ORBiT: Cycle

We could wax on and on about all the nice things people have said about us. We could talk about the change we’ve effected on people’s businesses, the impact our book has had on leader’s lives, the life-changing revelations that come as a result of our programs. But instead, we like to show you.


For several months now, we’ve been breaking down the steps of ORBiT and sharing with you Dan’s methods of adult behavior change. It’s a technique he’s polished over the years and presents in his book ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence. There are inestimable tidbits of wisdom in ORBiT, and we’ve been proving it by providing our readers with some insight into these tips and tricks every month. Here’s a quick recap:


1.     Establish Context. Your students will be reluctant to even accept the lesson you’re trying to teach unless you establish a solid foundation by explaining the “why.”

2.     Negative Simulation. First show your students what not to do so they can identify and understand their own flaws.

3.    Positive Simulation. You’ve created a blank slate and they’re ready for absorbing new ideas and procedures—give ‘em to ‘em!

4.    Demonstration. Ask your students to prove they’ve been listening—and learning—by demonstrating their new skills.

5.     Feedback. Coach, correct or reinforce the lesson to ensure your students are reaching your (high) standards.


And now, the finale: do it again.


We know, it seems anticlimactic. There are no fireworks and no one ever actually says “a-ha.” But in the “Cycle” step you ensure, and re-ensure, and probably re-ensure again, that your student gets it. In order for that to happen, they need to practice their new skillset in the correct way. That practice comes from repeating Demonstration and Feedback.


It’s not just a matter of practice, but protection, too. If you student’s practice veers from perfect, they could end up developing habits that will be even harder to correct in the long run. Watch over them and provide the relevant feedback to make sure that doesn't happen.


Inevitably, your student will get stuck, and they’ll get frustrated. That’s why you’re there as the coach. You’re already carefully observing and critiquing their performance; now genuinely evaluate where they’re experiencing the hiccup and give them the direction to help them overcome the hurdle.


Eventually, your student won’t just be expecting your feedback, they’ll be asking for it and striving to continue to improve. And that’s how you know you’re a good coach.


Now do it again. 

ORBiT: Feedback

We don’t just like to talk about how the practices we preach at The Mann Group work; we like to show you. First with GEAR and now with ORBiT, we’re breaking down the steps of some of our favorite programs to help you understand why they work. We’ll be continuing the series in our future newsletters on all sorts of Mann Group offerings—just look for the Show Me! article and read on for great (free!) knowledge.


Which brings us back to ORBiT! We believe influence is the most integral leadership skill, which is why Dan wrote an entire book on the development of it, ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence. In the book, Dan breaks down the six steps of ORBiT, a process he’s been developing for years. Here’s a quick recap:


1.     Establish Context. If students understand the why of the lesson, they’re much more likely to engage with and actually absorb the information you’re providing.

2.     Negative Simulation. By beginning with a negative example, you help students identify the flaws in their behaviors and understand why they should change.

3.    Positive Simulation. Now that students know what not to do, they’re ready to integrate the correct behaviors into their repertoire.

4.    Demonstration. By asking your students to exemplify their new skills, you confirm that they’re genuinely learning.


And now, step 5: Feedback.


For many leaders, managers and coaches, this can be an uncomfortable step (see Leslie’s article “Soft Skills or Bust” in this newsletter!). Perhaps you feel like it’s an intrusion, or that your comments will lose the trust you just gained from your employee, or maybe you simply don’t know how. Regardless of your reason for hesitation, it’s essential that you overcome it in order to ensure this lesson actually sticks.


The goal of feedback is to coach, correct or reinforce. As your student engages in their demonstration, genuinely study their behaviors and compare them to the standard. Are they perfectly aligned? Great, this is the perfect time to offer positive feedback and reinforce the lesson. And if there’s a discrepancy between the positive simulation and the demonstration, even a small one, offer suggestions for how the student can improve.


The important thing to realize during feedback is that you are the expert. You must have a complete, coherent and explicit understanding of the end result you desire, as well as the steps to get there. You can identify the behaviors it takes to make the lesson a reality—you just need to coach your students through the growing pains.


The way Dan likes to put it is simple: “Manage activity, not results.”


It’s easy to simply say, “That’s wrong, try again.” But it’s not effective, and no matter how many times you repeat it you’ll end up with the same wrong result. What is effective is pointing out the actionable adjustments they can make to improve, and why they will help.


It’s important to identify the positive and accurate parts of their demonstration (don’t embellish too much—just be honest), but it’s even more important to identify their weaknesses and coach them through those flaws. Remember, you’re the expert! You’re a leader because you’re already good at these things—but don’t stop there. You should know the lesson inside and out so that you can identify and alleviate even the subtlest of missteps.


Once you’ve finished with feedback, there’s only one thing left to do: demonstrate again. 

Demonstration: Show Me!

Webster defines an “orbit” as the path of one body around another; the first body is shaped and tugged by the other, influenced into their movements and actions. We may not be in space, but the influence we as leaders hold over our employees, team members or even kids is very similar. We mold them and place them on our paths using our influence. Hence the name of Dan’s book, ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence.


