They may be accountable to you, but not for you

I’m in the middle of conducting a massive online survey across a wide demography and the responses so far have been quite mind-blowing*! I didn’t want to wait until the tail end of the survey (or it’s conclusion) to share a glimpse of what’s really going on. Mind you, this is an Indian audience, and culturally we’re still trying to open up to online learning.

Question: Do you think an online leadership development program would help you get your career to the next level?

Sample Responses:

No. An offline course is the best.

No. Attending more forums and platforms would help the most.

No. I don’t believe online trainings helps at all. One to one is the best.

Professional Development Survey, January 2020, Sunil Nair

Quite fascinating considering that most offline courses are playing the same song with different tunes. Of course, there are exceptions. But if one were to measure effectiveness, the results wouldn’t be as impressive (to the leaders who’re investing a significant chunk off of their budgets) as the participants think.

A great shift happening across the leadership responsible for learning and development/talent management is acknowledging that mere training programs aren’t effective. Unless, of course, they are complemented with coaching that specifically focus on implementing the principles covered during the training phase.

The biggest reason behind all this resistance towards an online course is that it requires participants to stay accountable to complete the modules while exercising the discipline to show up. And that is hard work! It’s akin to following an exercise program using an online coach, most people fall off the wagon because they feel there’s just no accountability. So, they fire this online coach and go for a personal coach at the local gym (who by the way is far inferior and inexperienced compared to the previous online coach) who will “make them work.”

Sure, they might achieve great results but have they developed the discipline to pick up the slack and get going when times are tough? Yes, the mileage may vary, but in general you and I know the answer to that. Don’t we? And that’s precisely I believe the attitude of someone “making you work” does more harm than good in the long run.

And that’s primarily because the consultant/coach/trainer/whoever you have hired to help you is accountable to you. Not “for” you. That means, at the end of the day, they will try their best to guide and provide you with the best direction and advice to help you move forward. It’s you who have to actually move forward. They’re not going to do the walking for you.

This also means that regardless of the medium, online or offline, the content creator and/or facilitator is accountable to you for providing massive value. It’s your responsibility to take the material, learn it, and apply it to your situation. Just like I’m accountable for you to share my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in my world but it’s up to you to understand, appreciate, apply, share, like, or hate it.

As with all great things in life, we’re better served being accountable to ourselves first. Not only does that lowers our expectations from others but also forces us to question ourselves and our beliefs. And won’t we all love to manage our lives and career with that level of clarity?

P.S. In all earnestness, this exercise started with my intent to spring clean my contacts database. It was irritating to see it swell to a massive 11,000 people! The criteria was simple — respondents would deserve a place in the address book and the ones who reply back with a REMOVE ME (yeah, I asked them to do so) or an inappropriate response get thrown out… with great love and respect, of course. And I’ll be removing them from my Facebook and LinkedIn connection too! Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense.

P.P.S. I have a hard time believing that some of us still have a hard time trusting that online education could be great, and in some cases even better than the best live training programs and/or events out there. I’m hoping that things change for us… sooner than much later. It’s 2020 for Christ’s sake!

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