Page 1

November 2019 |


Joe Ilvento

Reverse Mentoring - AI-Enabled Coaches - When Leaders Meet to Learn Resolving the Feedback Quandary - American Tire Distributors’ Microlearning Success

Get Real. Not all

Education Benefits are Created


Today’s number one non-cash employee benefit is education. But it’s worth knowing that your education partner knows how to work with working adults. Bellevue University was one of the first in the nation to focus on adult learners, with learning programs that are relevant and apply to real work situations, extraordinary online instruction, and award-winning student service. When you are serious about education benefits, work with the country’s most experienced educator of working adult learners.

Real Learning for Real Life • 877-824-5516 A non-profit university, Bellevue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (, a regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.


Let Me Tell You a Story


hen Jack Welch wanted to take GE to its next level, the veteran CEO turned to Steve Kerr to lead the charge. In more ways than one, Kerr was an unlikely candidate for the job. He wasn’t a high-flying young executive or a brash outsider ready to blow up the status quo. In fact, GE was doing OK at the time — regularly topping the list of most valuable companies in the early ’90s. From TV to appliances and lightbulbs to jet engines and nuclear technology, the corporate name was everywhere. A professor of organizational behavior and dean at the University of Southern California’s business school, Kerr certainly didn’t need the job. He could have stayed comfortably ensconced in academia’s warm embrace for the rest of his career. Yet when Welch came knocking, Kerr took the plunge and went to work for GE.

Stories define a movement and communicate values in a way data and dashboards simply can’t. A CEO who can make a strategy come to life with a personal anecdote has a matchless tool to drive engagement. But that application to leadership doesn’t tell the whole tale either. Stories are the path to continued self improvement and high performance. In his book “Smarter Faster Better,” Charles Duhigg asks why some people, time after time, make the right decision while others with the exact same information don’t. Part of the reason is high performers create mental models about the way they think things should be. In short, they tell themselves stories. Duhigg tells the story of Darlene, a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit, who seemed to have a gift for spotting babies whose conditions were on the verge of becoming life threatening. “The secret of people like Darlene is that they are in the habit of telling themselves stories all the time,” he writes. “They engage in constant forecasting. They daydream about the future and then, when life clashes with their imagination, their attention gets snagged.” In other words, mental models define what good should look like and focus attention like a laser when What Jack Welch saw when he looked at GE wasn’t it doesn’t. The stories we tell ourselves dial us in on its successes. It was what remained to be done. He saw what is meaningful and help us stay afloat when the a need to create a company that thrived on change, flood of information and pressure rises up to our chin. one he could give a seemingly impossible challenge How Steve Kerr became the first chief learning offiand watch people find a way to make it happen, again cer is just one early example of the many stories learnand again. ing leaders can draw on for inspiration, motivation What he wanted was a company that was an engine and guidance. Many things have changed since the for learning, constantly turning over new ideas and heyday of Welch and Kerr at GE. What hasn’t changed models as it hummed. And he had the right person to is the power of story to guide practice. lead the charge in Kerr, a specialist in rewards and goal The learning executives who share their experience setting. The only problem? They weren’t quite sure and insight in the pages of this magazine, at the CLO what Kerr’s title should be. Symposium and Breakfast Club events, and through Kerr suggested chief education officer. Welch obour newsletter, podcast and video features are a rich jected. There’s only one CEO at GE, he told him. reservoir of stories. And the stories you can share with They settled on chief learning officer. And so in 1994 the community of learning executives are what will a new corporate role was born. continue to bind it together and shape the future. It’s not a trivial difference, Kerr told Chief Learning That’s no tall tale. CLO Officer magazine 10 year later. “If you think of yourself as an education officer or a knowledge officer, the important stuff becomes the knowledge itself, whereas if you think of yourself as a learning officer, then your client is the person doing the learning,” he said. That origin story is more than an interesting side Mike Prokopeak note for corporate historians. There’s a reason storytellEditor in Chief ing has become such an important leadership skill.

Storytelling is the path to continued self improvement and high performance.

4 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

What if you could harness the power of modern technology to create a simplified learning experience? Now you can. Discover DXC Experience Hub, the next generation learning platform for the future of work.











EDITORIAL ASSOCIATES Kerry Snider Yasmeen Qahwash

SENIOR MEDIA CONSULTANTS Ana Dirksen Daniella Weinberg



DIGITAL & AUDIENCE INSIGHTS DIRECTOR Lauren Wilbur DIGITAL COORDINATOR Steven Diemand AUDIENCE INSIGHTS COORDINATOR Micaela Martinez BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Melanie Lee LIST MANAGER Mike Rovello CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rita Balian Allen Ken Blanchard David DeFilippo Joseph Folkman Sarah Fister Gale Rick Koonce Alyson Lyon Elliott Masie Scott Jeffrey Miller Bob Mosher Jennifer Westropp Jack Zenger


CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Lisa Doyle, Vice President, Global Learning, Booz Allen Hamilton David DeFilippo, Principal, DeFilippo Leadership Inc. Tamar Elkeles, Chief Talent Executive, Atlantic Bridge Capital Gerry Hudson-Martin, Director, Corporate Learning Strategies, Business Architects Kimo Kippen, President, Aloha Learning Advisors Rob Lauber, Vice President, Chief Learning Officer, McDonald’s Corp. Maj. Gen. Erwin F. Lessel, (Ret.) U.S. Air Force, Director, Deloitte Consulting Justin Lombardo, (Ret.) Chief Learning Officer, Baptist Health Adri Maisonet-Morales, Vice President, Enterprise Learning and Development, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Alan Malinchak, CEO, Éclat Transitions LLC Lee Maxey, CEO, MindMax Bob Mosher, Senior Partner and Chief Learning Evangelist, APPLY Synergies Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, The Conference Board Allison Rossett, (Ret.) Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State University Brenda Sugrue, Global Chief Learning Officer, EY Diana Thomas, CEO and Founder, Winning Results David Vance, Executive Director, Center for Talent Reporting Judy Whitcomb, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Learning and Organizational Development, Vi Kevin D. Wilde, Executive Leadership Fellow, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota James P. Woolsey, President, Defense Aquisition University

Chief Learning Officer (ISSN 1935-8148) is published monthly, except bi-monthly in January/February and July/August by Human Capital Media, 150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 550, Chicago IL 60601.  Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Chief Learning Officer, P.O. Box 8712 Lowell, MA 01853. Subscriptions are free to qualified professionals within the US and Canada. Digital free subscriptions are available worldwide. Nonqualified paid subscriptions are available at the subscription price of $199 for 10 issues.  All countries outside the US and Canada must be prepaid in US funds with an additional $33 postage surcharge.  Single price copy is $29.99. Chief Learning Officer,, and are the trademarks of Human Capital Media. Copyright © 2019, Human Capital Media. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of material published in Chief Learning Officer is forbidden without permission.



Free, Live, Online. Chief Learning Officer is pleased to offer live and on-demand webinars!

Upcoming OCT 24

The Bright Horizons Working Learner Index: Implications for HR

OCT 29

The Business Case for Human-Centered Design

Previously Aired OCT 10

How Intentional is Your Learning Tech Ecosystem?

OCT 17

Micro, Mobile and Measured: Our Learning Beyond the Classroom Strategy for the iGen Workforce Check out more previously aired webinars at Available live on the air date and on demand for one year after unless otherwise specified. Check them out today and keep the education going!

Earn recertification credits!

The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HRCertification Institute™ of the quality of the program. It means that this program has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.


Human Capital Media is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit

Printed by: Quad/Graphics, Sussex, WI




2019 10 Your Career Akiba Smith-Francis of Egon Zehnder shares her career journey; Relativity’s Jennifer Westropp says D&I training is only the first step in inclusive company culture; and people share what they’re reading.

30 Profile Unlocking Potential at Commvault

Sarah Fister Gale Commvault CLO Joe Ilvento uses talent management software to reinvent employee reviews.

48 Case Study Sales Training in 5 Minutes or Less

Sarah Fister Gale America’s largest tire distributor proves microlearning can have a huge impact on sales results.

50 Business Intelligence Who’s Mentoring the Future? Ashley St. John Mentoring and coaching are valued more than ever, but the mentors and coaches themselves may be changing.


8 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

November 2019


44 40

24 34




The Value of Reverse Mentoring


Rita Balian Allen Reverse mentoring acknowledges you can have skill gaps on both sides and helps motivate both younger and more experienced employees.


Coaches: 34 AI-Enabled Replacement, Alternative or Complement?


Bob Mosher Train, Transfer, Sustain


Elizabeth Loutfi AI-enabled coaching is on the rise in learning and development, and it comes with its own benefits and challenges.


Elliott Masie Learning Personalization Gets Personal

Ken Blanchard Leading Teams to High Performance


When Leaders Meet to Learn

David DeFilippo What Are Your 3 Career Criteria?


Rick Koonce and Alyson Lyon Cohort-based executive development programs can be a powerful way to develop leaders at all levels.

Resolving the Feedback Quandary

Scott Jeffrey Miller Perfectly Imperfect Leadership


Joseph Folkman and Jack Zenger Let’s change the underlying philosophy and pattern of feedback.

4 Editor’s Letter

Let Me Tell You a Story

53 Advertisers’ Index


Like us:

Watch us:

Join the group:

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 9


Career Advice From


Akiba Smith-Francis, consultant for Egon Zehnder and career coach at Columbia Business School, shares how she got into the coaching space and the lessons she’s carried with her throughout her career.

where I hope to leverage my experience in identifying strong leaders and supporting them in their integration and development.

How did you start your career in learning?

It’s incredibly rewarding to see that you’re making a difference in a person’s life — especially when they’re a leader. The more effective they are, the better for everyone they work with. It’s multiplying the impact you can have.

I got into coaching rather unexpectedly and was surprised by how much I loved it. I started by advising nontraditional applicants to elite business schools, to help them understand how to tell their story in a context that was totally unfamiliar to them. I transitioned into leadership development as a natural extension. Business school was not my ultimate focus — it was supporting others in reaching their potential. I’m an executive coach who has recently transitioned to executive search and leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder,

Columbia Business School Outside career coach 2010–Present

YSC Consulting Consultant 2016–2017

What attracted you to learning and development?

What is your favorite part of being a coach? It’ll sound cliché, but leadership is lonely. It’s an incredible privilege to sit with someone who feels safe enough to tell you what’s really going on with them and work together to help them move closer to their goals. What lessons helped you get to where you are now? Be willing to take on a challenge before you think you’re ready. I typically need to be talked into taking on a new challenge, so this advice is

YSC Consulting Director and head of executive coaching, Americas 2017–2019

2016 2010

10 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Egon Zehnder Consultant 2019–Present

2017 2019



estions. -fire qu id p a r r u swers o ancis an r F h it m Akiba S

The most important part of learning is: something that I have needed to hear. There are many leaders who would prefer to wait for the moment they feel fully competent before saying yes to something, but those moments may be few and far between and mastery of a new task is not possible. If you’re wired like I am, it’s helpful to reframe your idea of risk and trust your ability to work hard and figure things out — and you don’t have to do it alone. What’s your most important piece of career advice? From Martha Beck, with whom I did my first coach training: “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” It’s freedom from perfectionism and a reframing of what learning really entails. You’re not going to be good at something the first time you try it. This is often a painful reality for high achievers. What soft skills are most sought after in leadership nowadays? In order to get things done, leaders must be able to connect with others — clients, subordinates, partners and colleagues. That starts with the ability to listen. Listening requires slowing down, suspending your own agenda and tuning in to what is being said and not said. It’s about understanding the music and the lyrics of what people are communicating. Beyond that, I’d say demonstrating empathy. You don’t always have to agree with someone’s perspective, but showing that you hear what they’re saying and understand where they are coming from in terms of emotion and logic will get you a long way in your ability to work with them. CLO

To give yourself permission to get things wrong and try again.

