James Palin explains the power of the 7-minute training session

James Palin discussing the 7-minute training sessionJames Palin, Senior Sales Training and Development Specialist (EMEA) at SAS, joined Regional Host Dr Jeremy Noad to explore the 7-minute training session and more.

James shared insights on the 7-minute training session, modeled after the 7-minute briefing model the FBI had used. At a. high level.

  • Students receive pre-training materials to prepare for the training.
  • The briefing is very focused on one takeaway.
  • Post-training work provided.

James admits he had a healthy dose of skepticism about the approach, but it has worked very well thus far.

Give a listen and remain curious.

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Audio Transcript

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Hello, and welcome to this edition of the coffee collaboration and enablement podcast. I’m your host, Jeremy node. And in this week, we’re talking all things training to the exceptional James Pailin. Hello, James, thanks for coming on the podcast today.

James Palin
Thank you very much indeed for inviting me.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So for the benefit of our listeners to mind sharing a little bit about yourself and the business you work for.

James Palin
Yeah, of course. So my name is James James Pailin. And I work with an organization called SAS software. I’m a senior sales training and development specialist. And I work within a division called the organizational effectiveness and development team. I’m based in based in EMEA, but I’m sorry, I’m based in the UK, but I train across EMEA. And in fact, since since the lockdown since we’ve all been virtualized, I’m I’m training our colleagues globally. So SAS software is a global organization. Okay,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
so what sort of things do you get involved with in terms of the sales training, particularly sort of given the lock down? How are you sort of how’s that sort of changed for you?

James Palin
Yeah, it’s changed quite a bit, what we’ve done, what we’ve had to do is we’ve had to, everything’s been virtualized, we’ve moved from what used to be an induction process, which was, we used to have a pre induction. So effectively, before people came on board, they used to get given activities in order to get them up to speed with the organization and how some of the processes worked. So that was that was all still pretty much done virtually. But then the moment they started, they used to have classroom sessions, we used to have, as well, a, effectively a global meeting, where everyone went together for two weeks, it’s called starting block, and they would go through their sales training there. So they, they do it in different stages. We’ve had to try and be as agile as we can with it. We’ve had to split the training down, we’ve had to, as much as possible, make it digestible for people. Yeah, virtual trainings is quite a challenge for people. So make it digestible by splitting it down into individual sections, doing more little and often training as well, that’s tend to happen right away across the organization, instead of doing what they would have done a two week block, including, you know, learning concept, and actually learning product as well at the same time.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Okay. Okay. So picking on the little and often sort of switch to it, which, you know, by read things, they talk about micro learning and repetition and the bosses of things. How would you sort of approach that sort of specifically, nowadays, in terms of this political often?

James Palin
Yeah, so so one of the things that we that we look at the we used to call it bite sized learning, but we use seven minute briefings. So seven minutes is supposed to be the, the, the most effective amount of time in order to be able to learn a concept. And the way that we’ve, the way that we operate is that we will come up with a subject or a concept, we give them seven minutes. And that seven minutes may be input, or it could be input and feedback as well. The idea is that the learning is, is memorable. It’s simple. It’s not clouded by any other issues or pressures. So we’re, we’re very straightforward with the delivery. And the brief duration is all about holding attention. And it’s used in actual fact, Originally, it was used by the FBI in order to give to give briefings, because seven minutes is a really good amount of time, no more and no less. Oh, and, yeah, so so that it’s really good for management briefings as well. So if managers want to share things with their staff, actually, what they’re doing is they’re they’re giving really good, good briefings, not necessarily with with all of the answers that are required, but it’s all about acting as a catalyst to get them thinking, and to reflect or maybe practice and systems. The expectation really, is that they go away, and they they can actually think about, think about what’s been delivered and act upon it, rather than having to do lots of lots of additional work alongside that, or as well as that.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So how do you prepare something like that? Because, yeah, personally, I’ve been in presentations where the speaker is still clearing their throat, as it were, after seven minutes. Yeah, yes. So how do you sort of make that happen to turn in terms of getting it into seven minutes meaningful?

James Palin
Yeah, so it’s all about getting things prepared beforehand is making sure that that if there are any, if there are particular subjects They’re going to be really challenging that actually, they’ve received documentation beforehand. So if if, for example, if we’re looking at a new project that we’re starting, we might send out, we might send out briefing notes beforehand on some of the wider subject areas. And this seven minutes is actually used to really focus things down. So they’ve got all the prerequisite information they need, they can sift through that in their own time. And generally, the seven minute briefings are done in real time, as opposed to being recorded. So everybody’s getting that information at exactly the same time to act upon. But yeah, you’re right. It’s the challenging bit, if you like, is actually getting yourself prepared beforehand.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So so when they sort of get the information, and is it generally sort of surrounded by sort of a call to action, or is it sometimes just knowledge transfer?

James Palin
Yeah, so so the early stuff, who will be knowledge transfer, and the seven minute briefing tends to be more along the lines of right, okay, so this is your call to action, this is what we’re going to be doing. And so here’s the concept. And this is what we are expecting, you’re going to find, you know, you’re going to interpret and what we’re going to ask you to do with it afterwards. So, yeah, it’s quite interesting. It’s, it’s, it’s actually worked really well. And I would, I will hesitate to say that I was skeptical as to whether it would work, but it really has worked. So yeah, it’s worth giving a try.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
And is there any subjects that sort of particularly line up for that sort of seven minutes? Or is it kind of anything goes along to preparations or,

James Palin
yeah, anything at all. So there are, there aren’t any specific subjects. Sometimes it might be it, it could be some quite abstract concepts that we might use, in order to get them thinking about the way that they’re working. Or it could actually be skills transfer, as well skills, knowledge transfer, for things like any of, for example, Microsoft Teams, or using zoom or something like that, we might just give them a little their seven minute briefing, right? This is what we can do now. Go away, and you know, go and practice, go and use it. Cool.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Other thing, this just to sort of broaden that out into sort of topics, there’s a couple of topics that you might have a view of the world on his, which is sort of more, you know, we might my organization, we’re sort of refreshing ourselves on a couple of things. Definitely around diversity. And linking to that it’s sort of this, how we have these biases built in that sort of look, yeah, these values and things come over the years and get quite well ingrained. So in terms of things like unconscious bias to start off with, how would you sort of say, Okay, we’ve got some work to do. And I think nobody can say the perfect on this one, people can say they’re making an effort. But how would you sort of spot the signs? And what sort of things could we do to sort of make sure that our our salespeople particularly are displaying the right behaviors and a conscious about any potential bias when they’re talking to their diverse customer base?

James Palin
Yeah, so I mean, the interesting thing about the about unconscious bias of courses is first of all, you need to get people to understand that they have these inbuilt biases, and actually, they’re they are, they are individual component parts of their makeup, it’s their, it’s in their makeup. So things that they read, the way they’re brought up, the football team, they support, anything like that actually does create a bias. And so a lot of the work that we do around the area of unconscious bias is getting people to understand that unconscious bias is not something that you can necessarily put your finger on, it might be something that you can’t express directly. But it tends to be more, it tends to appear more in your actions. So what you actually do the way you behave in a certain situation, you might or you might, I suppose call them instinct. And so that’s the that’s the link in with that. So from a so from a buyer’s perspective, one of the things that we encourage people to look at is the way that their biases or the way that they’re behaving, and how does that affect other people that are around them? Does that create a high performance environment for those other people to work in, or a much more limiting environment for them to work in or indeed, it going the other way when we look at things like big discrimination, and even unconscious discrimination that’s in a much more damaging area? And so that’s extremely difficult to to not only get past but but to keep pert keep people motivated and to actually work in it. So getting people to understand about unconscious biases is the first thing and open being open minded to understand it. And one of the examples that we use, which is absolutely i think is incredible is a, a mobile app manufacturer, actually produced an app for taking photographs. And it was produced by it was a very successful app, when it was started out, it was released to a very large organization, for them to push out was an Android app. And they found out that around about 10% of the photographs that were taken, using this particular app, were actually upside down. And they couldn’t work out why. And believe it or not, it was because the the analysis that was done was was due to all of the development team be right handed. Nobody on the development team was left handed. And in actual fact, 10% of the world’s population are left handed. And when people who are left handed were holding the phone, they were holding it upside down. Simple, very simple, straightforward story, but it illustrates how an unconscious bias can have such a dramatic effect on customers.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, because there’s always that assumption. And sometimes it’s a criticism because we generally sort of gravitate to people like us. And then sort of in organizations, the fatal flaw is, we hire people like us. And then we just get a big bubble of stagnation, because we’re not getting any diversity, any sort of challenge. They’re absolutely how you sort of say, Okay, that’s it, but what what are the so they’re thinking about? And I suppose that comes about either by the diversity of your team, or are thinking about your end customers? What would be sort of your, it’s a horrible thing to try and split it down into sort of this is a complex subject, and it’s a very important subject. But yeah, if you have sort of two or three tips to say, Okay, how can I make sure how can I double check myself internally, that I’m conscious of these things? Because I mean, the key thing I take from this is it’s unconscious bias. And until you make the effort to become aware of it, yes, you can’t do anything about it. So any tips you could give us on how we could uncover it in ourselves?

