email: geoff@cultureofus.com

Breaking up with nab

Dear nab,

This is a really difficult post for me to write, but given your recent breakup with the other banks, I thought I would do you the same courtesy and explain why I’m leaving you.

Honestly, it isn’t you it is me. I’ve changed a lot over the last few years and I’m not sure that you noticed. I’ve grown and changed for the better. A lot of that I attribute to you and the great people I have worked with at your organisation. It has helped me get to a better place. A place where I’m keen to lead again, take on a broader accountability and colloborate on a vast range of people related challenges. Unfortunately these opportunities have not been forthcoming with you, so I have decided it is time to move on.

I have no regrets about being with you. I’ve really enjoyed our time together, I have learnt a lot and will take many fond memories with me. I will miss my Yammer community colleagues. If I were you nab, I would listen to what they say. They are a keen bunch of very smart people that will help you change to be a better organisation. Of course I will also miss my team and the people I work with, but given all the options for staying in touch (including by liking my blogs Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, or my personal Facebook account) I hardly think I we will forget each other. Added to which, I will be working just across the road. Close enough for a coffee, lunch or quick drink after work.

I really think you have come along way in the almost six years I have been with you and you are moving torwards a better place. I’m sure we can remain friends. I think we can both see this just makes a lot of sense and I know in your heart you do want the best for your people.

Thanks for the memories. I am a little sad to say farewell and definately not bitter or angry about it. I’m keen to stay in touch. I hope you have no hard feelings. I’m sure you will be fine.

Good luck and have fun.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Rose.

PS. When I work out my final day, I will leave your keys, PC and your clothes on my old desk.

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Is your life on repeat?

I was in a meeting with a stakeholder the other day and they said something that grabbed my attention. To the tune of “I’ve been doing this sort role for five years now, I know what I’m doing, I just have to press play”. It especially caught my attention, having recently been on an offsite where this video, “Is social media a fad?” (on Vimeo) was played. It got me thinking about, what has changed around us in the past five or so years. A few facts I dug up include:

  • Facebook launched in 2004, and now has over 600 million users.
  • “Facebook is the single largest repository for user-generated content such as pics, videos, links and comments.”¹
  • Twitter established in 2006 has an estimated 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day.
  • LinkedIn launched in 2003 now has approximately 90 million users in over 200 countries.
  • “If Skype were a telecommunications carrier, it would be the largest carrier in the world, with 521 million registered users.”¹
  • “The average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.”¹

The way we work, communicate and play has changed around us. Although we are creatures of habit and tend to repeat behavoiurs that are positively reinforced.  If we continue with our current behaviours will we be left behind? Will we be forced to help our businesses to realise what has passed us by, once we have already lost the edge, ala Nokia? Or will we take advantage of this new world, embrace the environment around us and continue to survive – or even better, evolve to the next level?

As individuals, the opportunity is ours to grasp. We have the tools now to bring the thought seeds of change to us. Personal knowlege management allows us to filter and learn in the moment, at a pace that suits our busy lives. But what is the cost of being too busy to improve and adapt?

If we continue to hit the repeat button do we not get the same results? If you continue to get good results, the temptation is there – but for how long will that last?

Patterns are comfortable. Change is painful. But change hurts even more when the change is being forced upon you because you haven’t got ahead of the curve.

A good mantra to have?

Evolve your play list, find a new track, before the world skips you by.

Social Media Revolution from Whispr on Vimeo.

¹New Study Shows the Mobile Web Will Rule by 2015 [STATS]

Photo: cdrummbks – Flickr

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Leaders provide a key link to learning

Leaders play a significant role in assisting their people to learn. Whether it is to help raise self awareness of a learning need, provide ongoing coaching or to proivde an opportunity for their people to apply what has recently been learnt, as I documented in my post on sales training, the leaders role can not be under estimated.

A systems mapping analysis I worked on last year looked at some of the barriers that prevented capability development initiatives from being more successful of which people leaders were identified as a key barrier. Therefore a key goal of the ensuing capability strategy is to provide leaders with some context as to what role they play in peoples development.

The challenging part of this task is that this sort of leadership activity is currently seen as something you may complete a couple of times a year. Typically when completing an individuals development plan or maybe in a conversation regarding the attendance of a training program. Building capability for many people leaders is seen as an outsourced function to be performed by training courses and leaders role in relation to a persons capability is simply to solve any problems that come up in between those times.

