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Learn, Practice, Repeat

durp

I was at lunch yesterday with a friend to celebrate his recent promotion. He’s a professor. Shortly after we toasted his success, he said that he was moving to Seattle for the year because his college/employer was sending him on a one-year sabbatical: to learn from what others are doing and to practice what he is teaching.

Can you imagine getting a promotion and then being told to leave the office for the year — PAID — on a professional exploration of learning and practice? As the CEO of a fast growing start-up, I know how hard it is to leave the day-to-day for even 5 minutes to reflect, learn, or practice. But I also know that once I commit to practice, I’m getting better. This was never more apparent than my rebrand announcement where I literally practiced the video 25+ times.

All too often, we simply REPEAT; we don’t see any changes but we don’t do anything about it because we are creatures of habit. All too often, we just show up and feel that we have done our part, but is that enough? We are satisfied with the way it is, when we know we can be better.

A leader — someone who is recognized for initiative, insightfulness, trust, and passion — wants to grow, learn and practice. You don’t have to be the CEO of your company to approach work and life like this — you may be the coach for your kids’ soccer team, the organizer for a volunteer event, or the person at your company who wants to make a change. In all cases, if you simply repeat what was, the results will never change. Add learning, openness, and practice to the mix, and then your commitment to repetition will take you places you’ve never been before.

A recent Forbes article stated, “The problem is that many leaders don’t conceive of behavioral leadership as a skill set to be developed the way their technical skills were once developed.” This article focuses on leadership capabilities and suggests that even at the very highest levels of the organization, leaders who practice win.

You can only get better when you dedicate yourself to learning, trying, and practicing. There is no downside to this. But the alternative surely comes with a cost. At Rehearsal, we see this every day. We have proof that practice works and that it results in financial, professional, and personal wins.

Become great.

Rehearsal Presents at Germany’s LEARNTEC

learn-tec-conf

Rehearsal recently presented for a large global audience at the LEARNTEC conference at Karlsruhe Trade Fair Centre in Karlsruhe, Germany. The conference was keynoted by learning guru, Elliott Masie, and attended by more than 7,000 participants and 240 exhibitors. Rehearsal had the opportunity to discuss how its technology is pushing learning and coaching to new levels.

Take a look at the presentation and contact Rehearsal to learn more about how you can use its virtual practice platform to increase performance.

I Need My Training “Franchise-Style”

At its core, franchising is about brand value. Brand value flows from the franchisor to the franchisees and then to the customers. So how do you teach brand value? And when your company growth depends (at least partly) on an increase in the number of franchisees, how can you effectively and efficiently teach brand value to multiple general managers and franchisee teams distributed throughout the world?

The most famous franchises in the world boast that training is the key element to ensure brand value and consistency among their franchisees. In franchising, training should be continuous; Classroom training is not viable due to costs and disruptions in day-to-day scheduling and operations. Many franchises are using mobile training to get their franchisee teams up to speed. But, even with mobile and ondemand training, how will you know when your franchisees are ready? How will you know that they can deliver the level of service, passion and commitment that your brand requires?

Rehearsal has solved that problem for a number of its franchised customers. Rehearsal’s mobile-friendly video based practice platform allows for franchisees afar to bring their messages right to the home office. Through a video conversation thread, corporate employees can serve as mentors or coaches and give feedback to the franchisees until everyone is comfortable with the level of performance.

With Rehearsal, companies can ensure that brand value is preserved right from the start and continuously as the franchise builds. If metrics indicate that a franchisee is underperforming, the Rehearsal platform allows for employees to practice toward improvement. Further, the Rehearsal Leaderboard stores videos that have been graded highly and those videos can be shared across franchisees as learning resources.

If your company’s success depends on the perceived value of its brand, training is not enough. Your franchisees need to practice and perform until every location is on message.

Train the Trainer Use Case

“We could have gone with another provider, but the Rehearsal Team went the extra mile to give us everything we needed. That’s how we work and we want to work with partners who are willing to do the same.”

training-with-whiteboard

The Challenge

This global learning company trains 100+ associates each year to deliver a signature training program for the company. The signature program reveals individual thinking and behavioral preferences through experiential and interactive learning. As part of the associate training process, each must be reviewed by seasoned coaches to ensure understanding of the content and ability to identify thinking patterns and behaviors of the students in the class. The content in these workshops is personal and can be sensitive so the company must ensure that its trainers are ready and able to do the job accurately and consistently.

Prior to implementing Rehearsal, associate reviews were done in person and through videos sent on flash drives; however, with a growing team and limited resources, the company was forced to find a more scalable solution.

The Solution

After learning about Rehearsal’s technology, the company bypassed a pilot program and went directly into implementation. A group of associates began their training experience using the Rehearsal platform. They were provided with instruction to learn the content of the workshop and then asked to use Rehearsal’s technology to record their best delivery. The response to the technology was very positive.

The Results

Since June 2015, hundreds of associates from North America have used the Rehearsal platform to practice and showcase their training abilities. The coaches find it much easier to pinpoint where feedback is necessary which helps the associates to more quickly improve and get in front of the students for live workshops. Travel needs have been reduced and trainers find the process far more efficient.

Based on the results, the company has now implemented Rehearsal internationally.

A Sales Team Use Case

 

image-for-sales-use-case

“A knowledge test is one thing but being able to see people use knowledge and assess what they actually do…that is much more powerful and that’s what Rehearsal allows us to do.”

The Challenge

A major online retailer was looking for effective ways to onboard new associate account executives to its sales team. Its recruiting program is highly selective and only chooses new hires from the best colleges and universities in the U.S. While the recruiting process ensured that these new graduates had the intellect and desire to handle the job, the company had to find a way to train the new hires to master key objectives and handle any customer objections with confidence at any point throughout the sales process.

The Solution

The online retailer built the Rehearsal platform into its launch plans for a cohort of new hires who were fresh out of college. The new hires were trained on a product and then asked to record their “pitch” for that product using the Rehearsal platform. The pitch had to be no more than two minutes in length and needed to address the benefits of the product and why the product would make a difference for the customer. Their “pitch” was then replied to by a role play of a customer objecting to the pitch. From there, the new hire would have to use what was learned in the sales training program to respond with a remedy for that objection. In all, each new hire was responsible to complete 12 role plays — each addressing a different objection. All role plays were graded against a standard set of criteria and by a group of sales managers and executives.

The Results

The company evaluated the Rehearsal platform based on three areas: user experience, engagement, and “lift” in performance. The students described the user experience as supportive of their busy lifestyles as it allowed them to train anytime, anywhere. Each student was asked to complete 12 role play scenarios — all students completed all 12 scenarios. As for “lift”, by watching the students’ performance videos, they could see where the group struggled and were able to quickly adapt training materials to make immediate adjustments in performance.

The company is now broadening this program to the North American Sales force of approximately 200 employees. The Rehearsal platform will be integrated into the onboarding plan for new salespeople and become part of the accreditation process for existing salespeople. Going forward, a salesperson will receive a certificate of completion that not only shows the student attended a training session but that there exists proof that the student knows now to apply what was learned and to a standard that the company expects.

How many times did Colonel Sanders try to sell his fried chicken recipe?

how-many-times-should-your-try-infographic-animated

We found this. We love this. Here’s why. We run a company based on practice. Every time we give a demo or discuss our technology with a new client, we are asked: “On average, how many times does someone record a response before they submit a final version?” We can tell you that answer: It’s 6.

But the beauty is not in that number. The beauty lives in what happens next: trying again. The Rehearsal technology works to combine practice with coaching. The process should be cyclical and should be evaluated either by reaching an expected level of performance (as deemed by the organization or manager) or by seeing continuous improvement. Maybe you have defined specific outcomes for yourself that will indicate that you made. Sly Stallone wasn’t going to stop trying until his Rocky script was sold with him as the main character. It took 1500 tries!

Maybe you are trying to get through a presentation without speaking too quickly or without ever saying “um”. It may take 6 times. It may take 100. But with Rehearsal, you’ll know when you’ve made it and you’ll have the documentation to prove that you’ve done it and the confidence to know you can do it again.

Maybe you are trying to make a big sale. When it’s a big deal, do you stop with the very first “No”? Of course not. But you certainly don’t go back again with the same approach, pitch, or message. You create a new one and you practice it. It may take 6 times. It may take 100. But when you finally get the sale, you’ll know exactly what you looked like and how it sounded because with Rehearsal you’ll have it documented. And better yet, you can share what worked with others on your team. Or show your manager exactly how it happened. If the founder of Pandora.com stopped at the 299th try, you may never have had the chance to listen to Michael Jackson all the time, every day, and on every device you own.

Practice matters. All the good ones do it. How many times will you try?

Your Harshest Critic May be You…So Get Over Yourself!

Written by Darik Volpa

I saw this article in HRB so I assumed it was credible and timely but what I found is that it is incredible and timeless. In a group of 10 people, maybe half will say they never want to speak in a public arena, two or three may say they are ok with it if they have to do it, and the remaining are your budding thespians who get on the stage and in front of a mic whenever they can. But here’s what I find incredible….you are still afraid of what you’d look like or sound like or say once you walk up to address the mic?

I get fear of the lights shining on you; fear of tripping up the stairs or on the carpet as you walk into the presentation room; fear of a bad AV connection — those are random occurrences and you’ll have to deal with them at some point. But you know what shouldn’t be random? 

YOU!

In the generation of #selfies, do you really not know what you look like? And I mean doing everything…I have seen what Gwen Stefani looks like when she wakes up in the morning and even President Obama was caught practicing his smile and his wink, “Things Everybody does but Doesn’t Talk About”.

So to many the fear is, like Teddy and his successors have said as recently as at last night’s DNC Convention #HRC, fear itself. You no longer have to fear how you’ll “show up” in the arena. You don’t have to worry about mumbling, misconstruing words, missing the message, or licking your lips 50K times in a 30-minute presentation. Why? Because you have technology that will handle that. Specifically, you have practice technology called Rehearsal.

Whether your anxiety shows up when you have to speak in front of tens of thousands, present to a group of co-workers, or meet with a new prospect, you don’t have to fear anything because you can practice EVERYTHING. Fear is what you make it and only you can let it grow and take over. Or you can take control of it. Put yourself in the hot seat — no one needs to be watching — you are your harshest critic after all…so get over yourself. Let Rehearsal help you to show the world who you really are. 

Go forward my fearless friends.

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur. He’s started two successful software companies including Understand.com and Rehearsal VRP. Prior to this, Darik had a successful 10-year career at Stryker Corporation in various sales and marketing roles.

Virtual -vs- Visual: Don’t Wait For It

Written by Darik Volpa

VR

My favorite paragraph from a recent article in HuffPo:

“As companies constantly look to get ahead in terms of productivity and operational effectiveness, there is an outstanding need for ingenuity. Using VR as a mental rehearsal tool is not one that is still widely known. Becoming the first to use it could result in great success. Those who don’t innovate tend to fall behind. As we obsess about workplace performance, increasing it through this unique tactic could be the step in the right direction.”

Awane Jones, partner at Merchlar and thought leader in digital marketing and author of “How VR Can Help Executives Rehearse For Big Moments”, is right about a few things:

  • First movers tend to gain the greatest reward.
  • Those companies that don’t innovate tend to fall behind.
  • Virtual reality is not widely known.

So I ask you: What is widely known? What is available to let you rehearse for that workplace performance we demand of our employees and of ourselves? It’s Rehearsal. And the first movers are gaining the greatest reward. And those companies that are not practicing with visual recognition, creating “hotseat” environments for practicing workplace behaviors, and giving constructive and managed feedback – are falling behind.

You don’t have to go very far to see the evidence:

  • Allstate
  • Amazon
  • Verizon
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Abbvie

Some of the world’s largest companies are turning webcams on their own employees — not to see what they are doing wrong but instead to help them make it right…make it better.