James Palin
Yeah, of course. And so so one of the first things and one of the most difficult things to to sort of get your head around is the fact that you might not realize your own biases. Okay. So sometimes it’s actually good to have a someone that you work with, or a partner that you can be completely open and transparent with, and talk about biases. So that’s, that’s one of the things. The second thing is actually about cultivating connections with different people. And making sure that you have a, that you’ve not only form a connection with people that like you, that have similar likes, and similar similar needs as yourself, but different people. And making connections with them is even more valuable. So maybe going out, reading different things as well. Going, you know, really pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, joining different networks, maybe even doing different hobbies, and things like that. speaking to people from different industries, all those sorts of things really help to make you suppose less biased, you’re getting information from different sources, and that can help you as well. And then I think the I think the final thing is, is understanding that no matter what you do, actually, we all have biases, and not to beat yourself up about it. So being on being able to understand that, you know, we’re not all we’re not all perfect. We were making efforts to go out, we’re making efforts to go out and, and meet different people and get information from different sources. But we’re not going to get it right all of the time. So yeah. And the last thing, I suppose I know, I said three, and this is four. But the last thing that that is really useful is that if you identify that there could be a bias in yourself or in somebody else, is to actually do something about it. And that’s, that’s quite a courageous step to say what you know, something, I’ve identified that, you know, that you said this, or you did this, that could have made been misconstrued. It could have come across in the wrong way. And so therefore, I’m actually going to raise it, I’m going to surface it to you, so that we can do something about it. So it’s it’s a big area too. It’s a big area too. And it’s a fascinating area to to get involved. to actually do training with,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
yeah, because I naturally sort of a personal thing, isn’t it? Because it’s, you know, it’s your, your, your internal views that you, you might want not want to share with everybody. So yeah, it’s, I suppose, trying to handle that sensitively. But with purpose?

James Palin
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And the other thing as well, and for those of you that, you know, you’ve probably seen this before, but for those people that are interested, some of the research that we do, or some of the actual training that we do around this area looks at the jewelry window. And that’s, that’s a fascinating area, it’s actually looking at things that you don’t know about yourself that other people do. It’s a, it’s a very interesting space to be.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So that’s the one just it’s just in people, people aren’t familiar. It’s where you sort of have a way of looking at your blind spots? And that’s right. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker
don’t let yourself.

James Palin
Yeah, okay. So you’ve got to start off with you’ve got, you’ve got things that you’re aware of, and that other people are aware of. So you know, those of you that are looking at, looking at the podcast at the moment, can see that I’m wearing glasses. So so that’s a very simple, it’s not a secret, everybody knows that I’m wearing glasses, and you can see that too. There may be things that I know about myself, that, that other people don’t know that I don’t want to share. So my blind spots that I don’t want to share with other people. And for instance, I could be wearing my glasses just for fashion, as opposed to as opposed to anything else. Conversely, conversely, there are things that other people can see about you, that they, that you don’t know yourself. So it could be the way you behave, or the way that you think or, you know, your unconscious biases. And all of these parts, all of these factors in the jury window, come together to actually form you as a person. and demonstrate how your Yeah, demonstrate how you’ve got blind spots to you, and blind spots to other people. So yeah, so fascinating area really is.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
I think the other thing that we we’ve touched on sending in the pandemic, because I think, you know, the, the mindset that people have had to sort of take through the, the pandemic, in terms of, you know, personal circumstances, work working in different ways, massive amount of change, whether you sort of carried on working or you haven’t worked, or you’ve experienced things in your personal life, there’s massive sorts of change, and things like that. And we’ve sort of gone through set to say, okay, we’ve shown a level of resilience, we’ve shown a level of change, but it’s been driven by the technologies that we’ve had. And so everybody sort of gone from, yeah, I’m quite old. So, you know, you go Star Trek, and you have a conversation on the view screen in my day, that was like, wow, that’s never gonna be like they’re communicating between the mobile phones and the iPads and all that sort of good stuff. But we’ve come come to this sort of place where, you know, we can be on zoom teams, pick your poison, whichever ones for huge amounts of time. How do we sort of keep engaged, avoid the fatigue, and keep getting value and adding value to the conversations we’re having with our customers? Our colleagues?

