|15-03 Organizations Lose Out When they Don’t Train “People Skills”|
March 2015 - The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter
by Gary Rush, IAF CPF
I have been reading posts in LinkedIn and articles from various sources and have come to the belief that organizations ignore training “People Skills” – that is a mistake. When I read comments to the post, “The Paradox of Facilitation and Presentation Skills,” dated February 25, 2015, I was taken by the fact that not one comment mentioned training the Facilitators. Most had been “thrust” into the role and learned while doing. That concerns me because performing without proper training not only demeans the skills developed by those who, through proper training, spend a great deal of time and effort learning their skills but can also make the improperly-trained Facilitators feel inept.
Organizations would never put someone into a technical job without training and expect them to perform effectively yet daily they put people into leader or facilitator roles, without training, and expect them to perform effectively. People are the most important asset an organization has; yet people skills are undervalued and under-trained.
What amazes me is the wealth of research and articles siting business financial losses due to poor people skills. IT projects fail 50% of the time due to poor project management – lack of people skills. Poorly run meetings are sited as a frustration costing organizations tens of millions of dollars a year in wasted wages – poor people skills. If the biggest costs and greatest losses are due to poor people skills, why doesn’t every organization make “people skills” a core competency for every employee of their organization?
Is it our Fault?
Perhaps it’s the fault of effective Facilitators and Collaborative Leaders. We make what we do look easy – it isn’t. But that’s true of any skill, when it’s done well. With people skills, organizations assume it comes naturally. Perhaps that’s why they often refer to these skills as “soft skills.” People skills aren’t soft – they are pretty hard. Organizations take for granted that people know “how to” guide a group to make a decision, resolve conflict, organize thoughts to create a usable outcome, or synthesize what 20 people are saying and pull out a nugget of brilliance. These are trainable people skills that contribute to the overall well being of the organization.
When you are “thrust” in front of a group of people to facilitate or lead them, how many of you naturally know how to deal with a disruptive person? Know when and how to use appropriate humor? Know how to reply to make a point without offending? Know how a group is performing and know what to do to enable them to perform as a team? Know how to enable communication between people by truly actively listening? These are trainable people skills that contribute to the overall well being of the organization.
“How To” – Train People Skills
“I learned on the job” (unstructured) is very different from “on the job training” (structured). The former lacks any obvious principles of organization while the latter is a purposeful approach. Training must be structured. Well-structured Facilitator or Collaborative Leadership training covers people skills, through theory “the why” and through doing “the how.” It needs to be structured so that we don’t perpetuate the same mistakes of the past and it is consistent and repeatable. It needs to cover people skills such as “how to” actively listen, understand group dynamics, manage conflict, effectively confront, effectively communicate, effectively present, “how to” form teams, harness the wisdom of the group, and “how to” set an example. It requires practice and feedback for improvement.
Return on Training Investment
Organizations will save money, make the work environment effective, generate more innovation, create job satisfaction, and avoid costly mistakes, just by training in people skills. The return on investment is significant. When I train someone to be a Facilitator or Collaborative Leader, the cost of their training is returned, with additional profit, from the first workshop they facilitate or the first meeting they lead. Add to that, the higher quality of decisions or outcomes – it’s been proven that well facilitated or well lead collaborative decisions and outcomes are far better than those developed in a poorly led meeting or poorly facilitated workshop.
The training needs to be taken seriously. It cannot be, “I learned on the job.” Stop putting people into leadership and facilitator roles without giving them effective training. You are demeaning the importance of proper training, wasting the organization’s money, and hurting the organization. Take proper training seriously – it needs to be structured to avoid a hit or miss inconsistent method that perpetuates mistakes. These people skills, properly taught, will help the organization thrive and grow.