We’ve all heard about the shortcomings of millennials, so widespread throughout the Internet and social media. Chief among them?
Millennials lacking initiative.
But this article isn’t just about millennials.
A common complaint is millennials won’t do anything if they’re not asked, or that they would rather find a way out than a way through.
More experienced managers complain that, after assigning millennials to a task, they’re inundated with a million questions as if they’re incapable of doing anything on their own.
But this article isn’t just about millennials.
It’s about what to do if you have mindsets that need to change within your workforce, and you’re willing to make it a long-term goal to improve these mindsets.
Specifically, when your workforce seems to have an issue taking initiative. You need your employees to be more self-directed self-starters.
Here’s a quote. I’ll give you context in a moment, but first, just read the quote.
“We were seeing much weaker applicants. A lot of these kids didn’t just need discipline, they needed a mental makeover. They’d never belonged to a sports team, they’d never had a real job, they’d never done anything. They didn’t even have the vocabulary for ambition. They’d followed instructions their whole life.”
Is that a senior manager describing his unmotivated employees? An HR Director bemoaning the dearth of applicants?
That was General Charles C. Krulak describing new recruits to the U.S. Marine Corps.
When people are just told what to do their entire lives, it doesn’t lead to much of a feeling that they have control over their lives. That is what we call Locus of Control.
People with an Internal Locus of Control believe they control the course of their lives.
People with an External Locus of Control believe their lives are governed by forces outside their control.
So, your unmotivated employees? They’re probably an External - along for the ride because, in the end, they don’t control what happens to them.
General Krulak had to implement changes into the Marine Corps Basic Training. While much of their changes have been unpublished, Locus of Control researchers have published many similar methods.
You want your employees to be Biased Toward Action - capable of taking action when needed, believing that they can, and inclined to do something over doing nothing.
That’s what the Marine Corps wanted, and that’s what you want, too: a Bias Toward Action. Here’s how:
1. Forced Decision Making
In his book, “Smarter, Better, Faster,” Charles Duhigg interviewed General Krulak and a marine recruit. The recruit described a scenario where he and his other recruits were led into a mess hall kitchen, uncleaned from the worst of its post-lunch frenzy.
The recruits were told to clean it.
They were given no guidance or instruction. They had to work together, collaboratively, toward the end. They were forced to make decisions on how to complete unfamiliar tasks.
Now, you don’t necessarily need to set your employees off like this on every single task. This is an exercise that leads to a Bias Toward Action. If you’re not ready to trust your employees to complete essential work like this just yet, that’s absolutely fine. Find inconsequential, unfamiliar, collaborative tasks, and make it an exercise.
Make forced decision making routine, and you’ll find your employees taking more initiative when it counts.
2. Never Praise Natural Abilities
“You’re such a good leader!”
“You’re a natural.”
Those are nice things to say to people. They may even be true. But they reinforce an external locus of control.
If someone has a natural talent, if it’s something they were born with, then it’s not something that’s under their control. Someone may have fantastic natural abilities that are a true asset, and that’s great! But, if we’re trying to teach an internal locus of control, it’s not a good idea to praise people for something they didn’t control.
Instead, praise accomplishments, especially if those accomplishments took work. Give praise to an employee when they had control over a situation and used it well.
Praise accomplishments, not abilities.
3. Correlate Effort with Results
This goes along with #2. Externals don’t believe the choices they make can have an influence over what happens to them. So, find opportunities to show them.
When working on a project, you can point out that, “Because you took the time to review those numbers, you found a mistake. Because you pointed out the mistake and let us fix it, you saved us a thousand dollars and a week of work.”
As often as possible, find opportunities to show Externals how their actions influenced the result.
4. Confront External Statements
Externals may say something like, “I’ll never be able to do that.” That’s definitely an External statement - no matter what they do, they’ll never be able to do it.
Internals would say something like, “If I work on one piece at a time, I’ll eventually get it.”
In your interactions with employees, take notice of External-type statements they may make, and be ready to offer a reframed way of thinking. This may just be around the office, or you may need to make it a more in-depth part of your coaching with your employees.
