If you want to be a master of training, you must know how to shape the department culture. It would be best if you were committed and determined to convey the information you want the audience to understand most effectively. Edward McFarlane shares valuable insights on how to do that, especially with training other technicians. He discusses how you could be an effective, high-performing leader and provide solutions to an organization. Tune in so you can be equipped with excellent leadership strategies for success and growth.
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The Secrets To Mastering Technician Training With Edward McFarlane
I’m super excited. My buddy Edward McFarlane is here with us. This guy is a wealth of knowledge. If you don’t know who he is, he has these luscious locks of hair. We are going to talk about training. Eddie has got a ton of background with training. He’s got a whole gamut of background when it comes to the HVAC business with Haller Enterprises. He’s the Founder at Schedule Engine if you have ever heard about that. If you haven’t heard about Schedule Engine, check it out. We use it personally within Service Emperor. We love the product. It’s amazing. He’s on the board for ACCO and NATE. He’s all about training. He’s ate up with our industry. I’m super excited to talk to him. Josh, you’ve got anything else before I bring this fellow in here?
Let’s do it. He’s the best looking at the three of us.
Welcome to the show, Eddie.
I’m going to have you follow me around and do my intros everywhere. That was awesome. I’m going to book you for Thanksgiving here. That was pretty sweet. Thank you very much. You are very kind.
For those who don’t know who you are because they have been living under a rock, can you do a brief introduction to fit it all in there because you’ve got a lot of stuff going on?
Thanks for having me on. The headline is I’m the luckiest guy in the home service industry. That’s my job. I get to work in areas to help all the men and women in the blue-collar trades that are taking care of our communities and families every day. I do that in a couple of different ways. I have had an incredible privilege to be on the team at Haller Enterprises, which is a mechanical company in Central Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Philly. It has 4 locations and 400 team members. They are taking care of people. They do plumbing, heating, electrical and commercial construction.
That has been my proving ground and that team has been incredibly gracious. I don’t know if you have heard of Niels Bohr but he was a Nobel Prize winner physicist. He says an expert is someone that’s made all the mistakes possible in a very narrow field. The team at Haller can tell you that. I sucked at training when I first started. They can testify that. They are being very kind to let me be part of that team.
A number of years ago, I had the pleasure to work with Austin Haller, Founder of Schedule Engine, in solving contractors’ problems and booking more calls with lesser headaches. They’ve got an incredible set of services, technology and life services. He drives that bus every day. I get to volunteer and serve. I get to work with the team at ACCA, Air Conditioning Contractors of America. They wrote the book. It’s a real page-turner. If you have size and air conditioner, you have used it. If you have run maintenance, they wrote the book on it. They are the guardians of a trade that is treating me very well.
For a number of years, I have also been working with the NATE board. I get to work with the men and women there, as well as executives, distributors and manufacturers. It’s a testing and accreditation nonprofit that’s seeking to elevate the trades. The common thread is that I’m incredibly privileged. I get to give back, specifically around helping people. If we make people’s jobs easier, we make their life easier. You spend a lot of time working. That’s me. As Sagittarius, I like long walks on the beach.
Are you from Pennsylvania originally born and raised?
No. I’m born and raised in Scotland. I’m tremendously proud to be Scottish but I fell in love. My wife was very American. I get to be in Pennsylvania’s heart of the Amish land. Lancaster County is a beautiful place to live. I’m very lucky. We are minutes away from big cities and yet we could be minutes away in the country. I’m fortunate. My family wigs out every time they come and they are like, “That’s a horse and buggy. It’s 2021.” I’m like, “It’s fine.” It’s a bit of a culture shock when you come in from Glasgow.
[bctt tweet=”Learning is like a rope. You can lead it, but you can’t push it. ” via=”no”]
I came over when I was 21. I have been in the trades here for years. I’m a non-traditional person that enters the trades. I’m what everybody is looking for. I’m the byproduct. I’m passionate because I was recruited out of an industry. I wasn’t the kid that took the toaster apart. I didn’t build a hot rod with my dad. I didn’t go with Valtech. I didn’t go at Career Institute but I have managed to have an incredibly fulfilling and wonderful career in the trades. That’s the secret, as Jerry says.
How long have you been training other technicians? When did that start?
It’s within a year or two of being in the trades. It’s an interesting concept. One of the first fallacies that we see in training is that the person doing the training has to be the person that knows the most. Training isn’t about knowing the most. It’s who can impart the most information effectively. When you think about it, we all have that substitute teacher. As a kid, you think they knew everything. As you grew up, you realize they were just a page ahead of you in the book. I was that person.
What they wanted to convey was the excitement for the trades. Quite early on, I would get the right along, not long enough to teach them anything bad. It didn’t take you long to teach everybody something I knew. From very early on, I was privileged to be able to share my passion with the trades. They would put me with a new person for a couple of weeks and then they would go work with one of our master tradesmen to learn more of the in-depth stuff. It has been going. As I have continued in the trades, I have learned more and being able to share more.
Sometimes we get bogged down in the weeds. I’m not taking anything away from the guys who are super knowledgeable in our industry. Bryan Orr, Jim Bergman and Bill Spohn these guys know so much about our industry. They even fit into what I’m about to say. A lot of times, it’s the person who conveys the message the best like Jerry Rawlings telling stories and yourself. There are things where I have said multiple times like, “I will do a company-wide training with the technicians and our service experts.” I will do it again and again. I will send them a video that Bryan Orr did with HVAC School Podcast. They are like, “This makes so much sense.” I was like, “I told you that ten times now.”
I have had that. What’s interesting is there are a couple of mantras that we live by. One is, “When the student is ready, the lesson appears.” That’s a fact of life and how knowledge is, pedagogy, the art of learning and stuff. The other is, “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.” Those are important principles for training. Sometimes people need to hear things. I liked it when you go to a different country. You don’t help those people that speak a different language by saying again or louder. You have to understand how they learn, then try and convey in that way.
Once you get past that, you have had a little bit of experience. There are all kinds of traps that you fall in performance mode like needing a certain something back from the room. Those are traps that we all fall into. You learn that your role as the instructor is to understand how the student likes to learn and even the phraseology for a lack of better term. That’s why storytelling is so good and Jerry is good because it’s not about impressing people on how much you know. It’s about getting them to understand what you understand. In the same situation, they would do the same thing you would do. By the way, that goes for homeowners, customers, as well as cohort students.
With that being said, how do I teach a technician to do it my way versus the way they have always done it? The fear that I have is that you hire a technician who has 20, 25 years experience but it’s beer can cold. I want sub-cool and superheat.
Here’s the thing. How do we like to learn? What do we retain? Do we retain more things that were lectured or things that were instructed in? Do we retain things for a lifetime that we discovered for ourselves? One of the things that we focus a lot on is the power of self-discovery. Most of our training sessions start with a conversation about, “Tell me why you think this is important.” There’s no right or wrong answer because you can’t push a rope. Learning is like a rope. You can lead it but you can’t push it. You need to understand the idea that people discover things for themselves and questions are your biggest tool.
When you get the question, then you can ask more questions. A great example of this is, we have a Toolshed episode that we are going to do about it. When you think about how we learn, analogies, tools and things like that are helpful. I pulled out a six-pack of soda because it’s corporate. I’m like, “Pitch the case of your favorite beverage. It’s a hot day. This is the one you always get.” In this case, it was Dr Pepper. “You pull that one and you have it. If you like, you have another. You then pull out one and it’s a Mountain Dew. How would you feel?”
When it’s that ridiculous, everyone goes, “I wouldn’t be happy. That’s not what I paid for.” You have a conversation. “What had to happen?” “Everybody had to go to the factory. We all had to agree on how much would be in it, what would be in it and what it would be like.” You have this very expensive conversation. You can even push back and go, “Close enough. Fizzy water. Both will give you diabetes. What’s the big deal? It’s close enough.” After a while, the room is like, “You are being silly, Eddie.” I’m like, “Got it.”
Let’s think about how we learn. Typically, table stakes in the industry is if you didn’t have your own tools, you would ride along. If you had your own tools, you would lead. We will give you a van and you are a lead. If you have done zoning, great. We know that zoning, however, he did at his last place. There’s all of this institutional knowledge. When you think about it, you break it down into something that they understand already.
Knowledge is continuous. We don’t know things free-floating. They have to bolt on to things that we already know. They already know that that would be ridiculous to have a mixed pallet of beer and they have discovered that for themselves. You talk about, “What could happen?” Now that everybody is there and does not feel unthreatened, you can say, “Relax, guys. I’m glad you are doing this for everybody else. Everybody else needs this but what you don’t know about me is I worked for the Mountain Dew factory for 25 years. I’m pretty good.”
I’m glad these guys have the rules. There’s a picture on the wall at the Mountain Dew factory of me. Everybody does exactly what you are doing. They laugh because they understand how foolish that is. We have discovered why we have rules, who needs to follow the rules, what the output of the rules is and what if we don’t follow them. You can take this conversation to the nth degree. If I worked at Dr Pepper hotline and I say, “I’ve got half a case of Mountain Dew.” I can say, “Sir, that’s not possible because we have this process and this is all the steps we go through. If we don’t have that, we can’t.” You help them understand it relative to things that they already know. It’s very simple.
I get a phone call that says he didn’t do X, Y and Z. I’m like, “In ServiceTitan, I had this form and it’s completed.” He can’t go any further until this form is completed so I know that he had to have done that checklist. It turns into a different conversation. If he didn’t complete the form and figured out a way to bypass it, then it’s a whole different conversation altogether.
We call that getting the case of the checks. They go down the form and check everything. All systems on a Friday afternoon is 0.5 static pressure. It’s amazing. Jim Collins’ great quote is, “Leaders confront the brutal facts.” We talk about it. I’m a big believer in adult conversations. It’s the facts. I will share my constraints with you. You use questions instead of telling people what to do. Throughout history, there have only ever been two outcomes to control, 1) Comply 2) Defy. What determines which of those two choices to either comply or defy is the relative option.
Years ago, jobs were scarce, workers were plenty. You put up with a lot of stuff and now the shoe is on the other foot. You can’t just rely on control. You have to have these better conversations and seek to understand before seeking to be understood. The great Stephen Covey talks about that all the time. Instead of an adversarial like, “Here are the rules,” you have broken the rules. You come alongside as a coach and say, “Help me understand.”
Remember, we talked about not being the crazy Mountain Dew guy. I’ve got off a phone with a customer. “Can you help me understand what’s changed? Did we miss something in that conversation?” Usually from there, instead of this adversarial, “Because I said so,” you get into this, “Usually, there’s something going on at life like getting a divorce or my kids are sick.” It’s a much better outcome.
Years ago, the tables were turned. Back then, your technician or maybe an employee was held hostage. I feel like the roles are reversed.
Years ago, there was a labor shortage. That’s why people like me were brought into the trades that the employees didn’t know. Nothing changed except they know it. I’m a big believer in removing emotion as much as you can.
How do you do that though? I was going to ask you that, too. You are filling me up with a bunch of questions. This is my baby. If they potentially ruin a relationship with a client, how do you not make that an emotionally charged conversation?
There’s something we say in our house when my kids were growing up when they were like, “When can I do this? When can I do that?” The definition of adult in our house is the moment that you accept and understand that you and you alone are 100% responsible for what you find yourself. Does that mean we don’t have obstacles? We could probably do a whole thing on that but it’s a mindset.
I practice gratitude and stoicism. I start with me. What did I do to cause this? Where was I in clear? What did I allow to happen? Remember, performance is determined by the lowest level of performance you accept on a team. It’s not what you say it’s that. I start with myself because that’s what adults do, and then I ask myself practical questions like, “Last time I’ve got emotional and had this conversation. How did that work out for me?”
[bctt tweet=”Meeting isn’t training. Training is a meeting.” via=”no”]
You understand that when you come at some of these emotions as a parent ego state, you are going to activate the child in that person. We are all these different ego states and they are like, “You never did that.” I was like, “I’m tired.” That’s super unproductive. We are keeping trucks clean and tucking shirts in. If that’s in our code, then employees know they are not going to get fired for that in a world where you are getting $3,000, $5,000 sign-on bonuses and you are spending $15,000 a month on Indeed.
Why even pretend? If those things are important, how do we move to those? It’s about understanding what’s ultimately effective. Another Covey thing that comes to mind is we can be efficient with things but we must be effective with people. That’s what training is all about. It’s not about being quick. It’s about ultimately what is most effective. If you care about this, then you are going to subjugate your pride, ego and emotion. You are going to focus on what’s going to get you the predictably best outcome. It’s easier said than done.
It takes years for that thought process to be second nature. Do you ever find a technician or an employee teammate who needs the shock factor of getting emotionally charged?
