Walk a mile in my shoes and Learning Councils

Have you heard the song “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”? It was a powerful song of the ’60s written by Joe South and covered by none other than Elvis Presley. The song was about prejudice, racism and an appeal for balance and understanding between social classes and races. What on earth does this have to do with learning and performance?

I don’t think there’s a person working in L&D today who at some stage in their career hasn’t quietly said to themselves “if only my business customers could walk in my shoes for a while …” to understand what it’s like to be a learning professional. Think back to the last project you worked on. Project Managers demand everything by yesterday but give you little time to do your thing. End users are difficult to pin down for time and signing off requirements. Business and systems analysts are forever changing requirements and functionality leaving you in constant catch up mode, budgets – especially training budgets – just go down and down like the setting sun each day. It’s all pressure, scrambling for results and often in the end little thanks and reward. You can feel like a necessary evil on a project sometimes. “Oh yes that’s right, the training guys need some of our time too don’t they”. “Well they can have some of it, just don’t delay the project”.

Now we’re not in the same position as the writers of anti-prejudice songs in the ’60s, but some of the sentiments are not far off. Misunderstood, treated like second class citizens, often told to keep out of the way, and our opinions are rarely sought after by the project big guns. We’re just ‘training people’ after all.

Protest songs were rife in the 60s as the great social justice movement got into full swing. Songs became a rallying cry for change and equality. Points of view not normally heard were suddenly broadcast across the airwaves to cities and nations and social change started to happen. Perhaps L&D should think about penning a few classics to reach boardrooms and dare I suggest, IT Senior Management meetings?

Of course that’s unlikey to happen. But what can work succesfully is the Learning Council. A board of senior L&D and business stakeholders who meet regularly to discuss current and future learning needs in the business, learning spend, business and learning issues, resourcing, IT strategies and changes, skill and knowledge deficiencies etc. Learning Councils provide a fantastic opportunity for L&D to get their voice heard by an organisation’s decision makers. They can stop the “misunderstandings and road blocks” that so often prevent great learning happening. They also provide the sounding board for new ideas and approaches in learning. Convince the heavies about informal learning for example and watch the rest of the organisation open the doors and co-operate.

If you haven’t got a learning council,consider some of the benefits I’ve outlined here and ask yourself would the effort in setting one up help you overcome some of those organisational barriers that keep you and your L&D efforts feeling a little out in the cold? What experiences have you had? Walk a mile in my shoes and Learning Councils


  1. I fully support the idea of a learning council. Complementing the reasons cited by Bob, it also generates buy-in among your target audience – because the subsequent L&D activity was their idea!

  2. Peter – having just had the first meeting of the QBE Australia Learning Council – agree it’s the way to go. Early days but powerful in terms of seizing on the issues that matter to senior business leaders.

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