Are you trying to increase the skills or brain power of your team or organization? Accomplishing it might be different than you think.

Traditionally, training processes using these steps:

  1. Identify the skill
  2. Determine the level of competency desired or required
  3. Establish the baseline of the participant
  4. Develop a program or process to close the gap
  5. 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 is creating a multiphase training programs. Over several weeks or months, incremental skill building is accomplished by defining a progression across a number of 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 you go to great lengths to refine training plans? It is a difficult decision for managers or companies to justify money and/or resources that lack tangible results. They want to touch it, see it.

If you 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’s time to ask the questions:

  • What is it you do not see?
  • Can you get there another way?
  • Are there skills that you can improve that indirectly affect other skills you are trying to develop further?

These questions maybe missed in the traditional training development process.

Sometimes what you 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).

Our thinking style defines preferences on how you communicate, act under stress, work in teams,  and make decisions which may be different from other people.

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 creates uncomfortable situations. A key part in development is building trust with and within the group.

The second day of our training focuses on application of  HBDI principles to improve 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 goal 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 you feel uncomfortable, so it is important to find solutions that lets you 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 unidentified revenue 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 many 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 the VP could have predicted or gotten the same results by himself in a traditional training program?