Yes and no. This is related to training specifically. For years, I was training. I can turn a phrase. I can create an emotional arc. Those are all techniques. I can talk real slow. This is fun and meaningful at the time. I have had people come up and say, “I’m 52. I want you to know that no one has ever explained things like that to me.” That was powerful. A few weeks later and nothing has changed. It’s about emotion I find. We will get short-term buy-in. A lot of times, some people say, “Training doesn’t work.” There’s a whole process to understanding training.
One of my rules is a meeting isn’t training and training is a meeting. You know you have had training when something changes. If there’s no change, you didn’t have a training session. You just had a meeting. If you understand, you are starting with the end in mind and you know what you are trying to do, you are going to have a training session. You can do that emotional shock factor but then you are left with the fruit of the emotional tree.
To be clear on the other side, I’m not singing kumbaya or drum circles. We are all enlightened, self-actualized beings. There are consequences and performance metrics that need to be hit. We are a business. Brené Brown says, “Clarity is kindness.” That one thing more than anything is true. We try and do all these things because we think that’s going to be kind. We say, “This kind of person is this so I’m going to say like this. If I push too hard, they are not going to like that, and then an unhappy tech won’t perform.”
At the end of the day, that’s not our job. We are not inside anybody else’s head. Our role is to be clear. What is the game we are playing? What are the rules? How do you stay on the team? How do you score points? How long is the game? How long is left in the quarter? How we can be as kind as possible to our team is by being very clear like, “Help me understand.”
We don’t have to be harsh about it like the old school or the mechanic and his helper. You don’t have to scream at them.
I have had tools thrown at me in the basement. I get it and it worked so much. In a world where people have choices, they care about training and culture, how they are treated and where they want to spend their time beyond the paycheck, all of a sudden, things like this matter. There are two sides. Training means to an end. It’s only ever designed as a function of achieving X, which is a meaningful methodology to achieve Y, which is a customer and an employee retention result. There’s a reason we do everything.
This is something that, as a business owner, is constant. It’s not a conflict. I love training my guys. I get asked this and it brings up a great point. What happens if you train them and they leave? What happens if you don’t train them and they stay? Is there an obvious response to that? What happens if you spend the money and the time, and you are training people who have their picture on the wall at the Mountain Dew factory or they are not retaining the knowledge? At some point, do you say, “You are not invited to trainings anymore. You are a great parts-getter, tool-getter. You will never be anything more than that?” Is that something that we do or do we keep training with them?
You are talking about the Richard Branson quote, “Training is a cost of business that should be built in like rags and caulking fundamental stuff.” I will tell you the thing that they don’t talk about is if you become a center of excellence for training technicians, you will get some people poached. That’s a fact. You are going to invest the money. Your job is to reap the harvest for as long as they are with you and wish them well as they go out the door. I believe if we focused on people’s last day as much as we did their first week, we would have a better result.
What do you mean if you focus on the last day as much as the first?
We have all done a lot of work at making sure we onboard employees well. Not everybody but we have thought about that. Meanwhile, when someone moves on, they are like, “You are dead to me. I’m holding your last check.” You see all these questions. What we forget is years ago when I left my last company, guys aren’t like, “I will call you Friday and we will talk about our feelings.” That wasn’t the world. We weren’t texting everybody.
In a hyper-connected world, two things happen. One, Your current team is going to ask that new member like, “You came from so-and-so. What’s it like over there?” Remember, the way our mind works is we recall. We have all been somewhere. It’s like that first month. What if you took everybody for lunch on their last day and told them, “The door is always open. We appreciate what you have done for us. I looked at the numbers and you know you ran over 7,000 calls for us. I want to thank you.” We would make a personal impact statement, “I could do X or my kids could do Y. That was cool. You’ve got to take care of your family.” It’s a different paradigm.
This is a short story about a dispatcher that I had years ago. He was pretty much on board with me when I first started the business and helped out. He was the announcer for The Savannah Bananas baseball team. He had that announcer’s voice and I was like, “Perfect to pick up the phones and talk to people in dispatch.” His goal in life was always to run a radio station. He was from New Jersey, and then he went to California working DJs at different radio stations. He wanted to run one. He had the opportunity to move about an hour and a half away and would run three stations.
