L&D Best Practices: Strategies For Success (May/June 2018)

Training magazine taps 2018 Training Top 125 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World’s Leadership Lab and how Mariner Finance develops leaders’ ownership of training.


By Dan Nelson, VP, Performance Excellence, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World

In 2017, Dianne Amos was promoted to senior vice president of Client Services for RELO Direct, Inc., which meant she would have more responsibility over the growth of the business.

That’s a big job for any leader starting a new senior role in an organization, but even more for Amos, who was required to manage and develop staff who were previously her peers—some of whom had interviewed for the same job. “We had identified what kind of culture we wanted to have, but we weren’t doing a good job of letting our culture drive our decision-making,” Amos says.

Fortuitously, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE) was launching Leadership Lab, which is based on the company’s award-winning real estate manager program, MAESTRO. Mike Staver, chief learning officer at LeadingRE and the architect of MAESTRO, worked with senior management to reimagine the program for internal staff of LeadingRE, including those from its sister corporate relocation company, RELO Direct.

“Leadership Lab is a process by which we help leaders connect what their values and purpose are to meaningfully influence other people,” Staver says.

The Strategy: Support, Action, and Accountability

Staver challenged LeadingRE to let the company values lead the decision-making. Leaders in the organization provided background, goals, and clarity about where the organization is heading, where growth opportunities are, and what challenges exist.

Leadership Lab focuses on three core pillars:

  • Culture
  • People development
  • Business growth

The training program covers techniques ranging from how to get employees more engaged to how to maximize individual and company performance. Participants are encouraged to ask questions, brainstorm, and identify how other departments have found success.

Leadership Lab delivers facilitated sessions. As techniques are covered, participants are expected to work together immediately to identify how they apply to them directly and how they could be applied more effectively once they return to their jobs. This approach allows participants to extend the lessons beyond concepts and identify real-world practical usage.

“There were so many tangible takeaways for people managers,” Amos recalls. “One idea I connected with right away was the concept of incrementalism. Basically, it is taking a task that may seem overwhelming and breaking it down into small manageable increments, so things don’t seem too daunting and real progress can be made. I discussed it with my team at our first meeting after Leadership Lab, and it is a technique we all continue to use.”

Before Leadership Lab began, everyone was assigned an accountability partner in a different business unit in the organization. Using an action learning approach, participants identify how to incorporate the learning into their work and share their goals with the accountability partner.

Having to report to your accountability partner after Leadership Lab requires an honest appraisal of how well you are sticking to your goals. Adding accountability partners in MAESTRO has had a massive impact on learning transfer, so it made sense to incorporate the concept into Leadership Lab.

“Without having an accountability partner I knew was going to ask me about my progress, I may not have stayed as focused on the changes I wanted to make,” Amos says. “In the weeks I didn’t focus on what I determined were high-gain activities, the accountability meetings made me explore why. In Leadership Lab, accountability partners learn to say to one another, ‘This is something you determined was really important to you; what are you going to do different before our next meeting?’ This structure helps me stay on track.”


Bob Portale, Amos’ supervisor, notes, “I have seen a difference in her work since Leadership Lab. It has helped equip her with the tools and skills she needs to get the most out of her team and herself. She is now able to take the higher-level strategic initiatives of our business plan and translate them into actionable items her team can execute.”

Amos says she also can see the tangible results Leadership Lab has had on the business overall. “We are trying to deepen the strength of our relationships with clients and broaden the scope of those relationships. I found that once you start establishing those relationships, then people trust you and want to engage.”

The accountability pairings are still going strong, and the organization continues to focus on values to drive decision-making and growth opportunities.

“I think the reason Leadership Lab has had the kind of success it has is that it gets people to reverse their thinking from what they do every day to who they are as people and leaders,” Staver says. “Focusing on who I am translates into doing things well, which results in my people performing better.”

In 2018, LeadingRE will tackle training in areas that were identified in Leadership Lab as places that need more attention. Business units will continue to share their successes and challenges, so the rest of the organization can benefit from the experience and knowledge, just as participants did in Leadership Lab.

