Last week a gentleman called me from a large Sydney-based company. He wanted “cultural training” for his staff. “Why?” I asked. Six months ago his company had established subsidiaries in Brazil and Venezuela – their first foray outside Australasia. Things were going badly. Australian and New Zealand staff were leaving. Those remaining felt overwhelmed. The company was bleeding money.
I asked what he wanted to experience instead of this unwanted scenario. “That’s easy. I want my team to feel confident in their interactions with their South American colleagues. I want them equipped with appropriate virtual and face-to-face communication skills. I want them to get their South American colleagues and counterparts.”
He wanted to reduce the dramatic loss of staff and the departure of expertise in the company. Retraining was very expensive! Bottom line? He wanted these unexpected, unforeseen circumstances to go away. Soon.
I enquired about the length and type of training he had in mind. “One day,” was the answer. I then asked if he wanted awareness–raising or behavioural change. Mmmm. “Behavioural change.” So I put to him that in a one-day training he could realistically anticipate a shift in perspective for his team members. He could expect a greater awareness about their South American colleagues and why they communicate as they do. For example, his team members would likely realise that they were unconsciously resorting to their known, default communication style and that they could expand this and be more effective.
He could expect that in a one-day training they could gain some awareness of the motives and values of their South American colleagues and customers. However, he could not expect behaviours that had been laid down in his team’s physiology, in their muscles and nerves over years, to suddenly change as a result of a one-day training program.
Awareness-raising or culture change?
This week he rang me again. It was a different conversation. He wants to opt for a different training model; one that results in long-term behavioural change; change brought about ha-bit by ha-bit, using peer accountability. He wants his team to participate in the initial one or two-day program, and then go away with a specific new communication skill they each commit to applying in their work context over a month. He wants his team members to be accountable to a dedicated peer-learner, one of their co-workers, who is also applying the same skill. He wants me to meet with his team for a 90-minute session either face-to-face or online once a month over the next six months. In these sessions, team members will be sharing the impact of what they are practicing, what they are applying.
He is opting for culture change in his organisation. He is opting for sustainable behavioural change.
So we can take advantage of the last 17 to 20 years of the insights from the neurosciences and behavioural sciences. We can opt to think differently about opportunities for our staff such that they want to stay with us and contribute their highest value.
As you plan for the next training for yourself or your team, what is your next training going to achieve? Will it be the hare or the tortoise? Awareness-raising or culture change?
[Image courtesy thedrum.com]