Tag Archive: Consulting


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Three-year-old children understand the secret.  

They know the magic word.

What does that say about us? Do we know the secret?

Let me explain.

THE CHALLENGE

When someone seeks you out and asks you to deliver your service, training, what do they usually say? I bet it is probably, “Here’s what I want…” And many times that comes along with a list of topics and an entire outline. While that may sound like easy money, it may turn out to be a difficult situation to navigate.

Now a good consultant (and trainer) always delivers what the client wants. But what if that client doesn’t understand what they need?

Great ‘trainers’ will take a consultative approach to determine who the intended audience is and what they (and the organization) truly need.

 

CONSULTATIVE WORDS TO AVOID THE PERCEPTION OF BEING CONDESCENDING

There is a fine art in turning a request into a consultative approach. You need to understand what the drivers are behind the request for training and probe to find out what success looks like. I typically like to start with phrases like, “Let me understand a bit about what is behind this request…” or “I want to understand the situation as fully as I can so that you are absolutely delighted at the end of the training…”

Once you have a good understanding of the background, you can examine what outcomes the training should have and determine if they are reasonable. “Just so I understand you correctly… at the end of the session, a participant should be able to [fill in the blank]…”  “Are there any additional outcomes that are important?” These types of phrases will help confirm your understanding of the outcomes. You may be surprized at additional outcomes are important. This is where we are getting closer to the magic word…

When your client says, “… this is important.” You know you have to use the magic word.

What is the magic word? The magic word is “Why?”

Think about it! So many times trainers nod their head yes and deliver what they were asked for without understanding “Why”. Whereas, if they were to probe the request they’d uncover the ‘grey area’ and potentially redirect or supplement the training with material that could really impact the business.

EXPLOITING THE BLURRY LINES

Coming from a large company and moving into the small and medium business environment has really opened my eyes. The very defined, silo-like, job roles and responsibilities of larger companies allow employees to specialize and create quite a depth of expertise. In the small and medium business world the lines between roles (and responsibilities) are more fuzzy (or blurry) and it your breadth of skill and expertise becomes more important.

Why am I exploring this? Well understanding the job roles and the business process may be important when you develop your training. Examining the “blurry lines” (and even the set in concrete responsibility ‘lines’ in large companies) may uncover a weakness in a process or gap between job roles. Addressing that discovery may ultimately have the most impact on the effectiveness of the organization.

You may also find that you understand a certain ‘fuzzy area’ and it is there you can provide tremendous value. The ‘fuzzy area’ that I consider my sweet spot is the area between Marketing and Sales. Some organizations call this area ‘Sales Enablement’, while other organizations ignore the area (and it becomes a gap), while still other organizations bicker about who owns the responsibility to equip the Sales Reps with the information, tools and training they need. (I don’t care what you call it, this gap/overlap/’fuzzy area’ still needs to be addressed.)

YOUR SUCCESS:

In conclusion, you will be MORE successful if you,

  • Obey less and understand more. Go ahead, use that secret word!
  • Address the blurry lines (and gaps) between job roles and business processes. This will position you as a valuable consultant to the organization instead of just your average trainer.
  • Find your niche in one of those ‘fuzzy areas’.

Now wouldn’t you agree that your three-year-old would make a good consultant?  “Why?”  😉

Until next time…

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Flickr Creative Commons Image by Jasleen Kaur

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You have a tremendous opportunity.

Others ‘just don’t get it’.

Many experts have no idea how to develop and deliver training material. YOU, yourself,  may not be a trained instructional designer or certified instructor but consider the value someone trained to educate would bring to your instructional offering. Partnering could take many different forms or be executed in different ways.

Open you mind to the idea of partnership. It will save you time, effort and it just may save your ‘bacon’.

THE EQUATION

You know the old saying, “The whole is greater than the Sum of the parts…” Here’s my version for this discussion:

Topic Proficiency and Expertise + Training Development & Delivery Expertise

=

Audience Centered, Results Oriented Content with Expert Secrets & Tips for Practical Applicability

(i.e. the Best of Both Worlds)

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

The big deal is: not many people are doing this the right way.

