Sunday, 16 December 2012

Modelling a Talent - Tuning a Guitar

I was showing someone how to model a talent yesterday and as an example we picked the talent of being able to tune a guitar.

I'm not going to go through the whole process here, but I wanted to share some important points which really exemplify what talent modelling is all about.

Experts make their talent look easy

When you get into the fine detail of how an expert does what they do, you'll often find that they don't just make it look easy, they really do make it easy. They stack the odds in their favour. The musician that we modelled didn't tune his guitar to concert pitch unless he was playing in a band. In general, he tuned his guitar to itself. If he needed to play with other musicians, he simply tuned the first string to a known note from an electronic tuner, and then used his method to tune the remaining strings. He described his method as "the most effective" way to tune a guitar. It's not the way that a learner would be taught, but it was the quickest and most accurate way for his purpose: to play it.

Why Do We Benchmark Against the Average?

People ask us why we benchmark high performers against the average rather than against low performers? Surely we want as big a contrast as possible?

No, absolutely not. Here's why.

Here is a distribution graph representing performance levels for a given role in a population:

Can you see why we don't cross reference against low performers?

In any given population, we could profile competence against a particular task. What we would always find is a normal distribution, as in the above diagram, because that's a quirk of the statistical method. So low performers aren't necessarily a bunch of losers who need to be fired forthwith; you might say that their performance levels are acceptable, that the average performers are good and the highest performers are outstanding, and you don't know why. The high performers are defined only by their performance, not by whether you like them or think they're really good.

Typically, the midpoint of the curve marks a difference in a person's goal or outcome.

In a customer service example, to the left, the outcome might be to work to the customer service standard procedure. To the right, it might be to delight customers. The goal of the procedure isn't to delight customers, it's to manage all customer interactions equally.

Where high performers always excel is in their ability to adapt.

To the right of the centre line, we can say that all of the staff share the same outcomes, but the average performers haven't adapted their behaviour to the culture to the extent that they achieve maximum performance for minimum effort. We often find that the average performers do everything 'by the book', but following procedures leads to consistency, not excellence. What we need to do is refine excellence and turn it into a procedure, and you'll then see performance levels rise across the organisation.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Learn Talent Modelling

We're making plans to run talent modelling courses in the New Year.

The format will be 5 days in total, split into a 3 day module, a month to complete a project and a 2 day certification module.

The cost will be £995 and will include either a copy of Genius at Work or The NLP Master Practitioner Manual.

We're also considering a 3 day NLP module to precede the talent modelling course which would then give you full SNLP Master Practitioner certification, depending on previous study and certifications. The additional cost for this module is £695 so you can get fully certified Master Practitioner training for a total of  £1690.

We will start making the arrangements in the New Year but if you want to get your name down early, just get in touch via

Thursday, 13 December 2012

More Counter-Intuition

Why are talents often driven by counter-intuitive rules?

Simply, because they're not your rules, so they aren't obvious. They seem counter-intuitive because they're contrary to your intuition. But to the high performer, they seem completely logical.

Looking deeper than that, we can observe that the results of a talent, such as outstanding sales or customer service performance, are not the goal of the role model, they are merely the observable results or measures. High performers don't set out to be high performers, they just set out to do what they believe is best, and the external environment takes care of the rest.

A high performer's rules are always internally referenced, meaning that their point of reference is always within themselves. They provide the benchmark for success or the motive for the behaviour. Not the trigger, but the motive. A high performer's behaviour is therefore independent of circumstances. They will treat all customers with respect because that is the right thing to do.

An average performer typically operates from externally referenced rules, so they only respect customers when someone's watching, or when they feel like it, or when the customer seems important. Average performers can't improvise and adapt because they don't share the same underlying motive as the high performer.

As humans, we tend to project our inner thoughts and feelings out onto the world. A school of philosophy says that our external reality is completely made up of such projections. Another, opposing school of thought says that external reality is a stage and we place ourselves as players upon it.

There is a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that both may be true, depending on the situation. We already know that children create mental maps of the world beyond a certain stage of development, and we already know that people do indeed project their thoughts and feelings onto others in order to resolve internal conflict.

For example, someone might completely over-react to what a colleague says to them. In their minds, they distort what the colleague says so that their memory fits their reaction, rather than accepting that they over-reacted. Arrogance drives projection, in their case. The constant is that they are always right, the variable is their ability to distort their perception of reality and their working assumption is that no-one will question or stand up to them.

I said that high performers work from internally referenced rules, and that means that they tend to project those rules outwards onto other people. That's why, when you ask a high performer how they're able to do what they do, they say, "I don't know, doesn't everyone do it?"

Of course, they observe other people not getting the same results as them, and they often attribute this to luck. They say, "Well everyone does what I do, I must just be lucky". Conversely, the average performer blames luck for their inconsistent results.

The high performer is largely unaware of these rules, and when we model that person and bring those rules to the surface, they can seem counter-intuitive.

In fact, when you put yourself into the high performer's shoes, those rules make complete sense.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

If It's Not Working...

I recently spoke to a company who engaged a telemarketing agency to make cold calls for them and secure sales meetings.

The company made 2500 calls.

They secured 14 meetings.

Even though that sounds terrible, it's not so bad in this day and age. Their success rate was 0.56%, and for getting from a cold contact to a meeting, that's not bad going. Statistically. For the sales industry.

The agency would argue that from those 14 calls, the client could maybe win 5 actual sales deals, which more than pays for the cost of the project.

But what about those 2,486 calls that didn't result in a meeting?


Book Reviewers

I'm now looking for reviewers for Genius at Work - people to read it , use it and say nice things about it, to be honest.

Not just anyone though, I'm afraid, I'll need to be choosy.

Some people will get the paperback version of the book to review, others will get an electronic copy.

If you'd like to take part, leave a comment.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Learn How to Sell More and Support BBC Children in Need!

I was again interviewed on BBC Radio earlier this week as part of the BBC's Children in Need annual charity fundraising event.

Mike Zeller wanted to know how they could make more money in an Apprentice-style cake selling competition.

So I draw on all of the best performance that I could think of, across the various industry sectors I've worked with as well as The Apprentice itself, to give Mike and Sara a head start and of course raise a lot of money for a great cause.

Listen to the radio interview here and find out how you can sell more too!

And of course, if you're in Carlisle on Saturday 16th November, go along and buy some cakes - and tell them that I sent you!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sales through Service

I've been talking to a few companies lately about training programs, and one of the factors that often comes up is paradoxical - that they need to sell more without selling.

For example, service staff in an insurance call centre need to provide support services, but since the insurer makes money out of those services, there's a sales target involved. If their staff focus on making the 'sale' by getting the customer to agree to having the services, which are free to the customer, then the customer could begin to feel pushed and accuse the advisor of 'ambulance chasing'. But if they don't sell, they don't make money.

In another company, a contract catering supplier, restaurant staff need to sell more but the host companies don't want their staff feeling 'sold at'. Not to mention that selling more means getting people to eat more, not exactly a message which fits with their 'healthy' brand image.

The solution in both of these cases is one of the most important things that you'll find when modelling excellence - that the intended output isn't the same thing as the intended outcome.

In short, sales results should never be the focus of attention - they should be the measure by which the right focus is judged. For example, the focus for the contract caterer should be on providing excellence in customer care. When customers enjoy and value the service that they receive, they'll visit the restaurant more often and spend more money. Sales are the result, not the aim. Sales figures are a measure of how well the staff take care of their customers.

For the insurers, demonstrating genuine care and reassurance is what will encourage customers to accept the services offered. Sales results are therefore the measure of how well staff provide that reassurance, not how well they 'sell'.

This doesn't just apply to sales, there are many other measurement criteria which become confused with the activities which lead to those outputs.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Counter-Intuitive Behaviours

About ten years ago, I wrote a story - an article in the form of a metaphor - to illustrate the value of coaching and modelling excellence within a team environment.

By a strange coincidence, the exact same process, and the exact same 'counter-intuitive behaviours' are the subject of research into self-driving vehicles which are learning how to drive from expert human drivers.

"What human drivers do consistently well is feel out the limits of the car and push it just a little bit further and that is where they have an advantage," said Prof Gerdes.
He added that follow-up work had been done to record what the best human drivers did with the car's brakes, steering and throttle as they drove so this could be incorporated into the control systems the Stanford team is developing.
"It's not so much the technology as the capability of the human that is our inspiration now.”
Prof Chris Gerdes
For instance, he said, in situations where the car is being driven at the limit of the grip of its tyres, the car cannot be turned via the steering wheel. Instead, said Prof Gerdes, race drivers use the brake and the throttle to force a car round a corner.
"We're learning what they are doing and it's those counter-intuitive behaviours that we are planning to put in the algorithm," he said.

Man beats robot car on race track

And if I can find the original story, I'll post it here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Genius at Work is Now Available

After what seems like a very long wait, Genius at Work is now 'on the shelves'.

I probably started writing the book in 2000 as some of its roots certainly go back to my 2002 book, Change Magic, which I am planning to update and re-release next year. The content evolved through the development of my Master Practitioner program, and really started to take shape as a book of its own in 2009. It's taken me another three years to get round to condensing everything that I have learned in that time into a format that I felt a reader could pick up and use.

Something that really bothers me about a lot of business books is that they're advertised as 'how to' books, but in reality, they are most definitely 'what to' books. The 'how' is left, frustratingly, for the reader to figure out.

For example, Malcolm Gladwell has achieved some popularity in recent times for his books which include The Tipping Point. In it, he gives lots of interesting examples of how brands reach critical mass. But how do you get your brand to critical mass? No idea.

So it was very important to me that in writing Genius at Work, I covered not only the principles of the modelling process but also the practice, including everything from instructional design to implementation.

Dale Carnegie's well known book, 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' is a role model for this; easy to read, interesting, engaging and very, very practical.

Am I saying that Genius at Work is on a par with How to Win Friends?

Of course not - they are totally different books with different purposes.

What I'm going to do with this blog over the coming days, weeks, months and years, is share models of Genius at Work. When I figure out something interesting about customer service, or sales, or creative design, or communication, or behaviour management, using the Genius at Work methodology, I'll post the results here for you to read and apply for yourself.

So I suppose that this blog, as it evolves, will be a repository of best practice.

And of course, I welcome your comments and contributions too.