If swimmer Michael Phelps gained a competitive edge by visualizing every aspect of his race, what can your employees gain by seeing themselves present, practicing how they may answer a tough prospect question, or by finding a new angle to an old challenge because they had the chance to see someone else do it differently?

If a virtual-reality trained surgical resident performs gall bladder surgery more accurately and 29% faster by seeing what he or she does and improving upon that work, why wouldn’t your employee sell faster, find ways to be more profitable, or create new solutions for old problems, if he just had the opportunity to see himself?

You don’t need to wait for virtual reality technology. That is an excuse. We have what you need to see exactly what you are doing. Get better now. No excuses. 

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur. He’s started two successful software companies including Understand.com and Rehearsal VRP. Prior to this, Darik had a successful 10-year career at Stryker Corporation in various sales and marketing roles.

Five Tips from Kouzes and Posner. We Couldn’t Agree More.

An excerpt from “For Leadership, Like Everything Else, Practice Makes Perfect” by Roger Trapp, Forbes

We couldn’t agree more with the five fundamental principles that sit at the heart of Kouzes and Posner’s approach to leadership. We hope you take some time to read these and when you are ready to put them into action, we’re here to help:

  1. Believe In Yourself. Kouzes and Posner stress the importance of having a strong belief in your capabilities and a mindset that leadership can be learned. This is not to be confused with arrogance or being convinced they know it all. Indeed, Kouzes and Posner  are adamant that “the best leaders are the best learners.” These leaders believe that they are capable of learning and developing throughout their lives and so continuous learning becomes a way of life for them.
  1. Aspire To Be Great. This is related to the first fundamental in that the authors assert that leaders need to know who they are and what is important to them. “You can’t lead others if you don’t know yourself,” they say. Aspiring to be great also – obviously – requires being concerned about the future and realizing that “who you are today is not who you will be in the future, and the same is true for your constituents.” At the same time, leaders need to acknowledge that this is not just about the leader’s personal aspirations. “Leadership requires you to know and appreciate your constituents,” say Kouzes and Posner.
  1. Challenge Yourself To Grow. Would-be leaders need to take the initiative in their own development. Although there will inevitably by setbacks and failures, “grit, courage, and resilience” will enable individuals to overcome them and persist in learning and becoming the best they can be.
  1. Engage The Support Of Others. Everybody who achieves excellence receives support and coaching along the way. And leaders are no different. They need the advice, care and support of others. For this reason, a key part of learning leadership is making connections in a network of resources. Leaders also need honest feedback on how they are progressing or growing and on what still needs to be done.
  1. Practice Deliberately. Kouzes and Posner’s final fundamental stresses that it is not enough just to be a leader. “You have to spend time practicing the skills.” This involves setting goals, participating in activities designed to enhance performance, seeking feedback and receiving feedback. “You also have to put in the time every day and make learning leadership a daily habit,” write Kouzes and Posner.

Practice (Rehearsal) Makes Perfect

Written by Larry Israelite

Like most people of a certain age, handwriting was a major focus of my early childhood education. It was not, to say the least, one of my strengths.  My teachers were persistent, reminding me on an almost daily basis, that practice makes perfect. If I kept at it – if I practiced more – my handwriting would continually improve.   

As it turned out, this may have been the example that proved the rule (I am, still, barely able to sign my name). But the concept of practice was ubiquitous when I grew up. I recited my spelling words out loud, letter by letter, completed multiplication worksheets until my fingers (and mind) ached and recited, repeatedly, the state capitals. I also went to baseball practice, practiced my trumpet (perhaps another bad example) and attended play rehearsal. While many of these activities continue to occupy the time of our youth, the most compelling contemporary example may be gaming, on which our children (and some of our friends, I expect) spend countless hours perfecting their techniques and increasing their point totals.  

Certainly, throughout elementary and high school, and even in college, there was an expectation that we would practice frequently, an explicit understanding that our skills will improve as a direct result, and feelings of guilt, inadequacy and remorse if we weren’t able to find the time to practice or, as in my earlier examples, practice didn’t yield the expected results. It was just how things were. And we accepted it.  

This steadfast belief in practice wasn’t created by psychologists or learning theorists, such as Skinner, Gagne’, Piaget or Maslow and wasn’t the result of the rigorous scientific research they and others conducted. At best, they simply confirmed something that we have known since the middle 1500’s, when the phrase ‘use makes perfect’ was first used – the more we do something the better at it we get, especially when there is an expert around to give us guidance and feedback.

In the work place, things are a little different. Our ability to practice is, at the very best, limited, and subject to the good will of our managers and the kindness of colleagues, coaches and mentors. For technical skills, training continues to offer safe opportunities to practice and learn. That used to be the case for skills that involve human interaction – so called ‘soft skills.’  Multi-day training programs, during which we had the opportunity to practice new skills, were commonplace. Now they are less so.

Today, classroom programs are shorter, if they are available at all and, and they are heavy on content and light on practice. A substantial amount of corporate training is delivered over the web. And while web-based programs can be incredibly creative and engaging, skill practice predominantly involves demonstrating that we know what to do or say in specific situations or that we recognize the right behavior when we see it demonstrated by others.  They rarely, if ever, include activities that require us to demonstrate that we can actually do something. And for work tasks that require us to engage with others, that kind of practice is absolutely critical.

The good news is that there is a solution. There are several trends that make possible the addition of the missing link in web-based training – meaningful practice for skills that, simply put, require us to speak to and engage with others.  To be specific, there now is:

  • A camera in virtually every device we use – phones, tablets and laptops
  • Universally available high speed internet
  • Inexpensive cloud storage for video files
  • General comfort with the creation of personal videos that can be viewed by others (and yes, this even extends to many boomers, generational stereotypes notwithstanding).
  • General acceptance that providing and receiving feedback electronically is a viable alternative to face-to-face discussions and communication.

