Training for Success Versus Training for Competency

As executives we are acutely aware that the majority of our success comes from mastering and modifying behaviors and skills that are persistently associated with exceptional results. What distinguishes us from our peers over time is the ability to identify the differentiators in method, approach, execution and continuous modification that allow us to stand out.

We are equally aware of peers we have had over the years who have failed to rise up in the organization. Many of these folks were diligent workers, many with exceptional competence and technical skill. But they lacked that extra something, the unique factors associated with marked success versus simply holding their own.

Of course there are a lot of intangibles associated with extraordinary success including drive, desire, passion, energy level, having the right mentors and coaches (i.e. having someone who takes an interest in our success), etc. But there is by no means an argument that success is luck. Success is a learned and practiced art. In my experience, those who attribute this to luck lacked the drive and discipline to truly be successful.

What is interesting to me in light of the above awareness we all have is that when we are training people today we tend to spend the majority of our resources and time training people on how to be technically competent and versed in the functions and lexicon of the job. Rather than training for functional skill, think about the impact on your business if your people were trained to really excel.

Here are a few ideas on training for success:
  • Become really clear on the definition of success in your company and in each job function in the company. The first conversation every new hire and newly promoted person should have with the company and their supervisor is about the definition of success in their role, what benefits accompany success, what penalties accompany failure, how success and failure will be measured, when the results will be measured and by whom. If you don’t lead with this conversation you essentially bring your new hires in, cover their eyes with a blindfold, hand them a handful of darts and tell them to fire at the target. They will try but they will hit the target only out of luck early on. Don’t blindfold your team; it is unfair and unproductive. Be clear right from the start.
  • Know what differentiates success from competence. Study the people in your company who truly excel and find out what they really do at each step of the process versus what the training manual and trainers espouse. Understand why what these stars do works. Understand how what they do works. Figure out what part of it is learned mastery versus wiring. Capture the mastery piece in your new "success oriented" training and hire for the wiring.
  • Stop rewarding productivity and competence and start rewarding success as you have defined it. In our business we make phone calls. But making calls is not success, closing a profitable transaction with the person on the other end of the phone is success. Many will argue it is a numbers game, the more calls you make the more success you will have. I assure you the most successful people in our company have never been the ones who made the most call attempts. We don’t reward the ability to make a lot of calls. We reward the volume and value of closed transactions. You don’t want your people to work hard; you want them to work effectively. You want as many people as possible to experience genuine success as often as possible.
  • Assign new hires to "craftsman." Probably the most assured method of building mastery is to work at the side of a craftsman who has mastered success. Most job knowledge used to be passed on from master craftsman to apprentices. There is no substitute for watching someone do it well and replicating their behaviors and methods. We have sacrificed the craftsman/apprentice model on the altar of cost effectiveness. Hence, quality is down, turnover is high and cost of doing business isn’t really any lower. If you want successful masters in your business tomorrow, let them learn at the hand of the master today. Make an investment in your company and in your people. You will be richly rewarded. And what greater compliment to your current masters than to recognize their mastery and ask them to share their gift?
  • Keep checking for better models of success. Over time people learn, adapt, and modify their approach to meet changing environmental and organizational conditions. Most of our training methods are really pretty static and are based on antiquated assumptions and paradigms. Highly successful associates adapt constantly. Training for success should adapt just as rapidly.
  • Running a company that is centered on success is a self-fulfilling and self-funding prospect. People inherently want to be associated with success and they want to be successful. If you teach people how to be successful they will stay with your company and will help the company succeed. Further, successful people tend to associate with other successful people and want successful people working with them. If you migrate to training for and rewarding success you will attract the top performers. You will rarely have to go out and find them, they will find you.
Training people for success is a game changer for your company. Imagine your departments fully staffed with teams of people who are exhibiting the behavior and skills associated with success in your business and their specific functions versus simply being technically and rhetorically accurate. In this environment you start every day way ahead of the competition.