The most overrated trend in learning and development is: The increased use of technology for learning. I’ve never heard of anyone saying they’ve really learned from an online presentation or interactive webinar.

Learning is essential to an organization because: The world is changing so quickly that it’s impossible to predict what you’ll need to be an expert in. Developing the meta skill of how you learn is critical.

The biggest industry misconception is: That professional development can somehow be separated or carved out from personal development. We’re human beings who cannot help but bring our whole selves to work. Organizations need to be willing to engage with employees as such.

I got into the learning and development space because: Helping people achieve their potential, achieve more than they thought they could, is incredibly rewarding.

Know someone with an incredible career journey? We want to hear from you. Send your nomination to Elizabeth Loutfi at Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 11


What Are You Reading? The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level By Gay Hendricks Becoming aware of our own limiting beliefs and learning how to move them out of the way is how to rise to your fullest potential. — Susan Gatti, president and chief learning officer, ImmixID

Critical Business Skills for Success The Great Courses Audiobook. I’m preparing for my MBA so I wanted to brush up on some strategy basics. I really enjoyed the lectures on human capital — chapters 33-40ish. The book touches on all points that would be taught in an MBA program. I also really appreciated the lecture on finance and how to look at financial statements and understanding the picture they paint rather than the numbers themselves. — Kareem Clyburn, L&D specialist, HR manager, U.S. Air Force

Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World By Ashley Goodall and Marcus Buckingham Will challenge some of our traditional thinking about work and our company’s culture. Also reading “The Expertise Economy” that has us consider innovation in how to reskill or upskill our workforce. — Kristina Miller, manager, culture and learning delivery, Bon Secours Mercy Health

Wired to Connect: The Brain Science of Teams and a New Model for Creating Collaboration and Inclusion By Britt Andreatta Fun and interesting read. Sometimes we have to look at the trends in our organizations and use them as opportunities to provide value. Take a look around and see how work gets done. If your organization is using the power of teams to accomplish important work, this book gives you strategies to help them become peak performers. — John Parsell, senior manager, learning development at Accolade Inc.

Offensive Marketing: Or How to Make Your Competitors Followers By J.H. Davidson Even though the book is not that new at all, it provides comprehensive stories on brand development strategies, marketing decisions, etc. — Michael Kashyn, organization development consultant

Chief Learning Officer wants to hear from you: What’s at the top of your reading list? Send submissions to Associate Editor Elizabeth Loutfi at

12 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Management tools for the real heroes of your organization You are an HR superhero! Your challenges may be great, but the rewards are greater. You must take risks, manage people and organizations, juggle many initiatives all at once AND be a change agent. Your job requires you to be quick thinking, responsive, innovative and also courageous. You have the skills to help your employees realize their potential and the tenacity to achieve mission goals.

Learn how to grow your superpowers at


Top of Mind Making Inclusive Habits Training Effective By Jennifer Westropp Jennifer Westropp, director for talent development and performance at Relativity, says D&I training is only the first step in creating inclusive company culture.

C Jennifer Westropp Relativity

ompanies around the world are making diversity and inclusion a top priority but few are achieving actionable change within their culture. We are learning that true D&I is an active effort to drive change. This change does not happen overnight and requires a hyperfocus from us all. At Relativity, that meant taking a multiyear approach supported by a companywide key business imperative. The first year, 2018, was about listening to and assessing our employees’ current state as well as their readiness so that we could identify our biggest areas of opportunity and what was currently working. The second year employed a more tactical approach, with a range of learning opportunities to engage our employees’ hearts and minds. Here’s a look at our approach. Relativity’s commitment to D&I isn’t just rooted in our core values; it’s grounded in the fact that this is both the right thing to do and will make our business better in the long term. There are numerous empirical studies illustrating the importance of having diverse teams and fostering inclusive work environments to better compete in today’s business setting. Our leadership saw this early on and fully invested in this pursuit by giving us the resources and time needed so that we could get this right. During the first-year assessment period of our company’s current readiness to embrace the D&I message, we analyzed how we could weave D&I concepts into our company culture and recruitment processes, and also spoke to employees first-hand to get a read on what D&I meant to them and how we could evolve as an organization to embed D&I into our culture.

According to


What’s your biggest lesson from 2019?

14 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Through this feedback and through further advisement from the NeuroLeadership Institute, we decided to refrain from rolling out D&I trainings in year one. We also decided to refrain from making the trainings in year two mandatory. This gave our employees the time, space and autonomy needed to make a voluntary, conscious decision to approach D&I through their own lens and hopefully build a base of active community support for the cause in the future. In year two, we rolled out our D&I training course in partnership with Paradigm — a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm — that focused on four core concepts: belonging, voice, growth and objectivity. Alongside Paradigm’s empirically backed D&I research, we personalized the training to better appeal to the hearts and minds of our employees. After seeing the success of the small-group D&I meet-ups we facilitated in year one, where we worked to create a safe, open space for transparent discussions and learning, we decided to host the trainings in small classrooms that were more conducive for employees to share their personal experiences with D&I in an open and safe setting. The training also included several practical applications of how our employees could actively practice being more inclusive in their day-to-day work lives. Presenting scenarios around how to build awareness of their unconscious bias in the workplace and how to embed more inclusive habits into both talent practices and daily interactions were positively received and helped our employees feel more empowered once they left the training. The feedback from these trainings has been positive so far, as 88 percent said it was an effective use of their time. Eighty-nine percent of respondents also said the content was relevant to them and 96 percent said they would engage in inclusive habits moving forward. But these stats only tell part of the story. Training is the first step in this journey; you need the continued commitment, accountability and buy-in from everyone across the organization to ensure that inclusion becomes a foundational pillar of your company’s culture. CLO Chief Learning Officer wants to hear from you: What are you thinking about? Send your thoughts to Elizabeth Loutfi at

Competition for mindshare continues to be the biggest challenge for a learning practitioner. Identifying ways to make content/learning experiences hyper-relevant, digestible and emotionally engaging is of the utmost importance.

UNLEASH YOUR POTENTIAL AT MIT LOOKING TO... advance your organization? build your team’s capabilities? tackle complex workplace challenges?

At MIT, you’ll find a program that aligns with your organizational goals. Choose from more than 100 offerings ranging from two-day, on-campus programs to multi-week online courses, all designed to take your organization to the next level.




Coursework at your pace

Lifelong learning opportunities

Big ideas in practice

xPRO’s online learning program delivers world-renowned experts to you, at your convenience, on a digital platform that leverages the latest research in the neuroscience of learning. MIT xPRO programs focus on helping professionals build their skills on the job.

With online, on-campus, and blended programs taught by MIT faculty, MIT Professional Education addresses your complex technological and engineering challenges—helping propel your organization to new heights.

Business professionals from around the world choose MIT Sloan Executive Education for a targeted and flexible means to advance their individual careers and position their organizations for growth.

Dive in at

Level up at

Learn more at


Learning Personalization Gets Personal Making learning personalization a reality in the workplace • BY ELLIOTT MASIE

I Elliott Masie is CEO of The Masie Center, an international think tank focused on learning and workplace productivity, and chairman and CLO of The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium.

’ve been writing about learning personalization for more than two decades. Influenced by the perspectives of Sir Ken Robinson and others, it seemed only a matter of time until learning content, activities and experiences would be personalized to some degree for each of our learners. Learning personalization makes total sense. We should “optimize” the time (and wage expense) of learning content. We should shape the content around what employees need to know, avoid what they know already, and adapt to their requirements, backgrounds and ideal learning formats. The aggregate impact on motivation, engagement, efficiency and cost could be amazing for both learners and the organization! Learning personalization is a great idea. Yet, it has been amazingly difficult to implement. There are a number of enemies and obstacles to personalization. First, there’s compliance: The rules, expectations and style of compliance and regulatory action demand a common delivery for all. They want to know that employees have been taught the same stipulated content. Traditions and rituals are another obstacle. An example of this is that every day, millions of passengers are taught how to use a seat belt on an airplane. They already know that skill from their automobile experiences but tradition (and regulations) drive the airlines to keep teaching this known skill. Also, most of our learning management systems are not able to personalize content for each learner. They are good at “counting and tracking” content that is delivered, but not at adapting it to each participant’s reality. Finally, our current design models are based on finding a common denominator or efficient mixture that will address most learners’ needs. Ironically, learning personalization happens naturally in one-to-one, on-the-job training. The teacher naturally looks at, recognizes and adapts to what the learner already knows and their work context, and they can focus on new or difficult elements in the work process. Scaling learning personalization is way more difficult and therefore not in the current reality of our learning designs, systems or ecosystems. Sigh and oops! So, what might change soon and make personalization a reality in the workplace?

16 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Learners outside of work are already personalizing. Watch how you (and others) learn about a topic when you are away from the workplace. You search for information, skip content that is off-topic and gravitate to the “just right” content you want right now. Employees will want the same power to personalize learning.

Are we truly ready for the age of learning personalization? Online shopping and social engines are using data to personalize their marketing, information sharing and preference selection, too. In the years ahead, AI will meet and enhance LMSs and talent systems. Learning analytics will drive personalization. The conversations about data analytics and learning will expand to include the ability to leverage data about each employee that could shape their learning content. We can also aggregate data from the enterprise to assess the impact of different aspects of personalization. Real-time visual and behavioral responses have great potential. Imagine a learner is taking one of your courses. Could facial recognition, learner gestures, speed of response and even mouse movements be captured and used to adapt, in real time, their next course segment? Finally, learner controls will increase. A good share of personalization will come from learners themselves as they are given the ability to select formats, content sequence and even the level of feedback they need. I think we need to ask two provocative questions to ourselves in the learning field: First, are we truly ready for the age of learning personalization? And second, what shifts in design, systems, analytics and compliance are needed to make learning personalization a reality? We also need to have a deep conversation with our providers of LMSs, talent systems and content systems about their ability to enable learning personalization, or we should look for new ventures that will add that capacity to our ecosystems. Learning personalization is right at our fingertips. Let’s take it personally, now. CLO

Get More Value from Learning Assets Discover, Develop, Manage and Reuse Valuable Learning Content Learning in the flow of work only happens successfully when you’ve got a smart approach to managing your valuable learning assets. Our solutions to manage learning content give you a “single source of content truth” that removes silos and makes your learning assets more discoverable and reusable to meet evolving learning needs and expectations. Our content management and workflow experts can help you get the most value from your learning assets so you can engage with all learners.

Visit to learn more.


Train, Transfer, Sustain Moving past the training event • BY BOB MOSHER

Y Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm.

ou’ve trained them. Now what? They go back to their desks, immediately apply what they learned and voila — they achieve increased performance. Not quite. There’s more to it than just the training event. In fact, there are two additional phases in the learning ecosystem that must be addressed to support those we serve in successfully performing on the job. Beyond the “training,” the true challenge is to transfer what’s been learned and to sustain, even grow, that knowledge over the span of a career. It starts by thinking of your learners as performers and of our job as supporting their entire learning journey, with the overall goal being competency, not mastery. To become competent in our ever-evolving business landscape, performers must clearly master skills, and you have to train people up to that point of mastery. You definitely do not want a pilot flying a plane without first mastering the concepts of lift. One of the challenges in the journey to mastery is that learners achieve a level of mastery at different rates. So, in any given event, in any given period of time, you have a range of mastery levels. Then, within this range, we also have the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve. This is where performers, once back to work, begin to forget, at a very rapid rate, whatever it is they have mastered and learned in their event-based experience. So how does one ever get to competency? It’s one thing to master something; it’s another to be competent at it. When I was an undergrad I received an A in accounting, but trust me, there was no way I was prepared to do your taxes. This stage is the most difficult, and it’s crucial as it’s where all the different pieces that are mastered integrate in the context of work to form an applicable whole. And they are integrated through our experience as we apply what’s mastered to our job, all while adjusting and adapting. The transfer stage is often a herculean challenge for performers as they refer back to the training event and try to make sense of everything they either practiced in class or learned through real-life scenarios, hands-on labs that simulated workflow, etc. The problem is that at the end of the day these training strategies are all still practice scenarios — not actual workflow. To further complicate things, not every performer’s workflow is the same as the next, and a workflow today is different than it may be tomorrow. The journey of taking whatever is mastered, integrating it into one’s existing skill

18 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

set, and becoming competent, more skilled, more able to do what is needed to do on the job, is no small feat. And of course, what is current now may not be current even an hour from now. So, it’s not only how a performer transfers to competency, but how they remain competent. To become a better performer over time, one must be supported through the sustain stage. When we do things over and over again, we master them, we become competent. Then it changes. Overriding old skill sets with new skill sets is the greatest learning challenge there is.

Overriding old skill sets with new skill sets is the greatest learning challenge. The need for train, transfer and sustain has been around forever. Performers have always had to leave a training event and journey on their own with their newfound skills and knowledge. But we haven’t, and aren’t, giving people the tools to truly navigate the transfer and sustain stages, and this needs to change. It fundamentally starts by shifting our mindset from one of designing training ahead of all else, to focusing first on the stages of transfer and sustain, and building learning and support solutions to support people when in the workflow. Then these deliverables go with them after the training event as critical tools available during transfer and sustain. We can intentionally make a difference during these critical stages, and it changes everything. It brings greater efficiency to every part of train, transfer and sustain. The journey’s destination is competency, not what they can remember or master. When we focus first on transfer and sustain, the training stage takes on a whole new look and feel. Its footprint is often reduced by up to half, and it’s allowed to focus only on the critical skills needed to be mastered before entering the volatile world of the workflow. If we step back and understand the entire journey our performers are on, it fundamentally changes our approach to what we design and deliver in powerful and transformational ways. CLO


Leading Teams to High Performance Team training is key • BY KEN BLANCHARD


Ken Blanchard is chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Cos. and co-author of “Servant Leadership in Action.”

o meet the challenges of today’s complex working environment, more organizations are employing teams, not solo practitioners, to get the job done. Why? Because, as I’ve often said: “No one of us is as smart as all of us.” A Harvard Business Review study found that from 1996 to 2016, the time spent by people in collaborative activities increased by 50 percent or more. So how are all these teams doing? Research conducted by Training magazine and The Ken Blanchard Cos. found that while people spend more than half of their time working in teams, only 27 percent feel their teams are high performing. In other words, fewer than 1 in 3 teams are functioning at a high level. And only 1 in 4 people think their organization does a good job of team leader training. These dismal statistics provide an opportunity to review the state of teams in their organizations and take steps to strengthen them. And training is the key. In the past, training has typically focused on individual managers or contributors. But given the increasing role collaboration plays in today’s workplace, learning officers need to expand their focus from how people are performing to how people are performing together. The key to higher performance is team training. Our recent survey found that training doubled the likelihood that a team would be high performing.

Teams at T1 need to align for results by creating a team charter that will set them up for success right from the start. Team stage 2 — dissatisfaction: As the team encounters difficulty, morale may dip when people experience a gap between their initial expectations and reality. Conflict is natural at T2. Apple founder Steve Jobs used to compare this stage to a rock tumbler. “It’s through the team,” Jobs said, “through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise — and by working together, they polish each other, and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.” Teams at T2 need to communicate during conflict. During this stage, team members should be encouraged to participate with candor, listen with curiosity and value the diversity of the team. Team stage 3 — integration: As issues are addressed and resolved, team members at the integration stage begin to see the team as a whole and start thinking in terms of “we” rather than “I.” While that’s a good thing, people need to watch for a tendency to agree in order to avoid conflict. To build team cohesion, teams at T3 need to work collaboratively. They must trust and support one another and at the same time hold each other accountable on commitments and behaviors. Project Aristotle — a major study of teams conducted by Google — found that “psychological safety” — i.e., trust — was a primary element of high-performance teams. A well-trained team leader Building a high-performance team is a journey will foster trust by creating an environment where from a collection of different individuals to a cohesive, people feel they can take risks and share opinions highly productive group. Research during the past 70 and feelings without fear. years has consistently demonstrated that teams, like Team stage 4 — production: At T4, both producindividuals, go through predictable stages of develop- tivity and morale are high. Communication is open, ment as they grow. Understanding these stages — and and leadership is shared. It’s important to note that the team’s characteristics and needs at each stage — is you will never have an empowered, self-directed team essential to building a high-performance team. unless the leader is willing to share control. In order to Team stage 1 — orientation: Above all else, teams sustain high performance, a team at T4 needs to mainneed clarity. Does the team share a strong sense of pur- tain synergy and strive for ongoing improvement pose and a common set of values? If not, establish through new challenges and continued growth. those first. Next, determine roles and goals. As with Teams will continue to be a major strategy for getindividuals, good team performance starts with clear ting work done as organizational leaders realize what goals. What is expected from team members? Clarify the Navy SEALS have known for decades: “Individubehavioral norms from the outset. als play the game, but teams beat the odds.” CLO

Fewer than 1 in 3 teams are functioning at a high level.

20 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Ideal Modality for High-Stakes Learning

CLO learner

82% of CLOs would use collaborative learning but 87% still rely on the classroom.

To make your collaborative transition, contact us today.


What Are Your 3 Career Criteria? The journey to know thyself • BY DAVID DeFILIPPO

“K David DeFilippo is principal of DeFilippo Leadership Inc., executive learning officer for Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business and an executive coach at Harvard Business School.

now thyself ” is a principle inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi which dates its origins back to fourth century B.C. It is one of 147 expressions carved into the temple and perhaps the most well-known historically. This belief influenced the writings of Socrates as demonstrated by his focus on “self-knowledge” and the repeated usage in Plato’s writings to espouse individual self-awareness as a precondition to understanding the world. Tracing this aphorism’s historical roots into contemporary times, we see this value shared time after time in diverse works, such as Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac” from 1750 — “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self ”; Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Gnothi Seauton” (translated “Know Thyself ”); and even in the “Matrix” movie series with Neo’s quest to know himself in order to save mankind. So, what gives with the Greek mythology lesson combined with a historical walk down memory lane and a review of one of the more memorable action film characters of the twentieth century? As a longtime internal learning and talent practitioner and now as an executive coach, I spend a good amount of my time helping people gain and increase their self-awareness. This phase of the developmental coaching process is a precondition to focusing the work of making mindset shifts and taking visible actions based on this new awareness. One of the perennial considerations that rises out of an individual’s increased self-awareness is that of career and job satisfaction. When working with and coaching executives, I regularly hear from individuals that they are not completely happy with their jobs or fulfilled by their roles even when they have seemingly climbed the ladder to a position of status. In explicating the reasons for this dissatisfaction, I regularly find that individual and organization career aspirations may not be fully aligned and risk remaining askew due to a lack of intentionality on the part of the person combined with tacit assumptions by the organization. This misalignment may be rooted in Maslow’s well-known psychological theory that humans all have a unique hierarchy of needs which spans the basics of safety through the more complex journey to self-actualization. Further, with the current focus on the employee experience and workforce engagement, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, in an August 2019 Harvard

22 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Business Review article, posits that most people seek role mastery, team affiliation and a sense of purpose. While counterintuitive, the three criteria that Chamorro-​ Premuzic offers are often ignored by individuals due to compensation, “the devil you know” phenomenon and a lack of self-awareness about what they really want. In these situations, the seemingly simple question that I ask individuals is, “What are your three criteria for job and career satisfaction?”

Individual and organization career aspirations may not be aligned and risk remaining askew. On the surface this question appears to be an easy one to address. However, the surprise that I have experienced over and over is that many people arrive at a place in their career and are not sure how or why they ended up there. With this lack of clarity, answering this question in a meaningful way is harder than one anticipates and is often the starting point for a conversation focused on closing the gap between current and future ambitions. As someone who believes in taking my own prescriptions, here are my three conditions which I arrived at about 10 years into my career: Meaningful purpose: being part of an organization or team with a well-articulated purpose combined with the intention and planning to achieve this outcome. Experiencing the results: staying close enough to the people impacted by the purpose to realize and experience the impact that occurs. Working with people similarly aligned: doing the first two with a team who share a similar passion and belief in the mission. These have served as my career satisfaction yardsticks and have guided and informed my career choices, role decisions and, more recently, the clients I work with. So, in the spirit of Socrates and Plato, as well as the others influenced by the importance of knowing thyself, what are your three principles of career satisfaction? CLO

24 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

ns to o i t a iz rgan erations o r o nity f g all gen nced u t r o opp ist amon experie n a x re is ring ill gaps e and mo zones. o t n e k rt er rse m ge that s th young ir comfo e v e R e d o owle otivate b utside th n k c a an m to push o c d an yees o l p em



here are currently five generations in the workforce, presenting tremendous opportunity for all to enhance their outlook and creativity. But it also requires us to push our thinking and practices in new and different ways to access this depth of perspective and reap the incredible rewards and value. As you drive for change and innovation in your organization, attracting and retaining talent that represents various demographics to build your pipeline is in-

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 25

creasingly critical to maintain a competitive edge. Competing for talent is an ongoing challenge for many executives. Being creative and current with practices to engage your employees is essential. One such practice is to encourage and support reverse mentoring and incorporate it as a norm within your organizational culture. What is reverse mentoring? Typically, in a mentoring relationship the mentor is someone who has more experience in a particular area or in their career and who provides guidance to a mentee with less experience. Reverse mentoring is the same concept but often featuring a younger employee imparting know-how and improved methods to an older, perhaps more workplace-​experienced worker. Implementing reverse mentoring is one of many opportunities for organizations with a multigenerational workforce. It acknowledges that you can have gaps in skills on both sides and helps motivate the younger as well as more experienced employees to push out of their comfort zone.

generations’ awareness and expand their knowledge. Reverse mentoring can also be a critical career development strategy that gives employees different ways to take charge of their careers and create their own paths. Seeking multiple mentors from a variety of venues is an effective way to address various goals and needs. It also enables each employee to be their own advocate by initiating these relationships, whether they are a mentor or mentee, and embrace them as an ongoing process through different career stages. Taking the time to build strong relationships across all generations makes us more valuable as individuals, teams, departments and organizations. The things we can learn from one another help push us in new ways and allow us to grow into more effective professionals, contributing to higher productivity. In addition, it can be highly motivating and engaging and lead to higher retention of all generations of employees.

Reverse mentoring can challenge many traditional views and experiences.

The Case for Reverse Mentoring It has been said that Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, initiated the concept of reverse mentoring back in the 1990s when he realized that many of the newer and younger employees had much more expertise and knowledge about the newest technologies than their managers, including himself. As a result, he had all managers seek out mentors from the pool of younger employees. The range of experiences, assets, beliefs and motivations among the various generations cannot be overstated. These differences add value to how we do our work, communicate and collaborate and can ultimately enhance performance. With these opportunities come potential challenges, but these can be embraced and welcomed to ensure that the benefits greatly outweigh any conflicts. Recognizing that each generation has been exposed to different influences that shape our thinking in unique ways can open up new possibilities. For example, millennials (born between 1980-1996) grew up with computers from the time they were in elementary school, whereas for boomers (born between 1946-1964), television was the new technology. Allowing millennial teammates — and Generation Z as they continue to enter the workforce — to share their expertise with technology with Generation X and boomers can heighten the older 26 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Strategies for Success There are a number of things you can do to ensure effective, successful reverse mentoring is taking place in your organization. First, it’s important to determine well-matched pairs — creating appropriate partnerships is foundational to having a good mentoring relationship. Both the mentor and mentee should understand and appreciate the value of their differences and the importance of the skill sets each brings to the relationship. Each party should also be invested and committed to the relationship with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. There should be alignment with the skill and/or experience gap that the mentee is looking to fill and the mentor has to offer. Last, there should be an openness by both mentor and mentee to explore, engage and learn. It’s also important to identify what is needed — to set specific goals and objectives to be achieved within the mentoring relationship. The best mentoring relationships typically are mentee-driven. The mentee should be realistic and practical with expectations, being thoughtful of their mentor’s time. Make sure partnerships of give and take are being created. The mentee can offer assistance, knowledge and resources to their mentor, as well. Keep in mind, it is all about relationship building — what each puts into the relationship will determine what they get out of it. Both parties must be sincere and

authentic about what is needed to concisely communicate needs and expectations. Openness and acknowledgment of different generational communication styles by both is also a must. Encourage mentors and especially mentees to enter the relationship with curiosity and an open mind — reverse mentoring can challenge many traditional views and experiences. It’s important to engage with an open and eager mind to try something different. It will require a shift in mindset for many, offering unique rewards. As learning leaders, this is a key factor in communicating and implementing a reverse mentor practice. Reinforcing this point and offering tools and resources to help both the mentor and mentee as they enter into these pairs will be a key ingredient for success. Both the mentor and mentee must also be able to ask for and be open to receiving feedback. Prior to entering any mentor relationship, it’s important that both parties do their homework. The mentor should prepare themselves for the difficult questions they may be asked and the mentee should be ready for the challenge by being aware of their strengths, weaknesses, skills, interests, values, goals and priorities. They should understand their differentiators, their personal brand and the value each brings to the partnership. Keeping each other accountable requires an openness to feedback, both positive and constructive, and a willingness to embrace that feedback in order to grow. In any mentoring relationship, professional etiquette should be practiced, keeping in mind the commitment and being respectful of each individual’s time and efforts. Those involved should be prompt and on time for all meetings, offer follow-up as requested, accept constructive criticism and offer concerns in a profesREVERSE continued on page 52

So You Want to Be a Mentor? ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES Mentor responsibilities:

Mentee responsibilities:

Make a commitment to be accessible.

Have well-defined objectives and realistic expectations.

Listen with an open mind, offering constructive feedback. Share experiences openly. Honor confidentiality. Ask mentee for clear and concise objectives. Ask questions and be reflective. Offer encouragement and support; help build self-confidence. Provide information, not solutions.

Know what you need or want from the relationship. Initiate regular contact with specific discussion items. Openly share successes as well as struggles. Actively seek constructive feedback and be receptive to input. Invest in making the relationship successful. Give the mentor feedback on progress. Focus on learning, raising issues as they emerge.



Coaching and advising



Quick learner


Relationship building

Providing feedback

Active listening

Managing risks

Goal setting

Active listening



Follow through

STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING AND ENHANCING MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS Each person takes initiative and risks. Give regular feedback — what’s working and what’s not.

Keep discussions confidential. Listen with open minds; be honest and frank.

Set mutually agreed upon objectives.

Mentor needs to have a sense of satisfaction.

Openly address unmet objectives or expectations.

Mentee needs to gain empowerment and accomplishment.

Develop mutual trust and respect.

Celebrate and publicize successes.

CREATING A REVERSE MENTORING CULTURE Advocate for reverse mentor relationships as a norm.

Engage all levels to be approachable and ready to participate.

Encourage reverse mentorship as critical to success with supportive practices.

Embrace mentoring as a core corporate value.

— Rita Balian Allen Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 27


Why tuition assistance should be used for workforce development 3 things the Learning & Development department can do to maximize TA benefits Even if tuition assistance doesn’t fall in the L&D arena, there are important reasons to tap into this funding source for employee development. First and foremost, lifelong learning is now a mandate. With the scale of change in needed workplace skills, it’s simply insufficient to assume that everything you learn in your twenties will serve you for your career. As Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist puts it, we have arrived at the Age of Accelerations. “The single dose of education stockpiled in our twenties will barely last into our thirties. And the 40-year career arc is stretching to 50 or more years as we live longer, healthier, and more engaged lives.” Further, it’s likely your employees know this. That’s why development opportunities are seen as the most popular non-cash benefit – especially among millennials. Your company needs to commit to lifelong learning. Your employees expect it. Tuition Assistance can play a valuable role in meeting these needs.

How to make Tuition Assistance work for everyone The simple truth is that not all tuition assistance programs work well for workforce development – and few universities truly partner with you to meet your workforce development needs. Here are 3 tips to consider: 1. START WITH A TA PROGRAM THAT IS BROADLY ACCESSIBLE AND WIDELY COMMUNICATED.

As a seasoned Chief Learning Officer commented recently, “TA is just table stakes.” In other words, just having TA on a list of potential benefits is not enough. Make it available to as many as possible and let them know it exists. In our experience, when you do this, you will be surprised at who steps up. 28 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •


Have skills or knowledge gaps you’re trying to fill. Chances are you can’t hire enough to fill the gaps. When you associate learning programs with real career growth needs, employees get engaged, commit to the learning and by extension, commit to the company. In our experience, employee engagement goes up exponentially when they see how they can employ what they learn to their current or next job. Of course, this is where it helps to work with a university that is flexible enough and knowledgeable enough to create learning programs that meet your knowledge and skills needs and know how to work with working adults. Not all do this. But when you can deploy TA toward addressing needed corporate skills and knowledge, you get more bang for your TA buck – and the C-Suite will be impressed. 3. WORK WITH A UNIVERSITY THAT KNOWS HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES.

Even when your employees want new skills and knowledge, you will find that many also want degrees. Earning a degree as a working adult is very different than as an 18-year-old. How do you know if a university understands working adults? There are several clues: A. Are adult learning programs relegated to the

Continuing Education department? If so, it’s a good indication that adult learners are seen as secondary to traditional college students. B. Are their degree programs career-relevant –

and updated with changes in those careers? C. Do they have a history of serving adult

learners of more than 20 years?


D. Do they embrace Prior Learning Assessment?

Adults bring significant experience and prior learning to their degree programs. Adult-serving universities understand how to assess this learning for college credit that can apply to a degree. Prior learning may include previous college credits, corporate training, professional certifications, for-credit exams – even professional experience. Universities who don’t embrace Prior Learning Assessment can make your employees spend needless time and money (including your TA dollars) taking classes they don’t really need. E. Do they understand the needs of corpora-

tions today? Are they already working with other corporations to create and support their learning and development needs?

Free white paper: How to Build a Best-in-Class Education Benefits Program As the university selected to work with some of America’s largest talent-forward companies, we’ve learned a thing or two about what works to make Education Benefits valuable for both the company and the employee. We want to share that knowledge with you. The white paper includes five valuable takeaways that can give your education benefits program the cache needed to truly perform as it should. If your education benefit program goals include talent attraction, retention and development, you will find this white paper helpful. Download the White Paper at A non-profit university, Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (, a regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Corporate Learning Solutions division of Bellevue University works with corporations and other enterprises to support the productivity and competitiveness of their companies by increasing skills, knowledge and talents of workforces. Corporate Learning Solutions has been working with corporations for more than 25 years and has pioneered a wide range of innovative solutions to human capital development. These include the Human Capital Lab™ the nation’s first think tank to measure the impact of learning on Key Performance Indicators, custom learning programs that address specific skills and knowledge gaps, and Skill Accelerator™ boot camps. • 877-824-5516 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 29


Unlocking Potential at Commvault Commvault CLO Joe Ilvento used talent management software to reinvent employee reviews.



oe Ilvento knows how to sell. As a freshman biology major at Syracuse University, he took a summer sales job and outsold colleagues who had been on the job for 30 years. As a prize, he got to attend a sales seminar with Tom Hopkins, the international sales guru and author of “How to Master the Art of Selling.” It changed Ilvento’s life. “I sat in the front row of 2,000 people and realized I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to make money,” he said. Ilvento switched to psychology, and when he graduated he got a sales job at a cable company. Once again, he became the top sales rep, tripling his sales quotas while his peers struggled to make theirs. He gained so much recognition for his sales swagger that other reps started asking to go on calls with him, and his manager eventually promoted him to sales trainer. That’s when his career shifted to the learning and development field.

“They created a role for me that didn’t exist.” — Joe Ilvento, CLO, Commvault

Innovation at the Jersey Shore Ilvento went on to become a master trainer with Sarder Learning, then spent almost 14 years as a learning leader at Citi Group before being recruited by Commvault, a data protection and information management solution provider near his home town of Tinton Falls, New Jersey. “They created a role for me that didn’t exist,” said Ilvento, who became their first CLO and director of talent development in 2011. Commvault, which was originally spun out of Bell Labs in the late 1990s, faced a number of unique talent challenges, said Chief Human Resources Officer Jesper Helt. Unlike Silicon Valley, where companies poach talent on a daily basis, Commvault was one of 30 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

the few tech companies on the Jersey Shore. “We were insulated from the talent wars, but it also made it easy to fall out of touch with best practices for employee development,” Helt said. The leadership team recognized that the next generation of hires were bringing new, valuable skills to the company that senior staff didn’t possess. That forced them to rethink their approach to training, mentoring and career development. “People coming in want to be taken seriously and given meaningful work on day one,” he said. “We had to tie that into our people practices.” That led the leadership team to take a more strategic approach to HR and L&D, which led them to Ilvento. “Joe is a very accomplished learning professional with a crazy big toolbox,” Helt said.

Central Learning Function Ilvento began by reviewing all the learning functions so he could make recommendations on where to improve. He found that the company had no shared learning philosophy or central department. “Every department did their own thing,” he said. The company also used separate vendors for performance management, learning management and other HR services, which made it difficult to get a clear view of the human capital data. For his first act as CLO, Ilvento brought together the leaders of every business unit to agree on a single learning management platform. They chose Cornerstone OnDemand, which they would use to create a centralized repository for training and learning management. Having a single solution would allow for better data sharing across departments and the dissemination of best practices, he said. “Once we turned it on, every system was totally integrated.” He populated the learning management system with a library of relevant e-learning courses to support everything from soft skills training to automation and technical skills.


Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 31


He also began meeting with the C-suite to discuss their vision for leadership development, which led to the creation of the Commvault Management Training Program. “We built the content around Commvault’s values, and now any department can send their managers to get trained,” Ilvento said. However, the most impactful program Ilvento built falls outside of the traditional training paradigm.

Talent Reviews in a Snap

Six Key Questions Instead of rating employees on their accomplishments, twice a year managers and employees meet for a “talent snap” conversation. Managers use the conversation to answer the following questions about the employees’ performance, progress and engagement: Do they deliver high-impact results/contributions? Do they live and breathe the Commvault values? Do they exhibit emerging, solid, strong or exceptional levels of potential? Are they at risk for low performance? Are they a low, medium or high flight risk? Are they ready for an expanded role or promotion now or in the next one to two years? The responses are captured in the system, and managers have additional space to take notes, record coaching ideas and sketch individual development plans if they choose. Because all of the data from past talent snaps are also captured in the system, managers can track each employee’s growth and potential over time, so they can shape these conversations around past accomplishments and make better choices about future development. “It provides a simplified framework that lets managers check in with employees on their career development and what they need today,” Tobin said. The impact has triggered a culture change in the company. “Our development paradigm has gone from ‘where are you doing poorly’ to ‘let’s develop your strengths,’ ” Helt said. “We all have room to improve. Unlocking Potential focuses on leveraging what we are already good at.” The platform does more than support individual assessments, however. It also gives Commvault leaders the data they need to track workforce performance and predict what kinds of training or engagement activities are needed to meet the company’s strategic goals.

