Training is Learning … to Succeed

Humans evolved by adapting and adjusting to change. We learned by experience to manage threats.

Businesses operate within competitive environments, but it is not just a Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” By understanding market demand, businesses can respond to customer needs … and if they innovate, improve, and differentiate themselves—they can become financially successful.

It’s the people within each company that recognize opportunities, solve problems, and provide solutions. Management guru Peter Drucker recommended that companies invest 5-15% of revenues on training and development. He was really saying that if a company’s greatest resources are its people, then they should be treated as assets to be developed. Employee knowledge and capabilities are the tools a company uses—to build its customer base.

Many professions require continuing education, but too often companies view training as “overhead” costs to be minimized, rather than as investments in people—and in the future of the business. Consequences of this short-sided thinking are mistakes, unsolved problems, negative customer experiences, lost time, and revenue.

Autumn is traditionally “back to school.” Because the marketplace is always changing—businesses are never out of school. To manage change, businesses should embrace continuous learning.

  1. The purpose for training should be clearly communicated to employees, and why improving specific job capabilities is good for the company.
  2. Training should have direct application to each employee’s job, whether it is to expand knowledge, build skills, or improve collaboration within teams.
  3. All company leaders should fully commit to training.
  4. Company leaders, managers, and supervisors should become coaches, use constructive feedback, work with employees to improve specific behaviors, and monitor everyone’s progress.

Job specific learning is crucial for employee development. Engaged employees are better at providing quality products and services to their company’s customers.

Success is when all company leaders and employees do the right things at the right time. Whether training is applying job specific information, or about building a positive company culture … there is no substitute for learning.

Belief and Trust

Belief and trust are not the same. Sometimes they interact, sometimes they conflict. Once upon a time people believed in fire breathing dragons, but science has never documented their existence. Beliefs change over time, especially with experience and knowledge. In those days of dragons, Kings and Queens ruled the land … but in modern times people believe more in self-rule.

Trust – is a simple word that can be much more than belief. Trust sometimes occurs without empirical or scientific evidence – what we call proof. We understand it as it relates to our personal relationships. Trust is vital with families and friends, because we believe they will not harm us.

In some instances, “doing no harm” grows to putting other’s interests ahead of our interests, such as the relationship between parents and their children.

In business, what defines trust and why is it important?

We believe that trust in the workplace is not automatic – it must be earned. For employees, trusting an employer is the result of not only personal experiences with the owners and executive team, but includes the collective perceptions of fellow employees. It extends to observing how the company treats vendors, customers, and others in the marketplace.

Because of widespread social media, negative perceptions of company actions can adversely affect an employee’s mindset, and consequently their productivity. Business research proves that highly motivated employees – those who believe in the company’s Mission, Vision, Purpose, and Values – become far more productive employees.

Many articles and blogs describe toxic managers, employee disengagement, and dysfunctional company cultures. This is the evidence of beliefs ruined, and trust removed. These realities cause financial losses for the company.

Loss of internal trust … extends to perceptions of mistrust outside the company – with vendors, prospects, and even clients who begin to consider other options.

Workplace trust is intensely personal and collective. It is the relationship between employees, and the company they represent. It is the relationship between a manager and a team member. It is the relationship among a company’s sales and service representatives, prospects, and existing customers. Every one of those relationships is strengthened and maintained with TRUST.

For any business to succeed, it is not just in what all players can BELIEVE, it is in what they can TRUST.

 

Want a Strong Business? Work on Your Gaps

A business culture is all the thinking, decision making, and actions within that business. Put simply – it is observable and measurable behavior that happens every day.

It is not a secret … strong business cultures are more successful than weak ones.

The short list of attributes of a strong business culture are:

  1. Clear vision, and achievable mission
  2. Leaders who inspire
  3. Supervisors who coach rather than manage
  4. Employees who work from talents and strengths
  5. An engaged workforce, aligned to the business purpose
  6. Job specific training
  7. Career paths
  8. Rewards and recognition
  9. Customers who become advocates

Almost every person has some awareness of what is not quite right, or what is missing from their lives. The striving to be better, to live better, and to have more of what we want stimulates the progress of individuals, companies, and even society.

In a competitive business environment, there is no place for complacency. Being GAPWORX … we want to have conversations with business leaders who are CURIOUS about how their business culture stacks up – their strengths and weaknesses. All businesses have gaps, and we think every business should work on them.

We help our clients work on cultural gaps, and that directly affects what we call Customer Building. Some employees have job-specific selling roles and responsibilities, others for serving. But generally, to fulfill the company brand … Everybody Sells and Everybody Serves.

