In the middle of my junior year of high school, my family moved from West Virginia to Ohio. Due to more stringent driver’s education requirements in Ohio, had a choice: enroll in driving school or forfeit my license. Unwilling to part with my new-found freedom, loathe to exchange my car keys for a bus pass, I signed up for the next session of driver’s ed.
When people are forced to attend required training for work in an area they are already familiar with, or to attend meetings that they can’t easily identify the value of, they experience a range of thoughts and emotions. Though the driver’s ed example goes back many years, I have returned to those feelings on the job countless times. Then and now, these been-there/done-that situations make me feel bored and impatient. I want others to know that I don’t need to be there. I think I am above it all. While I may project a professional image, inside I have regressed to a pouty, eye-rolling sixteen year old version of myself.
As leaders, we may find ourselves in situations where we struggle with attitudes of superiority. After all, we are in charge. We don’t need to be taught: our job is to teach and lead others. However, those of us who are most successful will overcome these thoughts to adopt an openness to learning.
A sure sign that we don’t know it all: thinking we know it all. My resentment about driver’s ed seems silly to me now. Twenty years later, I still struggle with parallel parking. I am still not an expert driver. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our pride causes us to miss opportunities to expand our knowledge or sharpen our skills.
There is always something to learn. People who are interested and willing to learn can glean helpful information anywhere, even from a class re-taken or a book re-read. We can also learn from people both younger and less experienced than ourselves.
Great leaders model a love of lifelong learning. A love of learning is contagious. Just as children are more successful in school if their parents are involved in their education, leaders’ active participation increases the effectiveness of the training. Leaders who show enthusiasm about learning opportunities infuse their teams with excitement.
If you are intentional, training experiences with your team can result in more than just increased technical knowledge. The same is true in the workplace. As a leader, you may have team members who attend a workshop or inservice unwillingly. Yet, they usually make the most of it relationally, catching up with colleagues in other departments or networking with new contacts. As you plan training experiences, optimize this dynamic and include plenty of group discussion and interaction.
Times of staff training and development are useful. Important information is disseminated and assimilated. Beyond that, these times away from daily deadlines and routines provide an opportunity to deepen working relationships. Take advantage of these times to observe your staff. Listen their ideas and ask questions. As you get to know people in a different environment, you may gain knowledge far more valuable than anything listed on the day’s agenda.
What attitude do you display regarding meetings, training, and inservices? Do you work with someone who knows it all? Begin today to think about how you can increase your team’s excitement for continued learning. If you have had success in this area, please share your ideas with us in the comments.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
I go to a lot of trainings. Some of the trainings are more meaningful than others. I decided years ago to use something I had learned within 2 weeks of the training. It works! I go into the trainings now actively looking for possible resources. I get excited about trainings and always turn in an honest written report to my supervisor. Recently, we had a training from an efficiency expert who was not having a good day. She actually picked women (who asked questions) out of the audience to ridicule and belittle. Worse, with the men, she was overly friendly, making suggestive remarks that were not mild. Most of us ignored her but later I wandered, what should we have done. We did talk to our director later.
Your idea of going to trainings with a focus on putting what you learn into practice is fantastic. Your openness to learn makes those experiences much more valuable and more memorable too. The added step of writing about the experience is a great idea, too; it is so easy to get excited about an idea but we often forget what we’ve learned after we get back to our daily routines.
What an unfortunate experience you had with the efficiency expert. I am sure the trainer’s lack of professionalism was very distracting and disturbing to you and your colleagues. Talking to your director was a good idea. I am surprised that the issue wasn’t addressed on the spot from one of the organizers of the training, though. This example underlines the importance of leaders choosing trainers carefully and being available in case of any unexpected problems.
Being in a position to offer and facilitate training to our department as the Training Manager, I’m always interested to hear about others’ impressions of going to training. I always figure there are at least three types of particpants: 1. Those who love to go to get out of the regular routine of their day, 2. Those who love to go for the opportunity to learn something new or re-inforce previous knowledge and learning, and 3. Those who would rather be anywhere else.
I personally love to go to training, but I must admit that I often spend more time critiquing the facilitator or their techniques than the actual content of the session. Although I make it a point to walk away with something that I can put into practice.
I almost always begin any conversation that I have with people attending training sessions with this piece of advice: Make sure you walk away from the session with at least one thing that you can apply in your daily life. If people go into training sessions looking to acquire at least one new tidbit of information or a new idea, chances are they will walk away with much more.