Successful Learning and Giving Feedback Insiders Story with Max Yoder CEO of Lessonly

In this episode Max shares the secrets of successful learning and giving feedback and you will understand so much more about Lessonly as a business and how he managed to get to grow to over 2 million users!

In this interview we learn more about successful learning and giving feedback Max Yoder CEO and co-founder of Lessonly – “The powerfully simple training software that helps teams learn, practice and Do Better Work.”

And don’t forget to buy Max’s new book. Do Better Work :- here :- 

Checkout our Previous Interview :- Compassionate Communication Delivers 2 Million Users with Max Yoder – Episode 24

WARNING — AI Transcriptions Below May Cause Grammatically Correct People Serious Stress and Lack of Sleep!

Nathaniel Schooler 0:10
Today, I’m interviewing Max Yoder. And he is the CEO and co founder of Lessonly, the powerfully simple training software that helps teams learn, practice and do better work.

And he’s actually grown that to 2 million users. So he shares some great insights here!

Well it’s great to speak with you again, Max!

Max Yoder 0:47
Nat good to be back. Thank you for having me.

Nathaniel Schooler 0:50
My pleasure. My pleasure. You shared so much value last time, that I just thought it’d be rude not to really to be honest.

Max Yoder 0:56
But was, it was nice to hang out. We need to hang out twice. And we can hang out three times. So we’re on a good trend now.

Nathaniel Schooler 1:01
Exactly. I’d like to hang out more it would be cool, man. It would be very cool.

Max Yoder 1:05
We are doing a pretty good job, aren’t we?

Nathaniel Schooler 1:06

So today, we’re going to talk about learning and development initially. And I know because you run you run Lessonly, you know hell of a lot about this! A lot more than I do. So I’m going to let you kind of take the floor, really? And tell me tell me what you know, Max?

Max Yoder 1:25
Yeah, so over seven years of building Lessonly, we’ve learned a lot about training because we make training software. So we help people ensure that their training programs are rich and successful and driving return on investment. Over time, we learned that everybody had the same question. And that question was, what am I missing? So people were running training programs, but they didn’t know if they were hitting all the beats.

So what we did was we took it upon ourselves to make sure that we spelled out what all the beats were. When I say beats what I really mean are like the steps in a successful trading program. If you’re doing these steps, you’re probably doing it well. And then then filling in kind of details with each one of those steps. We call it the better work training method, because lesson is all about helping people do better work. So this is our training method for better work. And it’s a six step method, it starts out with assessing your team and what it needs. So a lot of times in the assessment process, when you kind of figuring out what do we need to train on, you talk to managers a lot. And then you roll out a training program, we highly encourage you to both speak to managers, and also contributors, because contributors know what they need. So sitting down with contributors, doing some quick interviews and saying things like:- “What are you missing? What keeps you up at night? What question do you not want to be asked?

Then if we could enable you on that answer, you feel a lot more comfortable, get that feedback, find the place where there’s some overlap, you might find out that cross selling rates and your business needs to go up. So we’re able to sell a product we were not able to cross sell. And you might find out that that’s something that is affecting both employees and the management team. The management team doesn’t hit that number, nobody gets nobody feels successful. If the individual contributor hit that number, they don’t feel successful, they also don’t make as much money. So it’s really important that we train on that, once we’ve understood on the assessment phase, what we’re going to train on, we move to the plan phase, we have our cross selling, and we know that we need to plan. Plan around how we’re going to help people cross sell better. So when you’re in the planning stage, think about it in two ways. We’re building the plan for what our trainings in a look like, Is it all going to be on demand? You know, computer based, is going to be instructor led in the classroom? Are we going to do role playing, you’re planning that but you’re also thinking, who do I need to have on this on this committee for this training program to make sure it goes really well? Who are the key stakeholders?

So this is where you’re kind of building your team. And this team could be there simply for feedback, or they could be people who help you pull off those role plays or those on demand trainings. Either way, surround yourself with a few key folks who can help bounce ideas off of.

So during the planning stage, the first first idea is get a draft for what you think your cross selling training is going to look like. And then very quickly share that draft out with people who are all going to need take it. Ask them :- “What am I missing?”

If the draft is six steps, or let’s let’s make it easier for the draft is a three step program, two lessons, one one instructor led session, run those lessons in the instructor led session, by your learner’s; by the people are also going to take and say anything else we’re missing would be like about this, just basically have them poke holes in it, invite them to poke holes in it, tell them into your napkin sketch and you need their help. When you’re finished with the planning phase, we move to the third phase, which is the build phase. So catch you up now. We’ve assessed, we’ve planned and we’ve built and now we’re in the building phase. Those first three stages are really the stages for the subject matter experts, the managers and the trainers to make sure they get everything aligned for the next three stages are really all about the learner, run the build stage now, you’ve identified what you need, you got two on demand lessons, you’ve got an instructor led session.

What’s going to go into those lessons? The build stage is a place where a lot of training programs fall down. And here’s why they fall down. They get stuck building way too long. People tend to try to perfect the training, what they can training modules, because their experience with training modules is this really high fidelity experience with these, you know, it’s almost like a production. That’s not what people that I’ve ever really asked for when you really dig into it. Nobody was like, you know, what I need for my training is highly interactive production. Here’s what they need from their training, they needed to feel like they’re being heard. And they needed to feel like they’re being held. If they feel heard and help, it’s going to be great training, I don’t care how interactive it is. Just listen to them, help them. So in the build stage truly important that you move fast, not a dangerously fast, but get your first draft of those lessons out back in front of the learners quickly, take an hour and then put them back in front of the learners, you’re going to learn so much if you get out of the vacuum of your head. So please, please, please get out of the vacuum of your head.

Once you’ve assessed, you’ve planned, you’ve built, now we learn and we practice. So now we’re given the lessons on to the learners. Ideally, we’ve embedded practice scenarios in the lesson so that the learners can practice the things we’re teaching them, give them a way to kind of test the muscle in a safe environment. And then we give them feedback. And we of course feedback in the instructor led sessions, we coach, we tell people where their opportunities for growth are or we tell people where their strengths are. And then lastly, we look at performance.

So I’m going to walk you back to the six steps.

We assess, plan, build, then we learn, practice and perform. The perform part is really where we get to sit back and say how did we do? During the performance part the teammate goes out and tries to cross sell, and we have our benchmarks for how cross selling went earlier. And then we have our benchmark for how our cross selling is going today, and we look good we move the needle. Ideally, when we sent those benchmarks for cross selling was, we said we wanted it to be after the training programs we can find out did we do our job to that? If we did do our jobs, great, we can move on to the next train initiative. If we didn’t, let’s reassess. Maybe we reassess and jump back over and maybe change the learning. Maybe we jump back and change the practice, maybe go through the whole cycle again and say, how do we make sure we nail this the second time. That help?

Nathaniel Schooler 6:56
Yeah, for sure. So really, it’s starting out with the goal in mind. How you want to develop that goal? And the result that you actually want to achieve from the training? Yeah, and then break it down into very, very small steps and get feedback whilst you’re building the course. Right? Because you can build a course you could take six months building a course by the time you’ve built it. It’s irrelevant, you know.

Max Yoder 7:26
Yeah you needed that six months ago.

Nathaniel Schooler 7:29
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve built a course before and it took ages to build it. And it’s like, by the time you built it, everyone else is doing the same course. So you might as well just not bother. You may as well just build it as you go. Right.

Max Yoder 7:41
Yeah, we got we call it speed optimized. I’m sorry to cut you off. We there’s kind of there’s there’s high fidelity training and their speed optimize training. You want speed optimize training, because like I said, it would help if it’s if people feel heard and held, they’re going to love it. And we’re really comfortable with a with a lack of high fidelity in our training packages.

Just look at YouTube. If you want something solved in your house, you’re totally comfortable learning it from a person with an iPhone, just so long as you’re getting helped. It doesn’t matter the production quality, it just matters that it helps you we’re very comfortable with speed optimized content that might be tech space, might be an iPhone video might be a screenshot. We do it all the time. We don’t walk into work, and then all of a sudden get really snobby about it. We still don’t mind. Yeah, as long as its helpful.

