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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Your Letter to Santa

Santa can teach you a few things about building success

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

In our part of the world, many children write letters to Santa Claus, in the hopes that he will respond with marvelous goodies when he slips down the chimney on Christmas Eve. These letters follow a fairly standard format, in which the child talks about how he or she behaved over the preceding year, generally highlighting the good things, and then follows that account with a plea for some special toy.

Many training departments do the same thing, basically. They call it the "budget process."

(Of course, at your company, the annual reckoning and planning process may happen at some other point in the calendar, so adapt these comments to your own fiscal year . . . but the "Letter to Santa" analogy still applies, in most cases.)

Rooted as it is in long tradition, I don't see the children's letter-writing practice changing much (although I suppose there are now probably some kind of electronic portals that cater to this need). I also cannot tell you how much success children have in achieving the objectives of their letters.

I do know that it is widely believed that Santa keeps his own list. That means he knows what the kids are up to all year long, not just in December. And it also means that if his records disagree with a self-serving conduct report provided by a young, hopeful letter writer, he is likely to stuff stockings with presents that are appropriate to his own data, rather than the child's.

When your training department writes the annual "Letter to Santa," recounting achievements, setting goals, and asking for presents (resources), you might want to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep Santa updated throughout the year. Help the rest of your company see the value you bring to the organization on an ongoing basis. That's how you build relationships and support that will help Santa develop a more sympathetic ear.
  • Don't gloss over failures and challenges. Santa looks much more favorably on those of us who monitor our outcomes and correct our "behavior" when it doesn't lead to success.
  • Ask for presents for others, not yourself! Your letter to Santa should spell out what you will be doing to serve other functions in the company, to help them achieve better results.

That last one can be tough -- what kid writes to Santa only to ask for presents for his sister? But "training" is not a goal, not a result in itself. It is only of value to the extent that it makes other activities more productive and more successful.

So focus your efforts on helping your colleagues write better letters to Santa, in which they talk about how you will help them be better boys and girls in the coming year. It may not come naturally, but it will produce better results for the entire organization, and keep you connected to your "internal customers" throughout the year.

And that kind of contribution definitely deserves a present or two from your Santa!

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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