If your employees say an External-type statement, offer them an Internal replacement. Also, praise employees for using Internal-type language.
5. Generate Choices
If you’re reading this, it may be because you’re frustrated that your employees aren’t generating their own choices. That’s not necessarily what you’re being asked to do here.
If you have employees who are never sure how to make choices, using past scenarios as an example may help. In your coaching with them, take a look at a past situation - when they struggled to write a cover letter for a grant application, for example.
Brainstorm with them what choices they may have been able to make. Could they have researched other cover letters? Could they have asked for examples from past applications? Could they have written a draft and shared it with a more experienced professional?
Often, Externals will have frequently occurring themes of stressful situations in their lives. Sit with them, isolate one, and make a list of other possible choices for that situation.
Defer judgement and don’t focus on how the choice might work out. Just brainstorm different outcomes.
Our minds are often rigid in their thinking, especially with Externals. This sort of exercise frees our minds and prepares us for the possibility of change.
6. Formulate Small, Realistic Goals
While coaching your External employees, set goals, but take care to ensure they’re not broad, unachievable goals, like, “I will double my sales closings in one month.” Failing in such a goal will probably reinforce the notion that they’re not in control of their destiny.
Instead, set small, realistic goals in short timeframes that they can achieve. Then, praise accomplishment and show correlation between effort and achievement.
7. Write in a Journal from Both Perspectives
This may seem extreme, but if you have employees who really struggle with Internal-type thinking, this is a good exercise.
Have the employees write a journal entry on a recent stressor, and then pinpoint the External-type statements. Then, have them rewrite the same scenario, but from the perspective of an Internal, and compare.
This highlights the difference in thinking between Internals and Externals, but, more importantly, gives them an opportunity to think like an Internal, which may be a good step.
8. Cooperate, not Compete
“The right wing and the left wing are part of the same bird,” or so the proverb goes.
Many studies conclude that when Externals face competition, they shut down. After all, if other people are better than them, why try?
Instead, find opportunities to offer up group rewards and whole group progress, rather than singling out the individuals. If the Externals believe they can make a contribution, that leads to more Internal-type thinking. If they are singled out and shown that they’re not the best - or even bad - then most Externals won’t see the point in trying.
This article is titled “The Long-term Solution.” Locus of Control is a deeply ingrained thought process. This is not a simple phenomenon and cannot be changed by a few, undemanding tasks. It will require consistent coaching. It will probably require even coaching the coaches - teaching team leaders and managers how to look out for Externals and how to coach them.
With long-term coaching, you teach your employees to be biased toward action. That’s something that takes the Marine Corps 13 weeks of basic training to accomplish.
At Conjunction Media, we’re not just about the media, we’re also about the teaching. You can teach your employees an Internal Locus of Control, and we can help.
Email email@example.com and ask your questions about Locus of Control, and see how we can help!
In Part I of the Video+Teach series, we covered when and why to use video to teach your employees.
In Part II, we looked at how-to videos, the “quick fix” for quickly teaching your team.
But, what if you have something more complicated to teach, or maybe you need to teach something that doesn’t have such a defined result.
For this, we incorporate video into a teaching model we call the Gradual Release of Responsibility.
The Gradual Release of Responsibility
The “old school” way of teaching was just demonstration and repetition. “Watch me hammer this rivet… and now it’s your turn.”
Fortunately, we have a better way, a way that allows learners to make mistakes and ask questions under the watchful eye of the more experienced master.
It’s called the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR), and it has 3-4 steps, depending on context.
The GRR is best used in higher-order types of thinking. To illustrate this, we need to bring out an old teacher education classic, Bloom’s Taxonomy.
I won’t go into a complete breakdown of each level - that’s for students of education and instructional design. Instead, take my word for this, GRR works really well for the apply and analyze levels.
(Now, teachers may yell at me for this part - GRR also works well for remember and understand. Yes, I agree. Teachers use it all the time in math classes to learn how to solve equations. But, with your business, we’re looking at it for the medium-term solution for problems that are too difficult for a simple how-to video).