‘LearnFest – People Leader Insights’ was developed as a way of engaging leaders to further develop the focus areas of the Personal Banking capability strategy we had previously created. The idea was to have a hybrid learning event. LearnFest was partly based on a world cafe style of idea generation to gain some more insights to better help people leaders execute themselves. Partly it was designed to provide some action learning experiments for the leaders to then implement with their teams. The event content was to be light and highly interactive. To achieve this we provided the heavier theoretical content via an engaging interactive portal available pre and post the event. The content on the portal was then largely delivered through short narrated slide shows.

One of the major challenges I have been trying to overcome in my organisation is the adoption of social learning tools to enhance more colloborative learning. As a enabling strategy for LearnFest, I introduced a ‘paper tweet’ functionality, whereby participants would tweet, comments, questions and key takeaway from each of the experiences they attended. These paper tweets were then logged on a live Yammer feed, which would allow participants in the room to get a feel of which of the other experiences they should consider attending. It also provided a continual feedback mechanism for analysis later and allowed other people to attend the event virtually.

Key insights gained from our LearnFest event included:

  • Keep large content dumps out of face to face events – The experience needs to provide enough insight to allow for in the moment experimentation, which can then be applied back in the workplace.
  • Integration of live events and virtual events through the use of social media tools such as Yammer is a great way to begin to build a social learning culture.
  • Be deliberate about what you want to achieve within each experience, by providing very specific action learning experiments for the participants to take back and try with their team.
  • Focus on less experiences, moving from the 5 experiences at LearnFest, to 3 – 4 experiences in the future.
  • Provide a structured check in, 30-60 days post the event, as a great way to enhance the collaboration and embedding of activities that were learnt in the event and enhance a social learning culture if targeted via collaboration tools.

For more information view the event set up slides and look at the following 3 minute video summary of the event.

 

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How to use Twitter as a personal learning tool

I never understood Twitter. I thought it was a place for teenagers to follow celebrities and tweet about their latest crushes. I couldn’t understand why you would want to limit yourself to 140 character updates or who you would want to follow. I also didn’t want to create another social networking site presence, as I had profiles on Facebook (see Facebook V Twitter info graphic), LinkedIn and Yammer (at work). How many social networks can one have after all? Finally I think curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see what it had to offer and ever since I have been constantly amazed by what a great learning tool Twitter is.

You most probably have a Facebook account and think ‘I don’t know anyone on Twitter, why would I bother?’.  There in lies the beauty of Twitter. You don’t have to know the people you follow, but you may indeed learn something of value from other people. Since joining Twitter less than a year ago, I’ve been more engaged in my personal learning than I have for a long time, as I have a constant stream of useful tips and information at my fingertips. The information is easily accessible, byte sized and provides links to more information if I want it. I became so in awe of the information I found on Twitter, that I started to look for *everything* on there. Ant problem at home – searched for ‘ants’ on Twitter. Wanted to know more about ‘social learning’ for work, search and found some great information and people to follow as well. Ok, so I didn’t get great ant tips, but there were a lot of things I did get. Enough to sing Twitter’s praises here.

So if you aren’t a Twitter convert, try out the following steps to explore the power of Twitter and join the conversation.

1. Write a list of what you are interested in.

To learn, you first need to think about what your want to learn more about. Starting with a quick list, helps you target what sort of information you want to get out of your Twitter network. Make a mix of work, fun and social. My list included: Social media, learning and development, elearning, football (AFL and NFL), poker, dance music, politics, environment, consulting organisations and corporates I was interested in.

2. Against each of the topics write some names of people who interest you in that topic.

If you know a few people in your field of expertise or interest, start by looking for them. Once you start finding some people you want to follow, see who they are following, check out their tweets, then choose to follow some more people that way. Remember, you aren’t in a committed relationship with these people. You can follow and unfollow people pretty easily. It isn’t like ‘de-friending’ someone on Facebook. Chances are you didn’t know them in the first place!  Look at people’s recent tweets, if it interests you follow them and see how it works out for you.

3. Search on some key words associated with your topics

Twitter has a powerful search engine and it is likely at any time that you will find someone tweeting about the terms or content you are interested in. If you follow the Twitter ‘trail’, from tweets, to people, to people that tweet the content that you are interested in – you will soon have a list of interesting Twitter accounts to follow.

