FRIDAY SAW ME REPRESENTING the ‘Rest of the World’ team against the APAC team in the Beijing capital Club Annual golf challenge. My morning match, where myself and a Danish headhunter took on a senior Chinese executive from Lenovo and the Malaysian Ambassador, had turned into a real battle. Both pairs had chances to take control but neither could shake their opponents. This was largely due to some Tiger Woods calibre chipping and putting from the Ambassador, but that is another story.
With three holes to go we were all square (level). I turned to my partner and confidently stated that, ‘all we have to do is both hit the fairway and this hole is ours’. I then stood over my drive and effortlessly sent it flying into a small pond.
Fortunately for both myself and the Rest of the World team, my partner chose to follow my words rather than my actions. We won the hole and went on to win the match.
There is an old English expression which says, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. I suspect that for as long as there are people telling other people what to do and how to do it, this phrase will never lose popularity.
I remember giving a conflict resolution seminar 6 or 7 years ago. In this lecture I emphasised the importance of not letting your emotions get the better of you and how one should never act when angry. Three days later whilst playing football, a very late tackle left me believing that an opponent had broken my leg. Once I was certain that this was not in fact the case, I got up and exressed my displeasure by punching him in the face. The referee then provided his feedback on my actions by waving a red card in my face. I limped off the field and, as I sat down to take off my boots, looked up into the faces of two young Chinese guys. These same two guys had been trainees in my seminar a few days earlier and they did look rather confused as to how I had managed to morph from a calm, lucid trainer to a fist swinging Mike Tyson impersonator in just 72 hours. Ah yes, do as I say, not as I do.
I witnessed an interesting corporate level version of this phenmenon just the other day. I had been called in to lecture junior level staff on the importance of using correct business etiquette when visiting clients. A recurring complaint from clients was that some of this company’s employees dressed inappropriately (revealing outfits from the girls and the same clothes day after day from the guys).
The HR lady in charge of the training told me that this had been an issue within the company for a number of years and that senior management had had enough of it. Numerous trainers had been called in and done their best to get the message across to the staff, but to no avail. With each new influx of staff came the same problems.
Now here is something you don’t hear me say everyday. Training is not always the answer. At least not the sole answer.
In this case, it quickly became clear that whilst the trainees agreed with everything I was telling them, the problem was not in their understanding, but in their buy-in. This is basic change management. If you want your staff to change, then it is not enough to simply order them to do so. Pushing people to change is just as likely to enforce their negative behaviour as it is to persuade them to change.
The change in the way these staff dressed needed to be influenced positively from the top. When I looked at some of the more senior members of staff in this company, I saw exactly the same issues which had caused them to call me in the first place. Other than the fear of beng fired, I can think of no reason for the junior staff to change when the very figures who they look to for leadership and guidance were failing to set an example.
The thought process is simple. ‘These guys dress in a relaxed style and it hasn’t hindered their rise to the top. Why should it affect mine?’
So, as much as it pains me to say so, training is not always the answer. The easy way out is to call in experts from the outside. The tougher, but far and away more successful way is for company standards to be set, promoted and followed by senior management. In simpler terms, the message from management needs to be, ‘Do as I say…….AND as I do!