I would be surprised to learn of any business that did not have to continuously create more customers. I would also be astounded to know of any business that did not have to continuously serve those customers well … to keep them.

Gap analysis is quantifying (measuring) the difference between what is, and what is desired. Qualifying (understanding) the rational and emotional discomfort about gaps, is why problem solvers and action takers succeed better in reducing their gaps. The awareness is … “I don’t like my results, I want something better, so I must do things differently.” That is simple psychology. Even though it is not complicated, it is still not easy.

The correlations are clear … strong business cultures create engaged workplaces. Engaged employees who are aligned to vision and mission, and who feel they have a place in the company – create stronger customer relationships.

If you want to sell more prospects and keep more customers … first understand your cultural gaps, and work on them.

THE PEOPLE CORNER – Leadership … the Balance

In our business practice, we outline the differences between quantitative and qualitative measurements. It is a bit like comparing what you can get your hands around … compared to what you feel.

We have a concept called the GAPWORX Balance which observes and details what you do (the Metrics) – how well you do it (the Aesthetics.) It is the contrast of the work … and the style.

Leadership requires a wide range of capabilities. Among them are knowledge, experience, dedication, discipline, insight, and decision making. Less easily measured are observable behavioral qualities such as courage, resiliency, and consistency.

Using an analogy, it is one thing to use brute force “to make the trains run on time.” It is quite another matter to win the “hearts and minds” of the people, and to win the war.

Too often leadership emphasizes the metrics of analysis, strategy, and action – at the expense of inspiring people and gaining their trust.

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth.” He was talking about using a lever to force an action. But he also knew that a lever is useless without a fulcrum – the foundation and pivot point which makes leverage work.

The old business ways of “command and control” were about strict organizational structures, and telling employees what to do. Modern leadership emphasizes soft skills, such as emotional and social intelligence, and knowing that people perform best when they have purpose and meaning to their work. Leaders help their employees build strengths through training, and providing effective feedback. Today’s leadership models are better levers and fulcrums to achieve organizational results.

The Peter Principle describes how an employee progresses “up the ladder” until they finally reach the rung of their limits, and they become “incompetent.” Leaders continually climb until they reach the top rung. Whether the leader is successful, or is replaced by another, is achieved by balancing the quantity of capabilities … with the quality of the person.

A good leader must understand that followers might not remember everything you told them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. A good leader must first be a good person.

Fortunately, leaders can improve the balance of what needs to be done … and being a better person. Being a better leader comes through self-awareness, motivation, and feedback from trusted resources.

THE PROCESS CORNER – Change is a Journey, Not a Destination

There are many famous quotations dealing with change. Change is inevitable, like death and taxes. Change is challenging for most of us to embrace. Most of us prefer our lives to have certainty and predictability, with a comfortable routineness. Often unknown to us, we are creatures of habit.  

Change is frequently linked to acceptance, but few of these quotations link it to a process that makes its outcome more efficient and desirable. In our personal lives – and as importantly in our professional lives – we need to acknowledge that change is necessary.

For the betterment of our personal and professional lives – we must acknowledge that change is necessary. We know change is hard, but paradoxically we seek easy processes to make our lives better.

The premise of this post is that individual and organizational change is a journey that is never-ending. It isn’t a destination that you arrive at and it is done. Rather, change occurs constantly, and individuals and organizations can: (1) ignore the external forces that impact them, or they can (2) embrace those external forces, and seek alternative solutions to achieve organizational success.  

We recommend an initial AWARENESS PHASE that identifies Problems (we call them Gaps), the Drivers of your Business (Financial, ROI, Cultural, Customers, etc.), Resources (dollars, time, talent – internal and external), and your Priorities based upon company goals and objectives.

Then you move into an ACTION PHASE where you expand Awareness, to Assess, Analyze, and Plan for specific initiatives. As plans are finalized and vetted, select a champion to lead each initiative. A project or initiative champion is key to overall accountability and success – to implement specific metrics and explicit schedules, and mark milestone progress along your Roadmap.

Although somewhat a misnomer, the “final” step is the ACHIEVEMENT PHASE. Certainly, there must be achievement, but it is an incremental signpost on the journey to the organization’s long-term goals and objectives.

Celebrate signpost achievements, but continue the process to adjust to each new change. Create new Awareness, new Action plans, and set new Achievement goals and objectives. Change management is a process. Scale it to your market and organization. Keep it simple. Get outside help if the expertise and resources are missing inside your organization.