4. ‘Retweet’ and share tweets you like

Twitter is about colloboration and sharing. Sharing things you find valuable will build your own following on Twitter as people start to see what you like and want to follow you as well.

5. Create and or follow some lists

Lists on Twitter allow you to group like users together, so you can have a more targetted stream of information.  Lists can be private or public, so you can follow other peoples lists, which is a quick way to tap into a group of users you may also be interested in.

6. Try some ‘live tweeting’ events, by following hashtags (#)

Hashtags (#) designate topics that are going on in Twitter at anyone time. Anyone can create a new topic, the power becomes when others join the conversation and the topic. Live events are great for trending topics. Common ones are sporting events, television / social events (#logies in Australia is a good example) and professional conferences. Twitter also has regular Twitter chat events, which are special virtual colloboration events that anyone can join by following the hashtag on Twitter.

Summary

Like any social learning, learning from Twitter involves starting with an idea, then looking for a trail of information ‘crumbs’ to follow. When starting out, think as broadly as possible and don’t be afraid to try out a wide variety of tweeters to follow. Most importantly, don’t think you have to read *every* single tweet. Through scanning and reading various sources, you will soon find the information you want faster as you become accustomed to the constant flow of tweets. Don’t forget to share, pass on and reply to the people whose tweets you enjoy!

Some good Twitter resources:

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3 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement

If you work in a large corporate, you may be familiar with the following pattern. The annual employee engagement survey is announced, which you are encouraged to complete and sometime later you are debriefed about the results. You hear about areas that your business unit is doing well on and some areas leaders want to focus on. Plans are made to address area’s of concern for employee engagement, which are often in addition to what everyone is doing in their day job and then some of those changes are implemented. Leaders at some point in the future will remind everyone what was done since the last survey, a new survey comes along and typically there is still a to do list to work on, which may look pretty similar to the last employee engagement to do list.

So why didn’t things change? Chances are as an employee you may not of been part of the workgroup designated to work on the employee engagement issue, so not much personally changed for you. You may of been on the working group, but too busy doing your day job to do much, so you effectively said ‘*insert other department* is doing that, we will just let them do it’. Or you just may have had too many other things to worry about other than all that employee engagement stuff.  Sound at all familiar?

So how do we improve employee engagement? The key is a mindset shift when thinking about employee engagement. To increase employee engagement the following mantra’s are a good starting point:

  • Employee engagement is a part of everything we do – not an additional ‘to do’ list.
  • Employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility – not just leaders, senior leaders or the working group ‘fixing the issues’.

Following are some tips to improve employee engagement that embrace these mantras:

1. Regular conversations about what people are working on, discussing inputs and lessons learnt.

In an era of quarterly reporting, half yearly financials and metrics to measure anything that supports better financials, it is really easy for people in a large corporate to get fixated on the outputs.  But when you are constantly focussed on the output measures, you often neglect the most important thing -the inputs required to get the outcomes you are chasing.  Inputs, consist of the activities and the behaviours required of the people in order to achieve the results.

Leaders often ask ‘how do I motivate my people’, or ‘how do I get the best out of them?’. A good place to start is by listening to how people are going about their job, understanding what gets them excited and reinforcing efforts that are directed in the right place.  If people leader conversations are focussed on what’s working and exploring where things haven’t worked (& options to improve this),  then the dialogue will become more much more about personal learning. Allowing people to experiment, try, fail and then try something else, will ultimately provide a more powerful and engaging experience, instead of applying pressure to team members whose outcome measures are not stacking up.

2. Provide constant feedback to others reinforcing what has been done well. Be specific and targeted on areas of improvement.

I once had a team leader who constantly focussed on what was wrong with my work and rarely mentioned anything that was right. It was de-motivating and depressing. I managed to shift this around with a simple conversation that went something like this.

‘If you want to get the best out of me, tell me what I am doing right and I will keep doing that.’

Things improved a lot after that.

Whether you are a people leader or a team member, an environment when feedback is freely given and embraced, will be an environment that is far more engaging to work in. The key to fostering such an environment is to give a disproportionate amount of positive feedback. As a leader, you should be aiming for at least three positive points of reinforcement, for every developmental area you identify. The development area identified should also be unrelated to what is going well. The effect of a more constant and positive feedback environment is that it encourages people to behave in the way that is most supportive of achieving the groups goals. Positive reinforcement promotes positive energy, which leads to more positive engagement.

