Tough Times Never Last—Prepared L&D Professionals Do!

Let me challenge you to use this challenging time as an opportunity to prepare and grow—rather than simply marking time.

In the last 30 days, I’ve given numerous virtual presentations and conferences on what trainers can do in these unusual times. One of the reasons is that I’ve lived through so many other tough times—and each time survived or even thrived.

Here are five of the eight strategies I’ve been sharing:

Strategy 1: Understand focus and clarity

Focus means what am I paying attention to? Clarity means how well do I understand it? Every crisis of any kind—financial, medical, personal—is like a wedge. We can either use adversity to grow and become stronger, or we can focus on everything that is going on and let adversity grind us down. Remember, you have the power of choice.

Strategy 2: Adopt a new paradigm

Too many individuals—and organizations—for too long have operated on the HDB paradigm: If only I had, then I would be able to do, which would allow me to be. If only I had a power boat, it would allow me to take my kids (or grandkids) out on the lake and they could have a great time skiing and tubing, and then I would be a great dad (granddad). But I don’t have a boat. In psychology, we call this an external locus of control. External forces give me no choice; I have no control. I am a victim. Others control whether I succeed or fail.

Here’s the new paradigm: Be-Do-Have (BDH). When I become, I will be able to do, which will enable me to have. For example: When I become a better listener, I will be able to understand and meet the needs of my spouse, kids, grandkids, customers, staff (you name it)—which will enable me to have better relationships and results with the people I interact with. Be-Do-Have is internally focused—I am responsible for whether I succeed or fail.

Imagine what it would mean if our organizations were filled with people who:

  • Accepted personal responsibility
  • Made commitments and kept them
  • Were good listeners
  • Set goals and achieved them
  • Managed their emotions
  • It would be amazing—wouldn’t it?!

Strategy 3: Clarify your values

Most of us have had a lot of time on our hands during this pandemic—and how we’ve spent that time says a lot about us. If I asked you to write down the five things most important to you in 60 seconds, could you? Try it right now. Let’s make this article interactive.

Next, if I looked at how you spent your time and money in the last year, would there be evidence that these five things really did matter to you? For example, if I say my faith is important to me and you see that I’ve been to church twice in the last year—Christmas and Easter—and each time put $5 in the offering, is that evidence that my faith is important? Most people would say, “Not really.”

During this time when most of us have sheltered in place, how have you been spending your time? Are your relationships richer? Or more strained? Have you worked on developing your skills—and maybe even acquiring new ones—or have you treated this time as a vacation? Are you marking time or making time?

For my part, I’ve been in closer touch with my siblings and a son who has pancreatic cancer. My wife and I have always enjoyed each other’s company, but in this difficult time, we found ourselves looking at how we could serve people who really need help now. My wife has made hundreds of masks. I’ve spent hours on pro bono Zoom calls with L&D consultants who are struggling to survive. Spend some time thinking about this Iceberg Model for Human Behavior:

Behavior is the only thing you see above the water—choices that drive our behavior are at the water line. Emotions, attitudes, beliefs, and values influence those choices, and all of that is driven by how we think. Which leads me to…

Strategy 4: Work on your attitude

An attitude is a habit of thought—a way of thinking. Positive attitudes get positive results as they are impressed on our lives, while negative attitudes have negative results. Are you more positive or more negative—and how would you know? Negatives have ways of disguising themselves as positives. Doubt disguises itself as caution. Fear disguises itself as realism. And criticism disguises itself as evaluation. Here’s an illustration: “It’s not that I have doubts about this project, but I think we should proceed cautiously. I move that we appoint a committee to collect data, evaluate options, etc. “(If we take long enough, we may not need to make a decision—and if we do have to make a decision and it’s wrong, we have others on the committee to blame. And if we are right, we can all grab the credit!). So doubt—which is negative—disguises itself as caution.

Years ago, when I first started selling, I was a miserable failure. As a pastor, I gave things away to people who wanted them. If I asked if someone wanted me to pray with them and they said, “No, thank you,” I simply replied, “God bless you.” And left. If they wanted me to pray, I didn’t say, “$5, please.” I simply prayed.

Sales wasn’t like that. I sold sales training and management development programs. Once I made the sale, I got to do the delivery. I knew everything about our programs. And I knew how to sell them. During our two-day intensive sales training schools, I would win nearly every contest during the school. But when it came to actually closing a sale, I froze. I could not bring myself to ask for the order more than once.

I made the decision that for 30 days, I would do everything I could to succeed—even if it didn’t fit my personality. I set 30 days as my goal because Maxwell Maltz in his book, “Psychocybernetics,” said it took 21 days to replace one attitude or habit of thought with another. I figured as negative as I had been, I’d better give it a little extra.

So I practiced the 3 Vs—I Verbalized, Visualized, and Vitalized. First, I used affirmations or self- talk to change some of my negative attitudes to more positive ones—that’s Verbalize. Then I mentally rehearsed each presentation before going in to see the prospect. I saw them asking questions and me successfully answering them. I saw myself asking for the order and getting objections or put-offs—and handling them. That’s Visualize. And finally, I Vitalized. I made the commitment to make 10 presentations a week and on at least eight of them to ask for the order five times (this was the average number of closes in our business to get a sale).

In that 30 days, I made a little over $1,000. Within six months, I was making $8,000 a month (and this was 1971!). So this was one of my earliest applications of focus and clarity—I both paid attention to and understood what it took to make a sale.

Strategy 5: Become a participant-centered trainer

Our purpose as trainers should be to empower, inspire, and equip the people we train. They should leave training impressed with themselves, not intimidated by the instructor. They should be excited about what they now know that they didn’t know before and excited about what they can now do that they couldn’t do before. And with more confidence in themselves. Participant-centered means using the CORE of Training—Closers, Openers, Revisiters, and Energizers. These four things increase the engagement of any group of participants—face-to-face or virtual.

Now more than ever our jobs as L&D professionals is to add value and make a difference. Here are three things I’m doing right now:

  1. Converting more of my content from face-to-face to virtual.
  2. Improving my virtual presentation skills (and showing others how to do the same).
  3. Digging deeper on solving problems rather than delivering events.

Let me challenge you to use this challenging time as an opportunity to prepare and grow—rather than simply marking time. Never underestimate the value of a single person. Never underestimate the power of yourself.

Until next time—add value and make a difference!

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Expert’s Guide to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to Training.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.