Honest Advice to New L&Ders

Business, L&D, Leadership, Management

This week I read Julie Drybrough’s jolly good blog on “Advice You’d Give to Someone Starting in L&D”, and my mind starting exploding with all of the advice I would give to myself 2 years ago, if I could, when I transitioned from senior management in clinical trials into a Learning & Development consultant role.

I would tell myself, “mate, this is a completely different ballgame”.

I had transferable skills, sure. I could empathise with the managers and leaders I was now training and accrediting. I knew of the challenges facing global companies, geographically dispersed teams, how so many companies are in a constant state of flux (it’s a VUCA world, you know), because I had been there.

In my role as a manager I had to train my staff in various practical skills and also, a lot of soft skills too. But did I know how to be a facilitator? To lead a group or individual into the right direction without imposing your solutions on them (which, lets be serious, I sometimes did as a manager) is a completely different kettle of sea life.

If I’m honest with you all, staying neutral is still a tough one for me. I’ve had to perfect my “game face”.

A mindset change for me was going from being senior to the group of people I was training or leading, to being hired by someone to deliver training, because those two scenarios are very different. Clinical trials is very much command and control, because, if my team mislabeled a sample, or incorrectly entered a result, people could die, multi-million pound drugs could fail to come to market. There’s definitely less scope for accidental death in L&D. Something I’m greatly appreciative of.

I also had to become more flexible. Sometimes as a consultant a client wants you in a different country next week, or tomorrow – at first, I found it tough to roll with the fluidity of consultancy work. Now, I relish it. I could be working anywhere in Europe, Middle East or Africa with any type of industry you can imagine, and what a huge privilege that is.

So what would I tell myself?

I would say: you’re going to come up against some resistance (to your age and experience, to the very fact you’ve been brought in to help in the first place) – you’re used to this, but this time, you can’t rely on your seniority to push your ideas and solutions in place. You’re going to find this tough. I would say, be confident, remember you’re an expert and you’ve been brought in for a reason and you’ve been hired for a reason.

I would also say, chill out and roll with it; you’re going to love this.

What advice would you have given yourself, if you could, before you started your L&D career?