Congruent Team Training Philosophy


Many years ago when I first began teaching the American Management Association programs, I came across the term “congruence.” It was used to explain an employee’s individual needs and values in relation to a company’s philosophy. That term must be transformed into your team training philosophy as well.

Congruence in this article will be used to explain a systems approach to team training. As a qualified training or human resource professional, you are probably the one that develops and implements training for your organization. To create an optimum training environment, you must look at your entire training theater. Your training arena should encompass every training program and seminar that your organization offers. You must look at your training department or HR division as a system, and not just a menu of programs.

Classically, training programs are developed, purchased, or contracted as a short story for the “training library.” This approach has been an accepted practice that has worked well for many years. Today the “training library” must consist of several large sets. These sets contain many “volumes.” Most importantly, they all must relate to one theme or story. In other words, each volume must be congruent with the organization’s strategy and philosophy. In addition, your programs must not contradict other training seminars that your organization provides.

The classic example is Time Management training. Almost every program that we have reviewed for our clients, was found to be incongruent with the operation of the business. In most industries senior executives and new managers must be able to juggle at least three projects simultaneously. Yet most time management programs preach “one task at a time.” Interviews with participants immediately following the class and three months later document the incongruence of certain parts of the training. Responses include; Great ideas, wish I could use them; When will the boss take the course? She could really use it; Just don’t have the time to try the material, etc.

A more congruent approach can be established by: 1) insisting that executives and managers never handle more than one task at a time, and not asking them to do more than one thing at a time…Fat Chance! -or- 2) Teaching time management with an understanding of the business’ requirements. That means teaching people how to juggle four balls…while fighting three fires…during a month-end closing.

Now what does time management have to with Team building? A parallel can be drawn between time management training and team building training. If you are not developing and presenting team training that is congruent with the corporate philosophy and business strategy you are already behind the ‘eight ball.’ Your training must be ‘correct’ for your organization. It must be believable if your team is to ‘buy in’ to the concepts presented.

We have worked with organizations that for decades have stressed, insisted, and preached a “get them before they get you” philosophy. Another organization actually gave a poorer performance review to someone who said “We did it together!” instead of “I did it alone!”

Obviously, an experiential program that delivers the message “trust everyone and everything will be great” does not get great support in these environments. If trust is the topic, it must be sequenced. Sequencing allows each participant to build trust at his or her own pace. It should encourage a gradual trust and include ways to ‘test the water’ without having your head bitten off. Let participants know that there are two trust philosophies; I’ll trust you when you prove it, and — I’ll trust you until you prove otherwise. Provide examples of how people have successfully built trust in your organization — and make sure you tell the down side too.

Here are five tips for developing congruent training:

1) Know the corporate culture. What does the organization stand for? Does the CEO or board of Directors live by that culture? Knowing what ‘reality’ is in your organization can help you develop a program that will provide participants with practical steps to positive growth.

2) Know what can be changed and what should be left alone. Understanding corporate politics can save you many sleepless nights and will prevent those costly “career decisions.” If you know what is ‘sacred’ at least you will know when you are on thin ice.

3) Review your existing training library. You will find plenty of material to update, rewrite, or shred. Make the existing programs fit the organization. You have the knowledge and the experience to improve the effectiveness of every program in your training library.

4) Walk the Talk. Don’t teach one thing and do something else. make sure that your staff and department lives the philosophy they teach. If you can’t do it how can you expect anyone else to change.

5) Ask for help. Within your organization you will find coworkers that have the desire to be a part of the planning process. encourage their input. you will learn that they have tremendous insight, even if they aren’t a part of the Human Resource Group. You will accomplish two things by incorporating others’ input. 1) – you will be setting the example and 2) – you will have program that is more effective because it will inherently be congruent with your organization.