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  Collision Feature

The Day After Training ... Now What?

Posted 8/13/2009
By John Halstead and Bernie Blickenstaff

"An entrepreneur is most dangerous immediately following a seminar." That is a statement by an industrial psychologist that has rung true for us in our training programs. It's only natural that when you get away from the shop for a day and are exposed to new and refreshing concepts, you become energized and enthusiastic. You will likely go back to the shop with lots of new ideas that you will want to implement right away. If you are a good delegator, you will probably turn those ideas into directives to your staff to begin doing this or that immediately! On a few occasions, we have had seminar participants who could not even wait to get back to the shop but got on the phone during a break to call the office and get them started on implementing a new process or procedure.

Unfortunately, this euphoria wears off very quickly and before you know it, things are pretty much back to the way they were before. What you do well, you still do well. The areas where you struggle continue to be a challenge for you. Day-to-day pressures, the strength of old habits and resistance to change by everyone involved negates the initial impetus of new ideas and things return to the old equilibrium.

So, how do we overcome this inertia and learn to implement change more effectively?

Embrace Change

Change experts claim that with daily practice, it takes 21 days or longer of constant repetition to change an old habit. If the repetition is less often, it will take longer. Change always comes with a degree of discomfort. If you are an ex-smoker, think about how hard it was to give up that habit. While that may be an extreme example as it includes a physical as well as a psychological addiction, we also get comfort and security from our old ways of doing things.

It's just like when we cross our arms. Some of us put our left hand on top of the right arm while others put their right hand on top of their left arm. Try crossing your arms to see which one you are. Now, try to do it the other way. It's hard to do, isn't it? It isn't natural or comfortable to do it another way. It's exactly the same thing with any old habit. It takes time and practice to feel comfortable doing things a new way.

Five Steps for Changing Old Habits

Step 1 Awareness: Being aware of our habits and knowing precisely what it is that we need to change. We also need to be aware it is us that needs to make the change; not just others. We cannot create change until we change ourselves. We must do the work and lead by example. It is our behavior that others will emulate.

Step 2 Wanting to Change: The goal or new outcome must be of value to us. Or, the consequence is severe enough that we want to avoid it. How many people have changed their lifestyles after a heart attack? While most of our habits are not life threatening, if the opportunity or consequence is not significant enough, we will not make the necessary investment to create change.

Step 3 Commitment: This goes beyond wanting to change, but being committed to do whatever it takes. This includes the investment of time and resources, changing personal priorities, and a commitment to "walk the talk" leadership. Many successful people have been unsuccessful until they made an ultimate commitment to sink or swim.

Step 4 Consistent Action: Practice, practice, practice. How did Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter learn to field ground balls? Talent, for sure, but hard work and practice perfected it. It is now second-nature. We need to practice the new habits until they become imbedded in our routines so that they become comfortable to us.

Step 5 Perseverance: You have to stick with it and not give up when the going gets tough. It's easy to blow it off. Something always gets in the way.

Set Realistic Goals

We are too often seeking the "quick fix" and instant gratification. However, slow and steady often still does win the race. The Japanese term "kaizen" means continuous improvement. Small improvements made on a day-to-day basis will always outpace revolutionary changes that never happen.

Goals that are achievable are more likely to be achieved. A 1 percent improvement each month adds up to 12 percent in a year.

WIIFM (What's in It for Me?)

"What's In It For Me?" is a very real concern both for ourselves and those who work for us. There must be a tangible and measurable goal worth achieving and a "pay-off" for everyone concerned. The "payoff" need not be financial but must be tangible and measurable. It can be more income, greater job security, a savings of time or better working conditions. Often, even the promise of a better paycheck needs to be connected with an unmet need (new car, vacation trip, larger home, college for kids, etc.) to be motivational. Then, the promise needs to be met with a certainty that if the goal is met the reward will be realized.

"Training without Coaching Is Just Entertainment"

All the factors discussed here are forces conspiring against us, including inertia. Fortunately, inertia works both ways: "An object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion." Coaches and mentors can help. They can help us get started, and they can help us keep going. Coaches are objective third parties who we can feel accountable to but who do not have their own agenda. A coach may be a professional adviser or a peer. 20 Groups operate this way with a trained facilitator to hold members accountable and a group of equals who can collectively support that commitment to change.

All great athletes have coaches: Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps, to name a few. Some of the benefits of coaching include:

    • Improvement in performance

    • Increased openness to personal learning and development

    • Identify potential solutions to problems

    • Greater ownership and responsibility of the situation

    • Developing self-awareness

A coach can take the goals and vision you set for yourself and teach you to achieve them. He or she can help you create the step-by-step game plan to achieve the envisioned future. Even the big projects that seem like mountains can be broken down into bite-size pieces, which are called daily disciplines.

Have an Objective in Mind

Next time you attend a training class; have a specific objective in mind. "Why are you there?" Be as focused and as specific as possible, even if the objective is simply to learn and implement one new idea. Then, you can be focused on identifying one new idea and learning as much as possible about how to implement that idea in your facility successfully. What aspect of your performance will be improved? How can you measure it? What are the steps necessary to implement it? Who should be involved? What information or skills do they need to be successful? How will this impact them? How do I engage them in the process and why? What's in it for them? How will this affect others in my organization, and how do I engage them in positive change?

Keeping your focus specific and being committed to change will enable you to begin to improve your business one new idea at a time.

AMIEditor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that are being contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. A full lineup of AMI instructors are sharing their knowledge throughout the year on a variety of topics including ethics, employee training, customer service, increasing profits and other valuable information.

John Halstead John Halstead has an MBA degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Halstead has served as an independent business consultant working with small companies focusing on growth planning, acquisitions, divestitures and business valuation. In the 1990s, Halstead worked as a consultant and later as a general manager for Superior Auto Paints where he connected with Bernie Blickenstaff. In this capacity, Halstead developed Superior's organization and financial structure to facilitate growth and longevity. Halstead has worked as a consultant with Collision Management Services (CMS) since its founding in 1996.
Bernie Blickenstaff Bernie Blickenstaff began his career in the auto collision repair industry more than 30 years ago as the owner of a successful body shop in Baltimore, Md. In 1981, he founded Superior Auto Paints, an automotive paint distributor in the Baltimore-Washington area. In 1996, Blickenstaff founded Collision Management Services Inc. (CMS) to meet the growing need in the collision repair industry for management training, performance improvement and systems development. CMS developed and presented the Vision Plus™ Professional Management Seminar series on behalf of the BASF Corporation and has assumed a leadership role in helping collision industry management move into the 21st century.

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