A few years ago one of my largest clients asked me to do something out of the ordinary – they asked me to conduct a Microsoft Outlook training session for a group of folks from their Financial Controls Department. Normally we work with sales, executive and entrepreneurial types so I anticipated an interesting training session and from at least one perspective I was not disappointed. Read on to learn about my training epiphany and discover whether instructor lead training or one-on-one coaching is the best option for you to get the most value out of Microsoft Outlook or other software applications as well.
Methodical or Maverick?
While I have always found training sales teams in a group setting to be challenging at best and down right impossible at worst, I had quite a different experience with the Financial Controls group. First of all, when I arrived to begin training, all the students were already quietly sitting in their places with their laptops running, pens and notebooks poised for jotting down tips so we could get started right on time. We worked our way down the course agenda with minimal interruptions and in the end there were a few very focused and intelligent questions. I found this group had an uncanny ability to process the information presented absorbing details as we went along and everyone seemed happy with the information they took away. It was a bizarre experience.
Why bizarre you ask? Well let me describe that same scenario with a group of sales people keeping in mind that I am in fact a sales person (yes, it takes one to know one). For starters, I have yet to walk into a software training session for sales people that started on time – these folks are notoriously late for things like software training since they would rather face a dentists’ drill than a day couped up inside an office listening to an instructor. Also, it is usually very difficult to follow a pre-defined agenda since sales people have a strong tendency towards ADHD. And, I won’t even get into all the interruptions caused by cell phones and side conversations given that sales people tend to be gregarious and social (again, takes one to know one).
After a while, I stopped even trying to train sales people or executives and entrepreneurs (who also tend to be very ADHD like) in an instructor lead class. While accountants, administrators and engineers tend to logically accept methodology that has been tried and proven to be effective (we’ll call these folks the “methodicals”), sales people and entrepreneurs tend to be “mavericks.” Mavericks like to do things their way and they relish their independence. I’ve found that while methodicals are usually great in instructor lead seminars, it is much more effective to train mavericks in one-on-one coaching sessions that can be tailored specifically to their needs.
Benefits of Coaching for Mavericks
Since coaching is focused specifically on the student, the topic is guaranteed to be relevant and since it is one-on-one there are far less distractions. I can take the time to ask my clients what issues are most difficult for them and then help them understand how to use Outlook to address those specific issues. I also find, that for most people (even methodicals), an hour’s worth of new information regarding a product as diverse as Microsoft Outlook is about all they can easily digest in one sitting. Instead of conducting all day training sessions, I’ve found that 2 to 4 one hour sessions each focused on a different Outlook folder (e.g. Contacts, Calendar, Inbox, Tasks, Journal) conducted on a weekly basis are much more effective. This way the student gets an opportunity to digest and use what they have learned and then compile questions during the week for the next session. Occasionally I will train both an executive assistant and the executive in joint sessions since these functions work so closely together and often in each other’s mailbox.
People some times ask about the cost effectiveness of one on one training versus instructor lead training. In most cases, the people that ask that question are only thinking of the cost of the class or instructor/coach. But what about the cost of the student? If the student is paid a salary, then there is a cost associated with tying them up in all day training session. If the student is an entrepreneur or sales person who is either billable or could be involved in business generation activities, there is an opportunity cost associated with tying up their time as well. And once you take into consideration the greater value received from one on one training as opposed to generic instructor lead topics, the cost advantage shifts dramatically.
Keep in mind when determining whether instructor lead or one-one coaching is best for you that the terms “methodicals” and “mavericks” are generalizations – after all, I was trained and worked as an engineer for many years before becoming a sales person and I find CFOs that started off as accountants can sometimes be more maverick like as well. If you have some feed back regarding your Outlook coaching or training experiences, please leave us a comment or if you are interested in one-on-one Microsoft Outlook coaching, please feel free to contact me. In the mean time, happy hunting!
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