You can lead a horse to water.....

Does the following scenario sound familiar? Your company invests a significant amount of time, effort and money on a new sales, leadership or customer service training programme. It is launched with a certain degree of fanfare. The launch goes well – there is plenty of initial excitement and enthusiasm. However, in the end, there is little or no tangible improvement in performance and a few years later, more time, effort and money is spent on a new initiative.

Why does this happen?

In our opinion, this conundrum is best summed up by the well worn phrase: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. No matter what you do, you cannot make your people change the way they behave. They need to choose to do it. Your role, therefore, is to lead them to the water in a way that is most likely to result in them choosing to drink.

So how do you ensure your people make this choice?

We believe there are three fundamental drivers:

  • Desire - Your training needs to be engaging enough, challenging enough, motivating enough and compelling enough for participants to actually choose to change what they do. This is not easy as most people are creatures of habit and, however exciting or enjoyable the initial training may be, the vast majority of people will tend to revert back to what they did before. This means attitude, accountability, motivation and commitment should take centre stage in all your training programmes. It is factors such as these that dictate if, and how much, people are prepared to change what they currently do.
  • Pragmatism - Participants need to see how the various models and techniques can work in practice. They need to know how they can be applied to their day-to-day role and how they can help make a difference. The key is pragmatism. Trainers love their diagrams, matrices and theories. They allow them to show their apparent 'expertise'. However, unless it is made clear exactly when and how they can be used in action, they are merely exercises in mental stimulation.
  • Sustainability - Given the prevailing human need to remain in our comfort zones, even the first few gulps of water are unlikely to be enough to reinforce lasting change. Behavioural change will not just happen and the mistake often made is to get swept along on the tide of initial enthusiasm and assume that this time it will be different!! It is therefore critical to take concrete, proactive steps to embed the new behaviours into everyday business activity.  Managers leading by example (to both demonstrate and reinforce best practice) and coaching are absolutely essential. Research has shown that unless training is supported by appropriate management follow-up, there is every chance you will be back at the start of the entire training cycle again in the not too distant future!