Students sitting in lesson, in classroom

Surely you have taken your fair share of training programs or courses during your career. No doubt, some you have liked and others you didn’t find worthwhile.

Training generally provides the same content to multiple people expecting all attendees to change or improve as a result of hearing and applying the information learned. Why do we think this is going to work for everyone?

Do we all learn the same way? Not a chance.

Do we all have the same motivation to learn, change or grow? Of course not.

Here is the news flash – most training programs fail because all people don’t respond to the same information in the same way. Want some evidence of this? Just listen to the “interpretation” of something Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump did from one of their staunch supporters AND from one of their staunch detractors. See what I mean? We see what we are programmed to see and ignore the rest, particularly if the rest doesn’t fit into our current way of thinking.

In a training room of twenty people, all don’t respond in the same way, yet for some reason, we still plan for the same, singular outcome to happen – all attendees will learn AND implement some new or rehashed content. Consider the following:

  • The 20 attendees are not equally committed to making the internal change necessary to have a different outcome. Unfortunately, many people prefer to remain in the status quo because it’s comfortable. Change is difficult to embrace, much less sustain, if we don’t see the benefit to us as individuals. Even though intellectually, we may agree a change would be beneficial, we have a tendency to want to stay in the protection of our comfort zones.
  • The environment our group of 20 return to is not fully supportive of the change. You may recall me saying we become the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. When you learn something new and desire to put it into practice, yet the people around you, including your boss, don’t seem to embrace the change, you will likely revert back to old behaviors simply because it is safe.
  • The change does not seem consistent with the accepted culture or values of the organization, despite what the plaque on the wall defines as the values of the organization. Senior leadership still behave as they have always behaved and don’t show any signs of embracing the suggested changes taught in the training.
  • The change is somehow contradictory to the management systems and operating processes that are in place. When this is the case, behavior reverts back to what the system or process had been developed to implement.
  • Unrecognized behavior becomes extinct. In other words, if the new behavior you are attempting to incorporate into your daily routine is not reinforced by others who see the positive outcomes of the change and encourage you, you will abandon the new behavior in favor of the old, familiar way of doing things. Most people have a varying need for recognition of some type.

Don’t get me wrong – some skills training can be very helpful. Training in how to utilize Excel or PowerPoint have their place. Training to “teach” people how to be better communicators, leaders, influencers, or to achieve more? I don’t think so.

Let’s say you are in a senior leadership role and have decision making authority to implement a training program. If you are not willing to participate in the training, or refuse to commit to your own change of behavior, why would you expect your staff to embrace it?

New thinking is clearly required. Identifying the behavior or skill to be changed is a good start. However, what must be examined are the systems, processes, culture and values that are in place that would continue to support the old behavior, or hobble the new one.

Unfortunately, we rarely think into this; instead, we believe a training program can adequately address the need we have discovered.

Just the other day, I was working with a senior executive who has been tasked with creating a new division. He wanted a thinking partner (me) to help him think through his approach. One of the questions I asked to start our discussion was, “Think ahead to December 31, 2017. What would have been accomplished for that year to be considered wildly successful?” He rattled off about 5 key accomplishments, yet they didn’t seem very clear to me. As I asked him for some examples, he spoke of how the company “has intuitively known we have achieved success”.

I asked, “What would it be like if you could specifically identify some tangible outcomes that most other executives would agree were pretty significant?” That got him thinking differently and he realized that others might like to adopt similar strategies or initiatives in their divisions, thereby REALLY growing the impact this organization has in its marketplace. This would also expand his influence. Both outcomes got him excited!

Why did I share this example? Simply to make the point my client couldn’t possibly have learned to do this kind of thinking in a training program. In order for him to have the realization and change he experienced, he had to have a thinking partner explore his unique situation with him.

A thinking partner doesn’t give advice or tell someone what to do. A thinking partner asks questions, acting as a catalyst to new and different thinking, leading to new insights, new results and greater impact.

What about you? Are you expecting you or your team to achieve new insights, new results, greater productivity or greater impact by attending training programs, or by utilizing a thinking partner?

Have I stimulated some new thinking on your part? I hope so.

Best regards,