Keith De Souza from The Breakfast Club segment on 938NOW Your Morning Fix, interviews Kenneth Kwan on
- Whether training is still relevant in the digital age and how to ensure that it does not get wasted.
- How do you take your small steps to achieve personal and work goals
- How to handle people who are resistant and angry with each other.
- When is it time for a leader to leave an organisation?
- How to ensure people actually apply what they have learnt after a training program.
Transcript of the radio interview
|Interviewer:||We have a friend joining us in the studio, Kenneth Kwan, the man behind Deep Impact. He is also the author of “Small Steps To Big Changes”. We’re examining the status of the training industry in this day and age.
Kenneth, welcome into the program and it’s been a while.
|Interviewer:||Let’s talk about training in this day and age. Are employers still actively perhaps employing this route to get their employees fired up?|
|Kenneth:||Well, training is definitely still the way to go. Companies still see the ROI in training. But I guess right now people are getting sophisticated. The way training is delivered is changing as well. A lot of companies are going digital to save cost and at the same time, is creating a lot of implications to the way people learn.|
|Interviewer:||So in this day and age, in this age of digitalization, does training work? And motivating people because I’m worried that my rice bowl is not going to be there. So why am I training?|
|Kenneth:||That [question] is important but I think a lot of companies out there when they trained, they are not as targeted what should be the outcome.|
|Kenneth:||An example would be the training managers, they are usually interested in a learning outcome. And that is important but if you think about it, business leaders are interested in a business outcome.|
|Interviewer:||Indeed, I need a return of my investment. Is it perhaps, plausible and even (if) I go for this particular training course and expect my employees to perform the very next day?|
|Kenneth:||We should be able to see some signs of improvement. Of course it takes time to change certain behaviours. When you conduct training, there are usually three components we look at: Attitude, Skills and Knowledge. A good training program will address all these three areas. The question is how do we marry the training and leading it to a business outcome? And that is important.|
|Kenneth:||Because if it does not lead to a business outcome, the training then becomes a “good-to-have”. Something that is useful, but I don’t really know whether I should let my people go for this. So to a lot of Business Leaders, they are not convinced that it is going to solve their business problems. The training manager needs see it in a different way, to move beyond the training outcomes and how does it really affect a business outcome?|
|Interviewer:||Right. And in this day and age, again with the digitalisation, who is more prone, if I may use the term, towards training or the training industry? The large organizations – we are still under the perception that they have deep pockets. For the small companies, nipping at their means “I don’t have the means to train my employees” and specifically what am I training them for? And as a trainer, what are we training for: is it a specific industry or is it an attitude or is it perhaps, a deeper knowledge of industry that I’m in?|
|Kenneth:||So it goes back to, so if you ask me, I think everything revolves around a business outcome.|
|Kenneth:||Everything. If you want people to be skilled in doing something, there has to be a whole thought process behind it. Then the question, why do you want them to be skilled in something? It has to lead to an outcome. So everything we do has to be objective, it’s not just a training for training’s sake.|
|Kenneth:||So it moves back to the original intent: what will this training lead to? So to a lot of companies, when they send their people for training, I joked that they have a “hope” strategy when it comes to application. That means that they hope that their people apply what they have learnt.|
|Kenneth:||And we all know the majority of people don’t actively apply what they have learnt, even though they have enjoyed the training program or they found it useful. The tough part is when they go back to work environment, they are so busy with doing a millions of things at the same time that they can’t apply it clearly. So for most companies, they hope that their people apply it. And we know hope is not a strategy. Hope is just hope.|
|Interviewer:||So when we look at the intent of the training. When they engage a trainer or put up a training, are they doing as a nice-to-have, or is there a specific… again we come back to this idea of a specific intent and give us an example of a specific intent.|
|Kenneth:||Ok, so like for example just 3 weeks ago I was in Malaysia, working with a factory, in in Penang. There were some issues over there. And we were focusing on issues around how do you reduce attrition, increase productivity and have better leadership conversations. They have identified these three areas that they want to focus on because they know that they have to hit certain targets and they have a certain backlog (of production orders) that they want to clear as well. So these are very specific things that they want, if they don’t do this well, it’s gonna affect their whole business performance.|
And they have so much tremendous pressure from the HQ breathing down on them. So when training revolves around a very specific outcome, it becomes very targeted.
The Boss, all of a sudden, sees it as “Ok we need to do this now, because if we don’t do it now, it’s gonna affect us.” Compared to another program which you get to learn so many different things. If the Business Leader is not convinced that this program is not gonna solve his or her problem, it is just a “good-to-have”. And his guys will always be busy, it’s gonna take a lot from him to release his guys for training.
|Interviewer:||Let’s say I’m managing a sales force in this digital age, where lots of things can be done over online as you’ve said. What would… and I need to motivate this people, how is there even a need in this day and age?|
|Kenneth:||A need to?|
|Interviewer:||Motivate them, get them geared up, to get them know if I’m in customer service perhaps, I should know the product?|
|Kenneth:||Motivation is something that has to be done everyday. It’s not a one-off thing, I mean, if you think about even the things that we want in our own life, we have to keep it in front of us. We have to be excited about something. So a lot of leaders think that this is just a one-off thing or I just do it periodically. They have to think whether the conversations that they have with their people: Is it motivational in nature? Does it help them to move forward? So that’s why I share all these in my book “Small Steps To Big Changes”.|
|Kenneth:||How do you create motivation? We can do this when we talk about a desired future that everybody and the organisation is happy with. Get them to be excited about the future that we are all looking towards. And when we start to describe more about that future, people get excited, they look at what things should be, rather than what is now not.|
|Kenneth:||And they start thinking about what that better future is, and they start coming up with clearer details about that better future and that leads to more motivation.|
|Interviewer:||In this day and age, does the rule and the title of your book “Small Steps To Big Changes” still apply? Because things seemed to be turning 180 degrees almost overnight. If I don’t take that big step, what do I do?|
|Kenneth:||Ok, so let’s assume that big steps is the way to go. But if you think about it in life, how many of us have actually created or made New Year’s resolutions?|
|Kenneth:||I’m sure a lot of people have. But of many of them actually achieve it? I can only count, you see, less than a handful in the audience.|
|Kenneth:||The question is why most people aren’t able to achieve their dreams? Or such big resolutions? It’s because it’s too big, it’s massive.|
|Interviewer:||So let’s talk about this disconnect then. There’s the workforce and then there is management. Is there a real disconnect in this day, in certain industries.|
|Kenneth:||I know because I’ve been working with hundreds of MNCs-|
|Interviewer:||Yes, right, right.|
|Kenneth:||… and government clients. And we all know that management is usually very aggressive. They set big targets. They have everything big. It’s all big.|
|Kenneth:||Let’s increase this growth by double digits-|
|Interviewer:||And you do it!|
|Kenneth:||…make it happen. CEO says “I’m the visionary guy, you guys go and make it happen.” It only appeals to probably the top 2% who are leaders, who are go-getters. But the rest of the 98% cringe and say “Oh my goodness”|
|Kenneth:||I always joke with my participants that the leader’s inspiration is the people’s perspiration. You know, and someone has to make it work.
I’m not against big targets. Because big is sometimes necessary.
|Interviewer:||To is able to achieve anything big, it requires a series of small steps. So when we focus the conversations around “Ok, team you know this is the big target we are moving towards. What do you think is something that we need to do right now to just move the score n+1? One level up on the scale? And when we get people to talk about it, all of a sudden, they make something that is very big, airy fairy… They turn it down into very small concrete steps that they can take immediately.|
|Kenneth:||Within a month and then they start acting on what needs to happen to move the score up. Or just to increase the level of performance. Or that particular area that they are looking at.|
|Interviewer:||And how are we going to do that? We’ll take that small step when The Breakfast Club continues after an update of what’s happening in the world and on the road. Stay with us.|
|Kenneth Kwan, author of “Small Steps To Big Changes”. He is also a motivational speaker; an extraordinaire. Thousands of companies have used his services. We’re gonna find out, tap his acumen and how we can up our game. At least take that first small step.