Commvault’s founders decided early on that they would not put their people through the drudgery of the traditional employee review cycle. “They saw in their own careers how absurd this process was from both sides, so they said no,” Helt said. That was great when the company was small, but as it expanded it became difficult to keep track of performance. “We needed that talent data to grow the business, but we wanted to do it differently.” Ilvento saw an opportunity to use the Cornerstone platform to meet that need. Rather than buying an off-the-shelf performance management — Katie Tobin, senior solution, he worked with manager of learning and the development team to development, Commvault build a custom app within the Cornerstone environment to meet their exact assessment needs. Ilvento started by meeting with managers and employees to understand what they wanted from a performance management system — and what they wanted to avoid. “It needed to be a lightweight solution that didn’t take a lot of time,” he said. But it also had to give them a framework to set priorities, plan development activities and provide follow-up coaching. “We wanted to inspire ongoing conversations between managers and employees about how they can grow in their careers,” said Helt. “There is a lot of power in these kinds of dialogues.” Using the feedback, Ilvento’s team built a program within Cornerstone called Unlocking Potential, which is a simple structure for employee reviews. Each year, employees record three to five priorities in the platform, along with key action steps and due dates. “It’s important to build assessments around ‘priorities’ rather than ‘goals’ because goals are always changing,” said Katie Tobin, senior manager of learning Commvault Chief Learning Officer Joe Ilvento draws on his creativity and wealth of experience to deliver solutions. and development.

“He is one of the most innovative leaders I’ve ever worked for. He’s always looking for ways to scale what we are doing and to meet a business need.”

32 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •


Ilvento creates and curates content for Commvault.

Workforce Potential in 3-D Once talent snaps are complete, employees are automatically plotted on a 16-box grid that maps employees based on their level of performance against key objectives and their alignment with company values. The highest performers and most-aligned employees land at the top left corner, while low performers and those at risk of leaving are toward the bottom right. The platform then displays the results in a 3-D map, allowing managers and leaders to explore the data. They can zoom in on individual candidates to get details on their performance or filter results to view trends for specific roles or in-demand skills, or to study results for a business unit or across the entire population. Color coding allows them to see where a group is excelling (green) and where there are talent or engagement gaps (red). It enables managers to see at-a-glance things like who is ready for promotion, where high performers are located, where pockets of talent are at risk of leaving and what specific skills may be lacking in the workforce. “It’s a strategic way for us to look at all of our talent, and it gives managers a framework to move their people to the next step on the ladder,” Ilvento said. Commvault leaders use the platform to do workforce planning and to implement proactive solutions, including training, promotions, mentoring, stretch assignments and other workforce development strategies. And because it tracks historic assessment data, they can monitor the impact of these action steps. “It’s been very well received by management and staff,” Ilvento said. “It’s changed how we look at talent management.” Employees also like it. Using the platform is optional, but leaders encourage everyone to use it, and data from the employee engagement survey shows those who do experience more positive development experiences. The survey found that 73 percent of em-

ployees who have career conversations using the Unlocking Potential tool say they know what they need to do to grow their careers versus 47 percent of employees who don’t use the platform. Eighty-eight percent of employees who use the platform say their managers provide feedback/coaching that positively impacts their performance versus 58 percent who don’t. And 89 percent of employees who use the platform say their manager supports their skill and career development versus 58 percent who don’t. The Unlocking Potential solution exemplifies who Ilvento is as a leader, Helt noted. “This isn’t something he’d done before. He just saw a need, then got creative conceptually, drawing on his own wealth of experience.” The project even pushed Cornerstone to rethink how their platform works. At one point, when Ilvento’s team couldn’t build everything they wanted in the performance management module, they pulled it all into the talent management module to leverage features in ways the vendor hadn’t considered. “It earned him lots of accolades from the Cornerstone team,” Helt said. It also inspired the HR team to have Ilvento build something that would “add a little wow to the onboarding experience.” Now, as soon as a new hire accepts an offer, the newly designed onboarding system sends them links to the company’s value statement, videos about the workplace and a questionnaire about their favorite snacks so Ilvento’s team can have them delivered to their desk when they arrive. The platform also uploads a picture of the new hire so their team will recognize them, and it uses a green screen to put them in company events — like outings to Yankee Stadium. “It’s a way to differentiate the experience and to make it memorable,” he said. When he’s not building platforms, he’s busy creating and curating learning content for everyone in the company. That includes his latest e-learning course reminding people how to get the most out of offsite conferences, which includes a video of the chief legal officer encouraging them to have fun — but not too much fun. “It is a fun way to get the message across and make the learning come alive,” Ilvento said. His unconventional approach to the CLO role has made him a favorite at Commvault. “He is one of the most innovative leaders I’ve ever worked for,” Tobin said. “He’s always looking for ways to scale what we are doing and to meet a business need.” Carmen Cortez, former HR leader at Commvault (now currently with Cisco) agreed. “He is able to translate his creative ideas into practical solutions,” she said. And when he faces an obstacle, it just inspires him to keep going. “He always says ‘there must be another way.’ ” CLO Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in Chicago. Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 33

Replacement, Alternative or Complement? BY ELIZ ABETH LOUTFI

AI-enabled coaching is on the rise in learning and development, and it comes with its own benefits and challenges.

34 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •


oaching, whether it’s life coaching, executive coaching or performance, skills or career coaching, seems inherently personal and humane. After all, it involves opening yourself up to feedback, conversations and, ultimately, connection. But what if your career or executive coach wasn’t actually a coach at all — or even human? Artificial intelligence made its way into learning and development with the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and more recently, it’s been showing up in the coaching space. Traditionally, coaches are hired from the outside to coach within a company or are even part of a company’s internal human resources office. They

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 35

may be tasked with retaining and developing top performers or asked to act as a sounding board for a strategic business matter. On a personal level and in the workplace, coaching is a useful tool that allows an individual to practice new skills, work toward achieving goals or simply boost their confidence. AI-enabled coaching aims to do essentially the same thing, though it comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. One of the first AI-enabled “coaches” — a chatbot named Eliza — was built during a study conducted in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the 1960s and programmed to simulate a session with a psychotherapist using basic natural language processing technology. When Eliza was first introduced, some users thought they were actually chatting with a real human. More and more, AI-enabled coaching apps are on the rise in the L&D space. Learning leaders who are interested in using an AI-enabled coach can choose from several, including LeaderAmp, Orai,, QStream, GiantOtter and, most recently, LEADx’s Coach Amanda. Coaching apps like BetterUp and are mobile platforms that also use AI to connect users with human coaches. Learning leaders have a lot of questions to consider before adding an AI-enabled coach to their L&D repertoire. However, many of these questions should be the same ones they would ask about a learning tool that didn’t use AI, said Matt Barney, an industrial organizational psychologist and founder and CEO of LeaderAmp. “What’s the business case? Where’s your organization trying to go?” Barney asked. “Where are the gaps, and what part of that comes from people? The same sort of organizational diagnosis needs assessment that a mature, responsible CLO would do is front and center first, before they ever get to AI, because you could solve the wrong problem to the third decimal place with AI, and what’s the point of that?”

said. After facing these problems himself as the chief learning officer at Sutter Health, and later as the vice president and director of the Infosys Leadership Institute in India, he decided to launch LeaderAmp as a tech-based solution. “LeaderAmp is a high-touch, high-tech combination approach to making coaching both more effective, because it’s more embedded in people’s daily lives, and more scalable, so it’s responsibly lowering the cost by relying on some new kinds of artificial intelligence,” he said. Barney said two types of AI have been widely used to address the coaching industry’s problems: Expert systems and deep learning “flight simulators.” The former is calibrated to be like an assessment tool, allowing users to schedule reminders to reflect on a lesson or practice learned behaviors and skills. For example, LEADx’s Coach Amanda will send its users daily notifications based off the user’s completed personal assessment. The user is reminded to interact with Coach Amanda at least once a day and perhaps pick a new goal to work toward. Deep learning allows users to practice a skill or lesson in a low-risk environment, on their own schedule, Barney said. Last year, his team won an award for an instant persuasion coach, which was programmed to be capable of having a back-and-forth conversation in which they practice being persuasive in any given situation, using the research of scientist Professor Robert Cialdini. The coach is able to identify how well the user used Cialdini’s persuasion principles and will even suggest how the user can improve so they can practice persuasion before having to use it for real. Last July, LEADx partnered with SurveyMonkey to ask U.S. managers questions about using an AI-enabled coach. The results revealed that 53 percent of managers didn’t want one, citing technophobia and a lack of confidence in the AI-enabled coach’s ability to teach lessons on soft skills and emotional intelligence the way a human coach can. However, most changed their tune after they had the chance to work with one. “Any time you roll out an e-learning tool or an AI platform, you’re never going to get 100 percent who want it, just because they don’t want anything,” said Kevin Kruse, founder and CEO of LEADx. “I think the problem here is our understanding, our beliefs about AI and robots. We’re not all technical, we’re not all scientists, so it comes from the movies. Of course, traditionally in most movies the AI or robot is evil, mean. It’s killing us, chasing us or taking over the world.”

The “conversation” between AI and human user is still only surface level.

The Case for AI Historically, coaching doesn’t scale well because it tends to be expensive (the average human coach can run $500 an hour, with the high end nearing $3,500 an hour) and most people don’t have time in their schedules to fit in regular coaching sessions. As a result, coaching opportunities often are limited within organizations or only offered to high-level and C-suite executives. But when rooted in measurement and science, AI can be a useful tool to address these issues, Barney 36 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

But despite AI lacking human elements such as emotions, Kruse said it can actually be very good at teaching soft skills and EQ because of its ability to send daily reminders about practicing a soft skill or following through on a behavioral action plan. Human coaches, like the ones through BetterUp and, can also use AI to help regularly track and flag changes in a user’s behavior because of how it collects that data. “As long as it’s grounded in the science, which suggests why a soft skill works and how to learn it, then it’s completely appropriate to use with AI because even a very expensive coach cannot be with a person they’re coaching all the time,” Barney said. “But the AI can. We know the more a person practices, the better, whether it’s a soft skill or some other skill.”

Additionally, machine learning can potentially lead to creating biased AI. Because AI is subject to what it learns, it can learn bias from skewed information, Barney said, referencing instances reported in the media in which AI-enabled chatbots from large tech companies such as Google or Microsoft had to be shut down after “learning” racist and inflammatory language from tweets and GroupMe and Kik messages. Another issue inherent in AI-enabled coaching is finding what Barney called the “Goldilocks Zone.” In other words, even when based in science, the coaching still needs to be appropriate for each individual — “Not too hard, not too easy, but just right for each person on a mass, scalable level,” he said. “Take swimming as an example. It would be crazy for an AI to suggest to a non-swimmer to jump into the deep end. And conversely, it would be almost as bad for an AI to tell any Olympic gold medalist swimmer to go blow bubbles in the children’s pool.”

Personalizing the AI experience is critical in order to be effective.

Where Human Coaches Shine There are many ways, however, in which human coaches continue to excel beyond the capabilities of AI-enabled ones. For starters, building out AI requires a lot of data. When there’s enough, AI can be very good at mimicking the coaching process, which is where both a human and an AI-enabled coach can appear to be doing similar jobs. But the “conversation” between AI and human user is still only surface level. Kruse said there hasn’t been any form of AI created yet that is able to simulate a real, deep, back-and-forth coaching conversation. Soulaima Gourani, career development expert and co-founder of Women Reignite, said AI-enabled coaches won’t be capable of listening, understanding and asking questions like a human coach for at least 10-15 years. This means that personalizing the AI experience is critical in order to be effective, Kruse said. When setting up the LEADx app, Coach Amanda users take personality and strength assessments that help ensure the coaching is tailored to them as much as possible. However, when the AI doesn’t have enough of the right type of data to learn from, its coaching attempt can completely miss the mark. Barney said collecting data is a long and crucial process that can also be very expensive, and the industry needs a better approach that doesn’t require building AI using so much data. “Not to disparage coaches, but sometimes coaching doesn’t work, and other times it actually backfires and makes people worse,” Barney said. “So, we don’t want to scale with AI something that’s not grounded in something that we really know works.” 38 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

AI and the Future Coaching Space In a 2019 survey of 305 global executives titled “Human AI Is Here” conducted by Forbes Insights in collaboration with Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft, companies using AI reported more significant growth than companies that did not. Gourani said she expects a huge rise in popularity of AI-enabled coaches in the near future, as many people are already looking for good, unbiased coaches — adding that a robot only has bias if it has been coded incorrectly. “Robots can also actually be very nice,” she said. “A lot of robots out there already are actually programmed to educate kids with learning disabilities.” Kruse said he believes AI will be able to begin replicating a real coaching conversation on specific topics within the next five years. However, he would still recommend a human coach to a manager in most circumstances, but only if one can be afforded. As AI makes itself a permanent fixture in the coaching space, human coaches needn’t worry about the industry becoming fully automated anytime soon. In fact, human coaches should prepare instead for further collaboration with AI, Barney said. “The human coach experience is still important, but the AI can complement that by making sure that the goals are appropriate and that the suggestions are embedded into their daily lives,” Barney said. CLO Elizabeth Loutfi is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor.

