I decided to take my own advice. That’s why I’m adding value to our services in the form of Actionable Conversations (It’s officially launching at the beginning of 2017, though I invite any current and prospective clients to call me up this week and learn more about it).
Companies have to learn. Markets change and they have to evolve. They have to adapt. That’s something Priority Solutions has helped many companies do over the years.
What’s true for my clients is true for me. My clients, from established large enterprises down to new and nimble startups, need a new kind of service.
We’ve seen a big change in how these businesses are making change happen – and we’re there to help them do it better.
What’s changing in business today?
“It’s not enough to take action. You have to track it.” Does that sound familiar? I use (and hear) that phrase a lot as a certified management consultant. The top managers and executives I work with say it like a mantra.
We’ve got a world of Lean startups and agile enterprise companies that are trying to borrow some of the successful processes from their more nimble, smaller competitors. They all agree: we value what we can measure.
We track campaigns. Sales figures. Total lifetime value of a customer. Revenue. Traffic. Organizations measure everything now – and we’ve spent years helping our clients do that through various tech tools, charts and good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheets.
Another trend: companies are spending more to help their people learn skills, culture and behaviors that can lead to those happy metrics.
For top stakeholders, departmental and team leaders, the ‘soft’ skills of managing change, collaboration, communication and planning have gone from ‘nice to have’ to essential.
Without these abilities, you’re likely to see these kinds of problems:
- Poor integration between your sales and marketing teams, or between teams and departments
- Inability to track the ROI from investing in learning and skills development
- Key stakeholders failing to seize clear opportunities and take the initiative
The right processes and learning can put an organization on a good path. Unfortunately, measuring progress in these areas (and refining, if needed) is hard to do.
The enterprise-sized enigma: How do you track learning to boost ROI?
Often, there’s a gap when it comes to tracking those processes. We know how to track sales, for instance. But how do we track higher-level, big picture learning, so that a nice bump after a training program isn’t a one-off?
An HR manager ticking a box on the personnel file of every employee who read through a learning module or watched a video doesn’t necessarily give the assurance that organizations need.
Particularly for enterprise companies, managers and teams need a way to instantly track the process and results. They need to do it in a seamless, self-managed way that doesn’t cut too much into their already busy schedules.
That’s why we added Actionable Conversations to what we do for our clients. It’s kind of a big deal for us, but we think it’s going to be a much bigger deal for our clients.
What are Actionable Conversations?
Actionable Conversations and workshops are our latest tool that help us add value to what I’m already doing for clients.
‘Actionable’ is one of those words that executives and top managers love to use. It comes up as they’re getting to the end of a departmental meeting or company-wide huddle. Its essential meaning is not about what can be done, but what should be done. What’s practical? How do we turn actions into results?
Actionable Conversations helps this happen:
“Actionable Conversations is a simple yet powerful platform that dramatically improves workplace effectiveness through better relationships and shifted behavior…
Team conversations, individually-relevant actions, peer accountability and real-time, applicable business insights.
That’s the Actionable process for improved engagement, productivity and leader impact.”
What exactly will my people learn with Actionable Conversations?
With Actionable Conversations, I select the content from a growing learning base of over 1,000 sources, based on my clients’ goals and business needs.
Over the years, I’ve developed and adapted countless custom training programs for the many hard skills and processes organizations need to grow (ie. sales processes, setting sales targets, cold calling scripting, etc). That’s where my expertise lies and it’s always a delightful challenge to adapt training materials and target learning to where it is needed.
For the higher-level leadership skills and behaviors, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Actionable Conversations uses ready-made learning modules with practical concepts developed from over 1,000 bestselling, top-rated authors and leaders: books like Change the Culture, Change the Game and Creativity.
These are already built into the system, teaching lessons around communicating better, being accountable and taking initiative when opportunities present themselves.
I simply help the leadership team of an organization to discover the concepts and lessons that apply to their organization. I develop a program based around these and introduce key stakeholders to the platform.
Departments can largely self-manage the learning process, with actionable outcomes that are tracked in real time. The content is there, but also the direction; if an employee falls behind on the learning track, for instance, the platform’s algorithm can serve up a related video to help that person overcome the obstacle. It’s the closest thing to a self-managed, seamless platform, requiring as little as minutes a day.
Talking About Results. What we learned from Actionable Conversations Founder Chris Taylor
There’s no shortage of business optimization tools, metrics tracking dashboards, learning platforms and other software bits and pieces that promise to add value. More are added each week, it seems. But as I researched Actionable Conversations, I found that it really helped me to address what my clients said they wanted.
Just to confirm my own understanding, I went ahead and chatted with the Founder of Actionable Conversations, Chris Taylor. First, we talked about how this platform came about.
“At a high-level, the platform was originally designed for sales teams,” he said. “That was its explicit purpose. I used to be a sales manager for about five years. But conversations between myself and customers often quickly deteriorated into solving problems and putting out fires, or ‘what have you done for me lately’ conversations. That’s how the relationships tended to devolve.
“As a sales manager, we wanted to look at individual objectives larger than the next sale. For instance, how do you build in opportunities for talking to customers that go beyond putting out fires? I wanted to ask engaging questions around personal and professional development and the organization as well. I wanted to talk about team alignment. How do we think in more innovative ways? How do you build your own presence in an individual way?”
Chris built team leader guides to help sales leaders deal with those kinds of topics. It was a start, but he soon realized there was a challenge in how you measure that kind of high-level professional development that can lead to better sales. “Sales people and customers are busy and you need to see results for taking an hour out of a ‘sales effort.’”
That’s when the idea of Actionable Conversations came about – a far more ambitious offering, combining learning modules and an easy-to-use real-time tracking capability that helps organizations optimize their business and sales operations. “It’s akin to an oil change for your car. Actionable Conversations help you go faster and further when you’re maintaining what’s important.”
It’s getting results. Chris points to one telecom-sector company that had just done three rounds of layoffs. Their sales department was left with a demoralized (though highly competent) sales force of 24 people, down from 70.
The company used Actionable Conversations over a year to help those left over understand that they were the best of the best (which was why they were still there). “The program wasn’t explicitly focused on making them better sales people, since they already had those hard skills. It was about getting them more comfortable in their environment.” It would also give them the learning and support to become even more effective at their jobs and ultimately cultivate leadership for the next stage of growth.
Chris recalls another example of a financial services fund management company. Their professional fund managers had the hard skills they needed to do the job, but there was something missing that wasn’t taught in school, or even on the job: it was a generational gap in communication. Their twenty-something fund managers essentially had no confidence in talking with their high-net-worth clients in their 50s and 60s.
Actionable Conversations was the solution. Thanks to a process of high-level learning and real-time tracking, one fund manager in particular set a new goal of talking more to her clients every day. In short order, she had tripled funds under management for her account. The company went on to incorporate her process across their team and are on their way to one of their best performing years ever.
Actionable Conversations are focused on those high-level learning outcomes that have very practical and measurable results for companies looking to grow. They can do this in many different ways. “The variance of applications is worth noting,” Chris explained. “It’s not a hammer looking for a nail. It’s a toolbox.”
This is the added value I’m pleased to offer our current and prospective clients, particularly larger enterprises that value the results that they can measure.
Interested? Give me a call and let’s see how Actionable Conversations can impact your business.