Hosts Cordell Riley and Evan Hackel sit down with Megan Sweeney, learning strategy manager at Tortal Training, to discuss top training tips shared from past podcast guests.
Announcer: Welcome to “Training Unleashed,” the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference.
Megan: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining into “Training Unleashed.” About 30 minutes out of your day is gonna set you up for a great week, so share these with some other friends and co-workers. We’ve got three great tips to share with you. I’m joined today with Evan Hackel and Cordell Riley. Evan, Cordell, how are you doing today?
Evan: I am so pumped, we got three great topics again, and this is gonna be an awesome, awesome podcast. Love your point, by the way, share the podcast. If you like the podcast, share them with friends because the fact is almost everyone in this podcast apply in just about everything that we do in life, so not just training.
Cordell: The only thing I’m gonna add to that, I’m doing great, Megan and Evan, share them with your enemies too because, if you share it with friends, you will make better friends, but also share with the enemies and they will become friends, they’ll love you for sharing this with them.
Megan: Thank you, Cordell, that’s very true.
Evan: Cordell, I don’t have any enemies.
Cordell: I wasn’t talking to you, Evan. I wasn’t talking to you.
Megan: All right. Here we go. Here’s a great tip that Ellen has shared with us some time ago. It’s not only important to be a good giver and to be generous, but it’s also important to be open to receiving. What does she really mean by that, Evan?
Evan: This is one of the biggest things in life for people to get. I didn’t get this until about a year ago. We tend to ignore positive feedback, we just don’t accept it ourselves. We give it, we share it, but when someone shares it back to us, we sort of go up and say, “Well, they don’t really mean it,” or, “It’s not really all that true,” kinda let it bounce off of us. And we need to receive, we need to be appreciated, we are doing great things. And the more you allow yourself to receive positive feedback and accept it as genuine, the easier it is for you to do your job and to give great presentations because it builds your confidence, it builds your worth, it builds your value and you’re giving…you’re receiving feedback. You know, people come up and thank you and afterward or talk to you, etc. It’s one of the great joys of the training industry.
And for me, I just kinda…I wouldn’t say laugh it off, it would be the wrong term. I always appreciate it, but I never let it sink in. And now what I try to do afterward is just take a few moments and deeply appreciate the people that have taken the time to give me appreciation. But before I end, I wanna talk about appreciation, either receiving it or giving it, and the difference between good and bad appreciation. I know it sounds good, wouldn’t all appreciation be good. When someone says to you… And I’m gonna pick on Cordell, is it okay if I pick on you, Cordell?
Cordell: I think you’re gonna do it anyway, Evan.
Evan: Yeah, you know me well, Cordell, you know me well.
Megan: I got nervous there for a second, I said, oh.
Cordell: I did too, I did too, I did too.
Evan: Okay. Cordell, this is an example of poor acknowledgment, “Cordell, you’re a great partner.” Now that sounds like good acknowledgment, right? “Oh, you’re a great partner.” Well, we hear expletives, they bounce off of us. If we wanna sit back, we have to acknowledge people specifically and clearly if we wanna get that acknowledgment through. So let me try again, “Cordell, I just wanna let you know how much I appreciate you. You have an amazingly calm demeanor. Whenever I’m having a bad day or we’re talking about the business, it’s so easy for me to talk to you about the business because you have such a calm way of thinking about the business. I also wanna say to you, your personal passion about caring for people and caring for customers and doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy,” and we define happy here by the way by giving them effective tools, “you’re a stand for that, and that’s what makes you a great partner.”
And if you notice the difference between those two statements, and one statement is nice, it’s pleasant, it doesn’t break the barrier of the human. The second one is meaningful. Maybe, Cordell, you could reflect.
Cordell: Specific praise is kinda what I’ve heard the term used as, and I’ve seen you demonstrate it, and it makes a night and day difference. When you take the time to not just give superficial comments, but you find what that person is doing and you specifically call it out, it makes a big difference. The only caveat I’d put on it is frequency. You know, it’s not just something you do here and there, it’s something that you make it a point that you’re gonna do all the time. So when you’re giving praise, it is specific praise all the time.
Evan: You know, we have sort of a rule of thumb at Tortal, which is to look to give someone five times the number of positive clear acknowledgments to constructive recommendations. I suspect we go far more than five times, but the reason why we have that is that when people notice you catching them doing things right and can truly see that you get what they’re doing right, they are very open to listening to you when you have constructive recommendations. But when all you do, from their perspective, is look for what you’re doing wrong, so every time, if I called Megan and said, “Megan, I’d like to talk to you,” I think and I’ll let Megan speak in a moment, she always is happy to take my call because it’s more likely than not… She’s nodding. It’s more likely than not, I’m gonna say something positive to her. And she knows how much I catch her doing things right, how much I care for her as a person. And that makes such a difference and it is one of the biggest issues in management, is people only spend time correcting behavior, not acknowledging, encouraging, and fostering great behavior.