40 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

When Leaders I Meet to Learn

Cohort-based executive development programs can be a powerful way to develop leaders at all levels.


n today’s turbulent, fast-moving business environment, what’s the best way to build intellectually nimble, innovative and self-confident leaders, equipped for the challenges of constant change? As executive coaches, we’ve found that cohort-based executive development programs that integrate four specific learning components — group learning, executive and peer coaching, experiential/action learning activities and a strong emphasis on personal development and self-awareness — offer a powerful way to rapidly develop leaders at any level. Moreover, the cohort (community-based) nature of such leadership development programs helps nurture the traits of collabora-

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 41

tion, teamwork, empathy, communication, social dexterity and emotional intelligence that are so essential to effective leadership of others in modern-day work settings and organizational environments. When managed over time, generally six to 12 months, cohort-based executive learning can “skill up” key cadres of leaders within a single business or operating unit or across an entire organization. The goal might be to prepare established leaders to deal with new marketplace and competitive challenges. Or, to help high-potential or emerging leaders onboard into new roles, manage change, develop teams, work effectively with others on an enterprisewide basis or execute on challenging new business objectives.

Cohort-centered programs require support and championing from executives in the C-suite. Each of us has facilitated numerous cohort-based leadership development programs in corporate and academic contexts. And we’ve found that designing powerful cohort-based executive development programs requires that seven “success factors” be in place to ensure programmatic success.

No. 1: Senior Leaders Must Be Strong and Visible Champions of Development Cohort-centered leadership development programs require strong support and championing from executives in a company’s C-suite. In programs we’ve facilitated, senior leaders become visible champions of leadership development in many ways. They emphasize the direct link between leadership bench strength and organizational adaptability and resilience. They serve as formal sponsors of leadership development within key functional areas of the business (e.g., legal, IT, marketing, digital commerce, accounting, budgeting, operations, product development, research and development). They identify and nominate emerging leaders for participation in leadership development programs. And they often host and speak at leadership development events, sharing personal stories of how they became leaders themselves. Such displays of openness and authenticity by senior leaders are a powerful way to encourage younger emerging leaders to embrace their own professional development and see its strategic value, both to their organization and their career. In many cases, senior leaders also explicitly link executive development (and learning objectives) to a company’s overall operating values and business standards. In one company where we both coach, senior leaders assign group projects for teams to complete as part of their 42 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

participation in the company’s flagship leadership development program. Completion of the projects serves as a leadership “incubator” for participants, giving individuals a chance to work in a team setting with peers to address issues that require high levels of cooperation, research, collaboration and joint decision-making. At the end of each cohort, program participants deliver presentations on their projects to the company’s C-suite, including the CEO, CFO, CMO and general counsel.

No. 2: Cohort Learning Programs Should Be Designed to Support Current or Emerging Business Goals To ensure optimal results, cohort-based learning programs should be designed to develop leadership competencies closely linked to a company’s success and recruit, as participants, established and emerging leaders from all functional areas who are critical to future business performance. The priority may be to develop a leadership team within a single business unit, such as R&D or product development. Alternatively, cohorts may intentionally comprise participants from across many functional areas to give members of a single cohort broad exposure to their peers in other areas of the business or to facilitate the sharing of leadership learnings and best practices across many functional areas. Frequently (though not always) cohort-based leadership development programs include hard skills training (marketing, finance, strategic planning, etc.) blended with cohort-based action learning, experimentation and application. As noted earlier, a great way to operationalize leaders’ learning in a cohort context is to have individuals participate in action learning projects closely tied to the needs and priorities of the business. Sometimes these projects are suggested by top management or key process owners. In other cases, cohort teams choose projects with immediate relevance and application back in their jobs. Either way, working on action learning project teams gives cohort members an opportunity not only to work with others on initiatives critical to the business, but also to cultivate skills in collaboration, communication and team decision-making. Many leaders report that the experience of working with others on action learning projects is the single biggest takeaway for them from cohort learning programs. Not only do they develop a strong peer network of fellow leaders, they also benefit from direct, timely and actionable feedback — the kind one rarely gets from direct reports or a boss.

No. 3: Choose Appropriate Participants for Your Program The key to the success of any cohort-based leadership development program is selection of the right participants. Typically, a company draws from exist-

ing pools of emerging and high-potential leaders to identify candidates for such programs. Candidates are then vetted and nominated by their boss, a mentor or senior leader in the organization. Besides demonstrating business acumen, mastery of specific technical skills, a track record of success and a drive to achieve, other factors to weigh when considering candidates for cohort-based leadership development programs are personal adaptability, learning agility, strategic thinking and EQ.

No 4: Incorporate 1:1 Coaching and Completion of a 360-degree Leadership Assessment Into the Design of Cohort Learning Programs One-on-one executive coaching is a key component to incorporate into any cohort learning leadership development program. Coaching facilitates new learning and self-exploration by individual cohort members by providing a confidential place in which an individual, working with a trusted adviser, can synthesize takeaways and insights from their participation in the cohort program and discuss specific professional challenges they may be facing back at their job. Coaching sessions typically begin with review of a 360-degree leadership assessment completed by the cohort participant and his or her raters before the leadership development program starts. Discussion of assessment findings with the coach helps the coachee to identify and target areas of developmental opportunity and lay the foundation for a leadership development action plan to support developmental needs and objectives. (Note: There are many good assessments an organization can use in leadership development programs, including the Hogan Personality Inventory, DiSC, TalentSmart, LMAP, PRINT and others.) Coaching sessions occur at key points throughout the life of a cohort-based leadership development program to provide anchor points for learning, reflection and future action-planning. Peer coaching is an equally important component of cohort leadership development programs. Peer coaching often takes the form of “learning pair” discussions that occur between program participants at regular intervals throughout the duration of the leadership development engagement. Peer-to-peer conversations offer participants an opportunity for deepdive conversations with their cohort colleagues, giving individuals the chance to share experiences and best practices with one another, ask for advice and feedback, and offer one another support and friendship. Peer discussions build on topics or issues raised in group sessions, but they go deeper. To be maximally effective, it’s valuable for individuals to work with different learning partners over the full course of a cohort leadership development program.

No. 5: Engage Participants’ Managers as Partners in the Process In any coaching engagement, an individual’s boss plays a critical role as that person’s champion, performance coach and advocate of leadership learning. This holds true in cohort-based learning programs. The boss of a leadership development program participant is in a great position to offer critical perspective, suggest specific leadership goals, and to help an individual process their experience in a leadership development program and apply leadership learnings and insights back at work.

Key to the success of any cohort-​based leadership development program is selection of the right participants. In programs we’ve facilitated, managers typically become involved early on as program sponsors, suggesting individuals for participation in leadership development programs and emphasizing the importance of continuous leadership learning to the business. Frequently, individuals who recommend direct reports for cohort-based programs are alumni of such programs themselves.

No. 6: Introduce Participants to the Latest Thinking, Models and Frameworks of Leadership As part of any cohort-based leadership development program, it’s critical to introduce participants to various leadership approaches, models and frameworks. The emphasis here is not academic but practical. By giving participants exposure to such frameworks, a good cohort program provides participants with valuable tools to use in their leadership of others, managing teams, orchestrating change in their organization, maximizing employee engagement, communicating effectively and leading through influence and persuasion. We typically introduce program participants to a wide range of leadership tools and resources, including tools that can help enhance interpersonal effectiveness, drive team/group decision-making, forge consensus or help a leader communicate a vision to others with clarity, consistency and self-confidence. We also draw on our own extenCOHORTS continued on page 52 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 43








44 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

Let’s change the underlying philosophy and pattern of feedback.


reader of the current business press is confronted by two extremely different points of view regarding the basic question of whether managers should provide feedback to their direct reports. On the one hand we have those who advocate extremely candid, no-holds-barred conversations between managers and their direct reports, such as Kim Scott in her book “Radical Candor.” At the other extreme are those who advocate that the feedback process is bound to fail. Furthermore, it is based on false assumptions and, at its worst, does more harm than good. This is the argument behind Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s Harvard Business Review article, “The Feedback Fallacy.” Caught in this crossfire is the well-intentioned business manager who wants to do the right things for their direct reports and for the organization. As a senior executive, do you want to create a culture that encourages extreme levels of candor, or do you heed the warnings of those who contend that feedback is a fallacy?

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 45

86% 68%

Fixing the Flow of Feedback

50% 31% 15%

Bottom 10%

Next 25%

Middle 30%

Next 25%

Top 10%

Leader actively looks for opportunities to receive feedback to improve Results from Direct Report scores of 22,719 global leaders.

Is There Really a Need for Feedback in Organizations? We believe there is a wealth of evidence that the answer to this question is an overwhelming “Yes.” Productivity experts argue that organizations work best when feedback between colleagues flows freely. Best practices are shared, problems are resolved more rapidly and employees feel truly included. One of the forces that retains people in organizations is their belief that they are learning and growing. Feedback from one’s colleagues and manager is one of the strongest elements of accelerating learning on the job. Employee surveys invariably point out employees’ desire for more coaching and feedback from their manager. We never see employee responses that suggest an employee is getting all the feedback they want and need. To the contrary, there seems to be an insatiable desire for more.

Our Current State In most organizations, there is some level of feedback, even if it is not as much as employees want. Sometimes when employees receive feedback, their feelings are hurt, and it appears to do more harm than good. Some employees only want to be praised and reinforced. Others say they don’t want to have “smoke blown at them.” They say they want corrective and redirecting feedback that they think will improve their job performance. Organizations have sent the message that it is the manager’s responsibility to initiate periodic performance discussions. The broad assumption is that feedback should flow downhill. Rivulets of feedback should stream down the hierarchy. The reality is that they do not. Many companies have decided to revamp their performance management systems by moving away 46 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

from annual or periodic performance appraisals. Instead, they intend to replace them with more frequent performance discussions. Success to date in making that change a reality has not been great. We propose a multipronged solution to this feedback quandary. Until now, most corporations have put nearly all of their attention on one fix, which has produced some change. But like most complex problems, the solution seldom requires only doing one thing. Several changes need to be made, and ideally they will occur concurrently, not in sequence. 1. Change the underlying philosophy and pattern of feedback. Rather than relying on managers to initiate all conversations, make it a two-way street. Remove the onus of responsibility and guilt from the manager. Replace the current “push” culture to include far more “pull.” How is that done? Start by encouraging all managers to ask for feedback from their direct reports. Upon analyzing our extensive database, we discovered that leaders who asked for feedback were held in even higher esteem than those who gave feedback to their direct reports (see Figure 1). FIGURE 2: MANAGERS SEE THEMSELVES AS EFFECTIVE WHEN THEY GIVE CRITICISM Are you highly effective at providing others with honest, straightforward feedback?

