During the past 40 years, I’ve studied every aspect of golf. I know every rule. I know what makes the great players great. I can watch Dustin Johnson and catch the little hitch at the top of his swing that causes the ball to hook left. I know each player’s ranking in the FedEx Cup.
To talk to me about golf, you’d think I graduated from the University of Florida on a golf scholarship. But I am not a golfer. I’ve never so much as picked up a club in my life. This is a perfect example of the “knowing-doing chasm.”
So, if I wanted to truly be a great golfer what would I need to do? First, I’d have to dust off that set of clubs my husband bought me for Christmas 15 years ago and head to the driving range. I’d have to hire a professional golf coach who could show me how to actually hold a club (I know where my fingers should go, but I’m quite certain I wouldn’t DO it quite right), watch me hit a few thousand balls and provide me with the proper instruction to make sure I didn’t form any bad habits. And then I’d need to repeat this a few million times so that maybe, just maybe, I would become a great golfer.
The same thing is true for any skill. I can know how to sell or serve a customer, how to open a call and the difference between open- and closed-ended questions. I can know that when a customer throws me an objection, I should ask a question to better understand the concern instead of just firing off rebuttals. So, why do most organizations just send their sales and service associates through training and expect them to actually DO something different afterwards?
If you want to achieve behavior change in your organization, you must think of developing your people as a process, not a box that must be checked. First, create an environment where ongoing development is expected. Provide training that offers learners an opportunity to practice the skills in a safe environment. Next, hold them accountable to go out and practice the skills in a live customer environment, preferably with a coach nearby to observe, provide feedback and perhaps even step in if disaster strikes. And finally, both the coach and the associate need to repeat this process 10,000 times. Then, and only then, will your people have crossed the “knowing-doing chasm” to be become masters at the new skill.