Nathaniel Schooler 8:25
Well otherwise it doesn’t get done. There are a lot of perfectionists down at the the job queue you know!

Max Yoder 8:34
We need to get it done. You are so right. I’ve never heard that phrase. And I don’t know if you just made it up. But yeah!

Nathaniel Schooler 8:39
It’s true get it done man!

Max Yoder 8:41
The job queue man!

Nathaniel Schooler 8:43
One of my mentors, he hates perfectionists, he says in a job interview, he will ask them, you know, about themselves. And if they mention the word and they say:- “I’m a perfectionist!” He would just run a mile.

Max Yoder 8:59
You know, I learned I learned something recently about perfectionism, it was that that is when we think about vulnerability and people kind of being being genuine. And saying:- “You know, I’m good at this. And I’m not so good at that. And I really excited about this, but I’m really scared of that!”

One of the things that people try to do to protect themselves and vulnerability is perfectionism, kind of the armour is the phrase that I think people use to protect themselves from their vulnerability. So they try to be perfectionist, and then it just ends up hurting everybody. That’s not good for them, it’s not good for their teammates, it’s just a net negative process.

Nathaniel Schooler 9:35
Very, very interesting. So really, it’s a mindset of growth, right you need, you need to have a mindset of growth, you need to be supported. I mean, anyone in work today has to have a mindset of growth. Because if you don’t, you you are going to end up I’m not going to say you’re going to be out of work, but I’m going to say that you will probably end up not enjoying your job as much as you could enjoy it. Because the way modern technology is kind of moving ahead so quickly, it’s everything is changing. So you know, upskilling and learning is absolutely key to what we’re doing. Right. So you know, but you just got to have fun. Like, it’s all about having fun, isn’t it? And if you’re not having fun, then you need to perhaps look at doing something else in your career anyway. Really?

Max Yoder 10:23
Yeah, I think I think y I think you need to know that you’re not expected to have all the answers. I think we need to just kind of reset the standard like you are you are allowed to not have all the answers. Of course, that’s the case. There’s way too many questions, you’re not gonna have all the answers. You’re allowed to say:- “I don’t know?” You’re allowed to ask:- “What makes you say that? You’re allowed to say like:- “Help me understand.” It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, in a company, you don’t have to have all the answers. Your job is to learn the answers. And when you’re learning the answers, you can ask a lot of questions. And guess what, you’ll be a better teammate for it.

Nathaniel Schooler 10:56
Yeah, I agree completely. So I think that’s learning and development wrapped up really nicely. I think a lot of people will learn a lot from that. And I can’t sort of think of anything that we’ve missed on that one. To be to be honest,

Max Yoder 11:10
I think that is great. I think that was I hope it was concise. Very thing. It feels pretty concise.

Nathaniel Schooler 11:14
It’s very cool. So in terms of feedback, yeah. Before, before, you know, we get into the real conversation about feedback, you know, I got my best prop out again.

This is to anyone not watching this. And this looks like the 3d middle finger, I get every time for Max.

Max Yoder 11:35
It feels like everything, you pull that out. And it looks like you’ve got a really small hand that is golden. I know you get all the way up.

Nathaniel Schooler 11:42
It’s classic, but my my friend made it for me!

Max Yoder 11:47
Hilarious to learn that you have a gold hand in the middle of a Podcast.

Nathaniel Schooler 11:53
My friend Erik made me a 3d printed middle finger to anyone that’s listening to this on on audio. Anyhow. So in terms of like feedback, right. We’re trying to we’re trying to basically get better. We’re trying to learn and we’re trying to improve, right? Because that’s what feedback is all about, isn’t it? But if but if you’re giving feedback to people publicly that is negative, then it’s going to hurt them. And it’s going to damage the way they feel towards their colleagues, and then their colleagues will look at them differently.

So I think the first place to start is asking you I mean, you run a company, you’ve got over 100 people, and you know a lot about learning and development. So when you’re giving people feedback, if it’s negative, you’re going to give it to them in private. Right. You’re not you’re not going to publicly chastise them are you.

