Last month you proudly unveiled a new incentive program to increase referrals generated by your employees’ networking. This month, as you review the results you are disappointed. Why?

Before I jump into the reasons, I’ll tell you this scenario is much too common. The story continued as I spoke with the business owner about his disappointment. “The new referral incentives are generous,” he said. “We even trained them on how the incentive works.”

“What kind of change were you hoping for?” I asked. The owner responded that his associates who are primarily in a customer service role had been offered new incentives to generate inquiries. I asked, “Did you teach them to network and to sell?” Silence.

This story is not meant to convince you that training is the answer to everything. Well-designed training, however, can support you, the business owner, in showing your employees the path to success. When you pair change in strategy with a foundation of training, both the employee and company wins.

Not any training will do.

Now we get to the reasons that business owners and learning leaders develop training.

These notes are from a Professional Sales Association meeting where speaker Ronn Lehmann presented his learning from interviewing hundreds of top performers. I’m leveraging what I learned from Ronn with his permission.

There are 6 common reasons to use training to gain better results from an employee:

training tools


  1. They don’t know what to do.
  2. They don’t know how to do it.
  3. They don’t have the tools.
  4. They don’t want to do it.
  5. They think they already are doing it.
  6. They don’t think they have to do it.

Most often, business owners and trainers try to change behavior by addressing employees’ tool set or skill set. They provide the tools (the new incentive system), or they address the skill set (training on networking and how to attract referrals).

Focusing solely on tools and skills is why your employees don’t perform as you expect. None of the changes or training will work without the last, and most important category: the mindset.

Our mindsets drive behavior and account for 4 out of the six reasons an employee is not performing:

  1. They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.
  2. They don’t want to, so they don’t.
  3. They think they are, so they don’t change.
  4. They don’t think they have to, so they ignore it.

I’ll admit that no course, or training content, can magically change an employee’s mindset.

I will argue that content designed to engage the participant’s mindset by bringing to the forefront why they think and why they act (we educators call that metacognition) there is a greater transfer of learning into action.

To illustrate how this works, and how I design mindset into the training we offer at Intentional Growth Strategies; I’ll use the seven sales secrets of game changers that Ronn shared with us from the book Changing the Game: The New Way to Sell. With each mindset, I’ll give an example of activity that could be used in the training, either in-person or online, to develop that mindset in your employees.

The Growth Mindset

Successful employees have what psychologist Carol Dweck describes as a growth mindset. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” writes Dweck.

The trainer and instructional designer have two critical moments to establish a growth mindset in workforce training. The first is to present training as an opportunity for growth – both the employee’s and the company’s. Training doesn’t have to be about fixing; it can be about excelling.

The second opportunity begins and ends with the course leader. It’s imperative the trainer, business owners, and managers create an environment where it’s safe to fail. Creating a culture where experimentation is encouraged could be a blog post of its own – in fact, it is! Read more in For Creative Inspiration on Your Team – Teach Them to Fail.

The Purpose-Driven Mindset

I did a search on Google for “books about purpose in business” and in 0.63 seconds the search engine giant returned 350,000,000 unique results. Following rules, burgeoning bank accounts, and carrots and sticks are not what motivate the most accomplished of any profession. Daniel Pink, in his award-winning book Drive, reveals the surprising truth about what motivates us: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

What if your employees need Excel training? How do you integrate purpose into Excel? You don’t. Instead, you connect the use of Excel in your organization to the activities that drive the mission – a greater purpose. Are employees keeping track of inventory? Remind them how accurate records serve to satisfy customers. When I’m Professional development and researchworking with trainees or students, I connect the need to use and cite research sources in their work to their interest in career progression – a higher purpose than following rules and policies. How the instructional designer and trainer frame the context of learning can develop a Purpose-Driven Mindset.

