In 2016, we hired a former educator with a Masters in curriculum development and instruction to join our team as our first Training Coordinator after spending nearly 15 years in the classroom in our public school system. Jen Miller went right to work building professional development and internal training programs. Over the years, she helped create or refine hundreds of specialized learning plans and unique training sessions for our staff.
One consistent challenge that we struggled with for the first two years of Jen’s tenure with us was accountability. Repeatedly, a staff member would formally commit to a learning plan and only partially complete it. Despite all her innovation, creativity, and grit, we could only count on one hand the number of newly certified staff over the first two years of her tenure with us. As an organization we failed to hold our staff (primarily our managers) accountable to the learning plans and professional certification goals.
Our company’s culture is an advocacy culture, centered on positivity and celebrating wins. We have no shortage of creativity, collaboration, and genuine camaraderie. However, outside of IT support requests in the form of a ticket in our ticketing system, we did not have any system in place to formally assign responsibility to a specific staff person to challenge them do something above and beyond their role. We lacked a system and a framework. We needed something we could all agree on as a company to help us organize our non-customer-facing initiatives. Jen showed us fully that no matter how hard she worked, unless the management team fully bought into the learning plans she built, then she could not succeed.
A major step in the right direction (heading towards accountability) was to enroll the management team in a 360-degree assessment by a 3rd party. Over a period of several weeks in mid-2018, we conducted the survey and met with a leadership coach to unpack the strengths and development opportunities revealed by the assessment. There were many notable takeaways, but one of the most impactful things that came from this event was focusing our gap in accountability and accepting the suggestion to read Traction by Gino Wickman. This book describes a straightforward general business model called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).
After several of us read the book, we all felt that EOS provided us with a roadmap towards accountability. We had no illusions that this would be easy nor quick, and sure enough the next year would challenge the very foundation of our company and result in massive change on every level. I look back on this period of great transition with wonder at how we all got through this intact. I don’t know if I would have willingly signed us up for EOS if I had known how hard the transition towards a better way would be, given how much this tested everyone on our team. Of course, being on the other side of this change (with plenty more miles to go down this road), there’s no turning back and no regrets.
I do know that it took a teacher to force us to see how we weren’t achieving alignment between our spoken and tangible company culture. I know that without a teacher, who cared so much for the well-being of us all, that we would still be stuck in an unaccountable state, unable to choose our way forward. It took a teacher to force us to face our shortcomings and work to correct them, and to put a company-wide learning plan (EOS) into full effect so we could keep building and growing.
Photos from a Staff EOS Training at Net Friends: