Some people have called the experience “the best three days” of their lives. Others have said it was “life changing.” Occasionally it has brought grown men to tears.
Believe it or not, what I’m describing are reactions to our Communications Skills Training course offered through Barry-Wehmiller University, our internal university founded in 2007 to help foster the personal growth and fulfillment of our team members. When we first launched BWU, it was suggested that we begin by teaching interpersonal communication skills. My initial reaction was “Why do we need to teach something so fundamentally basic? Didn’t we learn how to communicate in school? Do people really need to be taught how to listen?”
Little did we know the profound impact this three-day experience would have:
- “This is an awakening on my part, from not thinking about what I do to an acute awareness of how I touch the lives of the people in my life from my family to every person in my life.”
- “If communication is an intrinsic human quality, being a better communicator makes me a better person – for that I am profoundly thankful.”
- “I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to attend this course. The very fact that Barry-Wehmiller allows me, encourages me, pays for me to participate in a class that takes me away from my regular job for three days so that I can improve my personal life and my relationships speaks volumes about the company.”
Unlike many corporate training experiences, the goal of the class is not to “get more out of” our team members, but rather to teach them the fundamentals of leadership, so they might positively impact the lives of others in their roles as leaders. Overwhelmingly, course graduates say they hadn’t realized how little they knew about listening vs. talking. For many, the realization that their personal relationships have been damaged by their inability to truly listen to what their loved ones are saying is troubling, but very encouraging. They immediately begin to listen actively—to hear not just the words but understand the meaning and feelings behind the words—and see amazing results. As they say, life changing!
Today, approximately 45% of our almost 7,000 team members worldwide have completed Communication Skills Training. Often I am asked to “justify” the investment we make in this course. My response is simple: If three days has the power to change lives, how can you not justify it?