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Wednesday
Jul272011

Comfortable? You're Probably Not Learning!

If you have tried some training in your business, especially soft skills training such as communication, teamwork and personal development, you already know that it does not “work,” meaning that it’s really hard to justify investing in them. Here’s my compilation of the most severe training mistakes businesses make in applying business training, either to themselves or their people.

9. Avoiding a Return On Analysis on the Training Programs You Invest In.

Buying intangible stuff, like training programs, is hard to cost-justify, for a good reason. It’s hard to know whether the investment made in a training program turned out to be a good one. With the hard stuff we buy, computers for instance, there is some comfort in knowing that even if the purchase did not work out as expected, we at least have the physical possession of the goods. We can get someone to fix it. In the worst case scenario, we can give it away or use it as a door-stop.

Not so with training. If it does not “work,” you lose all of your investment, with nothing to show for it. Worse, there may be other intangible losses to bear, such as reputation, credibility and that promotion you were shooting for, simply because investing in training is considered a risky business to begin with. When buying tangible stuff, we can allow ourselves to get away with a relatively smaller return on investment, say 20%. But buying training, especially soft skills training, is a different matter altogether.

There is good news though. There is so much inefficiency locked up in human behavior that it’s relatively easy to look for and find situations and scenarios where you would get at least, and I say at least, 3 times the return on investment. If you hire out your training, a competent training company should be able to help you create a program where such an ROI is the target.

If they say it can’t be done, don’t hire them. I say this with confidence because the only clients I accept are those where we expect 3 to 5 times the ROI, minimum. If it’s not feasible to create such a scenario, I turn down the business. In most cases, we can find scenarios where a high ROI is not only possible but logical, even common sense.

10. Viewing Training as a Commodity.

What’s a commodity? It’s a product or service that is identical in its features regardless of who you buy it from. In other words, it’s something that you can comparison shop from multiple sources because the only thing that’s different in getting it from different sources is its price.

Some business people pride themselves in being great bargain hunters. They take three bids and get the bidders to fight amongst each other so they can get the lowest price possible. This may be a good strategy when buying certain products and services but not with training services, which in most cases is a not a commodity. Office supplies? Yes. Building materials? Possibly. Training services? No.

To avoid viewing training as a commodity, you must tie training to actual, measurable improvement in the behavior of the people being trained and the results they produce.

“How do you ensure that training will produce a sustained change in behavior?”

“How do you translate the results of your training to the financial results of the organization?”

“How do you make sure that these results are validated in tangible, measurable terms?”

When training is bought as a commodity, you miss an important opportunity to ask these questions, first to yourself and then to the people who would be delivering the training.

11. Expecting Training to be Easy and Comfortable.

Most mainstream training institutions go way out of their way to make their students as comfortable as possible. No wonder they have to serve so much coffee in their training rooms!

Have you ever played a sport? Were you comfortable when you played it? Most likely not. Even if you were playing a board game, you probably were not very comfortable, as sitting up sometimes causes minor aches and pains. But if the game was really good, if it really absorbed you, you wouldn’t notice the discomfort as the joy of playing the game far exceeded the physical discomfort that came from playing it. Good training programs are like a good game. They engage you, grab you, absorb you and immerse you. And when the training session is over, the participants are a bit disappointed that it’s over.

Children don’t feel threatened by learning because they don’t have much to “give up”. In most learning experiences for the adults, they have to give up something that they thought they knew so that real learning can take place. That’s why, effective learning will inherently include some discomfort.

When training organizers work hard to provide a physical environment that’s comfortable and non-threatening, it’s an indication to me that their training is going to be boring, uninspiring and un-engaging that no amount of caffeine can overcome. Nowadays, if people serve me coffee when I attend a training session, I get concerned that I am about to get powerpointed, lectured or talked down to. That’s when I get the seat right next to the door so that I can sneak out if I have to.

In most workshops I conduct, I make it a point not to serve coffee unless the participants ask for it. And if they do ask for it, it’s an indication to me that perhaps I need to change something in their learning experience.

At Awayre, before recommending any training, we assess your people, your processes and their effectiveness in helping you get the results you desire. We also audit and assess your existing people development and process improvement programs to determine if they are helping you achieve your business objectives. Find out more at http://www.awayre.com. If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at bhavesh@ambica.net.

Here’s the full list of training mistakes that I have covered in this and past articles. I have also been compiling these seperate articles into a small report (or a big article). Shoot me an email at bhavesh@ambica.net and let me know if you would like to receive it and I will email it to you. 

1. Failure to Commit to a Single Philosophy or Methodology.

2. Thinking “Training is for My People, Not for Me.” Or “I am ‘Above’ Training; It’s for My People.”

3. View the Trainer as Subservient to You.

4. Training is Conducted to Fix Hiring Mistakes.

5. Wrong Training is Delivered to Wrong People.

6. Putting an Underperformer in Training and Hoping that She will Outperform Your Top Producer.

7. Expecting a “Graduation Date” for Your Training Efforts: Certificate Mentality Versus Learning Mentality.

8. Putting All Your Money in Technical or Skills Training Versus Human Side of Training.

9. Ignoring Doing a Return On Analysis on the Training Program You Invest In.

10. Viewing Training as a Commodity.

11. Expecting Training to be Easy and Comfortable

Thursday
Jul142011

How to Fail at Assessing People

Assessment tools that help us assess our people’s strengths and weaknesses can be helpful. They help us gain valuable insights about the people we lead, work with and report to. Such insights can lead to better relationships, higher productivity and happier workplace. But when they are not used properly, they can lead to misunderstanding, frayed relationships and a demoralizing work environment.

