Accelerating the Acquisition of Skills

We tend to think of people who do not want to change as specific difficult individuals who block a team’s ability to optimize its potential, but in fact, in most organizations, 90% of the people in those organizations should be included in this category.

“The new team leader is phenomenal. Her energy and incentives have made an impact and the team was excited, so the initial phase was a success. Now the sales are winding down again. The sales reps in this unit are relatively young, though, and I suppose  the bells and whistles get old. She needs to find a way to excite them about calling customers from within.” (Owner, insurance industry)

Robert had every reason to believe that Kelly was an excellent team leader. She brought great energy to the team and gave great attention to teach sales representatives skills and tips about managing the call and leading it to a close. The new sales team Kelly was leading made more calls and sold more life insurance policies in the first month of the quarter than it did in the in the entire previous quarter. Robert did notice the ratio of sales to calls was much higher than it should be, but he hoped that as time went by representatives would learn and improve. After all, they had a wonderful role model. Unfortunately, the initial excitement and results did not sustain, and though everyone on the team was eager to learn and improve, Kelly’s leadership alone was not enough.

Sometimes training doesn’t provide needed results because the tools and techniques taught are not relevant enough or effective enough. In our experience, most of the time the tools and techniques are superb, but people do not acquire them in a way that translates into application.

In order to change, people need to create new synaptic connections in the brain. It is not a process saved for the rare few, and it takes going through five steps to achieve it. Everyone needs to go through it if they are to change or adjust.

Stage 1: Have a reason to change that motivates people to invest time and energy in acquiring the new behavior etc. Without a reason to change, people will not change or make needed adjustments in a lasting way.

Stage 2: Define in experience terms which strategy is required in order to meet needs or achieve goals. People don’t change because they, literally, do not have sufficient access to effective ways of changing. This stage is often compared to what learning theories call insight learning or “Aha” moments. It does not come from mimicking others or from repeating something over and over. It comes from a transformational insight that makes it possible to see things in the “after” version that people could not see in the “before” version.

Stage 3: Overcome resistance to changing. Everyone resists changing – not just difficult individuals – though some people can exit this stage on their own without outside support

Step 4: Creating sustainability. The system in the brain responsible for applying changes requires certain very specific conditions in order to encode changes to application in a lasting way.

Step 5: Application.

Everyone resists change. Resistance is simply a natural step of change. It shouldn’t be avoided, it needs to be accelerated so that people can get to the final stages of changing as soon as possible.

Equipping Kelly with a clear system that followed the above five stages helped Kelly change people who do not want to change. Once Kelly knew how to guide the team on the right path, the team acquired the new sales skills quickly, leading to lasting results.

“This process was fun! The team was really enjoying the stories and case studies we shared and suddenly, without noticing it, they have also developed better sales skills. Thanks to this process and to the fact it built the manager’s leadership, we have seen a significant and consistent increase in sales.”  (Owner, insurance industry)

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