Now, why is this a medium-term solution? Because it’s not something for which you can just give your employees the video and call it a day. It does require teaching in conjunction with the video.
So, when would you use GRR and when would you use a how-to video? Have a look at the chart below:
You might see a pattern. The Gradual Release of Responsibility works well when feedback from a more experienced partner is needed and essential.
The Gradual Release of responsibility. It’s more than just demonstration and repetition.
In Part IV, we’ll talk about what to do when “Those Damn Millennials” need some initiative. It’s called developing a “bias toward action,” and it’s a new technique utilized by the US Marine Corps in basic training!
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Video Producer + Teacher
What do you do when you need to train your whole team, and you need to do it NOW!?
In Part I of the Video+Teach series, we covered when and why to use video to teach your employees. Now we start to cover the how.
In reality, we have three ways: a short-term solution, a medium-term solution, and a long-term solution.
The short-term solution is a basic “how-to” video. This is when you need a quick solution to get your workforce up to speed quickly. The development is the quickest, and the implementation is the quickest with a how-to video.
However, the reason a how-to is short term is because it doesn’t lead to any changes in habits or mindsets with your workforce, and it’s not a great solution for creative or open-ended tasks. A how-to is great for teaching how to use a machine, a system, or learn a procedure. If you want your employees to learn customer service skills, design skills, etc., you will need a longer-term solution.
The medium-term solution is the “Gradual Release of Responsibility.” Most simply, the GRR model has four steps:
The GRR model can be used for more complicated procedures or for tasks that have a more open-ended or creative component. However, to really work on specific habitudes or mindsets with your workforce, a longer-term solution is needed.
Our long-term model teaches a “bias toward action.” It is a series of exercises, developed in coordination with your training and management force, designed to teach your workforce more creative habits and the ability to take more initiative.
One way of teaching a bias toward action is by the “Delayed Guidance” model:
Each one of these models will get its own dedicated post. First up, here’s the short term, how-to video.
The Short-Term Solution: The How-To Video
Why users need to trust your video.
It’s not as simple as just listing out the steps and filming it. In my experience as a younger designer and teacher, I produced many how-to videos that, quite simply, missed things.
It takes quite a bit of experience as a designer to think through not only how to do things, but how could things go wrong, and how to present this all in a way that isn’t too cognitively demanding.
Also, it sounds weird, but learners need to be able to trust the video. I’ll talk more about that in a bit, but if the learners don’t trust the video, it becomes harder to learn. If the video is done poorly, they won’t trust the video.
The first part in prescribing a series of instruction is for the designer to write learning objectives and complete a task analysis.
The designer will interview and observe an expert in the task, and determine exactly what skills are used in the task. Some skills may be in the Cognitive Domain (knowledge skills), the Psychomotor Domain (physical skills), or the Affective Domain (emotional and interpersonal skills).
The designer will conduct a procedural analysis with the SME, and answer three questions on each step:
Based on each step, the designer could produce a step-by-step list, flowchart, or something similar as a guide.
Now, we can start planning our video. The video producer will plan out a storyboard where we determine what shots we need, what angles to use, what sound to use, and how to incorporate dialogue.
The important part here is reducing cognitive load on the learner. Basically, the learner should be focused on understanding the task, not on decoding what the video means. They need to be able to trust the video, that if they do what the video is saying, they’ll be doing it right.
So, if we’re missing steps due to poor planning, we lose trust. If we don’t include ways things can go wrong and present those at the right time, we lose trust. If the video doesn’t include success criteria, we lose trust.
The learner must be able to trust the video in order for it to really be effective. In my days as a younger teacher before I took the time to study instructional video production, I made a lot of videos that lost the learner’s trust.
As your Video+Teach producer, I’m here to help you build your library of how-to videos to get your workforce up to speed quickly and keep them there. Let me know if you have questions, I’m happy to answer!
Video Producer + Teacher
“My whole team needs to know this, NOW!” How am I going to do that?
