Information technology, globalisation and demographic change have created a completely new economic and social reality in recent decades. Knowledge and training have become a key factor and have to be incorporated into business strategies to ensure know-how development and innovation. In times of constant change, training has to take place in the area between stability and instability. The big challenge for businesses and organisations is to manage this process of change and not to be sucked under by it.
Generally, training is divided into three different types: the main aim of cognitive learning or training is the acquisition of knowledge that can be remembered and called on at a later date. The principle of skills training is to develop abilities that can be promptly put into practice. No organisation can forego these two types of training
The key competitive factor is the effective use of behaviour training. It is never expert knowledge and experience alone that bring about the desired leadership style; ultimately, it is the behaviour of management or the system as a whole that is crucial. An organisation with a top-down structure is no longer consistent with our dynamic and complex world: the different levels have to interact, cooperate and learn from each other. The ambitions, motivation and personality of the individuals come into play here; the particular challenge is to work on individual’s perceptions and, above all, to learn to value others’ points of view.
Developing the management skills of managers
Changing behaviour isn’t simple; 90% of our behaviour is instinctive and subconscious. However, others judge us on our obvious, visible behaviour. To a large extent, this leads to a discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how others see us, making deep understanding, identification with others or motivation of others impossible. Behaviour is not just the combination of personality, expertise, skills and experience; it is only complete when our environment – how others view of us – is added to the equation.
What can I do? What do I know? What experiences have I had? And – more importantly – how do others see me? The combination of these factors gives us our personal mind set – our way of thinking or attitude. This isn’t easy to convey, particularly to managers.
Assuming that a manager has a high level of expertise and considerable experience, these first need to take a back seat when communicating with others. Listening without formulating answers, giving feedback without becoming personal and adapting the management style to the person being managed – these are the behavioural skills that in reality lead to motivation and commitment, to trust and change.
Behaviour can only be changed by behaviour
Changing the behaviour of managers, who then go on to influence the behaviour of their workers and teams, is a particular challenge. Often, rather than seeing the need for internal development, management representatives are looking for rivalry and exaggerated scenarios: become the best, climb the career ladder, become important, powerful and well known. This is not an uncommon part of the personality. Failure is put down to external circumstances, personal shortcomings are not acknowledged.
Behavioural training is valuable here. And: behaviour can only be changed by behaviour. This means that managers first have to work on their own behaviour to induce changes in others.
Positive provocation as an intervention instrument
The first crucial requirement for behavioural change through training is the active involvement of participants. And behaviour requires feedback, reflection, which can take place in training.
At the Business Performance Academy, we have developed a training method that we call “positive provocation”. Here we get managers to talk and negotiate. Our trainers encourage participants to not only talk about their performance and success, but also to talk about the things that can, and should, be improved. If you want to lead others, you first have to lead yourself and that also means improving yourself.
Our training is based on maximum active participation. In our training groups we also focus our attention on the individuals and coach them. We don’t just focus on conveying learning material – the instant reaction of our trainers to particular behaviour is vital. Feedback is immediate, direct and solution oriented. If, for example, it is noticed that a participant has a particular weakness in their communication behaviour, they will be invited to take part in an exercise to recognise the shortcoming and to amend it.
This means that the dynamics in the group are such that there are no onlookers, only active participants. Ambiguity or justification in response to particular questioning is exposed and using “Socratic” questioning techniques the trainer elicits unambiguous answers. From “Yes, but…” to “Yes, and…”- from reactive communication to proactiveness.
The art of asking the right questions plays a critical role – both in the day-to-day life of managers and in management training. Managers often have problems formulating open questions which give the person being questioned the chance to develop his or her own ideas.
“Nowadays, closed questions are taboo” is a common statement in our training. This often pushes participants to their limits. This “ban” makes them realise how incapable they are of formulating open questions and of breaking out of their cherished thought and behaviour patterns. If the emotional pressure is raised through targeted “positive provocation”, people become open to understanding and change.
Uncomfortable, but no need for panic
“Tough on the contents, gentle on the relationship”. Behaviour trainers have to reach the emotions of participants. In management development, we differentiate between three states: the “comfort zone”, the “stretch zone” and the “panic zone”. The positive provocative methods used in training motivate the participants, of their own accord, to move into the stretch zone without reaching the panic zone. Only then can the desired results of the learning process be achieved. This means that after every exercise, the trainer has to give each participant an equal amount of feedback about his or her subconscious and visible behaviour.
People want to change, but they don’t want to be changed
When we want to learn and do something new, repetition is the golden rule. New behaviour must be practised regularly and as quickly as possible become embedded in a practical business context. It is considered to be internalised when the achieved changes motivate the participant to do further work in this area. People want to change, but they don’t want to be changed. They have to experience the power and emotion of change. They have to realise that they get back more than they have put in. Change in business is change in behaviour – proactive, positive and provocative.