If you’ve attended some courses lately you’ll see this. Some sessions bombard you with facts & figures. Others bore you with stuff you already know or that is of little value. At the end of some sessions you may say either, “That was a useless waste of my time!” OR “Wow they know their stuff. That was way over my head.”

Ask yourself:  would you hire them as trainers? Probably not. You may consider hiring the ‘know-it-all’s for some services because this stuff is way too complicated and you could never do it yourself.  WAIT A MINUTE! When you think back to the ‘free’ session, maybe the underlying objective wasn’t to sell education, maybe it was to sell services. Hmmm…

THE REAL PROBLEM

So, what’s the real problem?

  • Is it the advertising: should it be an introductory course or advanced?
  • Is the material too detailed?
  • Is the topic structured to facilitate understanding?
  • Does the material make unfair assumptions in knowledge or vocabulary?
  • Etc.

You get the picture.

Consider that the real problem was they didn’t know where to start or how to put the material together.

OPPORTUNITY TO DIFFERENTIATE

If you ask most training experts, they’ll agree that ideally they’d like to partner with an expert in the topic they are teaching. That way they can DEVELOP and BUILD the right material-right from the start: adding in the right discussions and exercises to get the audience participating and learning. Having someone give them the expert hints and tips adds TREMENDOUSLY to the value of the course.

I know what you are thinking.

In a perfect world you would combine the talents of a training expert and someone who is an expert in their field. Together magic would be worked.  The collaboration would be something to celebrate. The resulting material would be unique and would be differentiated from the competition.

But you don’t live in a perfect world. You have a small staff and you can’t afford to hire someone on full-time to help you develop and deliver instructional material for your seminars, webinars and workshops.

If you can’t afford a full-time employee or a contractor to develop and deliver material, consider hiring a Training Expert for a bit of consulting. That expert can save you time, money and embarrassment. As my friend Adele, says: “Consider the cost if you don’t.”

WHAT ABOUT AN ‘A LA CARTE’ MENU?

Here’s a way to think about hiring a professional trainer. You don’t have to hire one on full-time, rather you can determine where you are going to get the ‘most bang for your buck’:

  • Strategically (‘the big picture’):
    • Defining goals (audience and outcomes)
    • Developing the overall structure of your set of offerings
    • Fleshing out the overall structure of your seminar
  • Tactically (‘the more indepth, detailed view’):
    • Looking at your offering in a more detailed step-wise manner, as discussed in ‘Can you teach like a Trained Professional?
      • How the ideas and concepts are are divided into building blocks.
      • Does the sequence of these blocks make sense?
      • Have all the learning styles been addressed?
  • Practically:
    • Making it ‘real’ wit pragmatic advice?
    • Ensuring your offering hits the mark (which could include defining ‘the mark’)

NO THANKs, I’M GOOD!

Even if you already have an offering, consider having a ‘trained professional’ (trainer) look at it. OR have a trainer attend or listen in to your session. OR have a trainer interpret the feedback you’ve collected. You will be AMAZED at how they make sense of things and pick out a few things to ‘spruce up’.

So, don’t say, “No thanks, I’m good,” as you would to someone offering you an appetizer you didn’t want…

If you are open to these ideas your sessions will get better. Your audience will become a loyal fan club. AND you will have developed a distinct brand that YOU can teach/train your topic better than all the others.

PARTNERING EFFICIENTLY

So, how can I help?

My plan is to roll out a number of blog posts that will give you a more in-depth look at designing and delivering training. (These postings are not a replacement for in-depth knowledge a trained educator would have; rather, they will give you some simple ideas that you can apply to your work.)

Arming you with that knowledge will make you more efficient in partnering with an expert trainer. Think of it like going to your paid-by-the-hour accountant with most of the information he/she is going to ask for.

I promise to try to make this as simple as possible AND I will try not to use ‘instructor’-speak. Until next time, keep an open mind about partnering to leverage some training talent.

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Flickr Creative Commons Image by C.Quarles