Stay right here. We’ll be right back in just a moment. Stay with us.
|Interviewer:||Gonna tap his acumen this morning on The Breakfast Club, how to make that first small step, or take that first small step, into enabling a big change. Kenneth, welcome back into the program. So how do you take that small step and what should it be?|
|Kenneth:||Okay, I want to iterate that small steps are really important-|
|Kenneth:||.. as opposed to big steps. Because you know, with anything that’s too big, massive, people sometimes tend to procrastinate, they tend to be afraid of what’s in front and sometimes just don’t do it.
So when you focus on anything that’s small, specific, it makes anything that’s ambiguous into a solid, concrete action. So when I work with teams of people and when we talk about a business goal they want to achieve, or business outcome, we always focus on what’s the next thing that must happen right now to move one step closer to that direction. When you talk in terms of that type of language, all of a sudden, somebody comes up with many interesting ideas.
|Kenneth:||I always believe that the frontline staff are able to determine what are the small steps forward. It may not be always the leader, because the leader sometimes just doesn’t know enough of what’s happening on the ground. If it’s anything too big, the people will always tend to say, “Okay, we will just wait for the leader to decide,” and therefore there’s no ownership on their part as well.|
|Interviewer:||Since we are talking about the issues of leaders, there’s a recent commentary in Channel News Asia, on the digital space, on to perhaps … Senior leaders are staying in place for too long, like punch drunk fighters, willing to take that punch. Addicted to taking the punches.|
|Interviewer:||When should it be time for them to go? Should they be ushered out, given that golden handshake, or do they have to make the decision on their own? And, on the flip side, here in Asia lots of companies are family-owned businesses and the patriarch’s not gonna leave any time soon.|
|Kenneth:||Well, if it’s run by their own people, and the board members are their own people, then it’s tough to see any change. But in a big company like an MNC, where the boards are diverse, and they come from different places, I think they have a bigger say, and it’s back to whether they feel this leader is the person that’s gonna carry on. Is this leader still excited about the mission?|
|Interviewer:||Is there a tenure that some of these companies put on the upper echelons of management?|
|Kenneth:||I don’t think there’s a specific tenure, it always goes back to performance. But performance is also something that we need to look at it from a long term point of view.|
|Kenneth:||The tough part is a lot of companies right now, especially the bigger ones, they always measured in quarterly performances. Well, that is useful but that might not always be good, because a lot of leaders can go into short-term gains. Just to earn a lot of money within a short-term, or just find some ways to do as much as they can, but they may not be thinking too long (term). It would we need to have a good leader to basically balance it off, maintaining short-term profits, at the same time having a vision for a long-term. We’re talking a five, ten-year horizon.|
|Interviewer:||Have you engaged the senior management in their training processes, in their thought processes as well? And is there a common ground that you can reach?|
|Kenneth:||When I work with senior leadership teams, we always focus on what’s possible, what is the future that we want to create. The way I make it exciting is to help them look at what’s possible, and I always remove the current operational problems that plague them. We explore into the future what’s different, what’s better, the supposed things are working well for us and we no longer have all these issues that hold us back, and we are doing things that our clients love us. What would our community notice about the company is different, or even a colleague who is happy to be part of this. We get into articulate in clarity what is exactly different in this perfect future. Once we get the clear details of what the future is gonna be like, we start plotting all the small steps forward.|
|Interviewer:||So the first small step would be what? Change from within the individual, or from within the organization?|
|Kenneth:||Yeah, and it takes place in many different forms. In fact, we look at the team’s performance, we look at … Every leader knows what needs to be changed, and they know what are the things to do right now. If they are very honest with themselves, they start saying, “Hey, you know we’ve been trying this strategy for the past one and a half years, and it’s not working as well as it should. Probably there’s something that we need to do differently, rather than keep driving the same old things.|
|Kenneth:||For every leader, when we talk to them, there will be different ideas.. some of them might say “Maybe the way I talk to my people has to change”. Maybe “we’re always focusing on problems, focusing on what holds us back. Perhaps we should have more conversations around what enables success? What are the levers that drive success. Because if you have these more of this type of conversations, people tend to be more optimistic rather than negative.|
|Interviewer:||Can this strategy, this first small step, be replicated in other business units within the company, and perhaps in other organizations?|
|Kenneth:||A lot, a lot. And I’ve been working with almost thousands of teams and in 12 different countries, and we realized that everyone wants to be better in their lives. They don’t want to be worse off, they want to solve problems, they want to be able to see what’s holding them back is no longer the case. They want to be able to advance.
