Friday, July 18, 2008

In Absentia

You might have noticed I haven’t been around much for the last two weeks. Staff from our other office has been here preparing for our National Seminar.

They’ve always supported a different product set and haven't had much interface/background with our software. In past they’ve only been peripherally involved in our National Seminars. The CEO is insistent it change this year.

On Thursday July 3rd he called me to tell me it was my job to train them! The first students were here on Wednesday, July 8th. That’s three days to formulate the “theme” for this year, figure out the order of the program, create an agenda, then layout training sessions.

For the last 8 days I’ve been teaching my coworkers how to organize a demonstration and conduct a meaningful “Pre-Season Review” while creating data that emphasizes the demonstration points.

Since I had virtually no prep time to organize the training sessions my work days began at five in the morning. At night I’d work ‘till I couldn’t keep my eyes open, around ten-thirty or eleven o’clock. Usually I’m a nine-o’clock-to-bed type girl. So these were “extended” hours for me.

Getting ready for the National Seminar is an annual stressful event in my business life. Teaching people has never been stressful. Not being prepared to teach IS stressful – but I was sure I could pull it out.

What pushed me OVER THE EDGE was the CEO saying successful accomplishment of this goal was essential to my continued advancement. This was my chance to “win over my coworkers”. With no preparation time. Oh Great!!!

I HATE IT when I’m told to “play nice with others”. Why the hell don’t they ever have to “play nice” with me? Why am I always the one called to change? (“And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love” is now rolling around in my head – and I really want to punch God out. I can love a lot of people. I can go out of my way for a lot of people – but DO NOT ASK ME TO LOVE MY COWORKERS!!!) <end rant>

So – that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.

I could tell the staff was eager to learn – and working hard to incorporate my suggestions and the new information/format into their presentations. I think being responsible for a session at the National – plus knowing they will be holding a regional seminar ON THEIR OWN was further motivation.

I was pleased and surprised by their hard work over three or four days they were here.

At the end of our sessions I led “writer style” critiques. I gave specific examples of what they did well. I pointed out specific concepts they now understood and hadn’t previously. I gave then a list of specific issues (data/presentation/topic-wise) for improving. Each participant contributed to the critique. We started with positive, then the improvements, and ended with two more positive comments.

I didn’t expect them to be GREATFUL for the time and effort it took to put everything together. But they were and said so. Things they consider impressive I slough off. How hard is it to put together an agenda? How hard is it to layout an outline? How hard is it to know our customers no longer need a “training seminar” but an “instructional/added value” format?

I mean HELLO! Our customers have now been using this software for FIVE YEARS or longer. We are no longer TRAINING them. Our job is to show them HOW to improve their businesses with our software.

I’ve dubbed this the “Level Two” year. Everything we show or talk about in our software HAS TO point to the underlying theme – “How to Be a More Effective and Efficient Business”. How to manage staff-time and data in ways that IMPROVES the service our customers offer to THEIR CUSTOMERS.

It was difficult for my coworkers to make this move since they’re just learning how the software works. Each time they don’t understand the VALUE of the data, they drop back into telling me HOW to run a report. *sigh* But everyone agrees. Our customers know HOW to run reports – what they don’t all know are the analytical tools available to them within the software.

I think the hardest thing I do for these seminars is setting up the data. Making the data mimic daily activity – and making the data replicate a problem or solution EVERY TIME the demonstration is presented.

This time, I taught my coworkers how to edit data to make things work; or to show specific problems. It’s not easy. You have to understand how the databases are structured and what the data means – so you can PURPOSEFULLY show a problem. As support staff they’ve never had to CREATE mistakes, just tell the customers how to fix them. After these training sessions they have a much better understanding of our software and our industry.

When each group left, they thanked me for all the time and effort I put into these sessions. They raved about my teaching style. I wasn’t expecting that. Unsolicited, here’s what they said:

"I wasn't a 'Mit Fan' before this meeting, but I can honestly say I've learned more about this software and the cotton industry in the last three days than I learned in the last 3 years. I'm going to tell Mr. X (the CEO) it doesn't matter how much you make, we flat out should be paying you more."

Another senior employee pointed out, “The week was productive because of the structure the sessions.” The GM said no one would have improved or learned as much as they did, if I hadn’t provided data sets that allowed the participants to, “Demonstrate, find the problem, fix the data, demonstrate the solution” type format.

I am inordinately pleased. I hope “good things” continue to come from the last two weeks.

Now I just want to relax. But I still have TONS to do before Tues - and I have to get it to everyone before Monday.

I thought I was going to be productive tonight, but I realize I’ve hit the wall. I’m tired. I predict I’ll be in bed by 9:00, then up and back at it early in the morning.

I only have tomorrow to get it all done. Sunday is church and a(nother) date. Monday will be crazy – hundreds of questions from everyone as they try to finalize their presentations. I’ll be packing to fly out Tuesday.

I’ll be home next Saturday. I promise I’ll let you know how it goes.


I H8 24 said...

It will be fine! It always is!! Looking forward to it!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a bit surprised it went so well - you are a list maker of the first order ! And organized! Must be all that cooking experience ! *o* Very, very proud of you !!!!! tp