“We do not learn from experience, We learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey, American Philosopher/Psychologist.
This was the opening line in one of the best posts I’ve read recently. It’s from the brilliant Suzi McAlpine, be sure to read the post: 5 ways you can build in reflection to improve performance.
This is such an important principle for all of us in selling and leadership, but somehow we seem so preoccupied with activity and busyness, we fail to take the time to reflect and learn from those.
We measure our success on volumes and velocity of outreaches. Yet those outreaches don’t produce the expected results. Rather than reflect on what’s happening (or not happening), in our rush to move forward, we simply do more of the same. And the results never change.
We know our customers don’t like our selling approaches. They complain that we focus only on our interests and our products, rather than the issues they are concerned with–their business challenges and their own success. We see customers prefer rep-free buying experiences. They don’t respond to our outreach. They don’t appreciate being fed into our selling machines, inflicting processes that focus on our efficiency, not the quality of their experience. We see these fail to produce the outcomes expected, but we persist, doing the same things at ever increasing rates.
As leaders, we know the importance of coaching and developing our people, but year after year, we see managers spending less time at this. And we wonder why fewer and fewer people are achieving their quotas/goals.
We know our people want to feel valued, heard, included. While we may give lip service to “our people are our most important asset,” our behaviors are the opposite, consequently tenures have plummeted.
Across virtually every metric, we see virtually everything we do in selling is broken. We produce less and less, requiring more and more.
But we are busier than ever. We speak of burnout, yet we continue to pile more fuel onto that fire.
And we are so busy we fail to take the time to pause and reflect.
We never take the time to think, “Why are these things no longer working? Why are the things that used to be effective no longer as effective as they have been? What has changed, why? What do we need to change and how do we change?”
We need to learn from our experiences. To learn, we need to take the time to assess them, to reflect, to question, and agree on changes we might put in place.
Action: Some ways to make a “habit” out of reflection.
- As individuals, when the things we do aren’t producing what we expect, take a few minutes asking yourself, “Why?” Think about what might not be working, think about what you might change.
- As leaders, help your people learn from their experiences. In coaching, ask questions, “Why did these things happen? Is there something you might have done differently? What if we tried these things?”
- We have endless amounts of data, but instead of managing to the numbers, drill down, asking yourself, “What caused these results?” For things that worked well and were highly impactful, look at how you continue to do those things that worked. For those that didn’t produce the expected results, try to figure out why and what you might change.
- Look at your processes, perhaps as a group, question yourself: “Are these producing what we expect? Why or why not? What might we change?”
- As you interview new people, don’t be distracted by their “years of experience,” but try to understand what they’ve learned as a result of those experiences. What have they changed? What did they do wrong, what did they learn from it?
Our experience means nothing unless we reflect on it, learn, adapt, and change.