In 15 years of working with businesses, I have witnessed many assessment initiatives, many of them quite successful but quite a few of them that were not so successful. The good news is that it’s not too difficult to spot, right at the beginning, which ones would succeed at getting the desired results, and which ones would fail.  Following are some ways in which assessment initiatives fail with some ideas on how to correct them.

1) Address only one or two of the human dimensions.

Human beings are fascinating creatures. They have many facets. One could argue that they have infinite number of facets. I believe that people are impossible to “figure out” with computer based tools. And yet, I also believe that such tools can be enormously helpful in effectively working with them.

As far as assessments are concerned, human development consists of three phases: 1) Nature, 2) Nurture and 3) Applied.

The Nature dimension addresses those traits that we are born with or genetically predisposed to at birth. The Nurture dimension addresses traits that are a result of our social and parental conditioning, most of which happens after birth through our formative years. The Applied dimension is what’s consciously developed by a person on her own volition.

Most assessments address only one of these three primary dimensions and do not tell a full story. In my observation, most assessments in the marketplace address only the first and the third dimensions, Nature and Applied, largely ignoring the second dimension, Nurture, which has tremendous impact on the behaviors of a person. Such fragmented assessments lead to improper labeling, poor judgements and incorrect use of people’s skills, gifts and talents.

Awayre’s assessment tools cover the full gamut of these three phases of human development. That way, you are assured that you are not using fragmented, incomplete or one- or two-dimensional data in assessing your people. Visit us at http://www.awayre.com for more information.

Wednesday
Jun082011

Anatomy of Awayreness

Most businesses operate in one of two modes: 1) a disorganized, ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants mode or 2) a structured, lifeless, soul-less, “well-run” mode. Both have their shortcomings.

Realistically speaking, a typical business is a mishmash of the two modes. In some of parts of it, it operates in the first mode. In others, it operates in the second. Sometimes the business swings between the two modes, looking for a “groove” that it sometimes finds but in many cases, does not.  

The First Mode: Ad-hoc, Seat-of-the-Pants Mode

The shortcomings of the ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants mode are:

  • Lack of predictability and control over the business’s success, profits, revenues and growth.
  • Anxiety and insecurity on the part of business owners, executives and leaders as well as its employees
  • Lack of clarity, focus and confidence.
  • Lack of a well-planned, charted course.
  • Lack of discipline.
  • Lack of order and organization, resulting in stress and insecurity for everyone involved with the business.

Such a business is typically an under-performing business with high turnover, anxious people, and even more anxious leaders.

The Second Mode: Structured, Lifeless Mode

The problems of the second mode are:

  • The business is a lifeless machine.
  • Human creativity, wisdom and talents are is stifled, even crushed.
  • The business operates at a fraction of its optimum performance because it is not utilizing the full potential of its people.
  • People live a frustrated work-life because their full potential is not unlocked and realized.
  • Result is an under-performing business with high turnover and mediocre revenues and profitability.

A business typically starts in the first mode and then “graduates” to the second mode as it becomes successful in the marketplace. Yet, such success is not lasting as there is always another business that will take advantages of its weaknesses and outperform it.

The Third Mode: Awayre Mode

There is a third mode. This mode is not a combination of these two. It’s not even a balance between these two. It’s a different approach altogether.

In this mode:

  • Intelligence, wisdom and talents of its people is used to create systems and structures as they do their activities.
  • The structures of the business are inherently designed to not only “exploit” the inherent talents, wisdom and creativity of its people but also to nurture and bring out those that are yet undiscovered.
  • The business gets stability, predictability and control of the structured approach yet retains and, in fact, enhances the potential of its people so that the business can grow profitably.
  • There is no differentiation between the structures and the people. They are one and the same. Its structures are a part of the people. Its people are an integral part of the structures and processes.
  • What connects structures and people is the “Aware/Conscious/Purposeful Habits.” A habit is unconscious by definition where we do activities without consciously thinking about them. Conscious Habits are those habits that have an added dimension of awareness or consciousness. That’s why, it allows for the people to change them in a given situation.
  • Built into the business are mechanisms for changing people from frustrated individuals to those who willingly to change their habits.

Anatomy of Awayreness

At the heart of the Awayre mode are 7 human faculties that could be thought of as 7 concentric circles, one inside the the other, like ripples of waves from a water drop.

Starting from the innermost to outermost, these layers are:

  1. Inspiration Point
  2. Knowledge/Wisdom
  3. Social Identity
  4. Intellect
  5. Emotional Engagement
  6. Energy/Vitality
  7. Actions

When a business’s foundation is as deep as the Inspiration Point of its people, it performs at levels unheard of before. When a business’s boundaries are defined by the Consistent, Habitual, Aligned Actions - Awayre Actions - of its people, it can predictably and consistently repeat that high performance over a long period of time.

Granted, the Awayre Approach may not be the right approach for every business or organization. The first step to discovering whether it is appropriate for your business or organization is to go through Awayre Discovery Process. In this process, we take you through a questionnaire about your business’ unique challenges and opportunities and prepare a custom report - Awayre Quotient Report - for your personal use. Visit Awayre, LLC at http://www.awayre.com or contact me at bhavesh@ambica.net for more information.

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