Max Yoder 12:40
Correct, correct? Yeah, you want to give praise, you want to give public positive praise. But yeah, you don’t want to be chastising somebody in public, that’s just going to make everybody else scared to take a chance.

Nathaniel Schooler 12:51
Right. So that’s going to harm the whole culture of the business or the entity that you’re you’re working for. Right?

Max Yoder 13:00
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Nathaniel Schooler 13:01
Yeah. So with feedback, how do you go about it?

Max Yoder 13:06
Sure. I first I try to get people in a mental model that I think is a really healthy one, which is really talking about:- “Hey, if I have something in my teeth, I could walk around all day and and nobody might tell me that I have something in my teeth.”

Have you ever seen somebody with something in their teeth? And you’ve just kind of let it go, I know I have. And I and I look back on those situations. And I put myself in the shoes of that person or something in their teeth. And I think how bad of a feeling it is to have walked around all day. And then finally at the end of the day end up in front of a mirror and go “Wow!”

Nathaniel Schooler 13:37
Yes but it could be worse they could like they could like haven’t have a toilet roll out the back of their trousers, you know what I mean.

Max Yoder 13:43
No doubt, it’s embarrassing to not know this is not be able to see something that everybody else can see. And that’s the main thing I want to take away from it. We know how embarrassing it is, when everybody else was telling us something. The nice thing about having something in our physical teeth is we have mirrors for that sort of thing, we can end up in front of a mirror and eventually we’ll get there, we’ll have come to the realization.

The same is not true for our behaviors. So I like to think about our behavioral teeth, we have things in our behaviors that people don’t tell us about just like they don’t tell us about things in our teeth. And just like we want them to tell us about things in our teeth, because we don’t like walking around not realizing that we’re maybe making a mistake, maybe we’re making somebody or hurting somebody without realizing it, maybe we’re cutting somebody off and not listening to their, to their full idea. And we’re just kind of summarily judging them and throwing it out. Any one of those behaviors, any behavior that kind of decreases communication and creates pain, it can be stuck in our teeth.

So I encourage people, just like I really appreciate people who speak up and have something in my actual teeth. And I like it when they do it in a in a kind way. Like they pulled me aside and say, Hey, Max, you got something in your teeth. I really appreciate people who pulled me aside and say:- “Hey, Max, you got something in your behavioral teeth.” A really a really easy example is one time I wore a T shirt to a two o’clock customer meeting. And the customers’ culture was not necessarily T shirt friendly. our culture’s T shirt friendly. I wore A T shirt to a place that really wasn’t and they didn’t make me feel badly about it. But one of my teammates pulled me aside and said:- “Hey, this is a customer of ours. Let’s try to think about their dress code, as opposed to our dress code.”

You know, I could show respect for how they like to visit we like to behave. And I, I totally get that.

Nathaniel Schooler 15:23
This is it. T shirt,

Max Yoder 15:25
And I’m good with that. I’m good with that. And I can show up but in a T shirt here, we’re relaxed. Yeah.

Nathaniel Schooler 15:29
But their point was bought, sometimes I will wear a shirt. Right? It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing my pajama bottoms. But I will wear a shirt.

Max Yoder 15:42
And you’re allowed my teammates, my team, I just asked me politely to maybe dress up on certain client engagements. And at first I was like, oh, man, how did I not notice that. But it was something in my teeth. It was just just in my teeth, I needed to be reminded that I you know, that wasn’t the right call.

And then there’s much there’s much more serious things like where maybe I’m in a meeting. And like I said, I might not be not listen as closely to somebody’s comment. And maybe I say:- “Yeah, great. Let’s come back to that.” Maybe I don’t come back to it. Somebody can tell me “Hey, Max, you need to come back to comments! When you told me we’re going to come back to them!”

It could be little things that could also be big things, you know, I could, I could have really upset somebody and they want to have difficult conversation with me. What I really appreciate it when they tell me when something’s in my teeth. And I like it when they take it from the angle of:- “This is me proving I really like you Max.”