Over the past few months we’ve been exploring the six tenets of ORBiT, which, in addition to being a best-selling book, is a method of influence and behavioral change Dan has been perfecting for years.


Step one: Establish Context. It’s integral that leaders explicitly outline their intentions with their students so that they know what to expect, and also so that they understand and connect with the purpose. Step two: Negative Simulation. By beginning with a negative simulation, you establish the flaws in the former behaviors and root those flaws in reality. Step three: Positive Simulation. Students have seen what not to do, and you’ve created a blank slate to instill new, positive behaviors.


And now, step four: Demonstration.


Though at first glance positive simulation and demonstration may seem similar, they actually differ greatly. During a positive simulation, you take the lead and exemplify the proper behavior and execution. A demonstration, on the other hand, puts the student in the forefront.


This step is absolutely necessary in confirming the absorption of these lessons in the student. By asking your student to demonstrate this new knowledge, you can easily track their progression and note any areas that may still need improvement. If you don’t ask your students for a demonstration, the students could have gapes and holes in their understanding of the concept, leaving them susceptible to even more mistakes or misunderstandings.


Although you could simply ask “Do you understand?” that approach is inherently flawed. Simply asking that question reveals nothing and asks nothing of the student. Throughout ORBiT you’ve been in control; it’s time to pass the baton and see what they’ve learned, plus legitimize their own perception of their roles.


As you approach this step of ORBiT, it’s important to help your student feel as comfortable as possible. Dan suggests posing the demonstration as if it’s the logical next step in the exercise (because it is!). But stage fright exists for a reason. Their hesitation surrounding a demonstration could stem from any number of misgivings, including a reluctance to change, confusion about the subject, or fear of failure. Understand that their hesitation is legitimate, and do what you can to help them along the way.


Your role in the demonstration is three-fold: you’re an actor (though not the leading man or lady), you’re a coach (you’re evaluating their performance), and you’re also the director of the simulation. It’s important that you step into each of these roles to make sure you can properly evaluate your student.


If the demonstration goes well, that’s great! Time to move on to step five. But if not? Here’s why:


1.     Your student may still not be aligned with your ideas.
Remember step one, establish context? This is when it you created buy-in with your student to make sure they were on board, but there’s a chance that didn’t carry through.

2.     They don’t yet have the skills.
You’ve bombarded your student with new information and it can be overwhelming. But with patience, encouragement and assistance, they can integrate these new skills into their vocabulary.


It’s important to learn to recognize each of these hold-ups and address them directly. With perseverance and understanding, you can amend them both and help your student to demonstrate their new skills in the best way possible. 

ORBiT: Positive Simulation

If you keep in touch with The Mann Group, you’ve probably heard us mention ORBiT a lot recently—and with good reason. Since Dan published ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence, we’ve heard from so many folks—from customers who have worked with The Mann Group to strangers, retailers to writers—just how practical, implementable and simply useful the information in ORBiT is for leaders of all types. That’s why we’re bringing you the basics every month in our newsletter.


There are six steps to ORBiT, a technique Dan’s been refining over the past decade to help bring his learned power of influence to the leaders who need it most, like managers, teachers and even parents. The first step of ORBiT, “Establish Context,” reminds leaders to outline their intention to their students to help gain buy-in and purpose. The second step, “Negative Simulation,” guides the teacher through a negative simulation, which is integral for establishing the reality of the lesson for the student and for helping them see the error in their current ways.


The third step of ORBiT is “Positive Simulation.” This is the point at which many trainees try to begin, but it’s essential to both establish context and perform a negative simulation beforehand in order to set the tone and wipe the slate for influence.


So you’ve established for your students what not to do and, if you’ve done it well, left the perfect channel to insert information of what to do. They’re asking questions, and they’re finally the right ones; not “why are we doing this” or “why is my way wrong,” but “what is the right way?” And now you can show them.


In order to effectively demonstrate a positive simulation, you as the trainer must effectively and honestly take on the role and wholly commit to those correct behaviors. By involving the trainee in the simulation as the receiver, they’re able to absorb your appropriate conduct and integrate your ideas into their own habits. After seeing the negative simulation, it’s also easier for them to appreciate the better qualities of this new approach, plus they’ll actually have a desire to adopt these new techniques into their own methods.


Through this early series of ORBiT steps, you should be able to effect a very important paradigm shift in the mind of your student. We like to think of it as an “a-ha!” moment. They’ve seen the wrong way to do something (and perhaps seen some of their own habits in that method), which is then viewed in stark contrast to the right way, with all of its advantages now easily identifiable. It’s in this moment that the shift occurs and that their viewpoints change, even if only subtly, for the better. They don’t just see the wrong way and the right way—they understand why the difference is important and why they should change.


Dan also suggests one other element as you near the end of Step Three: a pop quiz. If you’ve followed steps one through three well, and if you have a good student on your hands, this quiz should simply verify that the lesson is being learned. But if your student isn’t invested in the training—if, in other words, step one was unsuccessful—this will be your time to realize their

lack of commitment and reinvest in their buy-in. 

Book Review from Chris Zane

ORBiT is Fantastic! I actually read it twice to ensure I didn't miss anything.  Through trial and poor of the past 35 years, I managed to figure out what works.  After reading Dan's, straight forward, example and outcome, I now have an in-depth understanding of why it works and more importantly, how it works, allowing me to be even more persuasive in obtaining desired results.  From why "shadowing" is ineffective and a poor business practice to the "buy in" from a negative simulation, Dan has provided invaluable material in his unquestionable area of expertise.  If you are responsible for leading a team, training employees, or simply want to better interact with coworkers this is a must read book.  Instead of surfing the internet or scrolling Facebook, invest a few hours in bettering yourself and read ORBiT.

Chris Zane - Author of Reinventing the Wheel

President of Zane's Cycles

ORBiT: Negative Simulation

People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.  What they don't mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.

You learn by doing it.

Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again. It is this approach works for a lot of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.

The first step of ORBiT is “Establish Context.” Once the “student” understands the impetus for the training—the why, rather than the what—they’re far more open to it, and therefore more likely to actually absorb the information and integrate it into their lives.

The next step of ORBiT is perhaps the most important: “Negative Simulation.”

This is also often the most surprising. As trainers, we feel some inherent need to offer only positive experiences to our trainees. In reality, negative simulations are of immense value. Here’s why.

1.     In order to genuinely learn, adults need experience. Unlike kids, we’re not sponges who simply absorb knowledge. We have to experience something and develop our own observations.

2.     The first negative simulation also offers an opportunity for you as the trainer to extend that “establishing context” step a bit further. If you’re the first to invest in the negative simulation, you gain that next level of buy-in and respect from your trainees.

3.     Bad things happen—it’s a fact of life. By creating a negative simulation, rather than a positive one, you’re offering your trainee a unique brand of preparation. So when something bad does happen, they won’t panic.

4.     And because those bad things do happen, a negative simulation lends the training a bit more reality and, as such, a bit more engagement.

5.     You want your trainee to experience the negative simulation with all of their senses—not just a visual representation, but one with sounds and tangible elements that will stick with them. Most importantly, you want to connect with them on an emotional level. As adults, we don’t just learn with our minds—it’s much more complicated. Tap into that emotion and you’ve got a far more engaged student.

6.     By debriefing the student after the negative simulation, you’re cracking into that next layer of influence. Ask questions and let them provide the answers so that they become the experts.


Negative simulations may be intimidating, but they’re invaluable. Learn more about how to effectively integrate negative simulations into your trainings with ORBiT: The Art & Science of Influence. 

How do You Influence?

As leaders—of specialty retailers, manufacturers, sports teams and families—we forget sometimes that influencing adult behavior is at the core of what we do. And more than that, it’s a challenging obstacle.


When we step into a room of adults and try to directly change their behavior, the backlash is immediate and negative. Unlike kids, who are programmed to learn and glean lessons from leaders like you, adults are programmed to think for themselves and argue with whatever—and whoever—contradicts their own ideas.


So how do you persuade these freethinkers to think more like you? How do you influence them to be better employees (or students) in order to help you, help the company, and help themselves?

The first step in influencing adult behavior is surprisingly simple: establish context.


Though it’s simple, this is also twofold. Before you begin establishing context for your peers and students, you need to establish context internally.


Ask yourself, “what is my cause?” We talked a few months ago about the importance of defining your vision, and it’s a concept that applies here perfectly. Though we’re not asking you to decide your life plan before you approach this “influencing session,” you should have a clear definition of why you’re speaking to them, and how that fits into the larger context of your vision.


Once you have a clear vision of your intention, it’s possible to share it with others and to translate it into a language they can understand. It’s impossible to influence the behavior of others if you’re not direct in your own intention. When you approach influence with a clear and concise objective, you can package it into digestible bites for your employees or “students.”


So now that you’ve established your own context, you can establish context as a baseline for influence. But this is no easy task.


The immediate reaction of adults is to ask questions. “What are we working on?” “Why are we working on it?” “How long will this take?” “What’s in it for me?” Whether or not they voice this to their boss, these questions are inevitably circulating in the minds of your students. And, to be fair, those are all legitimate questions, questions that you should be able to answer now that you’re clear in your objective. Failing to address these questions before you begin to influence their behavior is fatal to effectively changing their behavior long-term. They won’t want to learn, so they won’t.


Because you have a clear understanding of your objectives and can stand behind them, it’s easy to persuade your students of the merit of your cause. Address each of these questions thoughtfully, individually, and in regards to the context you’ve already established within yourself. Once you’ve addressed each question, they’ll be much more likely to invest in the training because they understand its validity.


Another bonus of answering those concerns and establishing context is that you earn your students’ trust. You show them the respect they deserve by addressing their concerns and substantiating their thoughts and time. Now they’ll offer you that same respect by incorporating the training that follows into their behavior.