On the surface, this request doesn’t sound too unreasonable….
Probably because so many training organizations today are still working with budgets cut back years ago. (Unfortunately, push comes to shove… training dollars are too often low on a list of organizational priorities.) And to get the most bang for every training dollar, there seems to be a concerted effort to train the greatest number of people – in the shortest amount of time – and with the greatest impact on the organization.
And if I were in their shoes, I’d probably be trying to do the same thing.
But those in organizational development and training groups also have a unique problem. At some point, to justify the dollars spent, someone somewhere is going to be asking about the actual results that training is producing. And is it changing the individual and organization in a way that impacts the bottom line?
There in lies the challenge.
You see, improving the performance and personal impact of another human being is never about checking a box in an employee file. It’s all about outcomes. Were behaviors actually changed and will that change last into the future? Are there post-training tools in place to continue the reinforcement of the skills? And how do you weigh the relative business value of one skill set over another one?
It creates difficult choices.
Should I put 25 people into a computer lab and teach them how to use Excel pivot tables at $150 each or 200 people on a webinar for almost nothing? How about learning PowerPoint for half a day or better understanding personality styles? How do you prioritize all the tough choices?
Look for the skills that influence most other core competencies.
I suspect that’s the reason why so many training and OD teams often identify presentation skills coaching and training as a critical focus for employee growth. So with that premise in mind, how can they deploy that skill building initiative across the enterprise?
So back to the question that started all this, what medium is most effect at creating real change?
Can someone make you a better presenter in a large group seminar or virtual webinar setting in just an hour or two? Seems like that promise is being made all the time but is it really possible?
The simply answer would be almost never and for this reason.
People spend decades creating their pattern of personal communication. And that often includes bad habits, outdated approaches and deeply entrenched misconceptions about the process itself. And a 1-2 hour seminar can’t change that fact. No more than you can change any other deeply ingrained behavior in one experience.
If the world actually worked that way… I would watch an extra hour of golf on Sunday afternoon to improve my game or jump in on a webinar to learn to sing better. We all instinctively know – not much would change.
Changing what we know vs. changing what we do.
If you want to create real and meaningful change in someone’s foundational communication skills and make it stick so it’s there next week and next month, 20 years of experience has taught me this is what must happen…
- Get a person up on their feet in front of their peers. (Learn to manage the anxiety we all feel in those moments)
- Experience videotaped feedback of how you present today. (See yourself through the eyes of others)
- Learn how changing a few small things can make a big difference. (Experience success, don’t just observe it)
- Participate in that process with others. (Build a circle of ongoing accountability)
I think the late Maya Angelou had it right….
“People will rarely remember what you had to say – but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
And there’s nothing like the feeling of taking someone’s fear of presenting and turn it into a rousing round of group applause at the end of a coaching day as they move from being just another painfully average presenter – to being an amazingly good communicator.
That’s the kind of professional development that can alter the trajectory of someone’s personal career and maybe even a life.