One of the quotes that have inspired me lately is: “When you’re looking for solutions, you must be ready for surprises.” (thanks cuz!)
I can’t say that that I was looking for answers, but I sure was trying to make some improvements, mainly in what related to the training I give. I was recently given a few hints on training and I decided that the next class would be as good as any to try them out. What happened though was beyond my expectations.
One hour… that’s the time I’ve got to pass on the necessary information.
The training itself has already been well pre-prepared and it’s not made out to last past the sixty minutes that you have. Sometimes I rush for time, other times I’m left with five or ten minutes to kill… this time however, after all the questions and doubts were answered, I still had a whole thirty five minutes to fill!
Nobody likes to leave early, this means they have to go straight to work and so I needed to come up with something to fill the gap.
To some people, teaching and training come naturally but I confess that deep down I feel small and intimidated in a classroom with fifteen pairs of eyes looking at me. I feel the heavy weight of the responsibility of getting the necessary information across clearly in order for them to do their job correctly and I put in a great amount of effort to get through to them. Preparation is 50% of the work but it didn't foresee a whole thirty five minutes.
Silence… I had gotten that quiet group again that doesn’t like to talk back…
And so… I took the opportunity to do something that has frightened ever since I began working with a sea of faces; I decided to converse with them. As simple as this may sound, it’s not an easy task to keep the attention of 15 people while focusing on one person’s issues. I asked them how the new things were going and what difficulties they were experiencing and so the feedback I got from one wasn’t necessarily to the interest of all and my goal was to maintain everyone’s attention.
One by one, the personal experiences were shared and suddenly people where trading ideas and solutions. I had most of the answers to the questions raised but I decided to throw them back to the group and allow some or other person who knew the answer to shine among his peers… that was another technique I'd learnt and it works!
Eventually, I came across that one person that makes all training sessions difficult… Mr, or in this case… Mrs. Negative.
This particular person is a position where she calls clients for corrections and receives the none-too-happy customer calls. Being in a position like that will teach you to do what clients to best: complain!
She complained about the system and the rules according to the topic we were discussing and I decided not to interrupt her. Once she was finished I took a minute to think about how I was going to respond to her attack and considering that I had time, I saw my window of opportunity to make a difference…
I started off by explaining the root and tip of the particular system so that she could understand why it had been organized as such and why it was the best system available even though I made it clear that any system has space for improvement. I went on to remind her where her suggestions could be fed in and how important they are if she was hoping to make improvements.
With my personal comparisons and odd joke, I managed to keep everyone’s attention while breaking down the girl’s complaint until I finally reached the source of the problem.
I decided to address her position and explained to all how difficult it is to deal with clients, especially those that are none too impressed. No amount of morale can withstand the innumerous complaints and after so much negative feedback, you can’t help but feel a little negative yourself and frustrated when you’re helpless do to more than you can to solve that client’s problem.
At first she looked at me with gratitude that I'd shown some compassion and understanding and continuing my light hearted technique, I decided to give back what I'd learnt with clients over the years.
I suggested that difficult clients are the most fun challenges and that the name of the game is “solve my problem”
I went on to remind them that their role is the most important of all due to the fact that they’re the ones that can link the problem to the solution. The solution might not depend on them, but without them it cannot be found.
A smile is heard over the phone and as a great philosopher once said: “We can defend ourselves from an attack, but we’re defenseless against a compliment”. To counter attack a client is to give him more reasons to complain, but to present solutions to his problem is to disarm him. With this, the whole class began interacting and if felt as if everyone was rearming and restocking for another night’s battle.
I wished everyone a good night’s work as they left the room with a smile on their faces and a positive energy charge. Switching off the overhead projector and the computer, I couldn’t help but smile at myself and I took the time to close my eyes and thank God for the miracle. It’s not always easy to get through and it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you feel that you have. In twenty years from now, I think I’ll still feel this good if I’ve felt that not only have I done my job but I’ve gotten through. I might’ve made a difference that to some may only last the night, the week or with some luck, the following two weeks. However, I made the difference. And I keep the faith that the positive difference lasts them a lifetime.