He mentioned it because he was in a conflict. He was like, “I like my job. At the same time, this is my dream.” I was like, “I know it’s your dream. We have had the why conversation. If you don’t take this job, I’m going to fire you.” He was like, “That makes it easier.” On our last day, we had breakfast together and I had a little cookie cake made. On it, I said, “You are dead to me.” He knew I was joking because we are still friends.
When you think about how connected people are in this world, what we see in some of these groups like when you fight over the commission check, that tech that left is still connected to all your team. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. They were training people how to treat us. We are saying, “You can’t give two weeks’ notice because you are going to get the short ride home.” This is about accepting the responsibility for the results you have in life.
When you see that, there’s basic altruism. It’s a way to be a good human. “I thank you for everything. I understand. There’s nothing personal. You’ve got your goals. They no longer align with ours.” I also know the industry is a revolving door and it’s a community. We have all had people come back after a while. We would never do it with an expectation of a certain result. We do it because whenever you do good to another person, you are automatically doing good for yourself because it’s the right thing to do.
To go back to your original question about training people that leave, what’s good for the hive is good for the bee. If you look at your community, whether that person goes to a competitor and educates them on all the things that you do and how they need to raise their prices, all of a sudden, the customer is getting better treatment from everybody in the area.
You are no longer competing against somebody that doesn’t understand their costs or isn’t doing things right. There are all kinds of net positives. Clearly, at this point, you have realized that I’m a glass-half-full guy. Sometimes the glass is cracked and thrown at your head. I totally get it but what if it wasn’t? We can’t control what others do and think. We can only control ourselves. With that being said, who do you want to be?
Eddie, I know I didn’t talk to you too much before the show. With the sub in HVAC, similar to you, I did not come with a lot of trades experience at all. I can’t see my wife. She’s behind my monitor but I’m sure she’s shaking her head and saying, “He doesn’t know what he’s doing with the tool in his hand.” I came in and wish some of these lessons about training. I always knew it was important but I had no idea where to start. I used the most experienced guy who was also the crabbiest guy and caused a lot more problems in 1 or 2-hour conversations with other techs that he pissed off that day.
I love your point because everyone that’s left have all communicated with each other. Even the last company I worked for, we had a guy that left. Every once in a while, we would ask one of our techs how that guy is doing because we knew he was texting him. He was getting paid more, getting this or getting that. It’s one way to stay connected.
[bctt tweet=”Accept the responsibility for the results you have in life. ” via=”no”]
It comes from my experience of not knowing how to use tools, how to do some of that stuff and starting a training program. If someone is reading this and either A) They have never started a training program, B) They started a training program and it’s totally flopped, what advice would you give them? Where would you point them for resources to get started?
There are some incredible associations and conferences. There’s always some cat like me that’s coming down from the mountaintop with stone tablets full of wisdom like, “We invented training.” We will share. You can come in and listen. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Get around to other people that are training or trying to solve the problem that you are working on. No one person in the room is as smart as everybody.
Get around, engage in Facebook groups, avoid the negativity, focus on the positive and join an association, whether it’s ACCA or something like that. They will support you where you need to be. Call people like me. Every session I do, I give my contact number. I bet 3 people out of every 200 will call. You have to be vulnerable to say what you don’t know. I have taken those calls.
There’s a number of different ways you can do it. There are webinars and research. What it comes down to is you’ve got to know yourself. Are you a business guy that doesn’t know the tools? Are you a tool guy that doesn’t know the business? Are you a tool guy that doesn’t know how to communicate the stuff you know? You are like a beautiful mind. You are looking at a condenser like, “That’s gas. That’s liquid. That’s hot and cold,” but you don’t know why you know it. You are probably not the cat to train. You’ve got to start with an honest self-assessment of your skills.
The good news is you are surrounded by solutions. A superpower that is underleveraged by owners and managers is they think they have to be the guy. There’s this principle that, “What got you here won’t get you there.” At some point, we reached the edge of our ignorance and skillset, and we hang out there. We set up a tent and we live there instead of using help.
You can keep a parking lot issue that comes up during your meetings. Off to the side, you can look at your callbacks and your warranties. You can come up with a list of a dozen things. You can go to your team and say, “You are good at this. You don’t get that. You get a ton of reviews. If I give you ten minutes next week, could you talk us through what you are doing?” You’ve got this inherent knowledge of these people that are facing, working on these problems and have skillsets every day. That’s one option.
