Talent Development 19 Overcoming Barriers

December 10, 2020

Section 3.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Consulting and Business Partnering. Section D reads, “Skill in identifying, minimizing, and overcoming organizational barriers to implementing talent development solutions and/or strategies.”

I will discuss six of the main reasons for barriers and suggest solutions to each one.

Lack of Commitment

We see many examples of top leaders who talk a good game in terms of developing their workforce, but the level of commitment is mostly lip service. In the daily pressures for short term deliverables, many leaders fail to follow through with resources or emphasis to make their stated intentions into reality.

The cure for this is to have the courage to stick with programs, even if the pathway gets a bit rocky. Once leaders give the slightest hint of backing away from the agreed-upon path it is the kiss of death to enthusiasm for the program.

If this phenomenon occurs, the results of the training effort will be a tiny fraction of what was originally envisioned.

Too Many Surveys

When designing development efforts, surveys are used to determine which areas need the most help. Unfortunately, in many cases organizations have too many surveys and ones that are poorly designed. When this happen, people end up giving false or warped input or simply fail to respond.

If workers do not see a strong positive correlation between their input on surveys and the resulting training, they lose enthusiasm and become jaded. The cure is to have robust and infrequent surveys.

For the “how to” of doing surveys well, I refer you to my prior article on this topic.

Poorly Designed Training

When training programs are inconvenient, boring, or otherwise flawed, they fail to have the impact that was intended. If people are going to give their full effort willingly, the activities must be inspired and of top quality throughout.

Often organizations skimp on the resources needed to provide the very best training. When workers see this happen, they turn their energies to other more vital activities and put the training on the “back burner.”

One decision that needs to be carefully considered is whether the internal training staff is up to world class standards of design and delivery. If there is any doubt, it is a good idea to go with an external expert in the particular area that is being developed.

Many organizations shy away from outside help because it is perceived the result will be too expensive.

When organizations fail to provide top quality resources in order to save some cash, it severely undermines the entire training effort.

Lay-On Programs

If the program is a formality or lay-on type of training, then people are going to be less enthusiastic than is required for success. The cure here is to have good involvement by the people who will ultimately get trained in specifying and designing the program.

People need to see a very strong connection between the development plan and what the organization is trying to achieve. They need to feel that the training will benefit each one of them in their future.

You cannot expect people to participate with their full energy if they do not see a better future in it for them.

Antiquated Training Methods

Some organizations are still in the dark ages when it comes to the methods used to conduct the training. Not only does the material need to be fresh and up to date, but the tools used must be the latest technology.

Experiential learning always translates into real learning far better than just lecture or exercises following reading assignments.

Poor Follow Through

All training events have a finite schedule. Regardless of the topic being trained, people will normally get a lot out of the effort while the training is going on.

Many organizations fail to recognize that the half-life of the benefits is really quite short. For example, I do a lot of leadership training, and I believe the benefits atrophy in a matter of weeks unless I follow up with materials after the training.

For a training effort to produce lasting results, there needs to be a follow-on plan to keep the material fresh and being used until it has time to become habitual behavior.

For this aspect, I like to use follow on video programs that stretch the learning at least 30 days after the formal training is complete.

Supervisors should hold periodic review sessions where they ask people to describe how they are using the new knowledge in their daily activities. They should raise the consciousness of the new skills being used to the benefit of the organization.

Work to avoid these six pitfalls, and you will have overcome the most significant barriers with your talent development program.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Body Language 96 Lasting Relationships

October 13, 2020

For the final few articles in this series on body language, I am highlighting some of the excellent content in a program entitled “Advanced Body Language” by Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh.

In this article, I will summarize his research on Forming Lasting Relationships quickly. I dealt with this topic from my own observations in an earlier article entitled “Planting a Seed of Trust in the First 10 Seconds.”  Bill’s take on the subject parallels my remarks and goes deeper in some areas.


First of all, Bill says that we form a first impression of another person extremely fast, and it is based on three factors that we judge very quickly: 1) Trustworthiness, 2) Competence, and 3) Likability.


The first observation is that you cannot project trustworthiness verbally. It must be done with some form of action or gesture where you are demonstrating that you will do exactly what you say. You will not spin the truth and will be transparent with information.

That is kind of a difficult thing to do when first meeting an individual, so let me share an example from my own background.  I once met a person who said he was interested in the topic of trust.

I was a speaker at a conference, and this individual approached me. I told him that I had an article I would send to him that had great content to answer one of his questions. I asked him for his card, and he saw me write down a message to myself on the back to send him that particular article.

This little gesture let him know he could count on me to follow through, so I suspect my trustworthiness level likely went up in his mind.


Here, Bill quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Another way to say that is, “Actions speak louder than words.”

He makes the observation that men have the ability to project personal power in a business setting with greater accuracy than women. He describes several male behaviors that signal personal power.  For example, if a man sits with noticeably relaxed muscle tone, it demonstrates absence of fear. Lack of fear is coupled with trust, so it is a gesture that connotes power and security.

A backward body lean is another indication of being relaxed, which translates into a gesture associated with personal power. This is also true for body asymmetry with one hand up and the other hand down.

Another example is expansiveness; he takes up a lot of room.  He spreads things out on the table in front of himself or sits in a meeting with his arm on an adjacent chair.

A third give away is sitting with legs crossed in what is known as the “aristocratic leg cross” with one leg on top of the other rather than an ankle to the knee, which is how the majority of men sit. Bill cites that for men over the age of 45, only 12% of them will sit with one leg atop the other. Bill says it is the single most accurate predictor of high social status and high net worth.

For women to project personal power, Bill makes three observations. The first is that hair and power are inversely proportional. As women move into positions of higher power, they tend to cut their hair shorter and closer to the head.

A second observation is that women, when projecting personal power, often do what is called a “reverse steeple” with their hands.  Men will often steeple with finger tips together pointing upward and palms apart. The female power position is with fingers together pointing downward and palms apart.

He says the dichotomy between attractiveness and power means that to increase one, you tend to reduce the other; “It’s a zero-sum game.” The implication here is that for a woman to project personal power she will often sacrifice some femininity.


Here, the issue revolves around communication style.  Bill notes that in study after study the highest rated communicator says the fewest number of words.  He makes a very strong statement that “You are now, and you will continue to be paid based on your ability to LISTEN.”

He suggests that the most important behavior for a listener is silence.  It is so obvious that we tend to forget.

He said that in order to generate instant rapport with an individual you are just meeting, just walk up and give a four-word command: “Tell me about yourself.” Then shut up and listen.

Bill also points out that when meeting another person, you want to maintain roughly 70-80% eye contact.  Less than 70% eye contact and the other person will not trust you. He stresses that it important to break eye contact at least once a minute.  To stare at another person for more than a minute, it is creepy and actually can destroy trust.

These points are quite similar to the ones I have anecdotally observed myself, but Bill has done enough research to back up the theory with data.

Not all of the points mentioned here apply in all situations. As with all body language, there is room for individual differences, and the magnitude of the gestures will depend on the specific situation.



This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”