I was driving between appointments today and listening to music. In my playlist was a song called “Hard Act to Follow” by Split Enz. This song was a favourite of mine in the early 1980s and I started singing along.
As I drove and sang it occurred to me that I was singing some incorrect lyrics.
I stopped at the bank and while I was parked there, I Googled the lyrics on my phone. I laughed at how much the correct lyrics varied from my version of the lyrics.
When I started singing along to this song back in 1981, a printed confirmation of the lyrics was not easy to obtain so I sang what I interpreted the lyrics to be and I had been singing the incorrect lyrics over and over, every time I heard the song.
Noting how much more sense the correct lyrics made, I resumed driving and resumed singing and I noticed something significant.
It was extremely difficult to stop singing the incorrect lyrics (which have been in my head for over thirty years)!
Even though I knew ‘my’ lyrics were wrong, when the song was playing it was incredibly difficult to sing what I now knew to be the correct lyrics.
I immediately phoned a sales trainer who I have been teaching and shared the story with him.
He had recently been frustrated with some of the sales teams he was working with and how they had been taught and shown the correct way to conduct certain sales behaviours and yet were slow to change.
I pointed out that my experience today with the Split Enz song was a graphic example of how hard it can be to change long-held behaviours, even if you readily admit that they are wrong. I advised him that he had to remain focused on helping his sales teams change their behaviours without falling into the trap of making them bad and wrong.
I also highlighted that learning the lyrics to a song correctly if you wanted to learn it today was easier because the lyrics are usually available online, so you don’t have to guess the lyrics as I did back in 1981. Similarly, it is often easier to teach a sales trainee to do the right thing, than to try and have an experienced salesperson ‘unlearn’ bad habits learned over many years.
In sales and song-lyrics, long-held habits are a hard act to follow!