Avoiding the knowledge sewer
The sales training session ended almost 45 minutes earlier and the participants were still chatting in small groups around the room. Launching at 8:45 a.m. with regular breaks and a 40-minute lunch, you’d figure they would be high-tailing it out of there at 5 p.m. It was approaching 5:45 when Kat, the CEO — part of one of those small groups — approached.
“Thanks for coming!” she said. “It’s been a terrific day and our team is really excited about the changes. So am I.”
She continued, “We’d like to meet with you to follow up on a few things. We’re committed to implementing correctly the things we learned today. The team’s drafted a list of things to accomplish and assigned leaders.”
“You did?” I asked.
“No, they did it on their own,” was the answer.
Perfect. The team was engaged and was taking control of its education.
Why didn’t the participants fall casualty to the all-too-common “we learned a lot but didn’t do the stuff we learned mentality?” Leadership and the culture it created.
Here’s some observations:
The leader was present.
In this case it was the CEO, but that is immaterial; it could have been a VP of sales, a sales manager or the like. When leaders show up for and participate in training classes, it ups the ante and makes the session even more important to participants. It communicates a “this is important and I’m taking it seriously” message. Leaders should participate but be sensitive to not dominate or intimidate while they are there. Kat showed up and participated but let her team shine.
The team had gotten together before the session and set learning objectives.
Instead of being instructed to just show up for the event, the participants went in with clearly defined goals of what they wanted to learn. They were motivated to be there and they understood why they were. They requested — and received — preconference “homework” so when they walked in the door they were ready for the day.
The company negotiated — up front — post-training coaching.
The participants knew they had resources available to them after the event and, moreover, knew they would be held accountable for results. The results that come from behavior change are more easily achieved when the individual knows they have support.
They created action plans before they left the room.
The session was high-energy, participative and creative, but that is only a part of it. The team wanted to make sure there was ROI and realized that the quicker they implemented parts of what they learned, the greater the probability they would retain it and see results. They chose to stay late to make initial plans.
The right people were in the room.
This points to two things: The company is very selective in its hiring process (evidenced by low turnover and high morale) and the people in the sessions had high buy-in to the spoils of improvement. The company culture is clear that learning and development was the path to innovation and innovation was the path to profitability and success. The company had hired people that agreed.
It’s often best to decide before we’re even in the class to avoid the knowledge sewer — that curious hole where we stash all the stuff we’ve learned but not implemented.
Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.