Try Commandments Instead of Goals

Resolutions—goals and intentions—are important. But there’s an implied sense of “optional” in them. Instead, here are 10 commandments I’d like to live by.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2015? Are you still keeping them?

I’ve been thinking about what it takes to make a difference in the organization in 2015. Resolutions—goals and intentions—are certainly important. But there’s an implied sense of “optional” in them.

What if we talked in terms of commandments instead? I’ve created a list of 10 I’d like to live by myself. Here they are:

1. Thou shalt not jump to conclusions. Just because they ask you for training, it doesn’t mean that’s what they need. Take time to find out what problem your clients are trying to solve—and what the results of the solution would look like. Training may be part of the solution, but don’t risk resources until you ask some questions. Respond—don’t react.

2. Thou shalt build support for your training and performance efforts. How does your organization regard what you do? Is what you do valued? Is it key to organizational growth and results? Or is it something that’s nice to do? Who are the people with power—formal and informal—who value your efforts? Invite those people to be part of a training and performance advisory board. This is one way they can lend credibility to your group and its efforts.

3. Thou shalt publicize thy successes. Give learners evaluation forms early in the training process, and allow plenty of time to fill them out. Ask participants to evaluate not only the content and the instructor, but also the environment, the support materials, and themselves. In our seminars, we give out evaluations during the morning of the first day, and collect them one-half hour before the end of the seminar.

Don’t limit yourself to end-of-course evaluations. At the very least, do a 90-day follow-up with participants and their managers. Collect anecdotal evidence on what ideas from the course people have put to use and the difference those ideas are making. Summarize these, and find a variety of ways to let the organization know how effective the interventions you’ve developed have been.

4. Thou shalt focus on results. Our organization focuses on participant-centered training because time has shown us that this is the best way to get results. Everything we do is focused on answering the questions: What results do we want? Is this the best way to get them?

5. Thou shalt recognize that training is a process, not an event. It begins long before training is ever delivered and continues through the creation of results back on the job. It relies for its success on the participants who attend, the managers who select them, and the people who design and deliver the training. It recognizes that the success of the process is a result of teamwork involving all these people. And it means we must acknowledge the contribution of each person.

6. Thou shalt meet perceived, as well as real, needs. Sometimes people think they need training when, in fact, something else will produce better results. Still, it is easier—and perhaps wiser—to meet the perceived need than to try to persuade people that what they think they need they really don’t.

We once did a needs assessment for a sales organization and learned that sales managers and salespeople alike felt more training was needed on closing sales, time management, territory management, and prospecting. However, when we did “check rides” with both high-performing and low performing salespeople, we saw no difference in how they handled time and territories.

When we delivered training, we didn’t say that the perceived problem of time and territory management didn’t exist. Instead, we devoted 45 minutes to it in a two-day program. Meeting the emotional need for that training let us open doors to more important things. Telling participants they didn’t need that training might have put up a barrier against other parts of the course.

7. Thou shalt set goals—and exceed them. Joel Weldon, an outstanding speaker and trainer and longtime friend, puts it this way: “Promise much, and deliver more.” People get excited when they see that you deliver what you promised—and more. This builds a strong base of support for you and your department.

8. Thou shalt anchor your training to the strategic plan. Many trainers don’t even know their organization’s strategic plan. It’s crucial in identifying the skills people need to help the organization meet its objectives. This is also one way to gain management support for your performance-improvement initiatives.

9. Thou shalt seek to be proactive, not reactive. Too many training departments merely supply training that’s requested. When a request comes in, ask: What’s the business issue here? What’s the impact of this problem on the organization? Is this problem caused or made worse by a lack of knowledge and skill—or by something else, such as systems or policy problems? Asking these questions helps ensure that when you provide training, you know the training is going to make a difference.

10. Thou shalt do good and have fun. Life is too short not to have fun. When we know we are helping the organization and its associates achieve objectives, we can feel good about what we do. Take the time to lighten up and to celebrate your contributions.

Perhaps you have some commandments that should be added. Let me hear from you. You can reach me at 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. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt!