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3 Examples of How the Abilene Paradox Impacts Workplace Decision-Making

October 21st, 2015

If you’ve read our article How The Abilene Paradox Video Improves Team Decision Making, you know that an inability to manage agreement can have a severely negative impact on a group’s ability to make decisions effectively.Abilene Paradox video image There are many different ways this paradox impacts decision-making: here are three that stand out the most.

  1. The Abilene Paradox Creates an Atmosphere Where People are Afraid to Speak Freely: A group “goes to Abilene” when a member of the team proposes an action and no one takes a stand against it. While individual members of the team may believe that the plan is not sound, their fear of possible negative consequences if they oppose the plan, or their desire to maintain group harmony, keeps them from voicing their true opinion. Instead of mutual accountability and honest communication, the team begins acting on inaccurate data or “false consensus”. The person who originally made the suggestion may not even believe it is the best choice, but if no one is willing to give a differing the opinion, a poor decision will be made.
  2. A Group Going to Abilene Won’t Evaluate Alternative Choices: A group going to Abilene is less likely to evaluate alternative choices when making a decision. Effective decision making requires this type of thorough investigation. When team members don’t voice concerns or opposition to an idea with which they disagree, the decision will likely be given the green-light and other (perhaps better) options will not be presented.
  3. Potential Problems are Not Identified: When a group goes to Abilene, it does not engage in a rigorous discussion of a decision’s potential downsides. Instead, group members simply agree to go along with the suggestion, regardless of its merits. When a decision is made without being tested, problems are bound to come up. Groups that can productively debate a decision are much more likely to identify potential issues before they occur, allowing them to think of contingencies instead of being blindsided further down the road.

Avoiding the Abilene Paradox

Recognizing when your group has fallen prey to the Abilene Paradox, and addressing it before any final decisions are made, can dramatically improve your business’s decision-making process. Look through our previous article on the Abilene Paradox for more details about how to recognize it in your workplace, and what to do to put an end to it.

Recommended Training Resource

“The Abilene Paradox” is a bestselling video that uses the story of a family domino game to demonstrate how problems with group decision making can stem from agreement. Use it to build skills in preventing false consensus, improving group decisions, and overcoming fear of speaking out.

Improve Workplace Productivity and the Customer Experience with Customer Service Videos

October 14th, 2015

No matter your business’s size, you need a great relationship with your customers,  and that starts with your customer service team. Training your service team to interact positively with customers, and with each other, leads to improved productivity and cooperation. Customer service videos are a key resource when training your team.

Why are Customer Service Training Videos Effective?

Your employees won’t always walk into work knowing the best strategies for customer service. It’s up to you and your management team to make sure they have the skills they need to succeed. Customer service training videos are an effective way to make sure your customer service team is learning the skills they need to impress your customers and go above and beyond. Here’s why:

  • Through a combination of sounds and visuals, customer service training videos enable trainees to process information in two different ways. This helps to reinforce information in multiple areas of the brain.
  • Customer service training videos are engaging. By using compelling stories, actionable information, and humor, well-made training videos entice their viewers’ interest, helping ensure the information they provide is retained.
  • Customer service training videos feature variety of scenarios. Rather than reading or hearing about only one or two anecdotes, training videos allow their viewers to see how a variety of scenarios play out, providing more insight into the subtleties of customer service.
  • Customer service  training videos provide consistency in training. Unlike live presentations, you know that by watching the same video, the entirety of your customer service team hears the same information. This builds a common base of knowledge throughout your team.

The Benefits of Customer Service Training

Why bother with customer service training at all? Because it provides benefits for both your customers and your staff.

  • Customer Benefits: Customers who interact with trained service members tend to be more satisfied with their interaction. They’ll be more inclined to choose you over other businesses, and will enjoy the feelings of loyalty their positive interactions with your staff evokes.
  • Staff Benefits: Showing your staff that you care about their career progress and individual development helps to improve their motivation, confidence, and morale. They’ll communicate better with customers and with each other, improving productivity and creating a positive work environment.

Recommended Training Videos

The Customer Service Toolkit is a collection of 72 video clips that cover a wide variety of customer service skills.s. This collection is great for helping your team build confidence and improve their interactions with customers and with each other.

Conversation with a Purpose

October 7th, 2015

rick-harry_smGuest Post by Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

I confess – I pilfered the title of this article from a man who was renowned as a wise and insightful pathfinder in the field of diversity, Dr. Roosevelt Thomas. A sample of that wisdom is seen in his statement, “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” In essence, he is saying that, in order to have real dialogue, we need to know what we want to accomplish during the conversation – we need to set a goal.

Let’s face it, goal setting is important in any aspect of life. If, for example, we dream of a trip to Paris, but neglect to set a goal of saving the amount of money required, the chances of us ever dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower are pretty slim. That’s because we will spend small amounts on other things along the way and get off track.

The same principle applies to conversation. If we don’t know what we want to accomplish, we won’t make the word and attitude choices that will get us to that goal. It is especially likely that we will get off track if we have a strong emotion associated with the interaction. Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about along with the kinds of productive goals you might set for each incident.

Example 1: You have been offended by what someone has said or done.
Possible Goals:
A. To embarrass the person and make him or her feel guilty
B. To educate the person about your point of view

As tempting as option “A” might be (let’s be honest, “guilt-tripping” is sometimes tinged with a perverse personal satisfaction), the most productive answer is “B.” Guilt is, after all, rarely a good motivator of change. Your act of trying to make the other person feel guilty will accomplish little more than making them defensive and, in turn, become utterly unable to listen to what you have to say.

