Are you trying to increase the skills or brain power of your team or organization? Accomplishing it might be different than you think.
Traditionally we think of training processes using these steps:
- Identify the skill
- Determine the level of competency desired or required
- Establish the baseline of the participant
- Develop a program or process to close the gap
- Measure the results
This approach is systematic and usually addresses one skill at a time. Let’s suppose you want to increase several skills, all at the same time.
How would you go about doing it?
A conventional approach might be creating a multistage training program. Over several weeks or months, incremental skill building is accomplished by defining a progression across a number of different skill sets.
Often these programs relate directly to the work or function being performed. There may be a test to see if you can pass the level of competency that is required to go to the next level.
Why do we go to great lengths to refine our training plans? It is a difficult decision for managers or companies to justify money and/or resources that lack tangible results. We want to touch it, see it.
If we look at sales training, the traditional skill development agenda might include: Prospecting, Negotiations, Closing the Sale and Dealing with Difficult Customers. Each of these skills is necessary for someone to be successful in sales and the results are visible and measurable.
What do you do when someone falls short after training? Is it time for a refresher course? Do you really think they have forgotten the skill? Is there something beyond the fundamentals that is missing?
It might be time to ask the questions:
- What is it we do not see?
- Can we get there another way?
- Are there skills that we can improve that indirectly affect some of the other skills we are trying to develop further?
These questions maybe missed in the traditional training development process.
Sometimes what we do not see is really what will make the difference.
Here is a true example. I was working with a VP Sales, Asia and his team several years ago. The program was a two day session built off the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) feedback and principles, which identifies thinking preferences. (Learn more about HBDI or take it here).
How often do people acknowledge their strengths and what they do not do well? It can be difficult to vocalize your own limitations and expressing it within a group means taking an even bigger risk.
If self disclosure is done poorly, it can create an uncomfortable situation. A key component in development is building trust with and within the group.
The second day of our training focuses on the application of the HBDI principles to improving customer relationships. As part of their homework, each sales person had to select a difficult customer and document some specific observations before attending the session.
There is a difference between a skill building class and one that combines skill and cognitive behavior development.
The objective was to have each sales person see the situation through the customer’s eyes and make changes in their own behavior to match the customer’s expectations. Sometimes that means doing something that makes us feel uncomfortable, so it is important to find solutions that let us be successful without walking away from the situation.
After the session, the Sales VP sat in astonishment. Like many organizations, the VP had a stretch sales plan which included revenue he had yet to identify in the forecast.
He noticed that upside opportunities were popping up one after another and he was writing furiously to document them. He felt a bit uneasy, wondering why the group’s participation in numerous strategy sessions had failed to generate the same information.
His parting comment to me was, “I am now confident we can make the full sales plan and we are less than half way into the year.”
Do you think he could have predicted or gotten the same results by himself?