Training Departments: Quit Marking Your Territory

Growing up, I had a dog that I absolutely loved. He was a miniature schnauzer, and he was awesome. He was the runt of his litter, but had that textbook small-dog-that-thinks-and-acts-like-he’s-a-huge-dog thing going on. He was super friendly, but if another dog came within, oh, say, a city block of our yard, he would growl and posture and generally make it clear that he was displeased with the development.

He also did a curious thing–or at least it was curious to me at first–whenever he’d get let out into the yard. He’d quickly dart around the yard, urinating on anything and everything that stuck up over four inches tall, including tree trunks, my basketball hoop (much to my chagrin), flowers (not as much to my chagrin), bushes, decorative landscaping, the mailbox, people that stood still too long, etc. It was almost comical sometimes. There was this intentionality–almost urgency–about his routine. He was marking his territory, of course. He wanted anything or anyone that happened to wander onto “his” property to know that it was, in fact, his.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

This sort of territory-marking has been going on for as long as businesses have had departments. No department is immune, and training and development is no exception. Training and development–T&D for the remainder of this post–sometimes does a similarly curious thing. At times, we can come off as whiners for complaining of being overworked and under-appreciated (and Lord knows it’s often the truth); but at the same time, if anyone comes near “our” stuff, we’re quick to make it clear that they’re out of their depth, or on our turf, or whatever.

Truth be told, we should be ecstatic when other folks from other departments want to pitch in and do their part to help develop their colleagues. And when they do, we in T&D should be quick either to jump in and lend a hand or just get the heck out of the way and let them do it.

What organizations DON’T need is territorial trainers. T&D is all about learning and development, right? We want “learning organizations,” or whatever buzzword you’d prefer to employ; and yet sometimes we’ll make it so miserable–and sometimes nearly impossible–to collaborate with us that no one will ever want to do it again.

We should be thrilled to death when folks outside T&D want to take the initiative in the development of others on their team or within the organization. We need to do a far better job of encouraging such T&D partnerships and collaborations.

I know sometimes we in T&D might feel like we’re the runts in our respective organizations, but that doesn’t mean we have to overcompensate by running around marking our territory. Instead of being about that “business,” we need to about creating environments where learning and development is happening both formally and informally, within and outside the T&D department.

9 thoughts on “Training Departments: Quit Marking Your Territory

  • Guilty as charged. Our work receives little recognition in our organization; perhaps as a result we over-react and look condescendingly at our colleagues who try their hands at training. When we do collaborate, we tend to be miffed if they don’t want to do it our way. Instead, we could congratulate and support them for trying to be actively involved. Institutional or organizational insecurity is just as unattractive as personal insecurity; if we’re not careful, we make ourselves unpleasant to be around!

    • All of us have been guilty as charged in one way or another and at one time or another. You’re actually ahead of the game because you see it! Now go–make a difference!

  • I love this Matt. Because I used to see it happen on a daily basis when I delivered training for a big bad corporate beast. When I came into my role that I’m currently in, I decided early on I was going to make their path to success an easy one. As you so rightly say, if we want our organisation to be a learning organisation, then all you have to do is let it happen. There’s no need to make your mark by controlling it. You make your mark by showing that you are doing the one thing you are employed to so – facilitate learning.

    These days at work, people come and ask me questions. For the most part, I say yes we can make that happen. They walk away happy and motivated. I don’t throw up conditions or boundaries as they just create bad feelings and bad motivation. So I help people do what they need. I don’t get taken advantage of for it. If anyone oversteps their mark, I make it clear they’ve done so. For the most part, people respect what I’m able to help them do.

    • Yep. It’s basically about creating contexts within which folks can learn and grow. That’s not always going to look the same from place to place, and it’s not always going to be formal, in-classroom learning. The key is to facilitate development.

  • Hi Matt, great blog and I agree with you I have seen this in practice. As a team we were so so precious about L&D that we excluded all others. While this kept us busy it did nothing to create wide spread engagement or culture of L&D because we wouldnt let anyone else in. I then took myself & my team on a journey where we created a virtual team of L&D advocates across the organisation. We had less control which was initially scary and the business owned L&D which was inspiring.

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