QSM: Why are so many companies fixated on technical training with little or no emphasis on soft-skills training (management development, interpersonal communications, customer relations skills, etc.)?
Kevin: First of all, the training listed in the question is, I believe, technical skills training. These are not soft-skills training courses. Soft skills training is the kind of training you would offer to make the individual a better person, not a better manager. Management development IS technical training – you are training a manager for the work place. That’s a technical skill. However, a personal leadership development course which grows a better individual with better self-confidence and compassion is a soft-skills training course. The better the individual, the better that individual would perform their job.
I believe that business gets better when the people in the business get better. Improve the individuals at the personal level and the workplace will naturally improve. In fact, ask yourself, “Will the workplace deteriorate when the people I work with become better, decent, courteous human beings? Of course not. The truth is that sales get better when the sales people get better. Customer service gets better when the people who serve customers become more compassionate, understanding and communicative. Management gets better when the managers get better.
I believe most technical training (sales, communication, time-management, teamwork, etc.,) in the workplace is a complete waste of money. Organizations and corporations throw away billions of dollars every year on useless training that is designed to make people more proficient at a job that they, as people, are not capable of doing. And it’s not because they don’t want to become better. It’s because they, as people, lack the “self” skills to do it better (self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-motivation, etc.).
Here’s what I mean by that. Let’s just say that there are ten representatives working in your sales department. Five of the reps have outstanding sales track records: they consistently hit their targets every month, customers love doing business with them and they seem to achieve their targets effortlessly. Then there are the other five reps who struggle every month to come close to meeting their targets. They can’t seem to get motivated to either get on the phone or make the in-person sales calls. They struggle with dealing with tough customers and know, in the backs of their minds, that they need to improve their respective performances or risk being let go.
Here’s what many companies would do: bring in a sales trainer to improve “company sales.” Even though five of the ten reps are consistently meeting their targets, the company thinks sales training is the key to get the whole team performing well. So, in comes the sales trainer to solve a problem that is clearly out of his realm since the problem isn’t corporate sales, it is five specific sales people. So the company penalizes the five top-performers by making them sit through a course that they already don’t need help with, and then place the five under-performers into a situation where they are now being studied by the peers – and judged as well.
Sales training is a waste of time on someone who lacks the self-confidence to ask for the sale, pick up the phone or make a cold-call in person.
Time Management training is a waste of time on people who have no self-discipline. People without self-discipline revert back to old ways because, well, they have no self-discipline to stick with a new strategy.
Teamwork training is wasted on individuals who have low self-esteem since they already feel they don’t deserve to be part of the team.
And on and on the list goes. You can’t build a structurally sound house on a shaky foundation. In the same way, you can’t build a high-performer out of someone with a poor sense of self-worth.
You build a strong high-performer out of someone with a strong sense of self. Real confidence requires no proof. A strong personality without a strong sense of self is called “false-bravado.” These people need to be liked more than they need to be respected.
Leadership is an attitude – management is a title. Service is an attitude – customer service is a department. Engagement is an attitude – employment is a paycheck. One is personal and one is technical.
Improve the person and you improve the decision-making. Improve the decision-making and you improve the results. Improve the results and you improve the circumstances. Improve the circumstances and you improve the organization. Organizations, on their own, work fine - it’s people who screw them up. Fix the people and you fix most every problem in the organization.
QSM: Given all of the companies you’ve worked with over the years, what still surprises you about work-life in corporate North America?
Kevin: What still surprises me is that most organizations refuse to accept that improving their companies is as simple as improving the people within those companies. They spend thousands of hours and huge sums of money to try to improve the workplace, to offer more perks, to praise their people, to not offend their people, to maintain a shiny exterior to the rest of the world and to try to maintain a squeaky-clean exterior when in fact the best gauge of how good a company is, is their people. If the people are decent, the company will be decent.
If the company is decent, decent people will want to work there. If a company wants to be truly successful in every sense of the word, they would teach their people to be good, honest, decent, compassionate, fun-loving, balanced, courteous and service-minded. Once an employee is surrounded by people like these, how could they not be fully engaged on the job?
QSM: Thanks, Kevin!