Opening a can of worms
When things are good, they’re good; when things are bad... well, lets not go there, there is enough negativity in this world. When I hear anything negative that’s when my hand goes up and I say: “talk to the hand”. This is an adage spoken over and over again, in general people tend to want to hear the good news first, and deal with the bad news as it comes up. They assume that the good news will overshadow the bad or by sticking their head deep enough in the sand, upon taking it out all bad things will have magically disappeared. Sometimes avoiding the inevitable will only result in problems that you can't overcome or deal with properly, making the situation much worse to deal with then it would have been. This is something I coined the “Ostrich Syndrome.” Quickly nipping any bad situation in the bud is the best approach.
Here is an example: Mrs. Smith comes in to sign up her child Johnny. After going through an exciting intro class, he loves it and wants to join. Seeing Johnny's enthusiasm, Mr. Karate instructor goes over all the programs with Mrs. Smith and she agrees to sign Johnny up for the yearly program. Mr. Karate Instructor is very happy, signs all necessary paperwork and gives Johnny his uniform and carefully goes over his welcome to the family packet (all systems mentioned are on www.takingitothenextlevel.com) he reviews the schedule and welcomes them to the family. He sends Mrs. Smith and his new student, Johnny on their way. Sound familiar.
A few weeks go by and Mrs. Smith isn't bringing Johnny to class anymore. As the diligent Karate teacher Mr. Instructor calls a few times and attempts to do his 2,4,6 week calls and gets no response (another system on Next Level). After repeated attempts he finally reaches Mrs. Smith because she has forgotten to look at her caller I.D before picking up the phone. She tells Mr. Karate Instructor that Johnny has lost interest and they are discontinuing the program. At that point he tries to re-motivate her to bring him back by offering a free one on one with the instructor, but she declines. He goes through a laundry list of items that can help her, but nothing he says at this point could bring her back. She has mentally and emotionally checked out.
As martial artists we usually think on the defensive in regard to particular reactions to a movement. For instance, someone throws a punch at your face: You don’t block with your chin, you bob and weave; or slip, slide and block to avoid the punch. You never stand by willingly and get punched in the face! Sometimes to overcome your opponent you even fake a move to draw an opening. This process is called “opening a can of worms”.
Martial artists are trained to look for warning signs and to prepare for the worst after all the more we know the better off we are. As teachers, martial artists and business owners it is our job to take the guesswork out of our relationships with students and parents our clients. The saying “the truth will set you free,” rings true in our business as well, so after the initial sign up I encourage you to take the time to speak to your clients and explain that the relationship is not going to be all roses, be honest and truthful telling them that there will be pitfalls in training, and continual challenges that they may or may not experience. This doesn’t have to be accomplished on the same day, it can be done a day or so after the intial sign up and I recommend waiting to explain negatives. You don’t want to blow your sale. This meeting which I call “opening a can of worms” can be done in person or on the telephone and is probably one of the most important conversations to have with your client. Remember this conversation is done continuously throughout the students training because students need to be reminded to communicate.
Here is an example of the conversation:
We have found there are some things you may come up against while training in our school. The reason I am bringing this up is not to stress the negative, but to enhance the positive benefits of training at our school, and truly show what a learning experience this will be for the both of us. I just want to make sure that we are both on the same page.
Letting Johnny acquire the skills to achieve his black belt and be the best that he can be in every area of his life is not going to be an easy task. After all, nothing that is worth anything is achieved easily. At our school we consider every obstacle a small speed bump; to us speed bumps are made to slow us down and give us the opportunity to take notice of all that is going on around us. Achieving Johnny’s and your goals is worth the hard work. That being said, if we don't address these pitfalls now, they will be overwhelming and you may not know how to deal with them when they arise.
Consider the following:
1) You or your child will want to stop at some point in your training; in fact they may want to stop many times during their training. If this occurs what will you do about it?
2) All students experience some form of burnout or de-motivation. This is commonly misperceived as boredom, you may hear them say in a whining voice “I am bored I don’t like it anymore,” when in fact it is not. If this occurs what will you do about it?
3) All students at some point feel frustrated. There are hundreds of reasons why this may happen, but we have been through them all and know exactly how to help you deal with them. If this occurs what will you do about it?
Will you allow us to help you through these situations?
This communication only lists a few of the most common examples of what may occur throughout any student’s training. I am sure that if you and your staff were to brainstorm you could come up with a ton more on your own.
Questions like these may seem as though you are inviting trouble, but in fact you are putting a fail safe system into place. These types of questions will not only open the eyes of the parents and students but they will also help them to expect, understand and overcome any issues that may come up. You are taking down perceived barriers and creating a relationship that encourages open communication.
Many parents or students do not even know what to expect from their or their child’s martial arts training. Sharing with them the challenges that will occur gives them time to prepare themselves with answers should any issues arise. If you empower your customers with other alternatives then they will react in a manor that will be more beneficial to both you, and them.
Isn't it every school’s goal to prepare students to defend themselves? If so where is the focus on setting them up for success at any cost? The only enemy that will lead them to quit is ignorance. If we prepare them with an arsenal of defenses for those moments when they feel like they want to quit they will be able to overcome and succeed. So next time you sign a student up in your school, take the time to open up a can of worms.