I’ve just got back from a long weekend in Centre Parcs – my kids’ favourite place in the world. As part of our mini break, we went quad biking. To be honest, it’s one of those activities that’s actually very easy to pick up – but difficult to do well.
I was probably the worst in the group, and despite the very good instruction by Josh, I was still the worst at the end – but I had improved. But boy, was it exhausting!!! Not just the physical side of it, but the continuous concentration, the identifying the nature of the next obstacle, thinking through how to tackle it, and then doing it, and working out how adjust if my approach wasn’t quite right.
My husband (and ex motocyclist) said that I should just relax and feel my way around – but that’s OK for him – he had lots of (similar) experience to fall back on. I did not. Everything was a conscious process for me. Thinking everything through worked, but it was hard work.
It made me realise how much we are asking of people at the end of a training event. I always stress that training is pointless if we don’t go out and apply what we’ve learned, but if I’m honest, I’ve forgotten what a big ask that is. I suspect that many trainers and facilitators are in the same position. Do we warn them that trying something new will be hard work? Do we reassure them that although it won’t be easy, if they follow their training they will succeed – even if it doesn’t feel natural? Do we find out what support mechanisms are in place to help them as they try new things? (Josh had a side-kick who made sure we were all safe and dealt with any minor mistakes).
Whether you believe in the conscious competence cycle or not, the fact is, making a change or applying a new skill, isn’t easy. As trainers, facilitators and L&D managers, what can we do to properly support people through that conscious competence stage, so they don’t give up?
As an external provider, I can ensure that my associates and I are honest that making a change will be difficult. We can make sure that the training is practical rather than theoretical. We can help people to consider HOW they will apply their learning in detail, including making sure their plans are realistic, identifying what support they might need and giving them as much practical advice as possible. We might even be able to give a little advice around resilience and bouncing back from failure, but that won’t guarantee success. As with all development, it’s a 3-way partnership: the individual has to want to change, have the bravery to risk failure, and the resilience to keep trying. The manager/organisation has to create opportunities to apply learning an environment of high support where individuals feel that someone has their back, and mistakes and less than perfect performance are treated kindly and used to encourage personal development.