Lessons Learned

Recognize your leaders are individuals driven by their own values and purpose, as well as your organization’s mission and strategy. Align their purpose and values so they develop an authentic, personalized leadership style.

Don’t assume all learning takes place in a facilitated event. It’s putting the learning into action during everyday activities that makes an impact. Demand action from leaders and hold them accountable—that transfers into incremental gains in their teams.

Build in accountability, pair people effectively, and develop monitoring systems for two-way feedback.


By Jeffrey Casey, Senior Vice President, Learning and Development, and Austin Meredith, Assistant Vice President, Instructional Design & Programs, Mariner Finance

The question of “How do I get my leaders to ‘own’ their team’s training and development?” often is asked within the field of Learning and Development (L&D). This question is both concerning and critical to individual and business results, and unfortunately doesn’t necessarily have a single correct answer. Leaders want a high-performing educated staff, but not all leaders understand the importance of their own role in their team’s learning and development.

A foundation of training and development ownership at all levels within the organization will be realized when leaders address the following questions:

  • Do leaders understand WII-FM (What’s In It-For Me?)?

WII-FM drives decisions, resource allocation, and task prioritization. It’s no different when a leader “owns” his or her team’s training and development. While many leaders enforce training completions (which are monitored and reported on), many do not understand how to leverage WII-FM to embed knowledge and instill post-completion behaviors to drive results. Metrics-driven comparisons can and do reinforce WII-FM in both tangible (e.g., numbers/results) and intangible (e.g., more time freed up for the leader, fewer mistakes, increased efficiencies) results.

To achieve this, leaders must understand the benefits they reap when they spend their time on ownership of their employees’ training and development. Results that can be seen from this are increased work productivity, efficiencies, and work satisfaction. These three achievements can help a leader produce both better results and increased employee retention.

  • Do leaders feel accountable and responsible?

While many leaders understand they are responsible for making sure their teams “get their training done,” they may not understand they—not just the Training Team—are accountable for the development of each employee’s maximum potential. They are accountable for that person’s improvement beyond simply completing assigned training. To help drive this accountability, many companies measure leaders’ ability to train and develop their staff during their performance discussions both in terms of unit production and bench strength. When leaders invest their time and knowledge in their team’s training and development, they better position themselves to develop new leaders (creating an internal pipeline) and help develop the skills needed to be successful (production and expertise). At the end of the day, leaders need to be responsible and held accountable for their team’s professional development.

  • Are leaders trained on identifying the needed skills and/ or experiences to advance employees?

This is one of the most important and costly questions to ask. In creating this ownership by arming leaders with the needed knowledge for their team’s advancement, the company is effectively creating a culture of excellence. In addition, by retaining these employees, employers can lower turnover (which can save a significant amount of money per year) and maintain or enhance the company culture.

According to a 2016 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, one of the most common reasons employees leave their job is because they don’t see an opportunity for promotion or growth. Leaders must be trained on the required skills and/or experiences needed to develop their staff for future roles and positions. When leaders possess this knowledge, they can proactively help their teams through the creation of future internal growth.

Instill a Culture of Professional Development

Continually encouraging the expectation that leaders in the organization develop others from day 1 of employment is not optional—it is critical. Not only does it aid in the retention of talented employees who are seeking a coach, mentor, or someone to help develop their skills, it also makes leaders more successful.

To further reinforce the importance of team development by the leaders of the organization, there must be a mechanism to review these leaders’ ability to mentor and train employees as part of their own advancement in the company. Leaders who continually demonstrate their commitment to team development always have the strongest teams within the organization. As such, it’s important to start instilling such a culture of professional development from top leadership down.

Corporate learning continues to be an ongoing topic at many organizations. In fact, 84 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends Report said learning is an important issue. When leaders focus on the questions above, they help “OWN” the development of their staff, which delivers additional benefits to the organization, including increased efficiencies, retention, and much more.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.