March 23, 2021

Ep196: Training Your People to Fetch Pillows

It turns out, you can train a dog to stop barking if you train him to retrieve throw cushions instead. Let’s find out how that trick can work with humans. Why is that important for business?  When you see a behaviour you don’t like –...


It turns out, you can train a dog to stop barking if you train him to retrieve throw cushions instead. Let’s find out how that trick can work with humans.

Why is that important for business? 

When you see a behaviour you don’t like – barking at the door, for instance – you may have better luck stopping it by introducing a new replacement behaviour – fetching pillows - than by focusing on the barking. It can be much more effective to train a dog to do something instead of training them not to do something. 

And it just might be the same for those of us on two legs. 

But it is important to not step over the part where the dogs had training. “Do this instead” works best when the “instead” is clearly communicated and sufficient or necessary training occurs. Like here. 

Be aware that in every interaction you have, you are training people how best to interact with you and how to get what they want from you. If you respond to an email immediately, for instance, you are teaching someone that that is a fast and efficient way to get what they need from you. When you notice that subconscious training is happening all of the time, you can direct it to encourage the behaviour you want more of.  

But beware – the conversation is important. Though often people can figure out things on their own through reinforcement “training”, you may need a Care and Feeding conversation to make the behaviour stick. And before you do that, you need to recognize not only what isn’t working, but what behaviour you would like instead.

That frustration, of seeing what you don’t want, and turning it into an opportunity (what you do want), is what being an entrepreneur is about. If you act like an internal entrepreneur in your own company, you can look for the frustrations and find an opportunity to change things for the better. 

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