If you can accept that about people, then maybe it’s just a matter of strategy rather than saying, “Oh, these are guys are lazy. We need to push them very hard.” Maybe our perspective of the people needs to change and see that we need to adopt a perspective where we believe they’re creative, we believe that they can solve problems, and we just need to find the right strategy to engage them.
|Interviewer:||Is it harder in this dispersed office environment that we find ourself in these days, given the fact that people work not in the office, but they’re mobile, they’re at 101 locations on a different basis every day, sometimes in a different country. Can this, like I say, this dispersed organizational structure, can what you just said be put into place?|
|Kenneth:||Oh definitely, definitely. Although they can be dispersed, but they can still go on calls together. I’ve been interacting with a lot of clients over Webex, over the Internet, going on calls. Of course there’s a time for personal check-ins, face-to-face meeting but, in a very dispersed environment, especially when you’re talking about people in multicultural-|
|Kenneth:||… many different countries, or even virtual teams, I guess the calls or the video conferences are important as well.|
|Interviewer:||In your profession, have you had to chair a training session with a very acrimonious team?|
|Kenneth:||Acrimonious? What do you mean?|
|Interviewer:||Well, they don’t get along, they’re fighting and basically you’re dealing with a riot.|
|Kenneth:||I have, I have, I have. There was this particular client, it was for insurance client, we’ll not say any names, but-|
|Kenneth:||.. but when I was in there, there were five groups of people, five different directors, they were very unhappy with each other. There were a lot of issues, but they were not being up front with each other, you know? In fact, when I did the pre-program interview with them, they were saying that the only way to solve the problem-|
|Interviewer:||Is to get rid of X, Y and Z.|
|Kenneth:||Yeah, is to get rid of this director. And once this director goes, that’s it, problem will be solved. Once I interviewed all the different five directors, they were saying that A must go, and the other guy would say, B must go, and C said A and B must go, everybody was pointing fingers at each other. And imagine when the training happened. You can see I had the most cold group, five directors-|
|Interviewer:||Not speaking to each other.|
|Kenneth:||And everybody’s silent, and in their minds they were saying, “Hey Ken, can we just –|
|Interviewer:||Get on with it.|
|Kenneth:||… get on with the program. I don’t think you’re gonna achieve much, but I will just pay you the money.” But of course, my professional reputation is at stake. Rather than start off asking why is this happening, we started looking at what do they really want in the midst of all these things that they don’t want. We started having conversations, so I asked them, “So, suppose if today was a very useful day for you if you felt this day was worth your time, and money, and energy, what needs to happen for you to feel that this time is worthwhile for you?” And there was silence. Pure silence.|
|Kenneth:||And after that one guys said, “You know, since we are already here, if we can just talk about ways to enable our guys to sell better, I think that will be worthwhile.” “Okay, good, what else?” And then another guy stood up and said, “Well, you know, every new guy that comes into the organization, usually the first two years as an insurance advisor is not easy. If they can survive the first two years, I think they will be in the business for long. So I think we need to spend time to grow them, and find a process of how they can succeed within these two years.” “Okay, good. If we find out that, would that be useful for you?” He said, “Yes.” “Okay, good. What else is important?”|
|Kenneth:||So they think about recruitment strategies, how can we grow our team, and so on and so forth. And, after a while, when they started listing down all these, I asked them, “If we would do all these things that you wanted, how would that be beneficial to you? What would it mean to you?” They start saying that, “Wow, all of a sudden we can see the results that we want, and we can see that we are able to achieve our business objectives, people are happier,” and we spend the whole day after that focusing on what needs to happen, rather than all the things that they had been unhappy about.|
