How to Smile and Train Slow

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” said Charlie. “You are going to lose eight hours of production today.”

My plan was to rotate eight operators off-line for one hour each. In that one hour, Charlie was going to coach the operator to perform data entry in real-time with a customer on the line. The current method was to take notes on paper and, later, enter the order in the computer. It was a delayed process that created mistakes and missing information.

Charlie was coaching the operators, I was coaching Charlie. Actually, I was training Charlie. Our first subject was Sonja.

“Good morning, Sonja,” I took the lead. “You have completed the training for the real-time data entry and then we throw you back on-line with real customers. I don’t know if that is fair, so today, we have you off-line for an hour. We will do the same work, but the customer won’t be real. In fact, I am going to be your customer, so if you need to stop and slow down, all you have to do is smile and we will slow down.

“Since, I am the customer, Charlie will be your coach. Every time Charlie sees something he really likes, he is going to stop you and tell you about the element you did well. Ready?” Sonja smiled.

“You smiled,” I said. “So, let’s take it slow. You have your phone script, let’s start at the top.”

Sonja started through the script. Twenty seconds in, I stopped her.

“Charlie, we just finished the first few seconds of the call. What were the elements that Sonja did well?” Charlie stared at me, intently. Though I had briefed him before we got started, he was still focusing on mistakes. In the first twenty seconds, Sonja had made no mistakes, so Charlie didn’t know what to say.

“Charlie, in the first few seconds, did Sonja stick exactly to the script?” Charlie nodded. “Then, tell Sonja what positive element she accomplished by sticking to the script.”

So, Charlie talked about consistency. And we went on, stopping every few seconds, so Charlie could make a positive comment about Sonja’s performance. The first call took 15 minutes. The second call took 12 minutes. The third took 8 minutes. The fourth took 7. Then 6 minutes. The last two calls hit our target at 4 minutes, and then we had coffee.

2 thoughts on “How to Smile and Train Slow

  1. Anthony Cardoza

    I’m a relatively new follower of your blog so if I missed a lesson on accountability or something please forgive me.
    With that said, can you please explain why these sentences both exist: “Charlie was coaching the operators, I was coaching Charlie. Actually, I was training Charlie.”?
    It sounds like you realized you made a mistake by saying you were coaching Charlie and then corrected yourself by using the more appropriate term “training”. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why you didn’t edit that out when you caught the mistake.
    You generally present a very knowledgeable image of yourself so it could be a communication device for the rest of us, but to serve what purpose? To show a bit of humility?
    I got the crazy idea that maybe there was a spider sitting on your backspace key, but that postulate died when I realized you could just use the mouse to highlight over the missing text.
    Whatever the reason was, it really interrupted the flow of this piece.

    Friendly word of advice… don’t feel the need to show your editing on the final draft. It’s distracting.

  2. Joe Don Baker

    I don’t think you’re being fully honest here.

    Charlie makes it clear that these sessions will take 8 hours from production time. If you are really training 8 employees that leave no more than one hour per person without compromising additional production.

    The story then continues to describe a mixture of between call practice and feedback. I’m assuming because of how you cite the call lengths that feedback is not taken into account in the call times. If it in fact is then there is a problem because the improvements you show are not coming from the repeated work and training but instead from the diminishing length of positive feedback (hardly fair to count against the trainee AND cite as improvement).

    With that said, the total call length for Sonja adds up to 56 minutes. This leaves 4 minutes for all of your feedback and coffee at the end of the session.

    This is only possible if you have hardly any feedback (how much did the two of you really help with only 4 minutes of real feedback in an hour) as well coffee that was not hot and fresh when you went to take a break. Everyone knows fresh coffee will need minutes to cool in your cup or mug.

    It sounds like Sonja worked hard and deserved a break and may feel bitter (no coffee pun intended) about getting lukewarm coffee as a treat for finishing a highly stressful hour (what with two managers there to critique her).

    I hope we get the real story here soon. I was intrigued by the premise but bothered by the clear lack of honesty. I know you are too experienced and worldly to have really played these interactions out as the details present them.


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