Because you know, the easiest thing to do, if you don’t mind, somebody is just kind of walk away and say that’s their problem. When somebody comes to me and makes it clear to me that they want us to do better work together and want our company to do its best work. It means a lot to me that they sit down and give me their perspective. In our first conversation together, we talked about nonviolent communication as a really solid approach, and really solid way to share your perspective in a way that won’t offend people and will leave them open and receptive to your message. So I recommend everybody revisits nonviolent communication. I have a little excerpt of it. Also, in my book, it’s called do better work that talks about having difficult conversations about this and all this either way, you know, either way.

Nathaniel Schooler 17:16
Yeah, its launch a man’s way to up to you. But you launch that I’m really excited to read that. Really excited. Thank you.

Max Yoder 17:23
Thank you. Yeah. And if you send me send me your address, I’ll send you a copy.

Nathaniel Schooler 17:26
Yeah, yeah, we did that last time. But you know, it’s ok.

Max Yoder 17:31
I apologize. I will get you a copy. I’ll check with the marketing team to see what’s already out there. But if it’s not

Nathaniel Schooler 17:37
It’s alright man we’ll get there. So you need to sign it for me though. I need I need it. So okay. Okay. Very important. I think if anyone’s listening to this, if you ever get a book from an author, and I always get books from authors, I’m very lucky. And even if I buy them, yeah, I actually get them to sign them, I will go and meet with them on purpose, just to get them to sign the book. I think it’s very important.

Max Yoder 17:58
I will make sure I sign it. There’s a whole chapter on difficult conversations. And, you know, giving feedback, it’s just so important. We owe it to one another.

Nathaniel Schooler 18:08
Yeah. But it’s really difficult, isn’t it? Because Because you’ve kind of got the ego there, right, which everyone has an ego and, you know, it’s not a bad thing, unless you’re unaware of it, and you let it take control of your entire life. Right.

But the thing is, is that it can hurt, like feedback can really hurt. Yeah, it if it’s done in the right way. I mean, I’ve got quite a few mentors. Yeah. And sometimes they’ll just kick me, you know, and it’s awful. Like, it really hurts at the time, but there, then you turn around, and you look at how you’ve changed because of their engagement with you. And because they what they’ve said to you, and you might you know, take longer to write an email in future, you might, you might change the way that you write an email, you might take five times longer and move things around, and then you know, condense what you’ve written and, you know, can be all sorts of things you’re attaining feedback for, right? But it’s understanding the fact that it’s going to make your life better. You know, and I think that’s a really difficult one, because we’re all human right. And our egos, and our pride sit in front of us quite a lot of the time. And it’s, it’s a difficult, it’s very difficult for me, you know, in particular.

Max Yoder 19:23
Now, you’re not alone, you’re not alone, everybody’s got an ego. And I think if you’re a manager, it’s incumbent on you to set that ego aside as best you can. Because the more defiant, you get towards somebody feedback, just just don’t expect a lot of feedback, you’re going to be defined toward other people’s feedback. And if you’re not getting a lot of feedback, I’d be nervous, if I’m a manager, you know, if the flow of information isn’t coming my way, I’d be nervous. So if you’re managing people, I think:- “Hey, you have a responsibility to find ways put your ego aside and just listen, you can vent to your husband, your wife, your partner later, but you just have to listen to those words. Because if you make that person feel like they shouldn’t do this ever again, well, they probably wont do it ever again, but you’re totally right, we have a really tough time receiving feedback, I like to think about it like this, if I don’t get feedback, that could be very, very helpful to me, I could live with that at behavior in a chronic way, I could keep it with me week, over week, month, over month, year over year, if I’m willing to engage in the acute stress of listening to somebody who’s critique of my behaviors are like having somebody tell me, what they observed from me and how they’ve helped makes them feel I can make that acute stress instead of chronic stress, like in chronically live with that behavior that creates chronic stress, or I can have an acute moment of stress where I can learn from it, and then get past it. And I’d much rather have the acute moment of stress.

