It is my understanding that if you want to master a surgical procedure you follow a relatively simple three-step process: you hear about it, you see it, and you do it. In other words, you might listen to someone deliver a lecture on a particular surgical procedure, then you observe a surgeon performing the procedure, and then you personally perform the procedure. It strikes me that this three-step process needs to be used more often in the business world.
Being the recipient of a business education and degrees from several fine southern universities, I found that my professors typically placed significant emphasis on step one, and typically ignored steps two and three. Actually, nowhere along the line during my educational journey were steps two and three seriously addressed.
This became painfully obvious when I embarked on my first field engagement as an enthusiastic young lad working for a prominent national CPA firm. When I arrived at the client’s office, my supervisor instructed me to foot certain pages of the general ledger. This relatively simple request immediately created two major dilemmas for me. A third dilemma soon followed when I learned the meaning of the word foot.
So, dilemma No. 1: I did not know the meaning of the word foot. As it turned out, in the accounting world, footing something means to add a column of numbers with an adding machine to verify the accuracy of the math. Learning this particular fact created an extra dilemma due to the fact that I had no idea how to operate an adding machine. This was not something they covered in college. Unfortunately, I had to perform my footing duties sitting at a desk in a room full of seasoned accounts payable processors. They were all Zen-master level footers. I suspect it was quite entertaining for them to see a newly minted MBA literally trying to see if things added up.
The remaining dilemma was related to the fact that I had no idea what a general ledger looked like. I had only seen general ledgers in terms of figure 1.2, figure 2.7, or similar illustrations in textbooks. And of course, the Zen-masters were not inclined to tell me what it looked like or where it was located. For you young readers, this was pre-everything-is-on-the-computer era.
What’s the lesson in all of this? If something is important to your business make sure you discuss it thoroughly with your employees; show them or have someone show them how to do it; and then allow them to do it, preferably in an environment without Zen-masters sitting on a fence like vultures observing. For example, in sales, talk about closing techniques, show them how to close sales, and set up role-modeling sessions to allow them to practice. Role modeling works! Role modeling converts what you hear about and see into something you can comfortably do. The three-step process – hear it, see it, do it – all adds up to success. Or as an accountant might say, it foots.
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.