As a result, technology platforms exist that allows us to learn new interactive skills through traditional eLearning and then practice applying those skills in a way that fully replicates what used to happen in the classroom. One such system is Rehearsal (www.rehearsal.com). Imagine the following:

  • We engage in a learning activity, which could comprise completing an eLearning module or simply reviewing a written process or task list. We then read a description of, or view a short video that describes, a scenario which requires a verbal response. We also might see a short video of an expert performing the same skill we are about to practice.  
  • Using Rehearsal, we practice what we have learned by recording an appropriate response to the scenario. We review the video and then either record it again (and again) until we are satisfied with our work.
  • The video is delivered to a coach (a manager, a mentor, a peer) who reviews, evaluates and comments on our videos. The coach then approves the video or suggests a re-do.
  • We review the coach’s comments and then either record a new video or move on to the next practice scenario.
  • Using a community leader board, the coach also has the ability to make the video available to other learners as an example of what ‘good’ looks like.

And because the entire experience is virtual, learners and coaches are bound by neither location nor time.

Since the early 1980’s eLearning designers have struggled with their inability to fully recreate the classroom experience through technology. By providing web-based video practice and feedback, Rehearsal has, finally, solved this problem and done so in a way that is efficient, effective, repeatable and enjoyable – words that any L&D professional or business leader loves (and longs) to hear.

About the Author

Larry Israelite

Larry Israelite was born and raised on a small chicken farm in Upper Black Eddy, PA. Since moving to the big city, he has spent more than 35 years trying to answer two simple questions: how can we do better business thorough learning and how can we enable better learning through technology. Larry has worked in a variety of industries in senior learning and talent management roles, most recently serving as the vice president of learning and development at the Liberty Mutual Group and the head of assessment development at Smarterer and Pluralsight. He has edited three books, including Lies About Learning and More Lies About learning, the last of which was published in 2015 by ATD Press. Always wanting to be on the bleeding edge, Larry completed his coursework for PhD in Educational Technology a scant three months before the release of the first IBM PC. His degree was awarded two year later.

Simon Says It Takes Practice

Written by Geoff Curless
VP Sales, Rehearsal

Being human takes practice

Rehearsal recently exhibited at the ATD International Conference & Exposition. We were fortunate enough to have some of our team members attend the keynote presentation delivered by Simon Sinek. He kept using the word, “Practice”. It made me excited because that’s what we do. We offer the learning community, well…moreover…we offer people who want to get better…a place to practice and be coached on workplace topics, issues, and challenges.

Each time Simon said the word, “Practice”, I felt my heart race. I wanted to grab the mic and tell everyone that just yards away from this stage on the Expo floor was a company that would give them the chance to practice – just like Simon says to do!

I didn’t Kanye West my way onto the stage. Instead, I tweeted some Simon-isms on our Twitter page and then I let the whole experience sink into my overwhelmed conference brain. Like with many exciting moments, the ideas that spark the excitement fade after some time. Sometimes you even question what got you so excited in the first place. But not this time. In fact, this time it wasn’t the excitement that continued, it was instead my confidence in how Rehearsal could help every person in that audience and all of those people out there who make it their responsibility to make others better at what they do.

I found this article. Well, I found many articles as I searched for how Simon described “practice” at work. In every case, I challenged myself to make the connection between Simon’s philosophy and how Rehearsal could make it a reality. The reason I chose this article in particular is because each of the three things that Simon identifies as a “thing” that makes a leader…well, none of them are typically things you imagine practicing, especially in front of a web cam. But what I found is that each is, in fact, practicable. See how…my notes are in red and what follows is an excerpt of a recently published article on inc.com.

Selflessness

People like to be around people they trust–it’s as simple as that. “Humans are constantly assessing people and organizations around them, and if they feel they’re selfish, they’ll keep a safe distance,” said Sinek. On the other hand, people tend to want to associate with people and brands characterized by an element of selflessness. Creating that human connection–building trust–is key, though it does take time. Just remember: You’re responsible for setting that tone, Sinek warned. [Here is it…TONE! Do you know how you deliver a message? How would you even know? Sometimes we take for granted that our intentions are received, but our tone may not convey the message we intend. You can practice your tone. But you can only do so once you have seen and heard yourself deliver a message. With Rehearsal, you can see yourself ask a very common and simple question like, “How are you doing this morning?” Or more complicated messages like, “I’m worried about your performance lately. Can we talk?” And best of all, you can have others view your video and give you feedback. You can keep practicing until you deliver the tone you intend to be received.] “When the environment is one of a leader who [will] sacrifice, the way people respond is by sacrificing in return. Being a leader is a lifestyle decision; it means you’re willing to take care of others.” 

Empathy

Speaking of taking care of others, Sinek added, “the more we do good for each other, the more we want to do good for each other.” He recounted the time he picked up loose papers for a man when he saw them slip out of his bag. The man was grateful, but Sinek said his actions went further than that. They motivated someone who saw them to do something kind. Kindness begets kindness, Sinek went on. [So how do you create contagiously repeatable leadership examples? Have you ever wondered how you can change the way you do something so to encourage others to follow your lead? Simple. Practice! Instead of opening a meeting with your agenda, why not practice asking others to build the agenda with you? Practice letting Dana start the meeting by telling about her latest client interactions and then ask how you can help her better support her client’s needs. What could happen next is that other members on your team will stop questioning the work their co-workers do and instead ask how they can help support each other better.]  It’s holding the door for someone, making a new pot of coffee, and letting someone into your lane. Putting others ahead of yourself–“that is the practice of leadership,” he said. 

Grace under fire 

Stress and anxiety are enough to make people dishonest and to sabotage their performance at work. When your body is flooded with cortisol, or the chemical that produces anxiety, “you biologically restrict empathy and trust,” Sinek said. Don’t be that kind of boss–if you’re the one inducing fear and anxiety in your employees, you’re never going to have their trust. [You just learned that one of your product lines is going to fall short of its revenue goal by more than 20%…that means no bonus for you and possible staff cuts. You are livid and you want someone to blame. You also know that your temper gets the best of you but you still call an immediate and mandatory meeting of your team and open with one question: “Who is responsible for this?” as you point to the declining trend line on the white board. What have you done??? This didn’t have to happen. You can use Rehearsal to practice your responses to some of the toughest office challenges. You can turn moments that would typically destroy team culture into moments that strengthen culture. It’s up to you.] The solution is clear: Work on managing your own stress and “be the leader you wish you had,” he said. Your team will appreciate it. 