Nathaniel Schooler 20:38
Yeah, that that enables change. Very fast change. Yes. Yeah. And it helps you do better work, right. That’s like your motto, isn’t it?

Max Yoder 20:48
That’s it. That’s the jam. That’s the jam. That’s what we’re here for. That’s Yeah, there’s no, there’s a lot of headroom for doing better work. You know, we’ve got a pretty low bar for what we think is employment and kind of teamwork these days. And I hear a lot of people who just really hunger for a lot more compassion, and a lot more camaraderie, and just a lot more clarity at work, you know, what are we after? Why are we going there? Those those, those questions are not always answer.

Nathaniel Schooler 21:12
Yeah, we’d like to not very much. So I mean, I was interviewed some guys from Microsoft the other day. And, and they, it was really interesting. And they were just talking about just finding out what makes people tick. Because it might be something completely different. Like, for me, it might be like money, or it might be holidays, or travel or time to work on something at home, or, you know, there are certain drivers that sit behind us. And I think that’s really important as an element to all of this learning, development, feedback, growth. It’s all related. It’s all tied together. And that will be that will be an interesting episode. I think you like that one? actually.

Max Yoder 21:51
Yeah, I’d love to hear it in your right now people are driven, it means it makes a big difference. If I understand how you’re driven, then I can make things relate to you. But I don’t understand how you’re driven well, I’m going to probably be try to be teaching you things the way I want to be taught as opposed to the way you want to be taught.

Nathaniel Schooler 22:07
Exactly. And I think just making it fun, right, trying to try to just give the feedback, but actually just just make sure that when you’re giving the feedback that you don’t, you’re not too harsh, like, be be a bit sensitive. I mean, you know, no doubt, because some people are really empathetic, like they feel a lot from others. Yeah, other people are a lot more hard nosed, and they don’t really feel things as much. So it’s kind of like understanding, I think, also the person that you are talking to, but also being aware that perhaps they might not actually feel anything for what you’re saying. So then you got to just change your communication method, haven’t you sort of just explain to them in a way that motivates them to change I suppose.

Max Yoder 22:55
it’s super helpful to know what the person’s communication style is, what they’re processing style is, you can learn things like from predictive index, which is an assessment. I use advisor for predictive index and their company that helps me kind of understand how people are wired. One of the things that I can see from that is if people are high patients or high formality. Generally a high patients are like the process the new little more time. So having a different conversation and then saying, Let’s revisit this, tomorrow is a way better call, then, hey, I drop this on you. We got to talk about it right now. They just you know, they’re not they’re not in the place of process. Other people want to process it right away. And so in the next level of empathy, right, understanding where the person’s at how they feel, and and making sure that you were being thoughtful about how, where they’re at how they feel.

Nathaniel Schooler 23:39
Well, that’s really interesting. Well, Max, you’ve been very generous with your time. I know you’ve got another meeting in three minutes.

Max Yoder 23:45
I appreciate this a lot. It was fun. And book time. It’s book time. Oh, yeah, I’ll get that to you.

Nathaniel Schooler 23:51
I can’t wait. I can’t wait to read it. I’m really interesting because I my brain is just going like this right now is totally exploding with all the knowledge. Like if you’re on Facebook, join the Elite Tech News group and you’ll.

Max Yoder 24:04
I’m not I’m not.

Nathaniel Schooler 24:05
Okay, well, I’ll just check out the podcast because I’ve got I’ve got so many great episodes coming in the next great next three weeks, four weeks it’s going to be just insane.

Max Yoder 24:15
Rock and Roll man Good. Good job. Good job. And I want to make sure I know I were down your address. I just want to make sure I’ve got it in here that we’ve got everything.

Nathaniel Schooler 24:22
Don’t worry. I’ll drop it over to you no problem.

Max Yoder 24:26
I apologize for the delay.

Nathaniel Schooler 24:28
It’s alright if people want to learn more about lesson Lessonly they need to visit

Max Yoder 24:34
Yep, that’s perfect. And you can get the book at do better work. So

Nathaniel Schooler 24:43

Unknown Speaker 24:47
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