Given the subject of my two books on customer loyalty, retention, and creating a full-fledged Customer Loyalty Loop within organizations, it’s not surprising that I get a lot of calls that start with people asking me to help them develop a customer loyalty program, or help them with a perceived customer service problem.

What I’m often surprised by, though, is that many of the people who are calling me were told by their bosses to “Pick a training” or “Pick a program” that will somehow magically fix the problems they’re having.

It’s an entirely backward approach to creating change in organizations, one which many training companies have sadly profited from for years, and one which many companies have rewarded their people for adopting.

I call this the abdication of responsibility, and it’s the practice of relinquishing responsibility to someone else in the company, usually someone below them, in the hopes that some magic bullet exists, somewhere. Let someone else deal with it.

The reality of it is, of course, that on their own, these programs are almost always useless. Companies would be better off sending their people to a spa instead of spending on the training – at least if you sent them to the spa; they’d come back more relaxed and better able to focus on their actual work.

Here’s what it sounds like when I get these calls:

Them: “Noah, we heard you can help us with customer retention.”

Me: “I can, but why is that important to you?”

Them: “I just think we could be doing a better job there.”

Me: “That’s great! Do you have any current evidence that suggests you’re not already doing a good job? Are you losing customers?”

And you see, now we’re starting to bring the responsibility back into check. It’s foolish to invest in any program or training without simply asking a few simple questions like:

Why do you have these challenges in the first place?

And how can ensure that next time, instead of attempting to abdicate responsibility to someone else in the company, we can make sure the executives in our company know we have a problem earlier rather than later?

Before I started doing consulting work with large companies, I assumed my dream clients would be the ones where they brought me in, and I dazzled them with my books, war stories from various clients across dozens of industries, and my metaphorically-beautiful intellectual property (like the roots of a healthy, lush, lively Evergreen business, etc.)

But what I realized is this is the worst type of client to have, because if they don’t have the ability to add in their own critical thinking, then we’re likely just being asked to deliver a program or give some random training. Most employees in these businesses often refer to these types of endeavors as, “The current flavor of the month.”

All of my best clients are the ones who can weave together the novel insights, expertise, and IP that I bring to the table, with their years of insights and proven industry knowledge.

Now here’s the secret about abdicating responsibility. Sometimes it does make sense. For example, a great outside vendor, consultant, or training company will help you figure out why it’s important. It’s why if someone calls me and asks me to do some training, it’s not enough. I need to learn more.

Don’t just pick a program or choose a piece of training. Start by asking why this is important first, and then decide on the best resource to move you forward. Ironically, the best resource is usually the one that helps you define the best route from point A to point B.

Most importantly, and I cannot state this strongly enough – be willing to think about what you will invest in as a leader of your company or division, regarding money, effort, time, and attention, to ensure that you get and maintain the results that you want.

If an outside vendor, consultant, “expert,” or training firm starts by suggesting a standard training program, or an “out-of-the-box program,” then run for the hills.

Your Challenge For This Week:

Think about the last time you bought training for any area of your company, and ask yourself what you’re doing today to ensure that the lessons they learned there are still being put to use. If you can’t think of any, then you need to rethink the way you approach training.