3. Shared problem solving, rather than relying on leaders to solve everyone’s problems.

An easy trap for leaders to fall into is the one that finds them the chief problem solver for the team. Everyone who has a question, issue or crisis comes to the team leader to have it fixed. The issue with this approach, is that it reinforces to the leader that they are the centre of their employee’s universe and thus employee’s can not act with out the guidance of the leader. For employee’s they may think that the leaders role is to set the direction and ‘solve any problems I have’ in order to achieve the goals set out by the leader. But here’s the rub. As a team member I begin to lose any sense of empowerment, enablement and eventually engagement, if I just believe I’m there to do ‘what the boss tells me’. As a leader, I find I end up blaming and resenting my employees for their lack of ability to successfully execute what I need them to do.

A better approach is for leaders to facilitate mutual problem solving. This could be on an individual basis, for example encouraging employees to solve their own problems through carefully selected coaching questions. Or it could be on a team level, through conducting meetings where barriers to progress are identified and actions are put in place to address the issues that will promote improved team performance. In the later exercise, the key is obviously to focus on the issues the team has control over and can be empowered to do something about. Anything that requires the team to modify their own behaviours is usually a good place to start.

Please respond to this post with any suggestions or approaches you have found valuable in increasing employee engagement.

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Kicking the training habit

If you work in the learning and development space, you would probably be aware of the buzz about informal learning. There has been a real awakening to the fact that informal learning can provide some of the greatest learning opportunities. Commonly thought to provide more than 80% of what we learn and the source of some of the most powerful lessons we will learn in life (& indeed in our organisations). But for many organisations, we are a product of our history. Locked into a paradigm of training our people to do a good job and rewarding learning and development professionals for putting more people through even more training programs.

But the current reality is not working. Business needs are changing rapidly resulting in a mounting list of unfullfilled training needs. We are struggling to sustain behaviour change at a rate that keeps up with the changes required by our environment and we find it hard to quantify the benefits associated with our training programs.

We are running the gambit of being high on the training drug, then suffering the hangover of reality where nothing much has changed. Yet we are addicted. It is in our nature. It is what we grew up on. It is hard to resist when people are prepared to pay us to give people ‘everything they need to know’ and entertain them at the same time.

‘Just tell them everything they need to know to do the job right’ – frustrated executive.

We have come to a cross roads, we are struggling harness the power of informal learning as it is a path that we feel we have little control over. Informal learning is a method that can easily go ‘under the radar’ or even ‘missing in action’. Yet the informal learning path is ever present. We just don’t know how to embrace it, leverage it and effectively measure it to prove to our stakeholders that there is a better way.

Let us pause and reflect on some key differences between our desired destination and our current state. Some of the key characteristics of informal learning include that it is self directed in nature, learnt largely through our experience and discussing our insights or questions with others. Informal learning is not new, we learnt how to do many things, from learning to walk, making friends, to solving our home storage crisis – largely through our own trial and error. In life we have typically also learnt a lot through formal learning. We have been through an education system, where we we have relied on others to set a path for us to follow and spoon feed us insights.

Typically informal learning is less visible, it happens in the moment and there are less signposts indicating ‘learning has occurred here today’. In contrast with training, it is very structured, it requires an organised meeting time, often with associated artifacts to take from that learning and hence it is very visible.

Informal learning, by it’s nature starts from a place of desire from the learner. ‘I wonder how to do this..’, ‘what’s is this all about?’, ‘could you show me how to do that?’. A sense of wonderment is a powerful learning tool.

Where as training represents the status quo. It comes with expectations, ‘prove it’, ‘show me’, ‘tell me’, ‘entertain me’. It is easily tracked and can keep law makers happy because we can prove we have checked the right boxes, all the relevant knowledge has been consumed – ‘we are safe to proceed sir!’.

Informal learning has exponential impact when it is transformed into ‘social learning’ through the use of colloboration technologies. Instead of accepting the nearest persons’ answer, we can tap into a digital social network for a better answer – although we must have the confidence and trust to do it.

How do we chart a course to leverage informal learning, whilst at the same time sensibly utilize our training addiction for what what it is best designed for? Like any good learning, the answer rely’s on us experimenting. Experiments I’m currently trying, include being much more deliberate about mashing up the learning experience. Using the best parts of each of the learning modes, to get a better result, with a clear aim of building a path that leads learners to cross the threshold from their addiction to training, to something that requires more pro-active engagement.

