Podcast | Becoming A Trusted Learning Advisor With Dr. Keith Keating

Gary Stringer
February 13, 2024
February 13, 2024

“A trusted advisor is a strategic business partner embedded in the business. Who understands the business and is driving value for the organisation.”

The question is, how do we become one? And unpick ourselves from the position of being an order taker?

Dr. Keith Keating, author of The Trusted Learning Advisor, explains all in this episode.

We discuss why we end up in the order-taker lifecycle, why we should become trusted learning advisors and some of the key steps for getting us there, why willingness to learn and understand our audience are critical, overcoming resistance and much more.

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0:00 Who is Keith Keating?
3:12 The order-taker cycle
7:52 The value prop of a trusted advisor
16:50 The motivation for becoming one
23:47 The role of listening and role playing
27:54 Take ownership of problems and stop saying “not my job”
32:40 How to roleplay and practice conversations
37:09 Handling resistance 
47:25 Keith’s final advice

Five takeaways on becoming a trusted learning advisor and strategic business partner

1. Why we end up in the order-taking cycle in L&D

We started as order takers! In the industrial revolution, managers made the decisions on what was needs in factories and warehouses.

“We need our employees to move this widget here, go train them. So that's what we did historically and that's also where we stayed.. for the last 150 or so years.”

This happens for 3 reasons:

1. A lack of empowerment in the organisation - often dictated by where we sit.

2. Whether we have support internally and the organisational culture.

3. We’re trying to get a seat at someone else’s table, when we need to build our own.

“1 of the things that I'm strongly advocating for is to stop trying to get a seat at somebody else's table and build your own table. Take control of the narrative, take control of the conversation and invite others to sit with you.”

“And in order to do that, we have to have the right skills. We have to have data to back up our conversation. We have to know our business. Inherently, we have to be a trusted learning advisor.”

2. “The North star is getting the business partner out of the way so that we can do our job.”

“Once I figured out how to actually do my job - and that took about 10 years in the field - then I realised that I had a skill set. I had value. I had answers. I had potential solutions. I had experience.

“Now that I have all of this built up. No one would let me use it because they're still wanting me to be order takers and do what they're telling me rather than letting me leverage my expertise and provide preferably, hopefully the right solution.

“So my personal answer is let me do my job. That's why we want to be trusted learning advisors so that we can do our job. We can feel valued. We can feel productive.”

There are three reasons why we need to become trusted learning advisors

1. Self-preservation:

“If you look at AI, it is the perfect order taker. In 30 seconds, I can literally create a learning and development program on sales or on whatever… and our job is not to be the order taker. Our job is to be the trusted learning advisors.”

2. The skills gap:

“We’ve got this really relevant skill gap that continues to grow and divide organisations. Our talent needs us to help them close that skill gap.”

3. The talent and retention crisis:

“We've got employees who are resigning because they're not engaged. They don't feel hopeful in terms of their career development,  and we've got a retention issue as well. This is a trillion dollar issue across the globe.”

It’ll involve difficult conversations, so practice them!

“These difficult conversations require a lot of cognitive load that requires practice. So role play  these conversations with your team. That is one of the best ways to get comfortable with the vocabulary, to get comfortable with that situational awareness that you might be in.

“[To build that] willingness to push back, willingness to negotiate, willingness to acquiesce.  And that is a real part of being a trusted learning advisor is figuring out when do you need to back down?

“Being a trusted learning advisor is 70% listening, 20% asking more questions, and 10% responding.”

“When I'm having those consultative discussions with my stakeholders, especially the initial ones, I just want to capture as much data.

“I just want to help unpack. I want to ask as many open ended questions to try and figure out what's the situation, what's the context from their perspective, so that then I can sort of start to narrow down what's the real challenge at hand.

“What's that root cause, which may have nothing to do with learning and development? And even in that situation, I don't pass it off. I don't say, Hey, this isn’t L&D, it's not my problem. I still try to figure out how to help my stakeholder.”