In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Michael O’Brien advises how trainers can impress executives when pitching new learning initiatives.
I am a midlevel trainer at my organization. I recently had an idea for a new training initiative that I’m excited about. I shared my idea with my boss, who also liked it. The next step is to pitch my idea to a team of executives who will decide whether or not to allocate resources to this initiative. I’m quite nervous about my presentation. I know I need executive buy-in if I want my idea to succeed, but I’m not sure how to get that buy-in. As a former executive, what were you looking for when you were pitched a new idea? How would I go about getting your buy-in?
Back in my corporate executive days, what I wanted to hear was the overall impact a person’s project would have on our business. I think what is often lacking, though, is the “how”—how are trainers going to make their training sticky? In corporate America we do a lot of training and it becomes transactional and can sometimes feel like the flavor of the month. A lot of leaders do have a bias and feel like they’ve been down this road before, and they don’t want to go down the same road—which isn’t fair to the current trainer that’s now present in front of them.
First, I think it’s good for trainers to bring an influencer with them. Even if the leader doesn’t need to be convinced, someone around them may need convincing. The biggest recommendation I have, though, is to focus on what the impact of the training will be.
I would rather do fewer projects but go deeper with them so that the desired behavioral change behind the initiative will hold. If you are running two big projects and do one big idea for one project and then a different idea for the next project, that feels choppy and there is no consistency or congruency between the projects. This also makes team members think they just need to get through this one project to get to the next since there isn’t a common goal or idea connecting the different projects. In addition, it also results in learners continuing to do what they’ve always done, and there isn’t any tangible behavior change.
So, my advice to trainers who are pitching ideas is to pay a lot of attention to the impact you want to have and how you are going to achieve that effect, because that is going to be where you see top-line and bottom-line results.
Hear more about Michael O’Brien’s experiences as an executive and leadership coach on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode will air on May 19, 2020.
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