How do you train core skills? For example, how do you train your account managers to be better at managing people i.e. their teams?

This must be simple. If clients can trust them as advisors, they most likely can connect socially, ask great questions, test assumptions and interact. A good manager of people need all of these abilities.

Excellent account managers know how to ask questions that expand the customer’s knowledge of what works in their organization. When the customer ask for the impossible, they know what to say to explain why it’s not going to work, all without any offence. Excellent account managers can determine the assumptions the customer is making and occasionally challenge them to guarantee that the strategy works; and, obviously, they’re very good at getting the client to agree.

The skills described above are core skills. These are the skills that are needed for facing clients as well as colleagues or team members. What is fascinating is the fact that these abilities are seldom approached in the manner described above. Typically, companies train and coach people in different contexts without recognizing that they are basically the same.

When developing skills together, it is easier for the person to remember the new skills when applied in different contexts. That is because they develop deeper sensory connections in the brain that produces an embodied feeling of how to utilize the skills in not just one context.

Listed below is a typical example of how to develop core skills.

Developing Core Skills

Determine the core skills necessary in their business setting. These include the skills that individuals need in responding to customers, colleagues or team members. Then design a development program in which individuals learn and practice the skills in various contexts.

If you can make the practice context as real as possible, the more effective the training will be. For instance, let the people practice asking for building client relationships, first with their colleagues and then in a rehearsal of meeting. In another instance, ask people to practice saying a pitch for making social connections and agreeing action. Make a simulation with a group member who’s having performance issues.

Your brain can work flexibly

There is strong medical proof that this strategy is effective.

A recent research by Michael Cole has investigated the mind’s “flexible hub” theory in connection to transferring skills.

“Flexible hubs” are regions in the brain that coordinate action throughout the mind in order to execute tasks.

By examining activity whilst the hubs connected during the execution of particular tasks, scientists discovered distinctive patterns that allowed them to determine the hubs’ part in utilizing existing skills for new tasks.

The process, referred to as compositional coding, enables skills learned in one context to be applied also in others, thus reducing the learning curve. By monitoring and evaluating the performance of people, the research confirmed that the transfer of skills helped accelerate learning of new tasks, and the use of existing skills in the new setting.

Creating training based on the “flexible hubs” theory

How do your management or HR training programs make use of this “flexible hubs” theory?

We often divide learning into sections; a program for increasing team performance, another program for improving customer relationships, and yet another program for self-improvement.

We should take a holistic view of learning and applying the core skills in all types of circumstances. In the cases above, we frequently make use of the same skills in situations dealing with both customer and colleagues, but we name them differently or use them in only one context.

Understanding Your Neurophysiology

If your managers already have the necessary core skills but have developed them in various contexts, you need to do two things to maximize the use of their skills.

First, let your managers know that their skills have more than one function, or tell them they already possess the skills needed for the new situation.

I understand this seems extremely simple but you’ll be amazed at how often people miss the connection. Consider for instance a manager who often lose his temper and shout at his team. He was, however, an incredibly effective customer relations manager. How can he keep his cool when dealing with difficult customers, but not his team?

Apparently, he uses what he learned in martial arts. He was actually a black-belt and knew how to handle his stress with breathing, etc. Can’t he use the same trick with his team? Of course he can, but he just needs to realize it!

Second, help them using physiology in applying their skills. Your ability to apply the skill and your body’s emotions must be connected to efficiently use them.

Managers have to be versatile enough to use physiology in various situations, such as in coaching, and use their skills effectively. Many leaders have one stance with clients and another with their own team. It takes confidence to find one that is effective for both.

Leadership programs are supposed to help leaders become conscious of their physiology, and learn to use it for doing this and not that.

By developing the core skills of your managers and employees, you save your training budget by half!

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