When we work with a client to deliver our High Performing Teams and Coaching Culture, leadership programmes we put a lot of effort into the front end ‘blueprint’ process. A major reason for this is to build commitment from the leaders involved, along with an understanding of what they will be committing to, their involvement in time and most importantly having them define why this is an important initiative for the organisation.
Despite this we still face a day, at some point during the programme, where the commitment discussion resurfaces. Our Leadership programmes aren’t like traditional classroom training where you can ‘come along for the ride’ and not do anything when you leave. We include coaching, cafe style group discussions, online discussion forums, surveys and activity measures. We call this ‘putting purpose into action’ and all of these activities are designed to help the committed learner to develop, grow and improve the skills that the programme aims to deliver. However they also tend to flush out those that aren’t doing anything because they came along for the ride. We tend to notice a few symptoms of ‘coming along for the ride’ that we thought we would share (in a light hearted way).
- ‘we don’t need to measure this, aren’t we all just doing it?’. This means ‘ I don’t like the fact that you can see I’m not doing anything and would like us all to stop doing the measurement so that I can hide the fact. This can also be a symptom of extreme optimism (the pollyanna effect)
- ‘surely we are all doing it, we don’t really need to talk about it’ meaning ‘why do we need these meetings that could show up the fact that I’m not doing it’ or..
- ‘we all talk about things anyway, why do we need an online discussion forum?’, which means ‘we don’t really talk about it at work and I’m happy with that so we don’t need you posting questions every week to encourage us to talk about it’
- ‘yes I’m using the model and everything is going well’. This means ‘I haven’t tried it yet, am not using it but don’t want to tell you that’ (no training that you put into action is easy at first. Those who do use the tools tend to report difficulties or parts that they find harder or have realised they didn’t fully understand). This can also mean ‘I have no intention of doing this but I think I am smart enough to bluff my way through this in public’
- ‘I don’t agree with that model/tool because….’ and then some reason is given, such as the words aren’t right, the research is not substantial enough, their people don’t like it when they use it etc. This can mean anything from ‘I didn’t want to do this right from the start’ to ‘I didn’t realise that this would take some effort’ or ‘I tried it and realised that I was not instantly brilliant at it and that offended my sense of pride’. Either way it normally means they aren’t putting it in to practice (practice makes perfect). This approach is akin to a challenge based on a legal technicality designed to slow down the completion of a major road network (i.e I know it won’t make any difference but it might stave off the inevitable for a little longer)
- ‘I really think we need to change that question on the….survey/measure/form etc’. This means ‘I don’t want to do this and am hoping to delay it by forcing a change’
- ‘Don’t we already have enough to do?’ and ‘We are doing a pretty good job already, so we don’t really need to do this do we?’…meaning ‘I didn’t want to object before we started this as that may not have looked good, but I never really wanted to do this and hope you didn’t want to either’
Every time we hear this discussion it shows us why standard training approaches don’t work and, that while it takes more effort and time, our approach has a greater chance of being sustained.
Our experience has shown us that many of these ‘objections’ are not founded in a deep disagreement of the initiative itself, but are often a function of a sudden realisation that it might involve more effort than they originally thought and/or that this might be something that they don’t look good at quickly (nobody ever does on a first attempt…remember learning to drive?).
How do we get through these objections? Well, unlike a salesperson trying to sell, we don’t need to deal with the objections, the leaders do it themselves using their original vision for the initiative and their desired outcomes. And at that we come full circle to why we put so much effort on to the front end ‘blueprint’.
Of course, nobody reading this will ever raise such objections! But you might want to listen out for them from colleagues.