Greenhouse Training

By Ignite Associate Support Trainer Olin Degge

There’s a story online attributed to Paul Matthews that goes like this:

A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared stuck.

The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man watched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correct proportions. But nothing changed.

The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. In his kindness and haste the man did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.

Like the sapling which grows strong from being buffeted by the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes to make us strong.

One of the biggest challenges in training, management, and child-rearing is to have the wisdom of knowing when to help, and when we must let others learn by doing. As the butterfly story so aptly illustrates, sometimes helping can actually stunt growth. Brain research has now documented that memory itself is dependent upon an emotional involvement level attached to the facts being learned.  Without that element no long-term memory is established.

I was once speaking to one of our Ignite Senior Directors who was a delightful retired school teacher. She would regularly call in and spend 30 minutes to an hour on the phone getting information for her downline Ignite Managing Directors (MDs) because they “had to work and didn’t have time to do it themselves.” One day when I got her on the phone I asked her if she grew up on a farm. She said she had. I asked her if she knew what happened to plants that went directly from the greenhouse into the field. She said that they were weak and tended to die because they weren’t accustomed to the weather. I suggested to her that she was building a “greenhouse downline” because she was helping her MDs do things they should be doing for themselves! Three days later, she called me and proudly announced that she met with all of her MDs and “laid down the law” that they needed to be doing their own research. She found her sales team to be much stronger and productive after that.

In structuring training for your teams, I encourage you to keep these principles in mind. The training structure should make information helpful, accessible, and clear, but also force trainees to emotionally involve themselves in accessing and applying that information in problem-solving. Only when we take this approach do we create learning situations where mature subject matter experts are created who better both our internal organizations and external sales teams.