Feedback profile

Leadership effectiveness percentile


Gives no feedback


Gives negative Gives positive

Gives negative and positive

73% 41% 79%

Percentage who rate themselves as highly effective Results from Zenger Folkman analysis of self-assessments from 5,196 leaders.

Next, convey the message to everyone, front-line associates and all, that if they wish to obtain more feedback from their manager and colleagues, they should ask for it. That simple act changes the psychological reaction that often occurs. Currently, when a manager gives unsolicited negative feedback, the receiver’s brain often moves to a “fight or flight” state. The adrenal gland is activated via the sympathetic nervous system and releases the hormone

epinephrine. This increases blood pressure and blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. When a direct report asks for feedback from their manager, the likelihood of the above response is significantly diminished. The person receiving the feedback has both initiated and taken more control over the process.

Rather than relying on managers to initiate all conversations, make it a two-way street.


earns the manager credibility and displays reasonable objectivity. It puts negative feedback in the right perspective. We are not suggesting that managers shy away from giving negative messages to direct reports and other colleagues. The message is mind the mix. 3. Improve managers’ skills in giving and receiving all kinds of feedback. Our research has shown that while many managers see themselves as highly effective when they provide negative feedback (Figure 2), employees actually find their managers more effective when they give positive feedback or a combination of positive and negative (Figure 3). Of the 5,841 global leaders surveyed in Figure 4, more than 40 percent (2,369) of respondents give redirecting feedback but avoid giving reinforcing feedback — yet more than 72 percent of them rate themselves as highly effective at giving honest and straightforward feedback. Providing feedback in a calm, even-handed fashion is a skill. And like any skill, it can be learned. Practice helps you improve. We submit that the best practice starts with asking for feedback from your

Feedback profile

Does your manager give you honest feedback in a helpful way? Gives no feedback Gives negative

41% 36%

Gives positive


Gives negative and positive


Effectiveness in giving feedback by percentile Leaders who were rated as “neutral” about giving feedback are not included in the above results. Results from Zenger Folkman analysis of self- and 360-degree assessments from 328 leaders.

2. Increase the amount of positive feedback. Feedback basically falls into two camps. Positive feedback includes messages of commendation about both effort and outcomes. It points out what has gone well and shines a light on the helpful behavior someone has displayed. It is always better when it is specific rather than general. It is easy to say, “Good job,” and “Well done.” It takes more thought and effort to pinpoint exactly what the person did that led you to offer commendation. Negative feedback includes corrective and redirecting messages. These might include a critical reaction about what this person said or did, such as a comment they made that was inappropriate or incorrect; pointing out an action that the individual should have taken but failed to do; or identifying a behavior that they should stop doing. Buckingham and Goodall’s “The Feedback Fallacy” is based on the assumption that all feedback is negative. Our research, and that of others, strongly suggests that a mixture of feedback that includes multiple portions of positive feedback to every portion of negative works best. Ample amounts of positive feedback build the relationship. Our guess is that the ideal mix is somewhere from three to six times more positive feedback than negative. That mix

FEEDBACK continued on page 53 FIGURE 4: LEADERS’ SELF-RATINGS ON GIVING FEEDBACK Percent who agree with the statement: “I would rate myself as highly effective at providing others with honest, straightforward feedback.”



40.2% 32.1%

Avoids giving, reinforcing and redirecting

Avoids giving, reinforcing/gives redirecting

Gives reinforcing/avoids giving redirecting




Gives reinforcing and redirecting (1,865)

Results from self-scores of 5,841 global leaders.

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 47


Sales Training in 5 Minutes or Less BY SARAH FISTER GALE


merican Tire Distributors is U.S.’ largest distributor of tires, far exceeding the scope of even its closest competitors. The $2.1 billion company has more than 3,000 employees and sells 40,000 different products across a vast network of clients. But company leaders knew they could do better. The automotive and tire service industry is getting more competitive, and they wanted to be sure their sales team and franchises had the tools and knowledge to deliver value to customers, said ATD Chief Operating Officer Owen Schiano: “Training has to be an important part of that business strategy.” Schiano noted that tire manufacturers often provide ATD with training on their products, but it’s a “very check the box” offering. And while ATD has a sales training program for new hires, once reps were in the field it was up to their managers to reinforce their knowledge and development. That led to an inconsistent development experience.

Making a Difference In 2016, ATD brought on Rebecca Sinclair as the new chief people officer to help reinvent the HR environment in the company, including how — and what — the sales team was learning. She noted that over the past decade, ATD had become a very data-​driven company. “We have more knowledge about tires and the purchasing life cycle than any of the manufacturers,” she said. But her team needed a better way to propagate that data to help the sales, marketing and support teams An American Tire Distributors facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. do their jobs better. They knew the sales teams wouldn’t be eager to spend hours in a classroom learning about every product in the catalog, nor did they feel like this was the right setting for their needs. 48 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

SNAPSHOT America’s largest tire distributor proves microlearning can have a huge impact on sales results.

“Flying people in for a train-the-trainer course, then evaluating whether the training they deliver has an impact three or six months later isn’t effective,” said Rick Lima, vice president of learning and organizational development. “We wanted to know if we were making a difference right away.” They went looking for a more just-in-time training model. In a past role, Sinclair had worked with Axonify, a customizable microlearning platform, and she thought it would be a good fit for ATD’s needs. “It’s a modern learning approach that gives learners what they need to know to be successful,” she said. The Axonify platform allows companies to dole out tiny bits of learning on any topic in three-tofive minute chunks, with short quizzes to validate knowledge. “Our goal with Axonify was to make learning convenient, beneficial and easy to access so it becomes a habit,” she said.

Closing the Gap Axonify created a custom portal and app, called Spark, that links the learning platform to ATD’s network so employees can access it via any connected device. Then the ATD team worked with Axonify to develop microlearning elements that were relevant to the sales team’s needs. While the content is built for ATD staff, each learner doesn’t get the same lessons every day, explained Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify. The platform selects content based on what the user gets right and wrong, then adapts the next lessons accordingly. In this way, users who already understand a topic aren’t stuck taking similar lessons over and over, while those who aren’t confident with a topic get added support. It also offers users access to leaderboards, 50plus games and points they can use to bid on prizes

via an eBay-style auction engine. “People love the competitive nature, which keeps them coming back,” Leaman said. While games and prizes are fun, ATD wanted to be sure the platform would add actual business value before deploying it to the entire company. So Lima’s team ran a pilot project with a predefined group of salespeople. He began by evaluating what they knew and didn’t know about the company’s salesforce model, then he worked with Axonify to break the salesforce model into microlearning elements that were rolled out in daily lessons through Spark. “In two to three weeks we closed the knowledge gap in that group,” he reported. A month later, evaluations showed their level of knowledge about the salesforce model remained high. That was enough to convince ATD to launch the platform companywide in mid-2017. At first Lima’s team leaned heavily on Axonify to help them build lessons that were relevant, interesting and easy to digest. “It was difficult at first to create content that spoke to tire people,” he said. But over time his team figured out the process and brought content development in house. They spent the first three months almost totally dedicated to crafting microlearning elements, but now they have a full catalog of material and only spend time building content when staff need training on new products, trends or business models. “Once a month we pull all of the business leaders into a room to help us prioritize learning based on what’s relevant to their needs,” he said.

Sales Are Up Schiano admitted that he was skeptical of the platform at first. “I’d heard about microlearning but it felt like a ‘been there, done that’ trend.” But when he saw the impact of the program he was transformed from a skeptic to a champion. “The engagement level is way better than we could have expected,” he said. “The sales team jumped on it right out of the gate.” Metrics show more than 90 percent of the sales team use the platform 18 out of 20 business days per month, and that the top 25 percent of sellers are among the top 25 percent of Spark users — while the bottom 25 percent are least likely to use the platform. Lima noted that training alone isn’t the only factor attributable to sales success, but the analytics tools have allowed him to draw clear lines between

training and sales performance. For example, if the company wants to increase sales volumes for a specific brand, his team will ramp up training on the features of those products and then monitor sales increases. Last year, sales of Continental Tires increased by 5.5 percent following a bump in training content on those products, he said. “We estimate that 15 percent of that sales increase can be directly attributed to improved product knowledge.” Similarly, the sales team experienced a 3 percent overall increase in sales compensation in 2018, and Lima attributes 16-17 percent of that growth to training. He’s invited external analysts to validate

“When you can show that training is contributing to sales results, people will take note.” — Rebecca Sinclair, chief people officer, ATD his numbers to prove the impact training is having on the company. “When you peel back the variables around knowledge growth, market trends, top performers and compensation growth, it all starts to add up,” he said. The biggest challenge the learning team faces now is requests from company stakeholders to add more content on a specific subject. “They can only digest so much information so fast, so we have to prioritize,” Schiano said.

New Revenue Stream The training has been so successful that ATD launched versions for the operations and maintenance teams. In October 2019 they were set to launch a for-pay Spark for Retail model for customers who want to benefit from the training. “They’ve never had access to anything like this before,” Lima said. “It’s allowing us to create our own revenue stream.” This microlearning model could work for any organization, though Lima warned that it is about more than just the technology. “You have to build relevant content and bake it into daily workflow so it’s easy to use,” he said. Then measure the impact. “Our internal analytics prove that we are producing results,” Sinclair said. “When you can show that training is contributing to sales results, people will take note.” CLO Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in Chicago. Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 49


Learning leaders value mentoring and coaching more than ever, but the mentors and coaches themselves may be changing. BY ASHLEY ST. JOHN


entoring and coaching are long-valued methods of leadership, career and personal development. Oprah Winfrey summed up the importance of mentoring during a 2002 interview: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. A mentor is someone who allows you to know that no matter how dark the night, in the morning joy will come. A mentor is someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view.” Organizations and learning leaders have long recognized the value of coaching and mentoring their people to bring them to the next level in their careers. And in today’s business environment, where younger employees value development opportunities, offering mentoring and coaching can lead to higher levels of engagement and retention. According to data from the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2019 Learning State of the Industry” report, more than 75 percent of responding organizations currently use coaching or mentoring as a learning delivery method (Figure 1). The Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board is a group of 1,500 professionals in the learning and development industry who have agreed to be surveyed by the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, the research and advisory arm of Chief Learning Officer magazine. This survey was conducted from January to March 2019. Delving deeper into how coaching and mentoring are used in learning and development, the survey found, unsurprisingly, that they are generally used to develop intangibles, such as leadership (71 percent), business skills (59 percent) and core competencies (53 percent) — see figures 2, 3 and 4. Thirty-nine percent of organizations reported using coaching and mentoring for onboarding/new hire training, 38 percent said

50 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

they use them for technical skills, and a mere 13 percent use them for compliance training. On its face, it seems that the true value of mentoring and coaching lies in the personal connections forged between mentors and mentees — whether it be through traditional coaching/mentoring, or reverse mentoring, as Rita Balian Allen discusses in her article, “The Value of Reverse Mentoring,” on page 24. However, some organizations are taking advantage of a new kind of coaching and mentoring — enabled by artificial intelligence-driven apps. Elizabeth Loutfi’s article on page 34, “AI-Enabled Coaches: Replacement, Alternative or Complement?” explores some of the AI-enabled coaching apps that are currently available. However, this begs the question: Can a non-human coach really deliver the same benefits as an actual person? A January 2019 Forbes article, “Mentoring Matters: Three Essential Elements of Success,” shares some of the most important qualities to look for in a mentor. While AI-enabled coaches and mentors seem perfectly suited to offer some of these — “The ability and availability to commit real time and energy to the mentoring relationship” and “current and relevant industry or organizational knowledge, expertise and/or skills” — they would likely fall short in others, particularly “A willingness to share failures and personal experiences.” It’s a conversation that will play out in the near(ish) future. Meanwhile, respondents to the “2019 Learning State of the Industry” report listed coaching and mentoring as the No. 1 learning delivery method expected to increase in the next 12-18 months (Figure 5). Whether human or not, coaches and mentors remain a very valued part of people development. CLO Ashley St. John is Chief Learning Officer’s managing editor.