Follow me on twitter or my blog to read more about some of my efforts to leverage the power of informal and social learning.

Check out also the following resources on informal and social learning.

Please respond with your thoughts and favorite links on the topic:

Image: zmkstudio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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5 Key Insights to Improving Your Sales Training Results

If profitability is not where we want it to be and cost cutting is the order of the day, then often employee training is an easy target. This is usually due to a poor track record of demonstrating a proven return on investment from past capability development attempts. In contrast, sales training is often seen as that gold jackpot at the end of a rainbow – the allure of ‘increased sales productivity’, is often the only incentive needed to encourage some further investment in sales training. The business case is pretty simple really:  Customer satisfaction not where you want it? Sales per sales full time equivalent down? Total sales returns not meeting expectations?  More often than not, new and improved sales training is the trusty tool that is called on to fix these sorts of problems.

What’s the reality though?

“87% of training content is forgotten within 30 days or people attending training course.”

(Sales Executive Council – ‘Boosting Sales Training Stickiness’ – 2011, see upcoming conference details at end of post).

Note, that says ‘forgotten’. Let us not assume ‘remembered’ equals ‘successfully applied’ either. A lot of attention is focussed on delivering better and more engaging sales training (which is great) but the most powerful catalysts of making the training stick, are factors occurring outside of the sales training room.

Within the last seven years I’ve been involved in six sales training related interventions, at two companies, including both complete new processes and refreshers to current processes, in a large scale retail and wholesale banking environments.  Following are five of my key learning’s from this journey, with some ideas on what I see to be crucial elements to achieving returns from sales training interventions.

What is the problem you are really trying to solve?

Drawing conclusions from facts about your revenue and customer satisfaction being not where you want them to be, then linking those facts to the conclusion ‘we need our people to connect better to our customers’, often result in one of the next two statements; ‘we need a better sales process’ and or ‘we need new/improved sales training’.

Often the response to this is to start shopping externally for sales training vendors, looking for solutions to solve your problems.  Of course, every vendor has a unique sales proposition and can wheel out a long list of successful clients, but the one commonality with most vendors is that they will not be there when the you require long term application of your new sales processes.

Some questions that may help you to better understand what you actually need, include the following:

  • Are my sales leaders role modelling and coaching the sales practices we have asked them to?
  • What systems / processes do we have in place today to reinforce good sales conversations / practices?
  • Do our people have role clarity in what is expected of them?
  • Do they have capacity to execute on what we require them to do?
  • Do our reward structures reinforce the sales behaviours we are trying to achieve?

These thought starters may provide you some guidance as to whether you have an execution issue (i.e. lack of guidance, coaching and reinforcement) or there is legitimately a behavioural issue (i.e. lack of ability to effectively execute on what is required).  You may find you have both. An important point to remember here, is that introducing a new sales process may temporarily give you some uplift in sales performance from the flow on energy generated by the new sales training, but if you are not also addressing the systemic reinforcers of effective sales behaviours (leadership, coaching, role clarity, rewards etc), then you are likely to get back to your original starting position pretty soon after you have implemented your new process.

Key Insight 1 – Focus efforts on ways to support consistent execution

Recently, I was involved in a capability systems mapping exercise to understand the systemic issues surrounding what it was about the ‘way we develop our people that hinders us in meeting our business goals’. This sort of systems thinking diagnosis was a good way in understanding what other reinforcers need to be considered in order to deliver more consistent execution of the capabilities we are trying to instil in our people.  Key levers identified in the capability systems map we built included:

  • Clarity of strategy and purpose – of both the organisational strategy and the capability strategy to support that
  • Coaching and embedding – of leaders supporting their people ensuring they have the chance to practice and reflect on what they learn
  • Right people participating – in the training, to ensure that it is best placed for their needs
  • Range and quality of training – of available training to address identified gaps
  • Workforce planning – to ensure people have capacity to attend training and follow up learning
  • Collaboration within the organisation to support effective learning (both for those facilitating learning and for leaners)

Tweaking a sales process or implementing new sales leadership routines will not stick if you don’t have the systemic reinforcement to make them happen consistently. If you are going to go down the path of a new sales process, you need to consider some of the broader system issues at play and ensure the levers available are set to reinforce what you are trying to achieve.

Is your sales force ready for the change?