Another option and this is something I used to do is when a direct team member would ask to go to train. Techs love training. They would sit because they think you win by knowing the most. If they only know 99.8% of it, they are not going to bring the subject up. They are like, “I might be an engineer. I will have to lift my kill and they will know that I don’t know 0.02% of the stuff.” They want to go to training.
A paradigm shift is like, “I will get your training but here’s what I would like you to do. When is this? The month after that, if I give you 25 minutes, could you give us an overview of everything you covered, the CliffsNotes? It’s a two-day class.” A) You’ve got resources, B) That person that’s going to training just because he asked and went versus the person who knows he’s going to have to give 25, what do you think of their engagement retention?
All of a sudden, they find the pencil. They maybe get excited about sharing. It’s impossible to operate differently than how you see yourself. If you have seen yourself as a tech all that time but you get 25 minutes to share and help, you get a performance boost because you see yourself differently. I was managing a sales team. The last person to get trained would get a week of the incoming salesperson time.
The calendar was typically lighter but they have spent the last few months they had been trained. They were comparing themselves to all the cats on the team that has been doing this forever. All they think about is, “I will never know as much as these other people.” You give them a week to download the new person. “I picked up a lot. This is awesome. I’m going to take this show on the road.”
All of a sudden, they get this performance boost because they see themselves differently. They have had a paradigm shift inside their head relative to performance. There are a lot of different options but it starts with a ruthless self-assessment of your skills. Knowing your role isn’t to know everything. Your role is to build a high-performing team that can function. Remember, the definition of a leader isn’t how well the team does with you. When you go away, does the team still perform? Is it still high-performing? Is it still sharp? Does it function? Do they reach out with solutions to each other? There are all of these opportunities.
That’s helpful for people who come outside the industry. You hear of this random accountant that purchases an HVAC company. They are going to run over him because he doesn’t know everything. There’s almost a stigma of, “If you weren’t down in the trenches, you don’t earn my respect as a business owner.” If you can lead that team in training, you need to start learning a little bit yourself but at the same time leading that team.
We all know accountants and people that had a carpet store before they’ve got into our industry. They are doing very well. This is because they don’t have the implicit biases that we all have. Have you ever promoted someone to a service manager? When someone calls them, his questions are like, “Did you check?” It takes five times as long. It causes more. We haven’t built capability in that person. The person that doesn’t know says, “That’s a good question. What do you think we should do?” What we have built is agency in the other person.
Critical thinking can be applied across a number of things. You can say, “Have you done that before?” You can ask them why they think that. “What’s your believability factor?” All these critical thinking skills are universally portable. Do you know that thing that everyone keeps talking about, which is an engaged workforce? How do you get engagement? I need my team to be engaged. What they mean is what does agency look like? How do you train people, and then not have them leave? You create agency. You do that by giving them true agency and supporting them.
If they want a technical answer, you can get them a technical answer. The same people ask the same question a lot of times. You have had the same question from the same person. What you are seeing is a lack of empowerment, a lack of like, “Am I okay to make this decision? Do I need to keep checking in?” There are all kinds of upsides. Some of the best service managers I know are nontechnical. They ask, “Did you follow the process?” They rely on the process because they don’t know.
[bctt tweet=”You create engagement by being engaging yourself.” via=”no”]
Is there a point that we are too small to start a training process? I know that the answer is no but I mean a formal training process because there are a lot of relying on other techs. As a small company, you are juggling everything. You are wearing a million hats. At what point do you stop, take a step back and say, “It’s time to implement a training process or program?”
Every formal program I know of started as an informal one and all those steps we talked about of like, “I’m going to give you ten minutes.” Some of those people are going to sweat like they are in the Headmaster’s Office. It’s going to be brutal. They are going to read three slides at you and mess up half the words. They are not having a good time. Someone else is going to crush it. You are going to learn stuff and you are like, “That was good. I would never have thought.” What you are doing is you are finding out who your next trainer is when you do have a formal one. Who likes it? Who has a natural ability at it? By all means, look informally.
Remember, we also live in a different time than years ago. I was talking to a team lead and he played one of Bryan Orr’s podcasts about refrigerant. It was one where Bryan was speaking to his apprentices. Every time Bryan asked a question, they stopped and talked about it. There are limitations of having to be the person with all the knowledge. We live in the information age so that’s no longer relevant.
