Becoming an Evangelist: Promoting Performance Support

Okay, you’ve bought in. The Five Moments of Learning Need make complete sense. You understand how the Performance Support Pyramid works. You get how Performance Support is the key to bringing informal learning under your purview. You’re thrilled about all of the possibilities you see where Performance Support can make a difference. You “grok” Performance Support in the way Robert Heinlein originally meant that word. You’re excited, passionate, and ready to go!

Only, you’re the sole attendee of the conference or webinar from your team. You’re the only one who’s been doing the reading, talking to other practioners, or thinking about how to apply it. How do you convince your peers, bosses, and/or clients to try a Performance Support project? How can you impart the same enthusiasm to your team? How do you go about promoting Performance Support?

This is where I found myself in 2011. A colleague came back from an eLearning Guild conference excited to tell me about this thing call the “Five Moments of Learning Need.” Her enthusiasm was infectious, and the concept clicked. As I read more about it, all started to make sense. I knew it would make a difference, and I was ready to put it into practice. But it was a long, uphill slog to get my team and my bosses on board. After talking about it for months with anyone who would listen, I finally was able to invite Bob Mosher to join us for a two-day workshop on Performance Support. It seemed like I had turned the corner and we were going to be a Performance Support team.

So this becomes your challenge: how can you inspire your stakeholders with your vision and help them make the same connections you’ve made. Whether you’re ready or not, you have to help others “Get It” like you do. It’s time to try on the Evangelist Hat.

You might see “Evangelist” and think “trendy job description for a hipster pretending to have a real job.” (No offense to any evangelists reading this!) But stick with me for a minute. Merriam Webster defines Evangelist as “someone who talks about something with great enthusiasm.” Isn’t that you, when it comes to Performance Support? Performance Support enthusiast Bob Mosher chose “Chief Learning Evangelist” as his title – twice now! Evangelists are people that can explain, teach, and inspire. It’s about connecting people with the solutions to their problems.

As a Performance Support Evangelist, you relate the benefits of Performance Support to people by linking it to the issues of the people to whom you are talking.

  • Explaining it to Instructional Designers? Talk about how PS provides a ready framework for designing informal learning, taking the guesswork out of how to help people learn in between formal learning events.
  • Meeting with line managers? Explain how PS injects learning directly into the workflow, cutting down on time away from the job, or how it can reduce errors and increase compliance to processes.
  • Talking to your boss? Highlight how PS is a cost-effective way to increase the number of ways her team can have a positive impact on the business goals of the company.

Your job is to channel your passion for Performance Support into becoming an expert on Performance Support, then talking with many different audiences about how Performance Support can help them. Michael Sheehan on his High Tech Dad blog says it best that the “important aspects of evangelist DNA are the notions of ‘trust,’ ‘authority’ and ‘communication.’” You build trust over time with consistent communication and socialization of your ideas, help people understand not just how it works, but the value of using it. Ultimately this leads to you being considered an authority, with people actually listening to your ideas. But your work is not done – in fact, it is just beginning!

One of the methods I used to make my point was relating stories about real Performance Support solutions and how they solved business problems. But the secret sauce in maximizing the impact of your stories is to relate them to your audience. Figuring out how to relate is a simple matter of listening. Listen carefully to the objections and concerns your stakeholders. They are telling you how to overcome those objections or respond to their concerns. They are also giving you more content for future stories. Listen, and you will discover how to convince them to change their behavior.

Adjusting mental models is never easy or quick, so you have to be persistent. This is what I discovered at my company. After our well-attended two-day workshop (including many in leadership roles) I thought for sure we’d make the shift to a full-blown Performance Support workshop. But it was many months before we took on our first PS project. I had successfully checked the box on “raise awareness” but was still missing “commitment.” Change is hard. It took a plucky Program Manager, a courageous client, and an audacious vision to get us out of the PS starting blocks.

As a PS Evangelist, you turn your creativity, passion, energy, and network into corporate action. But you also have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. In the end, this is still Change Management –by some measures only 25% of change management initiatives succeed over the long term. How much do you know about Change Management? Are you interested enough in succeeding to learn more about other things? Now you are modeling another classic behavior of an evangelist: an understanding that a wide variety of skills and knowledge contributes to success, and a willingness to learn and adapt new ideas to help promote your passion.

Like anytime you adopt a new way of doing things, shifting to Performance Support is a journey, not an event. Every road is different, but you can learn from other people’s experience. You’re reading this because you think that journey is worth the trip. So, focus on channeling your passion for PS into teaching and inspiring your coworkers, bosses, and clients. Make yourself a trusted advisor. Talk about PS whenever you can, but listen well too. Get familiar with change management principles (if you are like me, you’ll be surprised at how many different situations they can be applied!). Be the PS evangelist you already are, and leverage that to get your team started down the Performance Support road.

How about you? Do you have a story to tell about how you convinced your organization to adopt Performance Support? Do you have a question about how to begin? Share it in the comments below.

 

NOTE: This was originally posted on 24 April 2015 on the Performance Support Community of Practice online community. If you are interested in learning more about Performance Support, you can join the Performance Support Community of Practice: http://performersupport.ning.com/. This is a dynamic, vibrant and invitation-only site comprised of 4,000+ practitioners. I’m happy to send you an invitation to join the community, just drop me a line at chris@crklearning.com.

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