Are you ready to practice? Are you ready to be the best leader you can be? You can be the best. You can all be the best — with practice.

About the Author

Geoff Curless

Geoff has a professional history of quickly accelerating growth for start-up software companies and inspiring mature companies to sell strategically and with greater visionary aspirations. During his career, he has presented complex software and technologies to customers and partners in ways that promote the benefits and usability of the products and services. He has managed sales teams, key partnerships, and comprehensive sales and marketing plans for software companies serving all industries.

Why do you do it?

Why do you put up with your commute to the office?

Why do you fall asleep with your computer on your lap and your phone in your hand more than three nights each week?

Why do you listen to a TED talk and get excited?

Why do you have an extra cup of coffee before your next meeting?

Why do you try to make it to the office early?

Montage-Shot

Why do you work on your days off?

Why do you tell your kids to work hard in school?

Why do you tell yourself to stop making excuses and start making progress?

Because.

You want to be better.

You may not be on TEAM USA but you are on a team. Practice hard. Show your work.

American Companies Spend More than $15B on Leadership Development

It’s hard not to love the American commitment to leadership. It’s likely that your next thought may be, “Is it working?” And then maybe, “What does ‘working’ look like?”

What-does-a-good-leader

Peter Bregman, business advisor and author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, argues that leadership development programs strive too earnestly to create safe environments for learning. But the best learning often comes in times of risk and struggle. I picked that up in a Forbes article entitled, “If You Think Leadership Development Is A Waste Of Time You May Be Right”.

One of my favorite quotes comes from training…physical training…it’s from celebrity trainer, Bob Harper, “You have to get uncomfortable to see change”. Simple, right? Anyone who works out regularly knows that it has to hurt a little (sometimes even a lot) to see results. The same applies to personal challenges; you can’t change what you refuse to confront.

Now let’s bring it back to leadership development. We spend more than $15B annually to develop our leaders (get the Bersin Research Executive Summary here). How often do you think our developing leaders get uncomfortable? How often do you think they watch themselves lead, recognize what needs to be improved, and then make and practice those changes. In reality, most leaders — like people in general — see something they like or don’t like about how someone else is doing something and then borrow or alter styles and strategies to forge their own approach. What could you learn if you stopped for a moment and watched yourself?

We are human. We get better with practice.

Written by Darik Volpa

This article from Business Insider is a nice reminder that most of the all-time greatest athletes work a lot harder than most people realize.

Connor

They have an obsession with being successful.

They have trainers.

They have mentors.

They have coaches.

They have places to practice.

Compare the mindset and work ethic of your all-time greatest employees with the mindset and work ethic of these athletes. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

Now compare and contrast the mindsets and work ethic of your great employees with your average or your below average employees. How can you convince all of your employees to have an obsession with success? What more can you give them? What more do they have to give?

At Rehearsal, we believe that practice builds ability and capability and that grows into an obsession with success.

The bottom line is that we are not all born talented; we are born human. But with practice and hard work, we can achieve anything we can dream.

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur. He’s started two successful software companies including Understand.com and Rehearsal VRP. Prior to this, Darik had a successful 10-year career at Stryker Corporation in various sales and marketing roles.

How to Look Good for Your Webcam

You have a date. It’s different than other dates. He always seems to be looking over your shoulder and comments about things that are behind you versus the nice shoes you just bought. She’s totally cool. She never complains about how you don’t tuck in your shirt and she’s fine if you wear flip-flops no matter where you go.

Your date is a webcam.

How to look good on a webcam

Your webcam captures you from the waist up in most cases. Your webcam cares a lot about the wall behind you. What else is your date looking at and how can you make the best of your time together? Get the latest infographic from Rehearsal, then practice your webcam style, and share it with us on Twitter @Rehearsal and hashtag #meandmywebcam.

Watch Me Grow

Written by Geoff Curless VP Sales, Rehearsal

I was watching Sunday Morning at 4PM ET last weekend. The show featured internet celebrities…people who got famous for going viral.  It mentioned many of the social platforms that I am less familiar with like Vine and Snapchat.  But something caught my attention.

I work with video and yet I am still amazed by what it can do — not just the production of it but the impact it has on people. It’s not like we haven’t been using it for decades. In fact, I watched a documentary last week about the Ford Company and saw movies of Edsel Ford partying in his 19th century chateau. But here is what’s different about video today.

One, as I mentioned, I watched CBS Sunday Morning at 4PM in the afternoon. Ondemand video is nearly essential now that we all try to balance work and life so masterfully 😉

Second, we have short attention spans and yet want to squeeze the most out of the short time we have to devote to learning something new. Video can tell a story in a matter of seconds. Forrester claims that a one minute video is worth 1.8 million words!

Third, and possibly most important, “seeing is believing”. Those of us in learning know how hard it is to measure the impact of learning initiatives. We have come a long way and many large companies are using evaluation models and assessment tools that tie nicely to business outcomes. But would we feel differently about learning if we visually saw progress?

Finally, I’ll throw one more thing into the mix before I get to the point of it all. I’m a gadget guy. I found this during my downtime internet reading: https://getkiba.com/. It’s a video camera that knows how to identify the most important moments you and your family experience. That’s right….it records and self-edits your life so once you watch it, you only see what is important. The camera builds your story for you.

What if you had the chance to teach people, watch them learn, watch them practice, watch them grow, watch them get better? What an amazingly human way for companies to show the impact of talent and development initiatives! The good news is that you don’t need to “get kiba” into all of your offices; you don’t need to get Vine celebs to capture your employees’ greatest “six-second” learning moments. You just need to teach your team and encourage them to practice. Well, at least that is your part. We at Rehearsal will capture the stories for you so you can watch every team member grow.

I’ll leave you with this video that has been viewed millions of times. It’s a six-second time-lapsed video of a woman….growing. What if you could watch your employees grow? You can with Rehearsal.