Figures’ source: Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2019 Learning State of the Industry,” N=537. All percentages rounded.

Who’s Mentoring the Future?



Classroombased ILT

Self-paced e-learning




Coaching or mentoring


Formal on-the-job





Instructor-led e-learning




Text-based training

Mobile learning


71% 44%

Classroom-based ILT

Coaching or mentoring

Self-paced e-learning



Instructor-led e-learning



59% 47%

Classroom-based ILT

Self-paced e-learning

Coaching or mentoring


Formal on-the-job training

Instructor-led e-learning



48% 38%

Classroom-based ILT

Self-paced e-learning

Coaching or mentoring

Formal on-the-job training

Instructor-led e-learning


About the same





2% Coaching or mentoring


4% Self-paced e-learning


Mobile learning








2% Collaborative


Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 51

REVERSE continued from page 27

COHORTS continued from page 43

sional and nurturing manner. The best relationships are built when there is a strong foundation of trust. This encourages people to show vulnerability and take some risks. Maintaining professional etiquette throughout the process is essential in all communications, whether in person, via email or text, or in any other form of social interaction. Finally, keep channels of communication open throughout the mentor relationship and beyond. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with both parties about their give and take of information and progress. Encourage mentees to be open and honest about their progress, struggles, lessons learned and successes. Mentees should give their mentors feedback regularly by sharing the positive ways they are impacting them. Expressing their gratitude will be appreciated. Both mentor and mentee need to be active listeners, reflecting on the feedback received and incorporating it into their strategies.

sive leadership libraries to expose participants to the latest thinking on topics such as leadership, organization development, emotional intelligence, change management, strategy development and execution, and team development.

Respecting Our Differences In order for reverse mentoring to be successful, there needs to be a strong desire to listen to each other, to ask probing questions that broaden our base of information and to see our differences through a new lens. Disagreement is good because it forces us to open our minds in ways that stretch our thinking. For example, traditionalists (born between 19251946) may have a strong belief of being respectful of authority whereas Gen Xers (born between 1965-1980) may be less impressed with authority, which could translate to a mix of opposing behaviors and expectations. Having an open and transparent dialogue can reveal some of these different viewpoints and result in a respectful exchange that enlightens each other to see the value of both perspectives. Learning to communicate and partner across generations in a manner that resonates with one another rather than alienating one another can be quite powerful. Looking forward, taking the time to establish and nurture reverse mentoring practices within your organization across all generations will enable your learning function to lead a culture that empowers all employees to feel valued, appreciated and challenged, offering new opportunities for growth and development. CLO

Disagreement is good because it forces us to open our minds in ways that stretch our thinking.

Rita Balian Allen is the president of Rita B. Allen Associates, a national career management firm. 52 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

No. 7: Incorporate Experiential and Action Learning into Program Design Finally, no cohort-based leadership development program is complete without including multiple experiential elements and activities (e.g., action learning, adventuring, physical challenge components, community building, somatic activities and self-reflection exercises) to help nurture individual self-awareness and forge trust and chemistry among cohort members. These activities can take many forms — from the social to the physically challenging — and serve to help participants commit to personal learning goals and to building bonds of connection with their fellow cohort members. In one cohort program we facilitated, cohort members spent time climbing ropes and preparing a meal together, complete with the assistance of a master sommelier. In other sessions we’ve conducted, cohort members have taken part in light physical exercises, intended to build trust and chemistry. We heartily recommend that action and experiential learning components be incorporated into cohort program design at key points — most importantly at the beginning and midpoint.

Meeting the Needs of Modern Organizations Cohort-based leadership development programs can be of value to modern organizations in many ways. Such programs can skill leaders up to meet a variety of current or emerging business challenges. The community-based nature of such learning fosters the development of critical interpersonal skills among leaders (collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence and relationship management). Finally, cohort-based leadership development programs foster the sharing of critical leadership perspectives, experiences and insights across functional/ organizational boundaries and encourage robust exploration of ideas and practices that can contribute to the development of adaptive leaders and to agile, high-performing organizations. CLO Rick Koonce is a Boston-based executive coach, author and consultant who coaches in the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School. Alyson Lyon is a Pittsburgh-based executive coach and consultant who serves on the leadership development faculty at Duquesne University.

FEEDBACK continued from page 47 direct reports. That single act telegraphs several important messages: • No matter who you are, or your position in the firm, you can get better. • We can all learn from each other. • Feedback should freely flow up and down the hierarchy. • Seeking feedback is a sign of strength and confidence, not weakness. • Follow my example of how to ask for and respond to feedback. How the manager receives the feedback is a powerful teaching opportunity. If the manager exhibits a lack of defensiveness, along with a willingness to act on the feedback received, this sets a powerful example and can transform the culture of an organization over time.

Steps Forward Rather than yielding to the siren song of telling managers to give up entirely on providing feedback to their direct reports,


we propose an entirely different course of action. By changing the fundamental assumption about this being solely the duty and responsibility of a manager, a major change would begin to occur. When asking becomes the starting point for the great majority of feedback interactions, the emotions change dramatically. When managers are the role models for asking for feedback, the entire process takes on a different tone. When everyone is encouraged to initiate the feedback conversation rather than wait for a manager to provide useful feedback, the tone changes even more. When giving positive feedback is emphasized, feedback takes another step forward. And when leaders are more adept at and comfortable with providing feedback, the entire process takes on a new life. CLO

Clifford Capone Vice President, Group Publisher 312-967-3538

Daniella Weinberg Senior Media Consultant East 917-627-1125

Ana Dirksen Senior Media Consultant West 312-847-5729

Kevin M. Fields Director, Business Development 312-967-3565

Joseph Folkman and Jack Zenger are the founders of leadership solutions provider Zenger Folkman.

Melanie Lee Business Administration Manager


Advertisers/URLs Page

Aptara Bellevue University Breakfast Club Video Library CLO LearningElite CLO Spring Symposium CLO Video Library CLO Webinars Copyright Clearance Center

Cornerstone DeVryWorks DXC Technology GP Strategies Intrepid MIT Wharton Executive Education

3 2nd Cover, 28-29 37 19 39 6 7

13 3rd Cover 5 23 21 15 Back Cover


Advertising: For advertising information, write to Back Issues: For all requests, including bulk issue orders, visit our website at or email Editorial: To submit an article for publication, go to Letters to the editor may be sent to

Permissions and Article Reprints: No part of Chief Learning Officer can be reproduced without written permission. All permissions to republish or distribute content from Chief Learning Officer can be obtained through PARS International. For single article reprints in quantities of 250 and above and e-prints for Web posting, please contact PARS International at

List Rental: Contact Mike Rovello at 402-836-5639 or

Subscription Services: All orders, inquiries and address changes should be addressed to

Computer Fulfillment PO Box 8712 Lowell, MA 01853

or call customer service at 800-422-2681 or 978-671-0446 or email

Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 • 53


Perfectly Imperfect Leadership Inspirational leaders own their mistakes • BY SCOTT JEFFREY MILLER

H Scott Jeffrey Miller is executive vice president for FranklinCovey and author of “Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow.”

ave you ever worked with a perfect leader? I have and it’s not as inspiring as you’d imagine. This leader achieved an almost untouchable level of success. He was an aspirational model of wise decisions and thoughtful accomplishments. He was buttoned down, deliberate, careful. He made few, if any, mistakes. Honestly, I couldn’t relate. But I also had the opportunity to work with another leader, one who was equally successful but full of pratfalls, public failures and candid admissions. He was open about his poor decisions, mistakes and outright messes — which took a tremendous amount of vulnerability and humility. I respect both of these incredible leaders, but the first was so unrelatable and set such an unachievable standard that truthfully, I couldn’t learn much from him. How could I replicate leadership perfection when I was stumbling around, learning as I went? The second leader, however, had an incalculable impact on me. By sharing his stories and owning his messes, he allowed me to avoid them in my own life. I identified with him. I learned from him. (Odds are the first leader had messes as well — but no one knew about them.) I’ve since concluded that leadership messes are actually better life lessons than successes. Successes are hard to replicate, but we can all learn from management messes. And the messy path can actually make you a better leader — if you create a culture of learning, vulnerability and growth, where you share lessons learned with others so they can avoid the same mistakes. My best learnings came when my leaders opened up about their career mistakes, often while coaching me through my own. They sat me down and said, “Let me tell you about a time when I lost X amount of money or made the wrong call. Here’s how I fixed it, and here’s what you can learn.” On many teams, the level of anxiety is so thick you can practically cut it with a knife. Life is too short to work like that. I want to work in a safe and engaging environment where it’s OK to make mistakes, take reasonable risks and flex skills and contributions. Case in point: I had recently completed a live television interview on a recognizable news program. I stepped off the set and asked my assistant how I did.

54 Chief Learning Officer • November 2019 •

At this time, he had been working for me for about eight months. This was his first corporate job out of college, and the formal distance between his role and mine couldn’t have been greater: I was the chief marketing officer and he was the most junior person in the organization. On top of that, we were walking off the set headed to the airport to begin a 10-day book tour where we would spend pretty much every waking moment together at large public events, book signings, interviews and more.

It’s OK to make mistakes, take reasonable risks and stretch our skills and contributions. I asked him, “So, how’d I do?” Without any hesitation or an ounce of trepidation, he said, “Great, except when you interrupted the host to talk about the value of listening.” Ouch — but he was right. Perhaps this brief but poignant exchange was simply the reality of generational differences in 2019. I’d like to think it was more the result of me having owned my messes for the preceding eight months with him and others on my team to create a culture where everyone felt safe and encouraged to speak their mind, even and especially with the leader. I’d deliberately modeled that I was open and willing to talk about my weaknesses, and even more valuably, that he was too. Own your messes. By doing so, you create a culture that closes the great divide between leaders and individual producers. You’re not untouchable; you’re relatable. Your team members will lessen their anxiety around you, and the posturing and positioning for favor will change instantly. By encouraging leaders, at all levels, to own their messes and openly share them with their teams, your culture will achieve higher productivity, deeper trust and clearer communication. You and your team can breathe a collective sigh of relief that nobody has to be perfect. CLO


YOU’VE GOT TALENT Bring out the best in it.

They’re ready to seize the day, you’re ready to drive growth. Collaboration wins!



The business partnership team of

In New York, DeVry University operates as DeVry College of New York. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. DeVry is certified to operate by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Arlington Campus: 2450 Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202. DeVry University is authorized for operation as a postsecondary educational institution by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Nashville Campus: 3343 Perimeter Hill Dr., Nashville, TN 37211. Unresolved complaints may be reported to the Illinois Board of Higher Education through the online complaint system or by mail to 1 N. Old State Capitol Plaza, Ste. 333, Springfield, IL 62701-1377. Program, course and extended classroom availability vary by location. In site-based programs, students will be required to take a substantial amount of coursework online to complete their program. ©2019 DeVry Educational Development Corp. All rights reserved. 9/19

Corporate strategies CHANGE, Knowledge demands GROW,

Empowered executives LEAD.

Be WHARTON READY. Learning solutions that transform people and organizations. Wharton Executive Education offers results-driven learning solutions that drive measurable impact. We’ll partner with you in a fully collaborative experience to analyze your objectives, identify your challenges and influence executive behavior for ongoing organizational success.

programs for




Profile for Chief Learning Officer

Chief Learning Officer - November 2019  

Unlocking Potential at Commvault: Commvault CLO Joe Ilvento uses talent management software to reinvent employee reviews.

Chief Learning Officer - November 2019  

Unlocking Potential at Commvault: Commvault CLO Joe Ilvento uses talent management software to reinvent employee reviews.