Like millions around the globe I am glued to the TV for updates on the cave rescue of the 12 Thailand young men soccer team. To see the young men smiling as if it’s an adventurous camp outing instead of a potentially perilous situation is gut wrenching, I’m sure worst for their families. The boys are literally almost 3 miles buried in this cavernous cave with minimal oxygen/food and extreme inclement weather that’s causing additional issues. As someone who makes his living on devising strategy and execution plans, I’m immersed in the details on how they’re pulling this rescue off. From the updates we’re getting so far the plans have been flawless as the boys are being escorted out in a very well thought out methodical manner. However, what I keep hearing over and over again from the news reports is how the rescue divers are becoming the true heroes…the BEST of the best. The boys rescue obviously has captured my continued attention but what has captivated me even more are these divers. Each of these divers have children not adults lives in their hands and so far they’re handling the task like a day in the park. Where in the hell does that come from? How would you ever be ready for such a responsibility? It’s called TRAINING. These divers are Navy Seal trained I’ve often patterned my training classes “The Navy Seal Way” because I believe in their excellence and passion around competency building. But long ago I was one of those people who has called training a “cost center” an initiative that cost money with very little return. It was not until I had the opportunity to work in a corporate training department and later run a 100+ training organization did understand the magnitude of its importance. Effectively training someone can be a life or death situation…such as the scenario in Thailand. Yet, there is still this perception out there that training is overhead and when budget cuts come down training is the first to be impacted. Let’s be clear at the outset when you do not have a fully adequately training staff your organization will fail, there is no other way to say it. You will fail. I have seen unfortunately too many times in my previous stint in corporate America and now management consulting corporations utilizing training as a band-aid rather than critical solution. We see this when there’s a corporate diversity issue or when sales have suddenly plummeted…“Call a vendor we need training to get this turned around”!! Training is then asked to be a superhero and turn things around in a 2-day vacation seminar that’s supposed to change behaviors overnight. It doesn’t work like that and to be honest this stereotype angers me. First, we don’t value training but need it to work wonders…does that sound cogent to you?
We can agree upfront that training is not the only profession considered an afterthought in today’s corporate world, it is however I think the most misunderstood. Everyone says collectively that our society wouldn’t advance without some process that supports personal development; the challenge in my estimation is understanding microscopically what that “process” is. Before we embark into that process let’s look at the standard definition of training: Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies  . After searching for numerous definitions on training this one was the closes comprehensible definition I could find and I’m not a huge fan of Wikipedia as a reference source. Be that as it may the point here is that training is defined in so many undefined/abstract ways that it’s no wonder it falls into the abyss waters of indifference. It’s a human reaction not to embrace or champion a cause that has little clarity of the overall process and goal, and training I’m afraid falls into that category. Until something disastrously goes wrong with regards to someone’s competency (Thank God none of the Thailand divers) the immediate reaction is WE NEED TRAINING, and while that seems like the best solution at the moment the underlying problem is always underneath the surface. So, inevitably training is used as a temporary patch for the hole in the boat which usually falters and becomes a bigger problem thus the “temp-training” can’t sustain the sinking boat and it fails. Once the training fails then the perception of its effectiveness wanes, it continues to be used as a band-aid and its importance is deemed indifferent. I’ve always felt having spent years in the training profession that training is about enhancing one’s behavior. Enhancing behavior has to be continuous and consistent, and devoid of “microwave execution”.
The “Process” of Changing Behavior!
I don’t care what they say changing someone’s behavior behavior is harder than brain surgery. Yep, I said that and I’m not intentionally trying to be provocative I absolutely think one of the most challenging things to undertake is changing behavior. Please note that I’m specifically saying behaviors not habits. True, habits are difficult to change and being from the sales & marketing profession we were always taught to pick up on habits and alter them. In my years of humility and wisdom I’ve come to the conclusion that was incorrect instruction. Behaviors drive habit and identifying the underlying root of the behavior is the challenge and the training profession’s conundrum. One of my favorite authors Ferdinand F. Fournies (“Coaching for Improved Work Performance”) spells it out nicely:
“The behaviorists tell us that for every human action there are two possible categories of consequences to the individual: there could be a positive consequence and there could be a negative consequence. One primary rule of the behavior modification concept, which is most meaningful to you, is as follows: Behavior that is followed by a positive consequence (to the individual behaving) will tend to repeat itself. As an example, let’s at how the action of mowing the lawn might look in this concept”:
MOWING THE LAWN TODAY
- Lawn looks nice
- Easier to do because grass not that long
- Neighbors tell you how nice the grass looks
Don’t play golf today
Perspire in hot sun
NOT MOWING THE LAWN TODAY
- Play golf
- No perspiration
- No physical effort
- Lawn looks terrible
- Grass too long next weekend-hard to cut
- Neighbors make snide remarks about lawn
I point out this example albeit a very simple analysis of some of the possible alternative consequences to doing or not doing something in this case mowing the lawn. You can see the complexity as the positive consequence for not mowing the lawn might result in some very long grass. The point here is that training is complex and simply looking at it as a quick solution to a multi-faceted problem sets it up for failure 100% of the time.
I think the reason for the training profession’s lack of perceived value has a lot to do with misunderstanding and the complex processes to which it has to successfully perform. I decided to enter the wonderful world of training years ago because I wanted to obtain that skill set, but, I also wanted to get an understanding of its purpose because I was one of those who often complained about it. After spending a few years in the training profession I’ve come to learn of its tremendous value and yes its complexity. I wish training wasn’t seen as a thankless profession but a profession that has value and not only on one’s career….but one’s life as well.
Being the BEST of the best…takes TRAINING!
Take a look at my presentation: FROM TOP TO BOTTOM…how to build a CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE sales training department. https://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/building-global-sales-training-department
AH2 & Beyond Consulting