Do you have video clips — time-lapsed or not — of you, your employees, your co-workers, you kids, learning and growing on video? Share them with us on Twitter at @Rehearsal and hashtag #watchmegrow.

About the Author

Geoff Curless

Geoff has a professional history of quickly accelerating growth for start-up software companies and inspiring mature companies to sell strategically and with greater visionary aspirations. During his career, he has presented complex software and technologies to customers and partners in ways that promote the benefits and usability of the products and services. He has managed sales teams, key partnerships, and comprehensive sales and marketing plans for software companies serving all industries.

Video Based Practice Works

Wonder why everyone is talking about video? Because it works. If you want learning retention, you need video. This infographic from Rehearsal makes your next business case for video and learning. Rehearsal takes these stats to the next level by using video role play to put learning into practice and practice into results.

Video-Based-Practice-Works

With the Greatest of Ease

Written by Geoff Curless VP Sales, Rehearsal

Have you ever been to the circus and wondered how those trapeze artists got their start? Was it jumping from bed to bed as a child that gave them the confidence to fly high in the air with the greatest of ease? Was it just a born talent?

I took my two kids trapezing during winter break. While I felt safe about the facility and instructors, I still had to wonder how my kids were going to go from never having seen a trapeze up close to being caught in the air by a man in tiger pants flying full speed ahead toward their little bodies. The session took two hours. We learned about three moves and we had to practice them over and over again until our instructors felt we could do them without giving each much thought. Each try came with input for how we could make the moves look cleaner, how we could move our bodies more efficiently and how we could prepare for when we would reach out to be caught by our partner. When our instructors felt we had perfected the moves, we were ready for the big catch.

Eaze

I needed about two more hours of practice before they would ever give me the green light to move on; however, my daughter, a budding gymnast, was allowed to move to the next level and was successfully caught by her partner each time. See here. This experience made me reflect on what I do as a sales manager. All too often we let our sales representatives go out there and “get ‘em”, but are they really ready? Some of our newbies may be like my daughter and already come with confidence and expertise; others may be like me on a trapeze and have no experience or confidence at all. But no matter what point they are at when they begin, we have to give them the room, time, and tools to practice before we literally let them throw themselves to a new prospect.

We never want to lose a good opportunity because of our own incompetence. We need to practice the basics, get feedback, move to the next level, and repeat. This is how we build confidence and competence. This is how we build a stronger sales team.

About the Author

Geoff Curless

Geoff has a professional history of quickly accelerating growth for start-up software companies and inspiring mature companies to sell strategically and with greater visionary aspirations. During his career, he has presented complex software and technologies to customers and partners in ways that promote the benefits and usability of the products and services. He has managed sales teams, key partnerships, and comprehensive sales and marketing plans for software companies serving all industries.

Practice Wrong, Perform Wrong

Written by Kelly Riggs, Founder of Business LockerRoom

There’s an old adage that says, “Practice makes perfect.”

Of course, that’s not right.

As the venerable Vince Lombardi said: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

As it turns out, you can spend a lot of time practicing and actually be hurting yourself.

I’ve had a chance to see that first-hand. Having spent many years coaching kids’ football, I had lots of opportunities to see how other coaches run practice sessions during the week.

You would be amazed at how many coaches go directly to “team” practice – that is, 11-on-11, full scrimmage. To understand the problems this creates – or, if you’re not familiar with football (or football practice) – this is akin to the actors in a Broadway play practicing the entire play, from Day 1, with people who may or may not know the lines or the choreography. Instead of blocking scenes, practicing lines, and working on choreography, the actors go straight to full rehearsal (for more information on “blocking” a scene, read THIS). So, a typical football practice for a young kid (think 3rd through 7th grade) would include a warm-up and some stretching, followed by some general drills like sprints and agility exercises. Then, there might – MIGHT – be more specific drills: blocking, tackling, and ball drills (throwing and catching). 

After that – 30 to 40 minutes into practice – a lot of coaches would go directly to practicing plays with a full offense and defense.

The problem with this kind of approach should be obvious. Team performance doesn’t improve until individual players improve, which, by definition, would require much more individual practice.

Sequence is Important

As a college football player, I was exposed to truly effective practice sessions.

Warm-up. Stretch. Agility drills. Then, individual ball skills. Receivers, for example (the position I played), throw and catch with QBs. They practice specific routes. They practice catching passes from different angles, with one hand, facing the QB, over the shoulder, and much more.

Depending on the position, there was extensive blocking or tackling practice, with every conceivable game possibility included in the practice. For instance, a lineman might practice zone blocking, pull blocking, doubleteams, and much more, with application to specific plays the team runs.

Then, it was on to group practice. Groups of players worked against other groups. The offensive line practiced against defensive linemen. Receivers worked against defensive backs. Quarterbacks and running backs worked together against linebackers and defensive ends.

It was in this part of practice that the connection between individual skills and specific plays were created. Players learned how their individual roles created success in a specific play. Compare that with the average employee who toils away in a cubicle, often in complete obscurity, with little understanding of his/her role in the success of the company.

Then, after all of that individual and group practice, it was finally time for “team” practice.

But, realize that by this point, each player understands his role in the play. He has practiced the individual skills that allow him to excel in that particular play. He has worked on footwork, recognition and reaction, blocking and tackling, and much more.

The point to all of this is that sequence is important. Players (employees) have to perfect individual skills before they can excel within the “team” framework.

Unfortunately, few companies provide that type of practice environment.

In sales, for example, a salesperson needs to learn how to interview, ask questions, get referrals, respond to objections, present dozens of different solutions, tell compelling stories, present pricing, and so much more. But how many salespeople actually practice these things before they go LIVE in front of a customer??

Those companies that actually provide some level of training are often guilty of exactly the same mistake that amateur football coaches commit – they go straight to full-on sales presentations without any thought to the individual skills that will make those presentations more effective.

That’s where Rehearsal becomes incredibly invaluable.

First, it eliminates the objection of working in front of peers; employees can practice in the privacy of an office or at home.

Second, it allows managers to practice on specific individual skills before going live with a customer.