James Palin
Yeah, it’s a it’s a really interesting area. And you’re right, because it’s caused, there’s a lot of people are feeling very fatigued, they’re working from the working from home. I think To start off with, we’re all in a bit of a honeymoon period. So actually, you know, those of us that weren’t used to working from home Well, this is quite nice. All of a sudden, the I think the, the lines between our home life and our working life have got considerably blurred. And for people that weren’t used to working from home all of a sudden, we’re in a situation where, you know, we’ve got we’re accessible effectively 24 hours a day. Yeah. And, and making sure that we know that we keep to our working hours, and then we take regular breaks, again, it’s really important, but the area of technology, with things like virtual conferencing platforms and things like that, that we’ve we’ve been, we’ve identified that there are a number of people who’ve got pretty fatigued as a result of that, of course, the the term that’s being thrown around now resume fatigue, but of course, that’s that’s exactly the same isn’t it with with anything with with Cisco with WebEx with, you know, with all the others, it’s all about, interestingly, being on show all the time. So one of the areas of training that we research and then training that we’ve done, has split that into three different areas. So the cause or The causal areas for zoom fatigue, go fall into three areas, the first of first of which is the acoustic delays. So if I’m sitting face to face with you and having a conversation, then I can, I can pick up straightaway things like whether you’re laughing at my jokes, whether you’re understanding what I’m saying. And we get an immediate acknowledgement, instead, we’re getting millisecond delays, which is, of course, perfectly normal through video platforms. But it’s very difficult for the brain to process is very cognitively tiring. Right. And the other the other area as well is, of course, the societal changes as well, we’ve got, we’re in a situation where lots of people have had to change their routine. They’ve had to they might have there might be cultural and financial stresses, there might be changes to their, you know, all of their normal routines, everything that they normally hold dear with, we’re all creatures of habit. And that’s causing a lot of unease because people are in that position. And that’s, that’s another reason why they’re seeing the resume fatigue as being an issue because actually, it’s contributing towards it. It’s contributing to have to do things a different way. And then, and then the last area talks about actually asked multitasking. So we’ve probably all sat through meetings, where we’ve got our colleagues who are listening for the first couple of minutes, and then all of a sudden, they’re looking off somewhere else, and they’re doing something else. Now, actually, that’s perfectly normal. And if we were in a normal meeting, we would be multitasking, we would be listening, yes. But we’d be doing things. At the same time we’d be making notes or, you know, maybe we might be checking a text message on the phone probably shouldn’t, but we may well be doing that. And again, that’s perfectly normal. But we feel because of that, because of the the fact that we’re not sure whether we should actually that’s causing additional stress as well. So although it’s normal to multitask, actually, you know, what’s the etiquette? Should we be listening intently and just looking at that person while we’re having the conversation or the meeting? Or are we allowed to multitask, which, of course, is perfectly normal and natural. So from that perspective, they were the three areas. But of course, we’ve been trying to work with people in order to, in order to make life better and say to them, right, you know, there are things that you can do. Yeah, so for in order to provide yourself with a little bit more structure. Some of them have been very well received, others of them have been a little bit more challenging.

James Palin
Because actually, we’ve been suggesting to people that you know, when they’re going to a meeting, always go into a meeting with an agenda, don’t attend any meeting without an agenda. Make sure that you shed your corridor breaks. So they call them corridor or transit breaks. So when I finish, when you finish a meeting, actually, you do not want to have a meeting butted up next to it, you don’t want to have a meeting finishing at 10. And the next one to start at 10. Because that’s not natural, either. No. And so when we’ve got, we’ve got people that are going from one meeting room to another, even if we did have back to back meetings, we’d still have that opportunity to walk past the kitchen, to go and pick up a coffee, or to to be able to process some of the things with your colleagues as you leave the meeting room. But you’ve lost that. So yeah, building breaks in making sure that overall our meetings are shorter, as well. So reducing them down, I’ve one of the things that my organization has done is that if you book an hour meeting with somebody, it’ll actually only book 15 minutes. Yes. So or if you book a half hour it’ll only book 25 which is really good and it’s it that’s helped quite a bit.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, I mean those those two are good because you set the whether you got outlook Gmail, whatever you’re using, you know, you can set that up automatically is really good confession as in you know, hopefully nobody from my office is this thing is I think about three months ago, I sort of got my Outlook calendar and you can go in and change the settings I went for 10 minutes settings and every meeting now has a little x appointment before and the next point afterwards to stop the back to backs because the backs of x don’t don’t don’t serve any purpose anyway because you you still hopefully thinking about the value of the last meeting as you’re trying to get on course for the deal on so I’ve been trying that for a little while. I do like that one.