One of the biggest impediments to training is the idea of urgent versus important. If you ask them, “Should I have a well-trained workforce?” They are going to say yes but the service phone is going to ring off the hook. Urgent versus important. The important should never be held hostage to the urgent. That is real, especially on a small team. Even on big teams, the phone rings more. Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do long after the moment has passed.
Think of January 12th at the gym. It’s a little emptier than January 1st. That commitment went in the way of your waistband. That’s the reality. That’s why it’s important to have a cadence, a muscle memory, a team and someone that you can say, “I’m not going to make the meeting. I’ve got to go put a fire. We are going to talk about this. Do you feel comfortable doing that?” It’s about building capabilities across your team. It’s not about you. They shouldn’t be.
The one paradigm is what got us here won’t get us there. We’ve got to where we are by having all the answers. Our muscle memory when we get questioned answers it. It’s very quick, easy and efficient. There are three Rs I train. If anybody takes away anything from this conversation, this can be used in meetings, trainings, one-on-ones. It’s three Rs. Whenever we get questioned, we fight that natural hero’s urge to be the guy that has the answers. Your ego is not your amigo, as my buddy Jerry says.
In a group of people, you would repeat the question to make sure that person knows that you’ve got it right and for others to hear. “My customer says they can get this at the big-box store cheaper.” Did I get that right? Those phone calls usually end up at our desks. We’ve got the answer but that doesn’t do anything for anybody. We redirect, “Steve, you have been doing this a long time. What do you say when you get that?” “I don’t know. I usually say this.” “Billy, do you do anything different?”
We talked about how we get engaging. The unfortunate thing is you create engagement by being engaging. You literally have to engage the other person. Sunday school rules are in effect. If you don’t volunteer, you are going to get voluntold. “John, you are quiet. Is this all horse hockey’s here? What are you thinking?” You have these honest conversations. “I don’t know. You can see all that. I usually say this.” It’s repeat, redirect, and then restate your role not necessarily as a trainer but as a facilitator. You can restate all of these things.
“We heard we are going to do this. We are not going to trash the competition. We are going to point out three differences. We are going to talk about all the costs involved. We are going to talk about our warranty. Peace of mind. Did I miss anything?” “No. Where did that answer come from?” It wasn’t the stone tablet from the guy in front. It was from their peers.” Who do they most likely to listen to? The guy that trained them several years ago or you who only cares about getting a bigger bass boat?
That’s the paradigm we are dealing with. That restate phrase is everything you’ve got was bonkers. You are like, “Those were some good suggestions.” Here’s what I would suggest. You can always say what you were going to say anyway. You just have to wait. If you wait, what you will learn is the gap between understanding, who’s got this and who doesn’t.
If you get crickets and crazy answers, you are like, “Note to self. Do training on this next week.” If you get the answers, you can congratulate yourself. You have made them the hero instead of you. They feel empowered, part of a team and respected for their opinion. They have had the chance to shape the department culture. Those three Rs is a muscle memory thing. It’s so hard. It’s repeat, redirect to the people in the room, and then restate.
I don’t have any HVAC company anymore but you gave me some ideas for meetings in the future.
There’s that idea of leaders speak last. If you speak and you are only repeating what you already know, that’s a trap.
Eddie, thank you so much. We went over so much. We could call for ten hours on this. Every time I have ever talked to you, it’s like, “Listen up in this conversation.”
I would be happy to come back sometime.
I appreciate that. Anybody that’s reading this, if you haven’t already checked it out, join the Schedule Engine Toolshed group. If you are not familiar with Schedule Engine, check out Schedule Engine. It’s a great product. If you have any questions about it, ask Eddie or me. I use it. It’s on my website if you go to ServiceEmperor.com. You look at the top right. It says Schedule Online. Click those buttons. They are going to go through the Schedule Engine process. Even if you just want to play with it and hit tests, do it. Our office knows because I have so many friends of mine who want to play with it. Is there anything else that I forgot to ask, Eddie?
I would encourage that the Toolshed isn’t about gurus. It’s about an intentionally positive community that’s elevating the trades. We need your voice. The future is in our hands so it takes all of us. Bring your questions and answers. Engage and let’s help elevate the trades to what we know they can be.
Huge shout-out to Emerson too for supporting that and us. Eddie and I were together at Emerson. They do make a massive impact in our industry. I want to give a huge shout-out to them for doing that. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you everybody for reading. Until we talk again. We’ll see you soon. Be safe.