solutions based on your experience that align better with the resources available and will still add value.
- Focus on Training Quality: Quantity doesn't always equate to quality. Emphasise the value of high-quality training over trying to cover every topic. Focusing on one thing and spending time embedding it will have a more profound impact and be more sustainable in the long run. Doing one thing in depth will probably have better outcomes than doing 10 things superficially.
- Self-Care and Well-Being: The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations can take a toll on your well-being. Remember that you're at your best when you're well-rested and balanced. Prioritise self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Make sure you have a community who has your back, where you can let off steam and get support (Like our VIP community)
In Learning and Development, managing unrealistic expectations is akin to walking a tightrope. It demands a delicate balance of ambition and realism. But remember, by pushing back, educating your stakeholders and setting realistic boundaries, you're ensuring that the training you create is not just a quick fix but a profound, sustainable transformation. That's a win-win-win.
Never forget that your commitment to quality and realism in L&D is what sets you apart. You're not here to perform magic tricks; you're here to make a real difference. Keep pushing back, keep striving for excellence, and keep being the practical, straightforward, and helpful professionals you are. The L&D world is better because of you.