Thursday, July 13, 2006

"If I Have To Be Here, Why Doesn't He?"

I'm going on my last day of supervisory training with a company (it's a 5-day gig and tomorrow is Day 5) and today we got quite a bit off-topic, but that was OK with me (don't tell the organization that certified me to do the training - today definitely wasn't in the trainer guide).

If I haven't mentioned it here before, this is a good time for me to tell you about my own personal mission, which is to promote, encourage and even instigate bigger small talk within organizations, businesses, families, and the world. So what happened today was right up my alley.

Although on the surface the comment which I used in the title of this post (which was actually uttered during our impromptu off-topic dialogue) might not seem to be highly mature and intelligent, what happened afterwards was beautiful.

In a moment of frustration, one of the attendees just interrupted the class and asked why the people who were in the class had to be there. He said if this class was supposed to be so good for them, why wasn't upper management there? The class is geared toward anyone who supervises or directs the work of someone else, so I guess he had a point.

The attendees then proceeded to tell me how they were told in an e-mail that they were required to attend this class, which meets 2 hours a day for 5 days. They weren't given an option. They wondered what would happen if they sent an e-mail to the members of upper management requesting a meeting on a certain date at a certain time. The speculation was that no one would attend.

I asked them if they had wanted to attend the training when they came in on Monday and all of them agreed that they were fighting it all the way. I know that is the case with this training everywhere I conduct this class. Who wants to sit through 10 hours of training when there is lots of work to be done?

With that preconception in their heads before they came in, it took some doing to get them to warm up that first day, but this group is no different from every other group I've given this training to. It's my job to grab them at the beginning so they can feel their time spent in class is worthwhile. My commitment to them is to get them beyond their preconceptions so we can achieve some long-term results.

Today we ended up talking about the distinction between training as an event and training as the beginning of a new process. We talked about personal accountability and how anyone can make a difference if they just make up their mind to change themselves and no one else.

A half hour later we had gotten beyond their initial tendency to want to blame others (upper management, mostly) for what they weren't doing and the conversation had shifted to the participants in the class being committed to do something with this training beyond this week. They've already got some ideas for how they might form a group to meet regularly to keep talking about what they're learning and support each other in the new process.

All in all the little detour we took during the class today gave us some entirely new scenery ... and it is my belief that we all got some new things to think about. What I learned was that being authentic about my own commitment to the class participants' learning really did allow them to be authentic in turn. And it turns out they love the subject matter of the class and are finding ways to use what they're learning already. It was reassuring to hear, by the end of our conversation, that they were more enthusiastic to share what they're learning with upper management for the purpose of wanting them to have the same information than the initial comment, which seemed more like they wanted the managers to have to sit through the same torture they were subjected to. :)

I've got a meeting scheduled tomorrow noon with the manager of this organization to give him some feedback about the class. I'm confident that he will be as open as the supervisors are to creating some new routes for the effectiveness of his organization.

I'm excited for the results even a few of these supervisors can achieve as they shift their attention and start making their own small talk bigger.


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