June 4, 2012

Instead of Training, Try Talking


The telephone call or Request for Proposals are always so similar.  They describe an organizational challenge using language such as teambuilding, difficult conversations, and change management. 

The proposed work involves having a consultant do individual interviews and offer recommendations, lead some training on interpersonal communication, and maybe provide some ongoing process consultation.  

It all seems to make sense as the right approach. 

Except many times it's not. 

It's not the solution.  Instead it is a relatively nonthreatening process that will take some time, require a healthy financial investment, and potentially allow individuals to safely skirt doing what really needs to be done which is this:
Respectfully speak their truth without interruption from others, and to then let others do the same until everyone has been spoken and heard.
Only then can the real work begin.

The best interviews are conducted peer to peer in an effort to learn how colleagues view their working relationship, not one in which they get to vent about co-workers and management to an external consultant.

The best communication skills training is not doing role plays, but actually communicating with others about how you play your role in the workplace, how you feel you contribute, what support you might need from them, and where you are unsure of what to do.

Sometimes the best solution is the simplest: get everyone in a room, seat them in a circle of chairs, and open the conversation with one simple sentence: "Things don't seem to be working as well as they could.  What are we going to do to change that?"

The conversation that needs to occur may be difficult, but I'm not sure training people on how to have difficult conversations is the answer people need.    

People have to develop the capacity that allows individuals to speak their truth and then to listen without judgment as others do the same.  The best way to learn how to do that is to be asked to do so.

So the next time you default training solution to what you see as a problem, you might try talking about it with everyone involved instead.  
P.S.  I'm definitely not staying that certain situations don't benefit from the type of organizational development process discussed at the start of this post.  I believe in them, and I lead them.  But in my mind their use should be more the exception, than the norm.



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