“We need to make sure everyone is doing this the same way. What can I do?”
“Those damn millennials don’t know customer service!”
“College didn’t teach them how to create a rapport with clients.”
Have you ever said any of these?
Did you know that developing a video training program specific to your needs doesn’t take the resources of a multinational corporation?
Your business can have a training department. Here’s how:
Bring in a video producer that is also a teacher!
Hi, I’m David. I’m a teacher, and owner of Conjunction Media, an award winning video production company. I will work with you to develop a training program that meets your specific needs.
As an experienced educator with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instructional Design, I bring you the skills of an educator combined with the artistry and efficiency of video.
That is Video+Teach.
This blog is the first in a series of blog posts on using video as part of a training program for your workforce, and how it can set you free to get back to work - the work you love doing, without having to spend so much time continually teaching or reteaching employees.
The Video+Teach Series
1. When is Video+Teach right for your business?
2. Short Term: A “How-To” video to teach something NOW!
3. Medium Term: Video+Teach for harder, more creative tasks.
4. Long Term: When you need those "Damn Millennials" to develop some initiative!
Part 1: When is Video+Teach Right for your business?
First, we need to do a fill in the blank. What do you love about your business? Why did you start your business? For example, I love videography. You love _______________ (fill in the blank).
From now on, when I use a blank _____________, you fill it in with the same word every time.
1. When you have high turnover.
High turnover means you are constantly needing to train new talent. That is time consuming and takes away from your ability to do ________________.
If you’re always training new talent, you’re not bringing in new business, generating new leads, producing new products, analyzing trends, and you’re not ___________________.
If this is you, sit down with us, let us develop a Video+Teach program for your new talent, and let us reduce your training time by 80 percent so you can ___________________.
2. Your employees are always asking the same questions.
How do I use this machine again? How do I make that drink again? How do I run that report? I only need to do this, like, once every two weeks, so it’s hard to remember.
Sound familiar? Video+Teach can generate a library of frequently asked questions, so your employees can return to your video library for a refresher instead of having to interrupt you while you’re doing ____________________.
3. You are swamped.
Are you busier than an airport snow globe maker during peak tourism season?
Your customers keep coming to you because you are the best at _____________________. Your business is exploding, you can’t keep up with demand, you need to bring in new people to help you _________________ but you can’t teach them to ________________ because you’re too busy _________________! And, if you stop _________________, you lose revenue.
We can make a Video+Teach program for your employees, so they can help you _______________ without you having to stop __________________ to teach them how to _______________.
4. Your talent all have similar skills deficits.
My employees don’t know how to interact with customers. Those teenagers can’t keep the cash drawer organized. College didn’t teach them customer service.
Do you notice trends in your employees that you are always trying to correct, but have trouble keeping a lid on it? That’s where Video+Teach comes in. Different skills require different learning plans and techniques, techniques that business owners don’t necessarily know off-hand.
We can analyze these skills and create a Video+Teach program to help you address it with your talent.
5. You’re about to introduce something new.
You got that new contract. The new product line is about ready. The new equipment is here.
But, it’s hard to learn. Your talent isn’t all here at the same time. You know the tricks that aren’t in the manual (and the manual sucks).
This is a great place for Video+Teach. Once you introduce this to your employees (either yourself, with Video+Teach, or both), put it in your training library so you all can refer to it whenever you need to.
6. You have extensive documentation on your procedures.
Good. This is a great first step. But, translating text-based procedures into action is actually a pretty abstract skill, which isn’t a natural ability of a lot of people.
Instead, let Video+Teach create a visual representation of your procedures, removing a large cognitive hurdle to good performance.
Video+Teach is designed to remove your burdens and set you free to do what you love. If that’s what you’re looking for with your business, contact me today to get started - firstname.lastname@example.org
Next up is Video+Teach Part 2: The Short-Term Solution “How-To” Video. Want to be automatically notified when this article is posted? Subscribe below.
Owner of Conjunction Media. Video Producer + Teacher