I’m not going to win any popularity awards with this blog but I think it is important for entrepreneurs and companies to re-think which type of training will help, and which type will actually hurt to affect change in business behaviour.

The Problems with Motivational Psycho-Babble Training

So many entrepreneurs pay good money to attend training seminars and rarely change their business behaviour over the long term. Why is that? Of course, if the student doesn’t do what the teacher recommends it’s hardly the teacher’s fault! But, so many times, the instruction is so useless that even if one were to follow it completely it would only lead to frustration.

Rah-Rah Seminars are Out!

Sure, you’ll hear many jokes, inspiring stories, and neat-sounding tricks, but is it the best use of your time? I don’t think so! Exposing yourself to bad training can be very detrimental to your career and rarely affects any change in business beaviour.

There are a number of commonsense reasons for seriously evaluating the training you are considering taking. For one thing, how long is the training? Several research studies from leading universities in North America indicate (and any sales manager will quickly agree) that if behaviour is to change, it will not happen in a ‘one-shot deal’. The age of, “Come to my seminar and I’ll make you fabulously rich like me,” is gone. It just doesn’t work!

People are unfairly persuaded (conned) into believing that miracles will happen if they attend a certain program, listen to a recording, or read a popular book.

The opposite is usually true. How many piano players do you know became really good playing by simply listening to a virtuoso? No, they practiced, and then they practiced, and they did so over a long period of time.

Sitting and listening is one of the poorest methods for people to learn how to change your business behaviour, especially when the learning is not done over a long period of time and is not supported by coaching, mentoring or some form of accountability.

Another commonsense reason to evaluate the veracity of any so-called training has to do with the time lost and opportunity cost of learning the information, using it, and far too often unlearning what I call ‘psycho-babble’, or any techniques or methods which are ineffective.

Unrealistic Motivational Hype

Another danger I see when people attend many of these seminars is the potential for abuse. If you listen to a speaker who tells you that you can earn a million dollars next year, then you might also believe that all you have to do is load up your credit card to the limit with his or her books, tapes and seminars on his or her business behaviour alerting system.  Let’s face it, what’s a few thousand dollars compared to a million? Some of these speakers create a false hope for people for their own advantage.

If you earned $44,000 last year, the chances of you earning $2,000,000 this year is slim. I’d  never  say  it’s  impossible  and I’m all for developing one’s potential. I know most people are not accomplishing even a fraction of what they are capable of, but whatever happened to being realistic or using common sense?

Some of these seminars promote a simple ‘anyone can do it’ solution to every problem faced by business people. I’ve been around too long and seen too many people who have mortgaged houses, declared bankruptcy, and crashed, by falling into this dangerous nonsense.

The problem here is also our education system. Throughout our school system, we are shown what I believe is a faulty method of learning. We are told to listen to the teacher. We are encouraged to memorize information, that is, gather the information, facts, formulas, data etc. and get what they teach into our heads. Then, to see if we have learned it, they test us with the most archaic method possible by asking us to remember, repeat, and recite what we have learned. However, what they are testing is not our education but our memory. If we can bring up the desired bits of information on the test, they tell us we know it.

The problem was well described by Leland Val Van de Wall when he said, “You have learned nothing until you have a permanent change in your behaviour.” Val knew that, just because we gather information, we don’t know it; we know something in his worldview when we do something. There is a world of difference between listening and learning, and gathering information and internalizing knowledge.

So whenever you go to hire any consultant, coach, or learning system for your business, make sure that it goes way beyond just passive learning. Make sure that the instructor goes deeper than filling your head with more knowledge. It’s my contention that most of you know what to do to eliminate chaos from your life and business. The problem is not in gathering more tips and tricks; it’s about putting into practice what you already know to affect a change in your business behaviour. That’s why I invite you to email me and let me enable you by holding you accountable to changing those business behaviours that will reduce the levels of chaos in your business life. Just send me an email at james@focus31.com.

Focus on Behaviour Change

Our family was at the zoo when we noticed a pen with four African impalas. The area had a five foot fence around it to keep the animals in. This surprised me because I had heard that impalas could jump about ten feet high and about thirty feet long. The trainer informed me that they have studied these animals and they realized that they will never jump if they can’t see where they will land. That is how they alter the behaviour of these beautiful creatures.

I read an article recently about a man who lived in Savannah, Georgia. His family really wanted a more relaxed atmosphere and a more outdoor lifestyle.

The very first piece of furniture they bought was an outdoor table. Their kitchen was directly on the other side of two French doors and their plan was to eat every meal outside.

But their plan failed. Even with the best of intentions, they always chose to eat in the kitchen where all the food, drinks, plates, and utensils were. The idea of eating outside was alluring, but the reality was, apparently, too much effort.

Until, one day, the husband had a brainstorm. It was an experiment more than anything. He moved the table from the garden to the small deck right outside the French doors, the difference being about ten feet and four steps.

The result was, after that, the family ate every single meal outside because of the direct line of sight to the table and its slightly closer proximity to the kitchen.

So make the business behavior change you want easy to accomplish.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the closer teens live to places where alcohol is sold, the greater likelihood they will binge drink and drive under the influence.

On a certain level, this may seem obvious. But it’s important. Parents tell teens not to drink. Schools tell teens not to drink. Television ads tell teens not to drink. The law prohibits teens from drinking and prohibits liquor stores from selling to teens. And still, if the liquor store is within walking distance of where the teens live (about half a mile) they will be far more likely to abuse alcohol.

This is because, to a larger extent than you probably realize, your environment dictates your actions.

It would be lovely to think that we make our own choices and follow through on them without being too influenced by things around us, but all you need to do is read a little bit of Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating, to realize just how much our actions are determined by our environment. Brian did a series of fascinating studies that suggest the reasons we eat have little to do with hunger and a tremendous amount to do with the subtle cues that drive us.

For example, if you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more. If you serve yourself on a big plate, you’ll eat more. If you move the small bowl of chocolates on your desk six feet away, you’ll eat half as much. If you eat chicken wings and remove the bones from the table, you’ll forget how much you ate and you’ll eat more. If you have a bowl of soup that never gets less than half full, you’ll eat more. When eating with others, if they eat a lot, the more you’ll eat.

So don’t fight yourself to change your business behaviour in the midst of the wrong environment; just change the environment. In the case of food, using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate might be all the diet you need.

Marketers already know this. It’s why you get so many catalogues over the year. Of course, you could go to their website to shop. Or just use the catalogue you already have on the counter. But no, they’ll send you another one two weeks before Valentine’s Day or Halloween or Christmas. They know when you’re thinking about buying something and they’ll make sure that, just as you have that thought, hey look—a catalogue!

In your company, think about what you want people to do and whether the environment around them supports that business behaviour.

A client was complaining to me that his receptionist was not warm and friendly with people when they walked in. Guess where the receptionist sat? Think bank teller. That’s right. The receptionist sat behind a glass window! Don’t send her to communication training, just remove the glass.

The principal of a school in Boston, USA, wanted to increase student engagement. The students should talk to each other, he lamented, not only to the teacher. The principal came up with a great solution.

He didn’t send out memos. He didn’t retrain all the teachers. He didn’t print posters and hang them in the classrooms. Instead, he rearranged each classroom, placing the chairs in a semicircle, so the students were facing each other as well as the teacher. Voila!

If you want your employees to talk with each other, knock down the walls. If they sit in ten different countries, use Skype and a video camera permanently attached to their computer so there’s no set-up time and it’s always sitting there, impossible to ignore. It makes a world of difference. You want to make it easier to do something you want done and harder not to.

One of my clients wanted teh business behaviour of everyone in the company filling out a time sheet but the leaders were having a very hard time getting their employees to do it. The mindset of the organization was compliance. They made it very clear that the employees didn’t have a choice and that everyone was required to do it. That worked for about half the population, but the rest simply ignored it.

The leaders were about to send out a memo saying that no one would get paid unless the time sheet was handed in. I asked if they knew why their employees were not living to the business behaviour they were looking for with the time sheets. They had made the assumption that it was because the workers didn’t care, but they took the time to ask around anyway.

Well, it turns out that people didn’t mind the idea of filling out a time sheet, but they were frustrated by the technology. The online system required people to go through a series of steps in order to put their time in. It was meant to help them, but it took longer and needlessly delayed them. Not by much—ten seconds at most—but that was enough to dissuade 50% of the people from following through.

Once they changed the form and the technology being used, everyone started doing the time sheet. They weren’t being defiant; they simply weren’t walking the ten feet and four steps to the table. The solution isn’t to explain to people why they should take the walk or force them to take the walk; the solution is far simpler—move the table to change the business behaviour!

Why does the lion sit on the perfect rock in the zoo? You know the one where everyone can see him. It turns out the rock he sits on is temperature controlled. It is warm on cold days and cool on hot days. There is no need to train the lion, or tie him to the rock, or hope he likes the view from there. Just make the rock a place where he wants to sit.

Use this to alter your business behaviour and the behaviour of your employees, your children, your friends!


James Burgess, Focus31, CHAOS- FREE Business Planning1.You can find out more about what a business plan is and its importance with the international best-selling book CHAOS; How Business Leaders Can Master the Power of Focus. Get your FREE copy HERE

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