Finally, it allows employees to practice over and over until it’s right. And then they can continue to practice to stay sharp or to adapt to change.

Remember, all practice is not created equal.

Individual practice is critical. Sequence of practice makes a huge difference.

And, most importantly, perfect practice is what creates perfect execution.

About the Author

Kelly Riggs

A sales strategist and leadership coach, Kelly is uniquely qualified to help businesses improve performance. He is a former two-time national Salesperson of the Year, a successful entrepreneur, and a highly acclaimed teacher and business coach. He is the author of “1-on-1 Management: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”

Practice Matters

Practice

It’s been an exciting ride as we are 22 months post launch of Rehearsal. Over one hundred corporate clients and tens of thousands of users later, here’s a few things we have learned…

It’s Much More Than Video Role-Play 

We created “video role-play” technology, which is cool, but it turns out that our customers are using Rehearsal for much more than just role-play. Role-play is simply part of a larger application: practice. That’s why we’re dropping the “video role-play” and presenting Rehearsal as a practice platform. You’ll notice this change in our product and message as we move beyond role-play.

Practice Matters

Practice does matter; just ask the passengers on Captain “Sully” Sullenberger’s flight. All 155 people survived the “Miracle on the Hudson” because through the power of practice, Sully was able to perform when it mattered; that’s why we asked him to be in our next ad campaign. You might not be an airline pilot like Sully, but the same rule applies: No one becomes great without practice. 

Our New URL

We finally got the domain we wanted: Rehearsal.com. This perfectly captures our message of practice and is easy to remember (remarkably, Mark Cuban owns practice.com and he wasn’t interested in giving it up).

A big thank you to all of our clients and supporters. Lot’s more to come in the following months. 35 selling days left for 2015. Finish strong.

Onward.

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur. He’s started two successful software companies including Understand.com and Rehearsal VRP. Prior to this, Darik had a successful 10-year career at Stryker Corporation in various sales and marketing roles.

Your Competitors Don’t Want You to Practice

Written by Kelly Riggs, Founder of Business LockerRoom

Very, very few athletes will tell you how much they love practice. It’s more like a necessary evil. Of course, players recognize the value of practice but they’re not exactly enthusiastic about it.

The truth is that practice is incredibly important to performance. World-class athletes don’t become world-class without years of purpose-driven practice.

In fact, here is a question: Can you name one skill of any consequence that does NOT require practice to excel at that skill.

Anything?

Of course not. You cannot, and will not, perfect any skill unless, and until, you practice.

It’s true in sports, and it’s just as true in business.

Selling skills. Customer service. Conflict management. Presentations. These and many other business skills require practice to improve.

Which means that, if your employees are not practicing to improve their skills, YOU (the manager) are guilty of the ultimate performance killer – no practice.

Yes, I know, some people seem to get to an acceptable level of proficiency quicker than others. Some folks just seem to have a knack or a gift for certain skills. Some are even good enough to skip by simply because they are naturally much better than most.

But, forget the outliers. Their native talent will take them to a certain level, but it won’t make them the best of the best. That takes practice.

Lots of practice.

The truth is that, at some point – for some it’s earlier than others – a substantial amount of purposeful practice will be a non-negotiable aspect of consistent, long-term success.

So, why is it that very, VERY few companies utilize any kind of practice to improve those skills?

Here are the reasons I hear over and over:

  1. Your salespeople complain. You see, they don’t like to practice. It’s too hard. They don’t like to be “embarrassed.”
  2. You know how – after all, you were a superstar – but you’re really not very good at teaching and coaching.
  3. You personally don’t enjoy practice, so you avoid it.
  4. You think practice is time that could be better used doing other things.
  5. You personally don’t have time to oversee practice.

Those are the Top 5 excuses in a landslide. And, just as an aside, No. 5 is probably the single most common excuse (see my post, “The 4 Most Dangerous Words in Your Leadership Vocabulary“).

But let’s take a minute and take a look at those really lame excuses in a different context.

The Post-Game Interview

Reporter: “So, coach, tough loss out there today. What do you take away from today’s game that you can improve in practice?”

Coach: “Practice?”

Reporter: “Uh, yeah. Practice. You know, next week? What will you work on?

Coach:  “Well, here’s the deal. We don’t really practice. My players are not big fans of practice. It’s taxing on the players, and frankly, they don’t like to have to practice their positions in front of other players. It’s kinda embarrassing. It’s tough enough to play in this league without those kind of distractions.

Reporter: “You’re kidding, right?

Coach: “Of course (nervous chuckle). Just trying to lighten the tension a bit. Actually, the truth is, we really don’t have time to practice. I mean, we’ve got a lot on our plates, you know. We’ve got to scout the next team. Break down film. Get our game plan together. Plus, we’re traveling next week – you can’t even imagine that logistics nightmare. Wow.”

Reporter: “Coach, seriously (looking around). I mean…I know the loss hurts, but I’m sure you guys are already looking to bounce back next week. I’m just looking for a few details on practice next week. What will you focus on?”

Coach: “Oh, right. Of course. Well, the thing is, practice really isn’t my thing. You know what I’m sayin’? 6 Pro Bowls. An MVP. Two trips to the Super Bowl. What I’m gettin’ at is either my players can play or they can’t. I think we just need to work harder at getting the right guys in the right positions and those wins are gonna take care of themselves. Make sense?”

Reporter: “Well…not really, no. I mean, I’m not really sure how to think about that, coach. You were 9-7 last year. 6-10 before that. And you’re off to a slow start this year. It’s hard to imagine that you don’t….uh…practice.

Coach: “Look, son. I don’t know how much football you’ve played. Not much? That’s what I figured, so let me clue you in. All that wasted time on the practice field can be used in much better ways. My players are spending time in the community. They’re participating in team-building activities. And they’ve got to prepare detailed reports on each game and their individual performances. Plus, do you know how much effort they put into reviewing their play books? OK? So, what I’m sayin’ is that “practice” (air finger quotes) sounds all fine and dandy, but we’ve got a job to do. That is how you can think about it.”

Back to the Real World

So, that’s what your excuses sound like.

LAME.

Silly, actually.

Your team isn’t winning consistently, and you’ve got salespeople that consistently underperform. And you don’t practice?

Let’s go back to square one: You don’t get better at anything without practice.

Here are 3 steps to improved performance in your sales department:

Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” What that means is you need to know where to start. If you can’t determine why people succeed – and why they fail – you really don’t know what needs to be practices.

Step 1:  Have a detailed sales process you can assess, teach, and replicate.

The next obvious step is to know and understand what skills a particular salesperson needs to develop in order to succeed. In football, it’s blocking and tackling. And footwork. And throwing. And catching. And dozens of other things, each depending on your position on the field.

Step 2:  Figure out the mission-critical skills and activities for each step in the process.

 And right about now is when the concept of practice becomes important.

When I started in sales, my first boss made it very clear: I would be able to demonstrate to him that I could adequately present our products before I went into the field to represent the company.

Sure, role play is tough. No question. It will test your mettle. But either you can or you can’t, and if you can’t, the boss told me, “we just can’t use you.”

Think about this for a moment: Are you seriously trying to convince me that your salespeople are stellar in front of prospects, but they can’t present your product in front of the boss because they’re embarrassed? Or, they don’t like criticism?

And they’re in SALES?

Step 3: Make role-play and other forms of practice a habit. A regular habit. You’ll be shocked at how fast and how much employees improve critical business skills.

This is where Rehearsal VRP becomes an invaluable business tool. Employees can practice any of the essential business conversation skills I’ve mentioned using a video platform that is convenient, easy-to-use, and ridiculously cost-effective.

Managers create typical business scenarios on Rehearsal VRP software:

  • Handling common sales objections
  • Dealing with difficult customers
  • Product presentations
  • Answering the telephone
  • Performance feedback

Then, employees practice their responses (or presentations) sitting in front of a computer web cam. Following each try, employees can opt to submit that video, or take another try – which is what practice is all about!

Once a final submission is made, a manager or trainer can then view the response and offer valuable feedback via the same video platform. Plus, there is the option to create competition – and further improve performance – using the available “Leaderboard” option.

Yes, you can make practice fun!

Make no mistake, business is a competition. Just like sports.

If your team is going to win, employees need to “play” well. To play well, they must practice.

If they want to win, that is.

But, it’s easy to be mediocre. Just look around.

I have never seen an average company practice.

Never.

About the Author

Kelly Riggs

A sales strategist and leadership coach, Kelly is uniquely qualified to help businesses improve performance. He is a former two-time national Salesperson of the Year, a successful entrepreneur, and a highly acclaimed teacher and business coach. He is the author of “1-on-1 Management: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”

Sales Training is Not Enough!

Written by Alice Heiman

As business owners, we all want to increase our sales.  One effective way to boost numbers is by brushing up on our sales skills, and we know that means obtaining sales training for ourselves and our teams.  Sales training is great; it’s a crucial refresher that reminds us to be more consistent in our activities. Not only does training recharge our old skills while we learn new ones, it can be extremely motivating for future endeavors.  But what happens after the training? How much do you and your sales team retain? Does the training provide the impetus for real behavior change?

After the Training

“The training was great!”

Yes, it was, but will it make an impact on sales? I’ve been in the sales training business a since 1994; I’ve seen companies spend an enormous amount of money on training only to have everyone go back to business-as-usual the next week.  Of course some of them incorporated a few things they learned but on the whole overall behavior didn’t change and there was no lasting effect.

Our brains only have the capacity to take in so much new information at one time. So no one leaves a training of any kind with 100 % of what was taught. Our capacity to learn can be a limiting factor of any training. Another limiting factor is assimilating that new information and using it to change our behavior. Most of us are reluctant to change, unless we see a need or are forced to change. So even when we learn new information, we may not use it.  If we do want to change our behavior, it may require practice.

A Great Example

I ran a training on handling objections for a client of mine.  Their close ratio was only about 20%.  It seemed to be the price but it wasn’t. They were losing deals because prospects didn’t understand the features, so they didn’t see the value for the price. During the training I taught the salespeople to ask more questions and to understand what features the prospect was most interested in before educating them and trying to close.  We also discussed helping the prospect understand their return on investment. We role-played a bit during the training and thought they were ready to go out and try the new sales process.  Sadly, things did not change the way we thought they would.  What we discovered was the team didn’t have enough practice, so under pressure they reverted back to their previous behavior that held the low close ratio.  More practice was needed but with everyone back in the field the question was, how do we give them the practice needed.  

Incorporating practice

It’s tough to incorporate enough practice and each salesperson will learn at their own pace. The fact is, the practice has to continue until the behavior has changed. That could take a few weeks or a few months. Salespeople need a safe place to practice and then to try what they practice in the field, with guidance. This takes a lot of coaching from the sales manager or peer mentors, but it is imperative.

Enter Rehearsal

To solve the problem I found a platform that makes this all much easier.  It’s called Rehearsal VRP. I implemented it with the sales team I mentioned above and the results improved dramatically.

It is absolutely an outstanding tool for providing ongoing practice for any type of training, but of course, I use it for sales training. I still do role-play during a training but now I incorporate practice on Rehearsal VRP for reinforcement long after I am gone.  I build the scenarios on the platform and they are there for my clients to use, forever.  The platform is easy to use and a sales manager can record a new role-play any time a new sales issue comes up.  Here are just ways my clients are using it; product launches, product training, handling objections, sales call planning and practicing presentations.

Improve Results

Practice with feedback improves results. There is no doubt about it. Having the ability to have salespeople practice and give them feedback asynchronously is a game changer.  What are you doing to improve the performance of your sales team?

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Alice is a nationally recognized sales expert. She’s made numerous guest appearances on television and radio broadcasts, in addition to being featured in print publications, including Entrepreneur’s Startups and Selling Power magazines. Over the course of her two decades of teaching others the fine art of selling, she’s earned a host of awards. Saleswoman of the Year, Marketer of the Year, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Blue Ribbon Award are a few of the acknowledgements adorning her office walls.