Why prob­lem peo­ple re­main a prob­lem

The Buffalo News - - LIFE & ARTS -

He’s hor­ri­ble; send him to training.

How many times have you watched this sce­nario play out? An em­ployee is per­form­ing poorly. Man­age­ment gets frus­trated. They

Lisa Earle de­cide to send the per­son to training.

McLeod Clearly his be­hav­ior must be im­proved.

COM­MEN­TARY Send­ing some­one to training is cer­tainly more hu­mane than fir­ing the per­son. But per­for­mance prob­lems are not al­ways due to lack of skill. In many cases, the ecosys­tem sur­round­ing the per­son is the root prob­lem.

For ex­am­ple, in our con­sult­ing prac­tice we often work with lead­ers who want their sales team to be more con­sul­ta­tive. In­stead of sim­ply pitch­ing prod­ucts, they want their reps to fo­cus on the cus­tomer, ask more ques­tions, and put their pitch decks aside un­til they build value. So lead­ers put their sellers through con­sul­ta­tive sales training.

The prob­lem is, more often than not, the training doesn’t stick.

Research in­di­cates 87 per­cent of new sales training is lost within a month. Sellers ex­hibit con­sul­ta­tive skills in the class­room, yet back in the field, the trans­ac­tional mindset takes over. Eighty­five per­cent of sales training fails to de­liver a pos­i­tive ROI.

The issue isn’t sales­peo­ple; it’s the ecosys­tem.

The same is true out­side of the office.

Many years ago my husband and I (some­what naively) took our two-year-old to Hawaii to visit my cousin. We talked to her in ad­vance about what the plane ride would be like. We prac­ticed sit­ting still in the car seat for a long time (in a pre-iPhone era). We came pre­pared with lots of snacks.

On the plane, she was great; she ate her meal, and loved look­ing at the clouds. She was a de­light at the rental car place, standing in line with us, load­ing our gear into the Tracker. She even did well at the gro­cery store, point­ing and laugh­ing as we bought pro­vi­sions.

Then, on the two hour, twisty turny drive to my cousin’s house, she lost it, com­pletely to­tally lost it, hands in the air, wail­ing and flail­ing. Upon ar­rival at my cousin’s beau­ti­ful home, she threw her­self out of the car seat onto the ground. My cousin kindly joked, “She makes a ter­ri­ble first im­pres­sion.”

It wasn’t be­cause she didn’t know how to be­have; it was be­cause the cir­cum­stances made pos­i­tive be­hav­ior im­pos­si­ble. A six­teen-hour jour­ney, a time change, and high al­ti­tude couldn’t be over­come, no mat­ter how en­grained pos­i­tive be­hav­ior was.

A slow wait­ress may be inat­ten­tive, or she may be deal­ing with a backed up kitchen 15 minutes be­hind on or­ders. An ag­gres­sive driver may be a jerk, or they may be rush­ing their nau­seous child to the doc­tor.

Pos­i­tive be­hav­ior is only as suc­cess­ful as the en­vi­ron­ment will al­low it to be.

If you’re deal­ing with a prob­lem em­ployee, or a prob­lem fam­ily mem­ber, ask if the ecosys­tem is sup­port­ing the de­sired be­hav­ior. Or is it sab­o­tag­ing it.

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