Unknown Speaker
He just made a

Dr. Jeremy Noad
very interesting meeting times because people don’t try and find a slot in it. Yeah 20 past instead of half past or on the Our you know,

James Palin
does tend to focus the mind though, doesn’t it if you’ve got a meeting that starts at a strange time. And the other thing as well is that in order to make things a little bit more interesting, you can also you can also go for a meeting at seven minutes past or eight minutes past or something like that. shake things up. It’s quite interesting. Yeah,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
I do start when I when I go to like a town hall and I started with five past. So it goes, maybe I can do five past? Because how, because they realize they can’t do anything in the five minutes before. So they might not be late. Yep.

James Palin
So I’ve just got a couple more if your interest yet. Okay. So the other thing that we talked about, of course, is making sure that we have suitable screen free time. Normally, we’ll be commuting to him from a particular place of work, the majority of people would actually that is downtime, whether you believe it or not, that’s actually downtime. And it’s process time. If we go from one screen to another, then you know what, I might leave my mark my office, and then go and sit and watch something on the television. And actually, we’re just increasing the amount of screen time. So minimize the screen time is really good. And also, if you have the option, in a meeting, you could hide yourself here as well, you can actually turn it off. And that means that we are not cognitively set up to see our own image reflected back in time. So some people find that really stressful as well.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, staring in the mirror for a long period of time is never sort of featured, big on the agenda. problems.

James Palin
They absolutely, absolutely. And, and the last, the last ones that we’ve got to make sure that the your workspace is set up, alright. You know, it’s set up effectively. And actually, consider moving it around, I appreciate people are working, some people are working in an environment where it’s very difficult. But actually changing things about a bit is quite good. Because it’s giving you a break, whether you realize it, it’s giving you a break. And coming on to breaks, of course, is making sure people have breaks. Because a lot of people now are working lunches, they’re working longer hours, but actually scheduling in breaks, even if their focus breaks. So actually blocking out focus breaks in your diary is a really good idea. And and somebody suggested to me the other day, in actual fact, their their team have no meeting days. So they have days set up during the week where there are no meetings at all, where they can just, you know, if you want to contact somebody, you contact them by phone by audio only. Yeah, again, worked really well. So yeah, I think

Dr. Jeremy Noad
you can imagine that. I mean, you can take that two ways. I mean, you can take that as I think where I’ve seen that also successfully in a sales organizations is you have no internal meetings. You don’t have the meetings or the product guys and girls, and that’s true. Yeah, everything you just said, okay, it’s a no internal meetings. And that’s been running. And I’ve seen variations of that run successfully, culminating in a no meeting month.

James Palin
You know, meeting month ratio, that’s, that’s very brave.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
month of February and say which region but month of February, no internal meetings, you can talk to your manager, your sales manager, but the sales team though, because if you focus on your customer early in the year, you get the full year, we get most of the full year benefit. Yeah. So So think about that. But yeah, I think no meeting times the breaks are key. Not looking at yourself could be really good. To me.

James Palin
And me.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Excellent. Thank you. So to bring it to a close, if people wanted to find out more about what you do. Are you are you a social media person can do?

James Palin
Yeah, absolutely. So so I’m, you can follow me on LinkedIn, I’m available on LinkedIn James paling, or if you want to find any more about my organization sas.com. We are, as an organization, we basically provide people with the tools to be able to analyze data and make make intelligent decision in from from data. So yeah, please do go have a look at the company. And by all means, connect with me. I’ll be delighted.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So thank you very much. So my thanks to James today. I think it’s a really good session. So thinking about Yeah, micro, seven minute learnings, best time, endorsed by the FBI. And James failing that seven minutes is a great way to sort of drive a change, learn something new. Lots of tips around on zoom and thinking about how Keep on track of your biases, to make sure that you are not present, but be the best person you can be for you, your colleagues and your customers, and hopefully your family. So, to summarize, thank you very much for listening to the podcast today. Really appreciate all those people downloading. So you can access it on Google Play on through iPad, podcast, iPad, podcast, whatever, how was that iPhone podcast, Apple store, you can get in lots of different places. But I hope you enjoyed the podcast today. And we look forward to connecting some more in the future. Thank you.