The Vision-First Mindset

Have you ever tried to complete a task without a clear understanding of the outcome? It’s difficult. We’re counseled and coached to ask questions, get clarity, and understand expectations. Top performers understand the power of clarity in their success as well. They put the question, “What does success look like?” to themselves and answer it vividly.

In an article from Fast Company, author Laura Vanderkam writes, “Simply picturing yourself winning a deal won’t guarantee it. Your competitors are likely visualizing the exact same outcome.” Read the full article for her suggestions on how to use visualization in a way that works.

In the world of professional development, I start my courses with a shared activity that enables students to create a vision of their success. If the content of my training is to teach a method to strategically follow-up after networking, I’ll start with an activity where each participant creates a vision of themselves following up successfully. We’ll explore the personal, professional, and growth goals inherent in their vision. A Vision-First Mindset doesn’t simply materialize; it requires practice.

The Partnership Mindset

In sales, and in business, the Partnership Mindset goes well beyond the contract. The most successful performers in the Game Changer research internalized the trust required to build a true partnership. They paired their efforts with people first – business later.

A quick search of within 25 miles of where I live returned 15 separate Mastermind groups. I’m encouraged by the popularity of groups like this as they remind me of the study groups I belonged to in college. We all wanted the same thing, a successful outcome from class, and we all worked together to get it.

When teaching or training, both in-person and online, I acknowledge the expertise of participants in the course. Some will be experts in analysis, others in communication, still others in time management.

To engage their Partnership Mindset, I set an expectation for answering questions. “I may distribute a question to one of you before answering,” I say. “So we can leverage each other’s skills. I’ll keep a close eye on things to make sure the learning is shared throughout the class or to make slight adjustments if needed.” From the beginning, I establish an expectation of both transparency and partnership.

The “We-Beats-Me” Mindset

I love this saying from the Navy SEAL team, “Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.”

When our learning, and our success, depends on other people it’s both terrifying and thrilling. Developing a We-Beats-Me mindset in training doesn’t happen with one activity or instruction in a course. Instead, this mindset is developed through intentional team building with every communication and every touch point.

I promised examples, so here’s one from a recent post I wrote about the benefits of storytelling throughout the instructional design. It is based on an opening announcement to participants. The notes in parenthesis did not appear in the original post.

Dear (student/participant/etc.)Building teams in training
There are two ways you could approach the learning in this course.

  1. Do your assignment, get your learning, and go. [“Me” approach]
  2. Consider the course, and your classmates, as a masters circle, or peer coaching circle. Give as much learning as you get. [”We” approach]”

We can get caught up in the pursuit of individual success. One purpose of collaborative learning is to reinforce that we benefit from each other.

The True-Value Mindset

Each and every learner, each employee, has something valuable to bring to the table. When I train emerging young leaders on networking, I’ll often say, “You are an expert in your own experience. You have much to give.” Focusing on strengths in training helps build employees’ awareness of the value they bring to the community, the company, and their work.

One of my more popular posts identifies 3 Resources to Pinpoint Your Strengths that can be used on the spur of the moment or in a more integrated way in the training content.

The Learning-Is-Sharing Mindset

The best performers interviewed for the Game Changers book had one last mindset in common. They didn’t keep their wisdom to themselves. Instead, they want to spread what they learn throughout the organization and with their peers. They want collective success.

I’ve found Twitter to be a fascinating platform to encourage the Learning-Is-Sharing Mindset in training. To engage students in sharing main points of a course or discussion, have them create a list of classmates, establish a hashtag, and assign a tweet or two at the end of each session. What will the student or participant use from their session at work tomorrow? Have to students respond to each other with additional suggestions.

There is nothing magical about these seven mindsets. What creates magic is finding them all, in varying degrees, in one person. Even that one person was not born with these specific mindsets. Instead, they learned from trial and error, practice, and self-awareness.

Before you choose a training company or instructional designer, ask how they’ll encourage participants to develop these mindsets through their learning design.

You have 4 out of 6 reasons to make sure they do.


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