|Kenneth:||So sometimes I realize by dealing with issues and problems, we don’t talk about them directly, we find out what we call the wish behind the complaint. Three’s always a wish, a desire behind every complaint. When we focus on a desire, all of a sudden things change. People are happier when they talk about what is necessary to make things happen rather than what didn’t happen.|
|Interviewer:||You know, we started this program asking why training courses failed, have you come away from an unsuccessful training stint?|
|Kenneth:||Of course, many. I mean, I’ve personally attended training programs that are just downright boring.|
|Kenneth:||And in my earlier days delivering training solutions, I realized that are also a lot of problems where it didn’t get the outcome that I wanted in my earlier days. For example, a lot of people will, when some of the participants came into the training program they would just say, “Frankly, I have no idea why I’m here. My boss send me here and I know I’m two days away from work and I’m gonna enjoy myself. And I’m just gonna cruise along-|
|Interviewer:||And have the buffet.|
|Kenneth:||… and Kenneth, can you just end the program by 3pm?”
As a trainer, it’s our job to create a brilliant training experience, but I asked how do we get people involved? Some people are there as tourists to enjoy themselves, some are there as a captive audience, our prisoners for two days, some of them are there to really improve something.
|Kenneth:||So I realized if we get the leaders on board way before the training program happens, and get the leaders to brief the people, you know, “We are facing some business challenges right now, and we feel it is important that you are … We have identified the problem and a few of you are going to solve it, so we’re gonna form a group. And you guys, I expect that when you go for this training program you’re gonna learn everything and you’re gonna solve these business issues after the program.”|
|Kenneth:||And all of a sudden these guys, when they go for training, they wake up, they pay attention. They now realize that, “Okay, this training is so important because it’s gonna solve a problem after that.” And they get serious. If you don’t have this pre-training conversations with the staff, if the boss does not have it with the staff, the results are just not as good.|
|Interviewer:||You’re on national radio, you have the platform, Kenneth. If you could address leaders of organizations, and of perhaps their employees, what would you tell them when implementing a training program. Perhaps you could encapsulate it for us.|
|Kenneth:||Okay, Number one, brief your people on the expectations of a program, and help them to see how it will lead to a business results.
Number two, tell them to participate full-on, really full-on in everything. And, after the training program, talk about application, have face-to-face meetings with your guys and ask them, “Okay, something that you’ve learned and that can be applied to our business environment right now.” Then monitor that process, get them to do projects and when people start doing projects, and report to their big boss on what they have done, all of a sudden you can see that business results will definitely happen.
|Interviewer:||We’re gonna have to end it there. Kenneth Kwan, the man behind, well the author of Small Steps To Big Changes. We hope we’ve encouraged you to take that small step towards that big change. Kenneth, come back any time should you need to. If you want, the title of that book, it is “Small Steps To Big Changes“.
If you Google it you will, I guess, be able to find out where you can get it. I guess it’s all at major book stores in Singapore, “Small Steps To Big Changes“.
|Interviewer:||Kenneth Kwan, thank you so much for making in, and you’ve been listening Your Morning Fix, right here on 938Now. This is The Breakfast Club.|
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