You Might be an Order Taker if…
This article is written by our featured guest writer, Loren Sanders.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - STOP DIEing over and over again. Wait Loren, you misspelled that. Don’t you mean dying? Nope. DIEing is what happens when you take orders regarding training solutions, develop and implement them exactly as you are instructed, and then evaluate only training completion, rather than trainee competency.
After completing the task, we complain about being glorified order takers, crying: “If only the business would listen to me, I could do more, be better” or “I’m so exhausted from trying, just to get blamed because Joe went through training and can’t do his job.”
This is the victim mentality of an order taker rather than the mindset of a performance consultant.
What is an Order Taker?
Pandering to stakeholders’ wishes, taking their orders uncritically, and allowing them to call the shots may seem like a surefire way to please your clients, but in actuality, it reduces your effectiveness and prevents you from asking questions which build rapport and inform decisions that will set your clients up for success.
This principle is particularly relevant in the context of training sales teams. If you’ve been hired to train sales managers, the expectation is that your training will tangibly increase the productivity of the client's sales team. That is what matters.
In order to achieve specific end results, however, we need to ask strategic questions at the beginning. If we don’t identify measurable goals in advance, how can we prove that there has been performance change?
You May be an Order Taker if...
Think you aren’t an order taker? Check yourself against these 15 practices. You might be an order taker if…
- You propose a learning solution before knowing specifically what the learner needs to do and how well they need to do it.
- You respond to a client’s request as soon as it is stated and begin developing as quickly as possible, instead of making time to ask consultative questions.
- Your work seems more like a fire drill than a strategic partnership.
- You are afraid of the stakeholder, do not know the business well, or assume that the stakeholder knows best.
- You cannot align the learning method to the metrics of the organization or the department.
- You do not have an initial kickoff meeting or consistent check-ins with the stakeholder to stay aligned with clear milestones and explicit timelines.
- You never push back and rarely ask “Why?”
- You think likeability will translate into effectiveness.
- You do not generate ideas.
- You let the stakeholder decide where their training falls on your list of priorities.
- You follow the stakeholder’s timing expectations without setting realistic milestone goals or providing a capabilities matrix driven by timelines.
- Your project plan, lists, deadlines, risks, issues, actions, and decisions are not tracked in a shared file that your stakeholder can view.
- You aren’t talking to your stakeholder about the next few years and the future of the business.
- You do not work agilely or have an iteration process.
- You do not have a change control process.
If you recognize yourself in this list, like it or not, you are operating as an order taker. It is time to change your approach and get back to the powerful performance of the basics.
It’s Time to Rewind: the Performance Consultant Mindset
Order takers deliver exactly what was asked. They do not use a performance consultant mindset, assuming instead that stakeholders know what’s best. You, however, are an expert in learning that leads to performance. If stakeholders knew how to achieve the performance results they desire, they would not need your assistance. But the fact remains, though they may know where they want to arrive, they probably do not know how to get there. That is your expertise. You are the one able to illuminate the road to success through the foundations of analysis and measurement.
The Road to Success: Rapport Building Questions
Use strategic questions to dig deeply for targeted discovery. Assessing the business KPIs and expected outcomes, including how well the learners need to be able to perform, will build rapport with your stakeholder. Become a doctor of design. Diagnose the situation and write a prescription for the cure based on all the information you’ve gathered. This means being proactive, not reactive. You are in charge. You are not just providing a service, you are consulting using your expertise.
Make stakeholders partners within the context of your workflow. Speak to the stakeholder in their own language to make solid connections. Tie it to the way they work with their own clients within their business (roadmaps, project plans, process flows, etc.) This is the cure.
Improving performance and aligning to business metrics is important to the stakeholder; start there. Ask about how they measure the results of your learning solutions? How do they know what “good” looks like, and how is an acceptable performance assessed? This will open the conversation in a way that will build the stakeholder’s trust and reduce the likelihood that you will end up taking orders.
Uncover opportunities and insights along the way that enhance and solidify the learning piece. Be agile and iterate. This also helps build rapport with your stakeholders and will encourage them to engage you earlier in the process. Order taking is more likely when timelines are short. The closer to the delivery date, the more likely you will feel like an order taker.
There are opportunities here. You have the chance to learn more about the business, build a relationship with your stakeholder, and build their trust and confidence in your expertise. Believe in what you do. You drive business performance and ask the right questions. You do analysis upfront. Your results (and theirs) speak volumes when you consult. Order taking devalues your craft. Don’t do it.
Loren Sanders focuses on building better teams and better outcomes. Her passion is leveraging knowledge and performance and connecting people to create solutions. She is motivational, inspirational, and intuitive. Her approach consists of identifying goals and talents, isolating opportunities for growth, guiding people to realizations, and helping people create action plans for change.
Loren has a B.S. in Community Health from University of Illinois and an MBA in Organizational Behavior from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, where she also teaches Strategic Talent Management, Organizational Communications and is the Faculty Senate Lead for the General Business Academic Discipline Committee. Loren is in her 14th year on the Board of Northern Illinois Society for Human Resource Management She is an active member of the National Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), She is also a Sr. Manager of Enterprise Learning and Development in the Center of Excellence at CVS Health where her team focuses on strategy, innovation, process, quality, measurement and video production.