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ATD Blog

3 Mindsets: How Exceptional Learning Leaders Think Differently

Thursday, January 20, 2022

We know—and so do you—that your learning program has a major impact on your business. Whether you’re educating customers, employees, or partners, your program helps your learners build skills and knowledge to be more successful at their most critical tasks. But to what extent are you able to measure your program’s impact on your business’s KPIs today?

Thought Industries conducted a research initiative in 2021 to uncover the secrets of highly successful customer learning programs and to determine how their leaders demonstrate business impact. They found that these leaders tend to think differently about identifying metrics to track, building an action plan, and measuring success. Ultimately, Thought Industries identified three key mindsets that highly successful learning leaders use to demonstrate the true value of their programs:

1. Think Backwards

While many newly commissioned learning program managers start with a technology and plan as they go, great leaders visualize the full journey to maturity, even from the first days. They identify which performance gains they aim to achieve and the metrics that will demonstrate success or failure. To follow suit, start with the KPIs you aim to impact, work backwards from there to locate other leaders in the organization who will be your most valuable partners, then work with them to prioritize what learning offerings will be most effective. Finally, measure the impact of what you’ve launched. At one information technology company, they found a learning leader who wanted to demonstrate the program’s impact on customer renewals. He partnered with customer success leaders to define the most critical milestones of the customer life cycle and built the entire curriculum around that timeline—and found incredible success.


2. Manage Stakeholders to Protect Your Team’s Focus

Once you’ve identified your KPIs and have defined a plan for success, the path ahead will require you to keep your team’s strategic best interests in mind. While other teams may send new requests your way, you’ll need to balance your team’s workload, as well as account for the need for other teams’ support. Handling this elegantly requires two concurrent approaches to stakeholder management. First, communicate early and often with peer leaders about your team’s biggest priorities and why they matter for the business. Second, evangelize for the support you need from those same peers and help them understand how your team’s roadmap will ultimately benefit them. Successful leaders are artists at balancing the priorities and boundaries of their own team, while also expertly navigating great relationships with the rest of the company’s leadership.


3. Multiply the Impact of Learning Across the Business

For successful learning leaders, launching an educational experience is a core organizational capacity that goes beyond building exceptional training. Once a learning program has been established, innovative teams will find ways to reuse and repurpose content, courses, and workshops to do double (or triple) duty; a learning program can become enablement for sales, customer success, and other teams. Leaders may take an onboarding program and use critical pieces of the curriculum in the sales process. Creating learning is never the end of the line, but rather the beginning in adding significant value to other teams. For effective leaders, success is not just centered on the learning team’s goals and results, but also on the achievement of many teams and larger organizational metrics.

To learn more successful tactics, read the whitepaper from Thought Industries detailing their research process and maturity model for learning programs. If you’re interested in a personalized consultation on your own organization’s maturity and how you can level up, e-mail them at [email protected]

About the Author

Rachel Heisterkamp is editor and content lead for the Thought Leadership team at Thought Industries. Thought Industries powers the business of learning by providing the world’s leading B2B customer education and external training platform. For more information, visit

1 Comment
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Very clear article - successful learning leaders are on a journey, always seeking new possibilities. They also always help others grow and develop. Thanks ! Paul ([email protected]) - The IDD Leadership Group LLC
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