Are You Checking for Understanding? Or am I?

A couple of years ago my clients started asking me, “Do you follow up with my people after training to check for their understanding of our Terms & Conditions or do I?” Today, (not in years past) I say we both should. My efforts alone are not enough.

In training sessions, I see people nod their heads in agreement when I check for understanding. The group tells me, “Yup, I get it.” Then we go into one of three types of exercises to validate their level of understanding. Invariably, most people don’t actually understand what they thought they understood.

Teaching Terms & Consitions takes a lot of repetition in a variety of circumstances to really understand the value of a term to your organization and to the other organization. So it is not good enough to check for understanding once during the training session. You—the leader—have to keep checking again and again until you are certain that the person grasps the concept.

Coaching Tip: Take 5-15 minutes to check your team members’ level of understanding

Here’s how, you as a leader, can use three tools to check your team members’ level of understanding by incorporating them into your regular team and one-on-one meetings.

1) A Quick Role Play.

People squirm, evade and try to avoid the role play. They tell me all the reasons why they don’t like them, but never tell me the real reason—they don’t actually know how to effectively negotiate the term the role play is asking them to negotiate.

There is so much value in a 5 minute role play with your team member before s/he goes into a negotiation conversation. You play the part of the “other party”. Give your team member a chance to counter your argument in a safe setting where s/he has less to lose than at the bargaining table.

2) A Case Study.

By case study, I mean a quick conversation in which you recap a scenario that a team member faced. Then, ask your team to consider their responses or approaches. People learn the most from case studies based on colleagues’ experiences, not only because the material is relevant to them, but they have a sense of comradery. That comradery allows people to take risks and offer suggestions they might not offer when sitting at the bargaining table.

3) Reflective Questions.

Stop your team member when s/he is telling you about the course of some negotiation conversation and ask them to reflect. For example, a junior buyer was having trouble with a supplier who delayed developing a corrective action plan (or CAP) to address quality issues on one part. She wanted to know how to enforce the contract provision.

But, when I asked the buyer to reflect on all the reasons the supplier was dragging their heels, not just their stated reasons, she told me, “They hadn’t been paid in a long time.” Her company hadn’t paid several outstanding invoices (for reasons other than the quality triggered charge backs). The point was not to solve the issue for her, but to get her thinking at a deeper level than the reactive level that had been previously established. It had not occurred to her that there could be a connection between a stalled CAP and overdue invoices.

Your Takeaway…

So, whose job is it to check for understanding? It is both of our jobs: mine as trainer and external coach, and yours as leader.