Megan: I would definitely agree. I have to start out with you know, within this culture, you know, the Tortal culture. It is really easy to speak with everybody because of that exact reason. And also it’s a confidence builder, right, the specific praises, it’s a great confidence builder for the person you’re giving them to, and it makes them wanna keep doing it. And I think the third great piece, it spreads throughout the culture of the company. So if one person is doing this and you see all the people following them, you might wanna wonder, “How come everyone always follows Cordell and Evan around and they don’t follow Mr. Smith?” Well, one of the reasons would be that right there. You know, they connect with you person-to-person, specific praise, and they’re open and they will always guide you in the right direction. And it does start out what I call the positive mental bank account before you withdraw from the mental bank account to your five to one.
Evan: And you know it’s sincere because we are sincere, you’re not just slap-happy, sending it around. A lot of times it takes a while for people to start receiving, which is what the topic is. And when you receive, be appreciative and listen and carry it deeply in you.
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Megan: All right, let’s move on to our next topic. Cordell, I’m gonna share this with you. You have to be willing to listen to what it is your audience needs. If you don’t, you’ll miss gems out there and ways in which you can really enrich the lives of your audience. That was shared with us by Julie Ann Sullivan. Cordell, that’s a great one for you to kinda dive in with us on.
Cordell: Yeah, well, thank you, Megan. Julie Ann shared a great point there. Be willing to listen to what your audience needs. There’re a couple of laws when it comes to adult learning that I’m gonna share, law of relevancy and timeliness relevancy. Is this relevant to what I’m doing in my job and my life? How relevant is it and timely? Is it something I’m gonna be able to use when I get back to my workplace, my environment? So, how relevant is it and how timely is it to me as an adult learner? So key when it comes to doing things of this…in this nature. So I’ll give you an example. Last year, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel, and in preparing for this panel, we went out to what we thought the audience was gonna be and said, “Okay, we’re gonna be doing this, it’s on this subject, what are some of the things that you would like us to see?” We got some great feedback and from that, we boiled it down to five major topics that this panel and I were gonna be talking about when we got to the session.
But one of the things that we decided to do, and it was a great thing, before we jumped into these five topics, we actually decided, “Okay, we have…yes, we did the research, we know what generally speaking that people wanna hear about, we got these five items, but now we have the 200 people that actually showed up. Why don’t we take the opportunity to put the topics up that we have come up with and let’s ask them, ‘Are these the things that you want to hear about? If so, what level of priority should we do?'” So we did that, they were very much in line with the research that we had gotten, but they really only wanted to focus on two of those key areas, so that the last three weren’t really that important for them. So if we’d just gotten up there and started talking about all five, we probably would have missed some important time to really focus on what they wanted to do. So we asked the audience up front, “Hey, what do you wanna hear? What’s gonna be relevant for you right now? What’s gonna be timely for you?”
We drilled that down to two key areas, my audience…my panel was really prepared to go deep into it. We did and it was one of the best sessions that I’ve ever been a part of because we asked the audience, “What do you want? What’s gonna help you?” gave us direction and gave them what they were looking for. So it needs to be relevant and it needs to be timely, but ask people up front, “What are you looking to get out of this?” and give them what they’re looking for.
Megan: Thank you very much, Cordell. And that was a great way to actually dive into that, and one of the things I like about it is asking them up front, and that really means that you’re very respectful of their time and the relevance of that. Evan, I’ve got a thought that pertains to I think the Franchise OPS Conference, but isn’t that something that you all kind of do when you’re gathering everyone together for the Franchise OPS Conference, so that way you can get your topics that are very relevant for them?
Evan: Yeah, we do something called an open meeting. And the open meeting is instead of…there’re different kinds of open meetings. The way we run ours, so we ask everyone to pick three topics they wanna talk about. So we put all the topics on sticky notes on the wall and then the first thing we do, well, introductions, but is we go and have everyone prioritize because sometimes I’ll see other people’s topics. So everyone goes out with like five post-it notes and picks the five top topics, so we know what people now wanna talk about in the room and then we run them through different exercises where we cover those topics. So it’s a generalist meeting in terms of no one actually knows at all what the topics are gonna be, you gotta take a chance, but no one leaves out feeling that they didn’t get great information, and the group itself chooses the topics. So imagine how much more empowered the group is when they know that they’re actually choosing the topics, it’s a lot of fun, and then we bring them through really, really, really fun exercises.
