I was talking with my better half, who’s now working at a nursery. Over time, she has related stories of folks coming to ask for assistance. And the variety is both interesting and instructive. There’s a vast difference of how people can be working with you.
So, for one, she likes to tell stories of people who come in saying “you know, I want something ‘green'”. Or, worse, “I want a big tree that doesn’t require any watering at all”. (Er, doesn’t exist.) The one she told me today was this lady who came in wanting “you know, it’s white and grows like <hand gesture showing curving over like a willow>”. So m’lady showed her a plant fitting the description. But “no, it’s not got white flowers”. It ended up being a milkweed, which isn’t white and stands straight up!
What prompted this reflection was the situation she cited of this other customer. He comes in with a video of the particular section he wants to work on this time, with measurements, and a brief idea of what he’s thinking. Now this is a customer that’s easy to help; you can see the amount of shade, know the size, and have an idea of what the goal is.
I related this (of course ;), to L&D. What you’d like is the person who comes and says “I have this problem: performance should be <desired measurement> but instead it’s only <current measurement>. What steps can we take to see if you can help?” Of course, that’s rare. Instead you get “I need a course on X.” At least, until you start changing the game.
JD Dillon tweeted “…But in real life they can’t just say NO to the people who run the organization. ‘Yes, and …’ is a better way to get people to start thinking differently.” And that’s apt. If you’ve always said “yes”, it’s really not acceptable to suddenly start saying “no”. Saying “Yes and…” is a nice way to respond. Something like “Sure, so what’s the problem you’re hoping this course will solve?”
And, of course, you should be this person too. “Let me tell you why I’d like to buy a VR headset,” and go on to explain how this critical performance piece is spatial and visceral and you want to experiment to address it. Or whatever. Come at it from their perspective, and you have a better chance, I reckon.
You won’t always get the nice customers, but if you take time and work them through the necessary steps at first, maybe you can change them to be working with you. That’s better than working for them, or fighting with them, no?