25 Years’ Experience

25 Years’ Experience – 

Early in my training career I was lucky enough to be working alongside a colleague who I looked on as a real Jedi in the industry. Now, I often refer to those highly experienced, confident individuals as Jedis. The ones I aspire to be like, confident, all knowledgeable and with a certain presence around them that fills a room. This particular colleague was not only a Jedi in the field but had earned the nickname ‘Obi-Wan’ for his sheer mastery of all things training.

Anyway, it was a strange time in our industry as although markets were good, there was some apprehension and the start of a lack of consumer confidence, so the training being delivered was a focussed Sales Managers workshop designed to challenge Sales Managers to drive, coach and support their teams to achieve well against the manufacturers aspirations.

As in many industries, the ‘make up’ of a successful Sales Manager is a delicate balance of previous sales performance, a broader view on the market as a whole and the ability to coax their sales team to work hard. Generally lacking from this mix was any type of management development (other than experience) and although we were involved in delivering a complex sales curriculum, very little time or focus was given over to this particular group of people.

Now, what everyone may not know is that when attending a face-to- face training course or workshop, the trainer will often ask everyone to introduce themselves and give a little bit of information about who they are, what they do, how long they’ve done it for, etc and I have often found this to be sometimes unsettling for people and sometimes encounter some resistance. I’ve had delegates call this a waste of their time. However, what I will say is that it gives the trainer a good chance to gain an understanding of the level at which the audience is at and therefore deliver the training in a more focused way for that group. In my experience, every group is different!

On this particular occasion Obi-Wan was making his way around the room and came up against a particularly abrasive individual. This guy, clearly frustrated at a number of things, including his position, earnings, management structure, opportunities, etc.

I often joke about negative people and can confidently say that in most sales businesses there is always that one guy (Mr Neggy), who if you offered him a £10,000.00 raise would respond with “Well how much more tax am I gonna pay on that?”

This was that guy. When asked by Obi-Wan to give some feedback on why he was at the workshop and what he wanted to get out of it he responded with: “No idea, I don’t know why they’ve sent me, another waste of time when I could be making money instead.”

He then went on to say, “I’ve got 25 years’ experience in this job, why do I need to come on another training course?”

 Now, at the time, this really did flummox me. I would have had no answer and so was grateful that Obi-Wan was in the driving seat and I just watched in awe and amazement as he responded. Now, we all know how it feels when someone steps out of the bounds of politeness and asks a directly challenging question. There’s the hesitation, the search for a witty or clever response, the desire to overcome their challenge and respond like a champion. Before I could even think of how to respond to this Obi-Wan responded like a true Jedi:

“25 years eh?…”

“or maybe, its 1 years’ experience, that’s you’ve repeated 24 times?”

Now, in the cold light of day this may seem like a harsh response, but it had the desired affect and brought the delegate into line. For me though, many years later I still ponder that response. Mostly because he was right.

Without a focus on our own development we often plod along doing the same thing in the same way, sometimes more efficiently or more effectively to some degree, thanks to many years’ experience, but how often do we really challenge what we do? Why do we sit in ‘comfort zones’ and accept things that we’d probably like to change?

I’ll give you an example that I often use in training. When drawn to the subject of performance improvement we usually come across the same issues, time management being a frequent one. Now when asked how to manage time, I like to point out that we can’t actually affect time, what we can affect is the tasks we can complete in the available time that we have. So how do we do that? We work to become more efficient and effective in the tasks that we must complete.

I’ll then ask the audience if any of them use a keyboard on a daily basis. Most will reply ‘yes’. I’ll then ask how many of them can ‘touch type’ – here I usually get a ‘no’, but there’s always a few overly optimistic responses. Here’s where I make my point. So a task that we have to complete every day, probably for our entire professional careers yet how many of us spend time to learn, apply (train) and develop our typing because not only would this improve your efficiency (speed), but also your effectiveness (accuracy). If we could become 10, 20 or even 30% more effective and more efficient how much time would we actually save every day? And yet we don’t. I can confirm that I have been typing on a daily basis for the last 20 years at least. Therefore, I have 20 years’ experience… or is it just the one?!

Moral of the story – it’s not the time served it’s the time invested.


Thank you for reading

– Alan


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