What is initiating your sales training intervention? An incumbent vendor’s contract expiring? A new leadership perspective? A revised strategy? Some poor customer satisfaction or sales results?

Any of these factors, or a combination of often leads to a fresh look at how as an organisation we connect and sell to customers. What is often over looked though, is ‘our our people ready for a new or revised approach?’  A key element of any behavioural change is understanding what the mindset of your target audience is. If you are changing your sales process, your customer value proposition or your sales leadership approach every other year, chances are your workforce may just be a little tired of the constant change and wait for the next best thing to come along and not bother with the current change you are trying to implement. Key questions to consider include:

  • Do our people think the sales  processes do not work or are too complicated?
  • Have our people been subjected to a lot of other change? (change fatigued?)
  • Are they ready to embrace a new sales approach? (time for change is now)

If you are going to invest the time and resources required to update a sales process, you need to ensure there is a legitimate desire of the target audience to actually accept or even embrace the change.

Key Insight 2 – Know your audience, understand their emotional triggers

Engaging your sales force to understand where they feel the gaps are and for the developers of the sales training to observe how they the sales force are currently executing on their sales conversations, is paramount to helping you improve your sales uplift. This will not only build buy in and credibility for the change, but it will provide a chance to tap into ‘the energy’ of the sales force and understand what emotional triggers could work in having them adopt a future change.

Understanding the current mindset of your sales force about their existing sales processes and tools, will also assist you determine the ‘what’s in it for me?’ benefits to sell as a part of the change process.  In 2008, I submitted two of the sales training programs I played a role in creating into a study run by the CLC Learning and Development, “Refocusing L&D on Business Results: Bridging the Gap Between Learning and Performance” (2008).  One of the key findings in this study reinforced the need for learners to have a strong understanding of the payoff for applying what they have learnt back in the workplace. Ensuring what you are changing is somehow making the life of your sales people better and they are at a point they are more likely to embrace the change will ultimately enhance the application of the learning into behaviour that increases business performance.

What is the context within which the change is occurring?

It is very easy to get focussed on the key tasks that need to be performed by sales people / leaders, and forget about all the other things that may be distracting your sales force from having engaging customer conversations.  Depending on what your sales force are trying to sell, they are likely to be engaged in a raft of other activities that may be related or unrelated as a part of that sales process; including order processing, customer servicing, problem resolution, administration, process improvement, order fulfilment, etc.  Your sales leaders often are also similarly may be distracted from their sales leadership responsibilities with their own sales, operations and servicing tasks they are trying to perform concurrently to their sales leadership tasks. Key questions  about your current context include:

  • What barriers currently exist to your sales force consistently executing on having effective sales conversations?
  • If you are asking your people to do something new or different, what are you going to ask them to stop doing that they are currently doing?
  • How will you deal with the contextual challenges your sales people have when implementing new sales training?

Being able to apply a new skill in the context of the current working environment is key for achieving ongoing behavioural change. If the new way of working is not possible due to a significant amount of current world obstacles providing barriers, then ultimately the target behavioural change will be difficult to achieve.

Key Insight 3 – Help your people understand how they will apply the new within their existing context

One of the most satisfying projects I was involved in during 2010, was building a refresher sales leadership program. It was a simulation based workshop, simulating a day in the life of a Branch Manager for a retail bank, which required them to perform key sales leadership activities, but make critical decisions about other operational tasks that were often the reason that the sales leadership tasks were not performed.  The simulation was structured within a competitive game context, which had pay-off’s and penalties for different choices made. By simulating decisions in a real world context, managers were able to gain an understanding of what the impact of their decision not to prepare for a key sales leadership task (eg. sales meeting) were and weigh up the ‘real life’ costs of not properly executing on sales leadership tasks.

By combining your target training within the contextual challenges, it provides a practice ground for helping learners to overcome the issues that will become the barriers for sustaining the change once people have completed the course and are back in their workplace.

What role are your leaders playing in the change?

I attended a great workshop in 2010, where Charles Jennings presented about “Workforce development: Moving from activity focus to tangible outputs” and one of the key facts that really resonated, was the reinforcement of the importance of the people leader in capability development. Charles referred to research (M L Broad & J W Newstrom (1992 & 1998)) highlighting the top three impacts on a learners experience are:

  • The managers discussion with a learner prior to the workshop (establishing the learning need)
  • Instructional designers and facilitators contextualising the learning within the role of the learner
  • A managers discussion with the learner after the workshop (reinforcing what has been learnt through coaching and providing an opportunity to apply what is learnt)

A key challenge for any new sales process change is getting leaders on board with role modelling and coaching the new behaviours. A key stumbling point can be ensuring that your most senior leadership believe the change is important to the point that they adopt the  tools or processes being implemented themselves and role model consistency to middle and front line management.

Key Insight 4 – Have your leaders actively involved role modelling the change and part of the learning process

If your leaders think they are above the change and not going to be hands on in coaching the new sales routines, your ’30 days’ of rememberance for a new sales routine, is looking optimistic at best.

In the sales leadership simulation training refresher aforementioned, senior sales leaders and sales coaches were a part of the training simulation, playing a key role in providing observation coaching feedback or simulating staff interactions. Senior sales leaders were also involved in a pre-workshop capability assessment against the Branch Manager success profile and part of a post workshop follow up ‘pledge’ conversation whereby development commitments were made based on the workshop and capability survey outputs. This ‘pledge’ (learning contract), combined with follow up scheduled observation coaching of key sales leadership tasks, reinforced the key skills and sales leadership routines the Branch Managers were required to perform.

What is the current culture of your sales force?

Im a fan of the view put forward in the HBR article “How right should the customer be?” (July-August 2008) that describes:

“The culture and effectiveness of any sales force are products of its management system: the rules that govern the way a company trains, monitors, supervises, motivates, and evaluates salespeople.”

The article goes on to explain there are two extremes of how sales forces are typically managed.  Outcome control systems, which typically sees sales people having a high percentage of their salary derived from key metrics shaped by customer results.  Versus a behavioural control system, where the sales managers are typically directing, developing and evaluating their sales force on a number of different factors.  The contrast being between a self directed more autonomous salesforce (outcome control), versus a directed ‘command and control’ type of sales force.

Key Insight 5 – Understand what your current state culture and determine the impact on new/updated sales processes

In 2007, I was working on a project to implement a new sales leadership program into a retail bank. At the time the culture was heavily a compliance / risk driven culture (pretty typical of banking), however the business strategy at the time was promoting a one of empowerment for the people. The reality at the time though was that people were still very much living in a compliance culture, to keep them from getting penalised for non-compliance. The vendor partnering with us at the time made a strong recommendation to make the new sales leadership routines mandatory, as they had seen good results from this type of approach in other banks. But the team felt, a view I supported at the time, that if our people were to be empowered, we needed to implement the new sales leadership routines in a way embrace the change .  Therefore we attempted to compel our people into action by showing the benefits, hope they would adopt was our rationale and take the risk of moving from what was a very reactive to a very proactive sales leadership approach. Hindsight shows us, the sales leaders were still too busy doing all the other things that stopped them from getting penalised, hence the uptake of the new sales leadership routines were not what we had hoped, but clearly beneficial where they were adopted.

On reflection and with my learning’s since this project, I think the easier road would of been to make the sales leadership routines mandatory (given that culture) and just apply the appropriate compliance levers to ensure they were executed upon. However easy to implement, doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any longevity or quality in the execution of the sales leadership activities (including coaching, team meetings etc).

The key here is to really be deliberate about what your culture is currently and whether you want to use it to reinforce the new sales process you are implementing. Or whether the change you are implementing, will be partly a catalyst towards shaping a new culture. The former is relatively straightforward and has a lot less risk than the later. If taking the second approach, you will need to take a much broader view on the organisational system that is influencing how your sales force behave and look to leverage more cultural levers other than a new capability program, in order to reinforce the behaviours you will require to achieve the new culture.

The way forward

I see these learning’s as a step change from a training mindset to a more wholistic change mindset, but there is still a way to go. As I continue to explore newer concepts on motivation (Daniel Pink’s – Drive) and implement further experiments around how to move from a ‘push training’ world to a ‘pull learning’ world, I will continue to post these insights here.

Please leave your comments / insights here so I can expand my learning and please follow my blog to see what happens next in my journey.

Written by Geoff Rose, January 2011.

Images: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Sales Executive Council – ‘Boosting Sales Training Stickiness’ – 2011)

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Lost in slideumentation

Where I work, we call them ‘decks’. PowerPoint presentations filled with facts and bullet points, designed to persuade our audience on a point of view. I’ve also heard them called ‘slide decks’, ‘PowerPoint decks’, or the term I like from my recent reading ‘slideuments’.  The irony in calling these presentations ‘decks’ is that a deck is usually associated with an outdoor wooden building surrounding, sometimes referred to as a patio or a pergola. They’re functional, but typically not inspiring. So maybe ‘deck’ is an apt description after all. So what is it about a slideument that is so unappealing or boring?  Why is the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ an accepted part of our vernacular? Why is it that we continually fail to connect through this ‘presentation’ medium?

I found inspiration in this book review list of 2010, to pick up a few as a part of my development plan, which I decided one area would be to focus on how I construct PowerPoint presentations.  When I told colleagues about my ambitions, they said, ‘why, you’re good at PowerPoint presentations…’, which I thought was true to a degree, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations being placed on documents that were to be reviewed by the senior executive leadership group.  ‘No more than 10 slides..’  ‘Must be submitted X day’s prior to the leadership team meeting..’   I was somewhat disheartened by these rules and wanted to know why they were placing limits on how we connected with them as a leadership group.

Then it dawned on me, after several conversations and a look at some of the content that were being shipped their way.  Our most senior leaders were being subjected to ‘death by slideuments’.  PowerPoint decks filled with bullet points, stats, graphs and action plans.  Decks that are often very hard to read without a narrative from the author.  But with the increasing amount of decisions, information and presentations being thrust upon the senior leadership team, clearly they were trying to gain some efficiencies through pre-reading packs and focussing meeting time on discussion and decision making.  Which in effect was leaving less or even no time for a presentation from the people trying to pitch the ideas.

I’m currently reading Resonate, which reinforces some concepts I was very familiar with and provides a good framework I plan to utilise to build an experience based workshop for my colleagues to help them in their endeavours to influence senior leaders.  Key takeouts to date, after being about half way through the book (and having skimmed the preceding book slide:ology and another book on the topic Presentation Zen Design)  include, the need for presentations to contain a good story line, with big ideas, that are supported by showing what we are moving from and where we need to move to – then finishing by painting a picture of what life will look like in the future.  And coming to grips with the audience is your hero and you’re their mentor – your job is to make them buy into your cause, not convince them how wonderful you are.  (There’s a good video summary of the books key theme here.)

I’m excited about being able to take my presentation art to the next level and strive to make deeper emotional connections with my audience, but at the same time concerned about the fact that getting face time to tell and reveal stories in a compelling presentation, are becoming more limited, due to the past failures of connection that have become so common. A key part of being able to present is to be able to reveal and inject the emotion required to obtain the emotional buy-in of the target audience. Yet in the world of  ‘convince me with the facts before we even discuss the concept‘ and ‘we don’t have time to listen to your story‘*, it becomes increasingly difficult to wrest the attention required, to fully leverage some of the less commonly used art forms of positive visually enhanced presentation.

I still highly recommend a look at the video link here and even better read Resonate.  I’m confident that regardless of the battles for gaining face time, the structure and tips contained within the book can be applied to all manner of written presentations – even slideuments – to help provide a better and more compelling case for change.  I will keep you posted on how I go. You never know, if the author Nancy Durate is right about her four predictions for presentations in 2011, we may all soon become ‘naked presenters’ and not need the slide deck at all!

I’m keen to hear your comments and thoughts about your successes and failures in convincing audiences with compelling presentations.

  • How have you overcome limitations on being able to connect and convince key stakeholders with compelling presentations?
  • Are slideuments a way of doing business for your company?
  • Do you recommend any other good resources on preparing slide presentations?

by Geoff Rose – January 13, 2010

Some great examples of good presentations here: Lessons from the 2010 SlideShare presentation competiton

* – not actual quotes.

Image:  Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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What is the Culture of Us?

The ‘Culture of Us’ is a look inside corporate culture today, exploring the issues and the challenges, with the aim of ‘making the world a better place to work’.

I have been working in organisation change, learning and development for over 17 years, consulting to major corporations, public institutions and entities throughout Australia and the rest of the world.  With almost 10 years experience gained in top tier consultancies (Accenture and PwC Consulting) and the last 8 years spent internal consulting in two tier one Australian banks (ANZ and currently NAB), I have a raft of experiences I’m keen to share.

This blog is a reflection on my experiences, both present and past.  It provides me an avenue to structure my thinking and share with others my insights.

I hope you enjoy my posts and encourage you to respond so that I can learn from your experience also.

Enjoy,

Geoff.

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