Cordell, we’re gonna do this because it’s kind of fun. Cordell and I were doing this, and one of the topics we wanted to talk about was trust. So I had Cordell take one of those squares and I asked the audience, I said, “Everyone, pull up the credit card you use most for business,” and people kinda looking and they can see it, and I start grabbing them. It’s amazing that everyone would give me the credit card. I mean, just literally amazing. And I started handing them to Cordell and Cordell acts like he’s processing and then I said, “We have a program for you guys that you’re gonna love, and I know I’m so confident you’re gonna love, we’re doing that. It’s $2,000 a piece but I wanna just tell you, you’re gonna get such great value out of it.” And of course these are all people in franchise and so…and you could tell, you could look at some faces that some people were like a little nervous. And so, anyhow, after we explained to them that we weren’t really charging the $2,000, I was afraid my card was gonna bounce. And, of course, they were irate that we would spend $2,000 of their money without asking, of course, it was all fake, we didn’t actually charge them.
But I said to them, “Think about your business and how often you make business decisions without actually consulting the people that you’re serving, your franchisees in this case. You know, when you go out and build a marketing campaign but don’t get their opinion on it, it’s their dollars that go into the marketing fund. It’s their loyalty dollars that go into the training programs you build, yet you built them without any input at all. And I’ll let Cordell comment on how people freaked out on the credit card thing, but it really brought to a great conversation, what do you do to build trust, what you do not do to build trust, which brings into bonus tip here for this call, which is, if you actually listen to your learners and you understand what your learners really want, you’re gonna build better training, you’re gonna build more precise training. And if you just assume what they want, and if you go, you know, top-down management, and there’s a great quote from Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” “Beware of high-level dumb,” which essentially means that people at the top don’t necessarily know what the people at the bottom know.
You can produce bad things, which is why we do rapid design curriculum development where we bring in people that are the actual people in the process to help design the curriculum to make it work. But Cordell, you wanna share your experience when we did the credit card thing?
Cordell: No, Evan, it was a great activity, and to your point, you can see people, “Okay, I think I trust these guys. I think I do know or really don’t, but I’m still gonna sheepishly hand over my credit card and watch them go through this activity.” So, no, it was a great eye-opening exercise that really pushed the envelopes, that really got everybody’s attention and really had them focused in on the message and the topic of trust. And it really did nail the point home about you know, how do you build relationship and trust and again to your point, this was at franchising, so how do you take this and how do you learn from it? But, no, it was a great activity, Evan, a great point there. But I’ll go back to something you said, and the rapid curriculum design was a great example of it. This topic that we’re talking about is asking your audience what do they need, and if you’ve not done anything like this inside of your organization, you know, it is powerful.
Don’t just go out and start building training, get the people that are in the role that need to be doing it and ask them what do they need. Seems simple, seems simple, Seems elementary that it should be done, but it’s not done all the time. Too many a time, people jump out and start doing things and you don’t ask those questions. When you slow it down and when you take the time, it delivers a product, a training outcome that is effective, that delivers results.
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Megan: Evan, I’ve got another great topic, repeat your most important information because it’s most likely to last. What do they mean by repeat?
Evan: We know in adult learning that repetition is important. People don’t like the fact that you have to repeat because they don’t like you know, “Oh, you’re saying it again, you’re saying it again. I heard it, I heard it, I heard it.” But yet we all know that repetition is important and that we know that if we’re going to get people to learn, we have to repeat things many times. And the ultimate goal is to get people to think about it and actually use it, right? Think about it and use it, which is important. So here is the thing, if I go out and just say, “Remember this, remember this, remember this,” and it’s the same thing each time, that’s very boring. So we have to become creative, and we need to repeat things in interesting ways. So you might start off with the why for our other broadcast, very important, and you might make the point in the why, and then you might then…you know, I love storytelling, I think it’s really impactful, that’s why we told the story of the credit card and we told the story of the meeting because stories illustrate points.
So then maybe you take a story and then you maybe create some kinda challenge where they need to think about it and demonstrate its use, this idea’s use itself and then you summarize and you then talk about the use. Now you hit the thing about four times, part of which they have to think about, part of which they have to use it, and then you’re gonna actually have it cemented in their system and they’re gonna get it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone and listened to great speakers or gone to great training nodding like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Oh, no, that’s great. That’s great, that’s great.” And then two days later, “Yeah, I can’t think of a thing they said, just gone.” And that’s because although it was interesting, great principles of adult learning didn’t take place. And a principle of adult learning is repetition, it’s not boring repetition, but it is repetition nonetheless.
Now, I’m gonna share here a little bonus idea here and this is interesting, which is whatever they write down, they do not remember. Now that’s kind of interesting. So a lot of people will say, “Write this down, it’s important.” But what they write down, they don’t remember because they know their brain’s full of stuff. It’s not a piece of paper, I don’t need to remember it. Okay, if you said, “I want you to think about something, I’m gonna talk about it, in your own words, write down what this is and why it’s important to you,” they’ll remember that, they’ll remember that powerfully. But if you gave them a quote, and I’ll just go back just because it’s memorable, if I wrote down, “Remember Drucker says that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast…'” I thought it was lunch by the way, but I’ll go with breakfast. “‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ Write that down,” they’re not gonna remember it.
If I said to people, “Can you think of why culture eats strategy for breakfast? Take a moment, think about that and write that down,” they’ll remember that because they’re using it. You know, when I hear of college, you know, highlighted text in books, it’s great to go back but it’s terrible for remembering. Everything you highlight your brain says, “I don’t need to remember it, it’s highlighted. I can go back.” So the best thing you could do, and you could share this with your kids in college, and I did this in college, and it was very helpful, I was blessed to get this lesson learned, is I would read a chapter and then I would write notes in my own words about what I learned from the chapter rather than highlighting it. And by writing the notes in my own words, they really deeply embedded in my body. So repetition is important. Doing it in different ways, ideally getting them to think about it and use is important, and avoid people just writing something down for the sake of writing it down because they are less likely to remember it.
Cordell: There’s a phrase when it comes to building training, it says, “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” Repetition, you’re setting it up up front, you’re telling them, and then you’re bringing it back to the cold, you’re telling them what you told them, so remember that. Just by the time you’re tired of saying something, somebody is hearing it for the first time, so repetition is key.
Evan: You know, one of the most shocking things to me is that anybody that works and receives money is a professional no matter what job they do. Yet, statistics show that people don’t read books about their profession, don’t read business books, don’t listen to podcasts, so everyone listening to this podcast, you get a big bonus point from my point of view. They don’t take what they do for work seriously. You know, professional baseball players, basketball players, I mean, they take batting practice, they field signals, they take rounders, they shoot free throws, they practice, practice, practice. They think better even though they’re the best in the world, and yet people that work, they’re getting paid, you’re a professional, they’re not practicing, they’re not learning, they’re not stretching themselves. If you wanna get ahead, if you wanna get a promotion, you wanna do better in your job, I’ll go further, forget promotions, forget getting ahead, if you just wanna literally enjoy what you do more, then you should be listening to this podcast, reading books on your profession and taking your profession, your livelihood seriously. I know it’s a little off topic, but I just got inspired by listening to this because so many people don’t, and it’s frustrating. And I’ll say to people all the time when people, you know, will go to me, “I can’t get ahead of my company job.” And I go, “What are you doing for personal development? What are you doing to make yourself better?” And I spend a ton of time in the personal realm, I’m constantly reading books, constantly going to seminars, constantly seeing things that are from a totally different vantage point because that’s how we get better. We’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting. I apologize for my rant, but I do think it’s such an important topic.
Cordell: It’s a great rant, Evan. When I go out and talk with people that want to be successful, one of the things I share with them is that your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development. I’ll repeat it since we’re talking about repeating things for point. Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development. So what are you doing to develop by…to your point, Evan, what are you reading? Are you listening to the podcast? So got to be sharpening the saw, absolutely, great point.
Evan: You know, I read a book on leadership, highly recommend it by the way. And yet, I went to an academy for an extended training program on leadership, but I wrote a book on leadership because not that I don’t know a lot about leadership because I do because there’s always more to learn. And the minute you think that there isn’t more to learn, it’s over.
Megan: If you don’t enjoy repeating, meaning continuing to learn or things like that or continuing to practice batting, then maybe you’re not in the right place either. So only if you enjoy to do it, you’ll enjoy repeating it as well.
Evan: What do you do, Megan, to get better at what you do?
Megan: Well, Evan, one, I do love to read books and a lot of business books and I like to actually read them more than once. You know what else I’ve actually always done but I enjoy more now? I enjoy talking to people more now and learning about other just professions out there, you know, “What does that person do? How did you get into it?” Because I think I’m enjoying learning what other successes are out there, and maybe they could even all tie in. So I’m definitely in a phase of…
Evan: How many learning conferences a year do you go to?
Megan: About five a year where, most of them, I get to sit in panels and listen to some professional speakers. I’m also soon to be attending a leadership conference that will be both professional and personal development, and with knowing that I’m going, you already start to personally improve yourself especially because, you know, we’re all kind of on the same team for that development path, so quite a bit, Evan. And then I still go to the pool too, so, you know, you have to balance it out.
Evan: You see, this is why we love having you on the team.
Cordell: Balance is important, Megan, you gotta keep balancing.
Megan: Well, I know that everyone out there knows that Cordell and Evan and I could speak to each other all day, but we’ll let you all go and go back to your day. Just want to remind everyone to share the “Training Unleashed” podcast with your friends and enemies, as Cordell may have mentioned a little bit ago, and just hope everyone enjoys the rest of your day. Cordell, Evan, thank you so much.
Cordell: It was awesome, a lot of fun. Thank you, Megan. Thank you, Evan. Thank you, audience.
Evan: Everyone, have a great day.
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