Example 2: You have made a clumsy or ignorant remark that you think might have offended someone around you.
Possible Goals:
A. To show respect for your colleagues by calling attention to what you did and apologizing.
B. To minimize the importance and impact of what you said by ignoring it.

The goal here is “A.” The very fact that you are willing to take responsibility for your error shows, not only that you want to communicate respect, but that you are prepared to model truly inclusive behavior.

To return to Dr. Thomas – “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” I think he would agree that, if we don’t know where we are going – whether it be in conversation or in life — we just might end up someplace we’d rather not be.

This article is excerpted from the video program, Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments Into Productive Conversations, which features Sondra and a variety of vignettes depicting these concepts.

Sondra Thiederman can be contacted for webinars or in-person presentations. For additional information, go to

© copyright 2013 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.




5 Steps to Stop Workplace Harassment

October 7th, 2015

sexualharassment260Stopping sexual harassment in the workplace depends on clear policies and a change in an organization’s culture. Workplace harassment training is a critical part of maintaining a harassment-free environment. Stop harassment quickly and completely with these five steps.

5 Steps to Stop Workplace Harassment

  • Develop a Thorough and Legal Harassment Policy: Create or revise a section of your employee handbook to cover harassment policy. In today’s workplace, harassment prevention must go beyond sexual harassment, so create a policy that addresses all forms of harassment and discrimination. Make sure this policy is clearly stated to everyone in the organization. Clearly state the definition of harassment, the procedure for filing complaints, and that this type of misbehavior will not be tolerated.
  • Ensure Your Policy Includes Protocol for Reporting Complaints: Your policy should include a clear protocol for reporting complaints. This protocol should provide a way for employees to make a complaint that does not require them to include the offending party. This section of your policy is an ideal place to discuss why it is illegal to retaliate against anyone who files a complaint.
  • Conduct Policy Training on a Regular Basis: Conduct annual training sessions on your harassment policy as mandated by the laws of your state. Employees should end the training sessions with a clear understanding of your policy and should be comfortable with the procedure for reporting complaints. Supervisors and managers should undergo a separate training session to receive education on how to handle complaints. Video-based training is the most effective way to clarify what is (or is not) illegal behavior, ensuring everyone knows what behaviors to avoid and/or report.
  • Supplement Mandated Harassment Prevention Courses with General Training on Respect and Inclusion: Behaviors such as bullying and unconscious bias are unfortunately common in today’s workplace. While not illegal, these types of behaviors are every bit as damaging to employee morale and productivity as harassment. Providing general training on respect and inclusion helps employees and management identify these behaviors and take steps to end them.
  • Make a Cultural Change from the Top: Your organization’s leaders are a powerful tool in modeling harassment prevention best-practices. In addition to providing mandatory harassment prevention training for your manager, ask all of your organization’s leaders to commit to creating a respectful workplace.

Recommended Workplace Harassment Training Resources

Harassment Hurts: It’s Personal provides an overview of the different forms harassment can take, including race, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment. Insight is provided on the negative consequences of inappropriate behavior and tactics for speaking up about harassment are discussed.

Beware of These Common Cognitive Biases

September 23rd, 2015

If critical thinking was easy, everyone would do it.

Every day we are faced with cognitive challenges to effective thinking. From emotions to unchecked assumptions and ambiguous data, we constantly make decisions without applying the rigors of critical thinking. Cognitive biases are frequent barriers to rational thought and effective decision making, but we are rarely conscious of our own biases.

Here’s a great graphic from Business Insider (see just below) that shows 20 of the most popular cognitive biases in decision making. Read the rest of this entry »

4 Ways to Combat Negativity at Work

September 2nd, 2015

attitudevirusworkforce_thumbNegativity in the workplace can be related to overwork, job insecurity, lack of leadership, boredom, lack of rewards, personality conflicts and many other factors.

Any one of us can be tempted to “go negative” from time to time.  Sadly, for some, it is the way they communicate most of the time. Whether you are working to combat your own negativity or are needing to respond to negativity from others, here are a few things to keep in mind: Read the rest of this entry »

Managers Must Manage Themselves First

August 13th, 2015

If you ask people to share a piece of life-changing advice they’ve received from a manager, you might hear a few noteworthy pearls of wisdom. However, you are more likely to find that what typically sticks with someone is not the particular pieces of information that were shared, but how a manager presented the advice. 103

Here’s why. A manager’s ability to influence employees is, first and foremost, related to the manager’s ability to manage him or herself. Managers often botch “teachable moments” because their message is mixed with an expression of anger or frustration. When messages are delivered in this manner, without consideration for the individual and the situation, it can create the opposite of the desired effect. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Boundaries

August 3rd, 2015

“It felt like I had no choice.” These words were spoken by a successful corporate executive who managed million-dollar high-tech projects, and pioneered new ways of communicating within her organization and for her clients.

She was describing what can happen when we don’t have good boundaries.

CRM    --     452 compressed“I resented feeling like I had to say ‘yes’ to every request, no matter what,” she continued, “I watched colleagues heading out to lunch, going home at a reasonable hour, while feeling like I had to make the client happy at any cost.”

You might think this was an expectation within her corporate culture. It wasn’t. As she came to realize, it was a question of her own boundaries — or lack thereof. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Elements of Successful Communication

July 2nd, 2015

Communication infographicCan you imagine going through your workday without being able to communicate verbally?  It would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t it?

For most of us, talking is so easy that we just do it without thinking about it.  We have a general idea of what we want to say, we say it, and we move on.

And yet we’ve all experienced what happens when communication goes astray: misunderstandings, unintended consequences, missed opportunities, and general frustration. It doesn’t have to be like that! Read the rest of this entry »


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