What Lovely Rita Teaches Us
My wife and I have been attending weekly weight loss meetings for more than a year now. Normally, it didn’t matter which day I attended the meeting since they were pretty much the same - pretty uninspiring and pretty much empty.
Usually, Monday is the last night of the week a person with a life-long weight problem would want to attend a weight loss meeting - you have to face up to any cheating you did over the weekend.
But we needed to go on that day since I would be traveling the rest of the week. Arriving on this particular Monday, we could barely get in the door and we were lucky to find the last available seats. We soon found out why.
Our group leader that night, Rita, epitomized in a positive way what Dan Holohan said to me years back about meetings and training: “There are no boring subjects ... just boring teachers!”
Rita is anything but boring and, as a result, Monday is the weekly meeting we attend now. She has us doing the wave, applauding for one another and giving a big cowboy hoot and holler (we are in Arizona, after all!) for any little accomplishment. When we reach any intermediate goal, such as losing 10 pounds, we get a silk ribbon and we cherish it as if it was an Olympic gold medal. As a matter of fact, we are brought to the front of the room and interviewed with a real inflatable microphone.
I don’t care how shy you might be, you relish the opportunity to go to the front and share your accomplishments with the others.
We share secrets we’ve found for success during the week and strategies to find where to eat that serves the right-size portion of good food or a low-calorie treat that rates sharing the recipe or how to buy it ready-made.
Why do I share these details about a weekly weight loss meeting with you?
Because the elements of this meeting are the same elements we need to be using in our weekly meeting with our techs and installers and our ongoing training sessions.
Let me explain: Rita makes it clear that you need to attend the meetings if you want to be successful.
For me, attending a weekly meeting is my way to confront the score. In this case, it’s my weight. For you, your employees need to confront their performances, such as their sales for the week and their callback ratios.
Rita makes her meetings fun; that’s why people choose to attend her meetings.
How are you making your meetings fun? Are you running any weekly contests?
Rita recognizes publicly any and all little accomplishments and offers support to any of us who had a tough week.
Could you do a better job of publicly recognizing someone when they had a good week and offering coaching when they didn’t?
Rita has us share what made us successful the past week.
What are you doing to have your crew share with one another what’s working for them and what’s not?
If you bother to run weekly meetings, are your meetings boring?
Frankly, my meetings and training sessions years ago were uninspiring. I remember complaining to Dan Holohan, “How can a training session on advanced hydronics be anything but boring?” That’s the first time I heard Dan say, “There are no boring subjects … only boring teachers.”
At first, I was hurt. Then, I stopped and reflected on all the great training and all the rotten training I had been exposed to during my career. He was right. I remember the trainers who made what I thought were going to be a boring class into a wonderful learning experience. The common denominators were the passion the instructor felt about the topic, how thoroughly he (or she) knew his stuff and that he could communicate effectively.
The problem is there aren’t many trainers who have all these skills.
The really poor training classes I attended either had instructors who really knew their stuff but were boring or they were great speakers but if you asked a question, they really didn’t know their stuff.
My brother, Richie, and I would always go to see a speaker in person before we’d bring him in to speak to our crew because we wanted to know that he was a great speaker and that he knew what he was talking about. We actually let the speaker know ahead of time the topic details we wanted covered because we weren’t going to sit through a pure sales presentation. We were all about sales, but only after we satisfied our thirst for technical knowledge.
Good & Bad
Here’s the bad news. Even if you can find great trainers to speak to your crew, you can’t rely on finding outside trainers to do all the ongoing weekly meetings and training you need to have at your company. Your techs need to rely on you for the bulk of their ongoing training.
Here’s the good news. There is no such thing as a born trainer. Anyone can become a better trainer. You need to learn how to train and communicate if you want to run good meetings just like Rita does.
To get started on the road to running better meetings and training sessions, I highly recommend you buy and read Dan Holohan’s “How to Teach Technicians (without putting them to sleep).”
Whenever I do my Staffing Power! work with clients, I have them read this book before I arrive to build their training curriculum and teach them how to become even better trainers.
The next step to getting better at running good meetings and good training classes is to videotape yourself. There is nothing more painful and more enlightening then watching what you’re really doing up there. And there is no quicker way to get better.
I know this videotape feedback works well because I used to tape myself when I first started the “Apprentice to Junior Tech” program some 25 years ago at my shop. I don’t want to say that’s a long time ago, but I had a full head of shoulder-length hair, dark blue tinted aviator glasses that covered half my face and a full beard. I showed that video some 15 years ago to a group of trainees halfway through the training curriculum to make a point about how you can get better at speaking to people. The one downside of showing that old video is one of my students asked me, “Were you in the Witness Protection Program?”
The reason why I got better was because I invested the time and money in the science of learning how to communicate better. There is no such thing as a born speaker, born trainer or a born salesperson. They’re made. But the key is you have to want to get better.
What I noticed the first time I shot video of my training classes was that I turned my back on my audience for 15 minutes and never looked back. If I didn’t sign their paychecks, I could only have imagined what they would have thought of me. I droned on in a monotone voice, never stopping to involve anyone in any question and answer, involvement exercises, tell any stories to make a point, use any audio-visual support or do any of the many things I do today in all my training sessions to make them a better learning experience.
One last piece of advice Dan gave me years back was to attend a Dale Carnegie® class and it was excellent advice. Even though I had gotten to be an OK trainer by then, it made me even better because I had to speak in front of an audience every week.
The quality of your work and the quantity of your sales are directly related to the quality of your ongoing meetings and ongoing training sessions.
Now, I know you’re tempted to say to me, “But Al, I don’t have the time or the desire to run meetings and training sessions, let alone become a better trainer.” My response will be, “Do you have all the time, energy and money you’ll need to fix their mistakes in the field and to allow them to deny the company the sales it needs to be profitable?”