What if your sales training department ran your church? (Or synagogue, or mosque; this is meant to be an equal-opportunity religious metaphor).
Suppose you move into a new community, and are looking for a place of worship. The minister (I’m just going to use the one metaphor from now on, please infer your preferred tradition) meets you, and says:
“Welcome. First we’d like you to fill out this spiritual needs-assessment instrument, so we can appropriately benchmark you for your level of sinfulness and spirituality potential.
"Part I evaluates your sinfulness; we prefer the so-called "Ten Commandments" instrument; Part II measures your level of mastery of the behaviors and habits of Highly Spiritual People (HSPs).
"You can fill it out over there in the cubicle; be sure to use only the Number 2 pencils provided.”
You do so. You take it back to the minister.
“Well, let’s see what we’ve got here, let’s pull the quick-scoring answer template. Hmm, only 5 out of 10 on the commandments. Well at least you go the biggies right, didn’t kill anyone lately, am I right, heh heh, sorry my little joke there…"
“You’re also scoring at a “meets expectations” level on your HSP. You probably know the Golden Rule, that sort of thing; but you probably don’t give alms to the poor, right? And tithing, fuggedaboudit! Am I right? Heh heh heh thought so, yup.
“OK, your achievement levels put you into the AIS group; Advanced Intermediate Spirituality. It’ll be a bit of a stretch, but we have some remedial online CBT programs that you can study up on. They meet at 11AM.
You sign up. Your kids are admitted to their own appropriate Sunday school classes. Embarrassingly, at higher levels than you.
You show up Sunday early, to be greeted at the door by a deacon.
“Please fill out this expectations document for today’s service. You can write in your own expectations if you want, but the multiple choice checkboxes are enough for most people.
You go in. You listen to the sermon.
“Today I’ll talk about Daniel and the lions. You will learn the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. On leaving, you will be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main levels of faith, and to be reasonably faithful yourself. And we’ll do some faith role-plays (what we like to call “praying”) to make it realistic. So now let’s get started, shall we?
You sit through the sermon. It concludes with:
“The sermon today has been about Daniel and the lions. You should have learned the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. You should now be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main types of faith, and to be reasonably faithful. And, you’ve experienced the behaviors of faith through role-play (“praying”).
“Please take a moment now to complete your evaluation document that the deacon handed you on the way in.
You read the document. It asks:
“The sermon for today met my expectations" (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)
“I am now able to recognize basic faith” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)
“I now have a moderately high faith level” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)
“The minister trained well today" (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)
You leave the church; the minister greets you on the way out the door. “How’d you like the service?” he asks, sneaking a glance at your evaluation document.
“Well, I’m still not sure I feel like I really have faith,” you say apologetically.
“That’s OK,” says the minister. “Just fake it ‘til you make it. You’ll get the hang of it. Continue to meet your metrics, and everything will work out—just have faith in the process.”
Hopefully you enjoyed that. In case it’s not clear, I’m trying to suggest that when it comes to certain "soft" subjects, the traditional management-by-numbers and train-by-behaviors can feel inadequate to the task.
How is this relevant? In training, I hope it’s clear. Different techniques suit different subjects.
But I think it speaks to issues of management and leadership too. Do you believe in values, missions and belief systems? If you’re trying to manage a values-based organization, what approaches work?
Managing through behavioral metrics doesn’t quite do the job when it comes to motivating people to higher-order beliefs.
Or, to put it nakedly, if still metaphorically: what’s the ROI on believing in a God? And what’s wrong with that question?