Performer Support and the Two-Finger Wave

In my current role, I work in a virtual environment that is strategically located between corn and soy beans in the rolling hills of southeastern Indiana. Driving narrow, rural country roads to breakfast at the local truck stop this morning, I encountered numerous other pick-up trucks. Yes, I drive one too, but no rifle rack, nor is there a confederate flag in the back window. You might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with Performer Support. Answer: Plenty

Upon passing another truck going in the opposite direction there are several actions that either can or could likely happen; some mandatory, some optional:

  • Mandatory – do not run off the narrow road – only city folks drive into ditches
  • Mandatory – do not crash into the other vehicle – for obvious reasons
  • Optional – give the standard two-finger wave – actually more neighborly than optional
  • Optional – the momentary head lift – serves as a greeting with the chin instead of fingers

There is an art to the two-finger wave. Given the two mandatory actions listed above; both hands need to be on the wheel to navigate safely as vehicles pass on the narrow road. That means you really only have a couple of fingers to spare for a greeting [or a chin]. My twisted brain was doing what it normally does and it delivered a concept to me about that little wave and the parallels to Performer Support. Twisted, remember that…

Short and Focused

You only have a brief second to affect a neighborly greeting, be it finger-based or if you only use parts of your face. The alternative is to pull over and stop, get out of your truck, spit, and have a full-blown conversation about either too much or not enough rain. Performer Support is also short and focused because the moment of need being addressed is typically limited to a task-level transaction. The action normally only involves the Performer and, in some cases, a collaboration with a colleague, SME, or maybe help desk. Otherwise, we’re talking some sort of job aid. The full-blown conversation is the equivalent to a full-blown training class where you have to pull over and get out of your truck [or go off task from your workflow]. The spitting part is optional in either case.

Timing is Everything

Again, you only have a split second to issue an effective two-finger wave. Consider it a moment of need thing. Performer Support is like that. It’s only needed when it’s needed. Cover the transaction in training too far in advance, and nobody has the knowledge retention capacity to remember it. That’s a lot like waving too soon. May as well not wave at all…may as well bag training, if the intent is to remember how to deliver an effective wave.

Why Wave to Strangers?

There are a few of us that ascribe to the approach of spreading the love and be neighborly to everybody. Heck, I even two-finger wave at cars. And yes, most of the other drivers are strangers. Still, I think it’s the right thing to do to further an effective sense of community. Staying with the metaphor, our learners are not strangers are they? Of course not. They are all pre-meditated, targeted recipients of training whether instructor-led or an on-line of a blend of several exotic electronic delivery options. You have full-blown conversations with people you know. Have you noticed how we tend to look at our training community as those people we train…or to whom we provide training opportunities? Are we treating our post-training Performers like strangers?

Think about it. Is a Learner driving a vehicle simulator in a controlled, structured training environment likely to crash head-on into another driver? What about a Performer who graduated successfully from driver’s training and is now driving down a cow-path-of-a-road and is confronted with on on-coming vehicle? Learners and Performers are different people defined by their environments and their potential for crashing…really crashing. While they both might be driving a truck down a country road, we do not treat them equally with what is required to be successful. We provide great training, but we [Training] are often MIA when it comes time to issue an effective two-finger wave at that critical moment when we need to have a presence in maintaining that community we refer to as our productive workforce.

Yeah, I know, this metaphor might be a stretch for some of you, but I seriously feel like we’re not being as attentive to our Performers who are done with training and are out on the roads. You might be thinking “How can we help the Performers when we can barely keep up with the Learners?” My question is, “Is that the paradigm we should cling to like a flotation device in a water landing?”

Let’s turn that question inside out and ask it this way, “Does keeping up with Learners who have absolutely no chance of crashing while using a simulator make sense?” Seriously, no Emergency Medical Technician in training kills a pediatric simulator by screwing up. Why are we not as aggressive to our Performer population when they are out there [post-training with no Performer Support] running into ditches and generating tangible loss to the business?”

This is not about Indiana hay-seeds driving trucks and two-finger waving. This is about converging Performer Support with the point of work. This is a new paradigm where training, as a routine solution, falls short every time. Maybe we need to pull over and have a deeper conversation and talk about perfecting that two-finger wave in our Performers. A little more community outside the classroom certainly wouldn’t hurt!

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning