A few years ago I had the opportunity to become certified in what was then looked at as essentially a sales training program. I was working for a credit union at the time and like a lot of other credit unions we found ourselves at a crossroads.

Credit unions properly managed and run are not banks or banking light. Their primary purpose when they were created was to pool the resources of members and use that pool to provide loans to other members of that particular community to do things like purchase a first car, a first home, finance an education or the like. 

The community aspect was very important. The community dimension was created because membership was usually as a function of belonging to a specific group; an employer, association, or some other connection. Credit unions are also not for profits, there are restrictions on what kinds of loans and the kinds of business they can do.

In the 90’s a couple of things happened. The first as a result of a lot of merger and acquisition activities, business closures, etc.; the natural sponsorship of many credit unions went away. The second was that the Federal government allowed for a change of interpretation that expanded the criteria for inclusion for management and made it much less restrictive. You started to see the proliferation of mega credit unions.

The other thing that began to happen is that in order to maintain their value proposition credit unions found that they needed to be able to differentiate themselves more clearly; not only from banks, but from each other. Financial institutions had become commoditized; to stay alive they needed to sell current and prospective members are why they represented good value. Huge change, they didn’t own their members anymore. Many credit union employees here also abhorred with the idea of selling. Many had left traditional financial institutions to get away from that.

Our challenge was to re-orient these employees to seeing sales in a different way.

Dr. Ron Willingham had created a model that did that. His model, called Integrity Selling, is based on creating a relationship; an exchange of value. I am not going to go into length about that, rather I want to talk about one of the foundational aspects of his program- Congruency.

Dr. Willingham’s research had led him to the conclusion that most sales training failed because it did not identify or address fundamental barriers between an individual’s values and the tasks we ask them to perform. He addresses congruency on multiple levels.

  • The first level is how we see the activity, is it consistent with our personal value set.Huge H
  • The second level is whether or not we believe we have the skills and aptitudes to perform the activity.
  • The third level is our willingness to do the work, to perform the activities necessary to be successful.
  • The fourth level is belief in the product or service.
  • The fifth level is alignment between individual values and the values of the organization.

    Dr. Willingham’s research also concluded that when as people we find our emotional or core values about an activity to be inconsistent with the performance of that activity our emotions will overcome our intellect 85% of the time. There is plenty of other research to support his conclusions. Seth Godin refers to this as our lizard brain, where those primeval drives and fears live.

    As I sat in that room and heard Dr. Willingham’s model described it came to me that:
  • He was absolutely right!
  • This isn’t just applicable to sales
  • Training does not typically address any of these issues.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the brilliant and distinguished author and consult from Harvard sums up the failure of most change initiatives similarly-

Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done with me!

Most training and change is compliance oriented- we do things to people, not with them.
Right now we are at a place where the vast majority of people would describe themselves are marginally engaged with their work and their employer. An equally large group does not trust leadership in their organizations or in most of our institutions including business, government, and even organized religion.

The effects of this are literally billions of dollars in lost opportunity. The solutions we have been trying to implement are compliance based. We want to use technology, systems, templates, and other models that don’t address the congruency issues.

We still call things like respect, clear expectations, equitable compensation, constructive feedback, etc. as soft skills. In many cases we relegate them to human resources staff rather than embedding them into the expected competencies of every manager and supervisor. We don’t want to do the work!

We don’t manage human capital, we manage people! Not only do we manage people, we manage whole people.

Systems that do not take into account congruency will never achieve long term or sustained success!

Organizations like TowersWatson, Gallup, SHRM, and others publish information almost daily about what we are now calling employee engagement. They can show categorically that organizations that embrace a culture of engagement outperform their counterparts in every key performance indicator over the long term.

The key is that proper implementation is a culture of engagement! It is a systemic model not a program or an add on. It is embedded within every aspect of your systems, not a bolt on. You begin at the hiring process and follow through in performance management, training and hold everyone accountable to operate consistent with the organizational values. Compliance isn’t optional.

Engagement is also not about morale or surveys. It is a continuous, living process. You not only have to do the work; you have to do it every day!

I saw an interesting post on Facebook the other day that describes part of our bigger issue- it points out that many people argue that removing the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest will slow the economy down further, yet the cuts existed for ten years and we saw marginal job growth. C level compensation the last two years has averaged over 20% per annum, while average people saw 2%. I will speculate that doesn’t contribute to fixing the trust much.

I believe we have a significant opportunity to improve things, but it will require two fundamental changes-

  • We need to embrace the concept of doing things with people not to people!
  • We are going to have to do the work!


Back >