Over time, I’ve had the good fortune to work in three corporate training departments within the pharmaceutical industry. Each of these experiences had both good and challenging environments surrounding training when it came to tenured managers.
I’ve spent most of my time training managed care account managers, as that was the environment that I personally come from. You would think that my experience providing training in three very different pharmaceutical companies means that there would be a wide disparity of approaches when it comes to dealing with skill development.
Actually, not so much. One edict that resonates in my memory as I look back at all three of those times and in my career was the dictate from management: No Soft Skills!
It seems that training spending and budgets would dictate that we spent our time and money focused around developing, something called “hard” skills, so I regularly had to ask myself, “what is it about soft skills that is so abhorrent to training organizations”?
It’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe they felt that there wasn’t a good return on investment. Maybe they felt that there was not shelf-life, or long retention on behalf of the learner. No one could quite answer the question for me in my department.
Then along comes a program called, of all things, Effective Intelligence. Effective Intelligence is a program that is centered on business-based research that was done in Europe back in the 80’s. I was intrigued with both the research and with the output from this program and even though I felt it would be perfect for account managers, I knew I would have an uphill battle to face because it could be considered a “soft” skill.
Now I am a veteran of 34 years in the pharmaceutical industry, and I know well enough to pick my battles. I knew I would have an uphill fight trying to make the case for a program that looked soft but definitely provided some hard skill development. Little did I know I was in for the battle of my life when it came to this program.
The Effective Intelligence program was developed in Great Britain, had its first real successes in Belgium and the EU, and then was successfully brought to Canada. It has very credible research associated with it and even the RAND Corporation here in the U.S. was able to verify the basic premises established by the author, Jerry Rhodes.
It seems that this data was not enough to convince my management team that this was a viable program for our account managers. The biggest sticking point was that there was an assessment tool that looked and felt like too many other of those pop psychology programs that really were nice to know but didn’t give you anything to work with. I found myself becoming an advocate for this based on the fact that there are specific actionable skills that can be implemented almost immediately on completion of the program.
Management was having nothing of this: “We don’t need this account team to take another assessment,” was the answer I faced at the time. I felt it was time to take desperate measures; I was already in this battle, quite a way down the road, and there was no turning back. I really believed this would help the team, so I bit the bullet.
I called a master trainer in Canada who was one of the licensees for this program and asked if I could take the assessment and see the output myself so that I can demonstrate this to my management team. He said sure, but that’ll be $250 bucks. I had asked myself, do I believe in this enough to pay $250 to find out?
After taking the assessment and being debriefed on my “thinking styles,” I found that I pretty much had my answer. One of the benefits of this program is that it identifies people who have a default style of thinking that is dramatically different from your own. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, what were they thinking? —Well, that’s just the point. They were certainly not thinking what you were thinking. The results of the Rhodes’ Thinking Intentions Profile (TIP) demonstrated that I had the complete opposite thinking style of my immediate superior. So this was not actually news to me; all along this had been a contentious relationship, but I didn’t know why. Now I knew.
I remember going into the staff meeting armed with this new information, and some new behaviors and waited for my chance to speak. After observing my superiors and peers. I was able to make a quick assessment of their default style and then plotted my targeted response.
What was really amazing is that it worked. It worked right away right out-of-the-box. I actually didn’t get approval at that meeting but immediately after was asked into my boss’ office. She put her hands on her desk, leaned over toward me, and said, “what is up with you? You have changed,” —that was all I needed to hear. I explained how the demonstration of my behavior during the staff meeting was built upon the results of my assessment with the Thinking Intentions Profile.
Once the program was instituted with the account managers, we found that it was self-perpetuating. Not only did the teams use it, but they insisted upon using it for both managing the team and looking to those who had a default style that could help them, and to applying this to tasks that they had to face as account managers.
It was truly a story about a soft skill that turned into a hard skill, and even though I was promised it, I never did get the $250 back.
Jerry Clor, MBA
Effective Intelligence Program
Do what you believe, believe in what you do….