Friday, May 17, 2013

It Won’t Work For Me

Books Books

It seems I’m in some very good company. A post earlier this week talks about his frustration when people buy his books and then decide his strategies won’t work for them. He cites several authors, who expressed a similar frustration in their blogs the same day. Well guys, it’s not just a question of books.

The same thing happens when we deliver our training and consultancy. We have processes, tools, tips, and advice that have been proven to work and still some people refuse to use them. They seem to be happier thinking “it might be OK for them but it won’t work for me”. I’ve just had this experience in one workshop. Same company, same job description, different people. One group uses our stuff and gets fantastic results but the other group has decided its job and customers are different and, therefore, our tools won’t work for them. This is like watching someone starve because they can’t use chopsticks and they refuse your offer of a fork. It’s just as frustrating for us, Frank!

Beyond the toe-curling frustration, however, it’s important to understand why this happens. Now, we’re all human. Actually, thinking about some of the reality TV shows (or old Impatto Fiat ads) I see these days, let’s play safe and say that most of us are human. Anyway, to understand why people behave differently we need to understand a little about human behavior and a good place to start is to have a look at the series of articles I’m writing about communication. These will give you an introduction to how we think and explain the filters that we use to determine our own view of the world.

The second point to ponder is what else stops us. Are we just lazy? It could be that we find changing behaviors too much trouble. It could be that we don’t have the energy to think differently. Most self help books require a lot of mental energy to implement. Take obesity, for example. It’s one of the world’s biggest problems - literally - and many, many books have been written on the subject of what a person needs to do to lose weight. Well, I would like to announce now that after many years of research I have found the problem’s holy grail and will be publishing a book soon: Everything You Need to do To Lose Weight.
It’s going to be a best seller because I’ve cracked the problem. I know how to make people slim and it’s all in my book. Actually, I’ve decided that you don’t need to wait for my book. As a reward for reading this blog you can have the secret right now. Here it is: Eat less than you need. That’s it. That’s the entire content of the book. Eat less and I’ll guarantee people will lose weight.

If only life was that easy. There is obviously far more to losing weight then just the thought of eating less - and those that know me will appreciate that I know what I’m talking about. But this is no different to any other subject where you know the advice works but you can’t implement it. Perhaps it comes down to the fact that saying it doesn’t work is easier than trying to make it work.

In the corporate world it is possible to get some help implementing new ideas, new process, and new tools. I’m often amazed how many companies are willing to pay large amounts of money for training and then leave it to the individuals to implement what they’ve learned. Well guess what? If management don’t implement new ways of working they’ll find that their staff won’t either. If management asks for information in a new format, or insist on using a new tool or process and won’t accept anything else, then – you guessed it - staff begin to use it.

A few years ago I started a new job with a pretty big multinational. We had 10,000 people in the UK and about 120,000 scattered around the world. I started just as they finished rolling out Miller Heiman’s Strategic Selling process. I think the UK paid over £1m for it. Anyway, I was in a sales meeting on my second day and the equivalent of the sales director asked one of the managers about a particular deal. Then he said, “Have you done a blue sheet?” The manager replied that he hadn’t and it was suggested that he do one. The next guy was asked the same question and his reply was, “Yes - done it.” The sales director said, “Good” and that was the end of the deal review. No questioning, no support, no reinforcing the use of the process or tool, no nothing. I think the whole process lasted three months before it died completely. Reinforcement by management is key to making sure new things are used.

There is another possibility why new things are not used and that’s a thing called ‘second order gain‘. This is a subject worthy of an article all to itself so I’ll leave you with that thought for another day.