I went on my very first ski holiday 20 years ago. I enrolled in ski school, and for the next year too. By then I was basically competent and keen to follow my own path and not be restricted by lessons. Practice did improve me a little over the next few years but I was never great. Still. Good enough is often good enough. I was never particularly fast, but I could keep up with some members of my group, and that was OK.
Then we had kids and so a few years break. When we restarted, we enrolled the children in ski school for 3 years, by then they were at least as good as me. Over the next few years, they have improved and improved. I am literally trailing behind them, and by quite a way. So each year, I’ve had a lesson. They all helped my confidence and technique but it’s never lasted and I’ve never really improved.
This year, I almost booked a lesson, but didn’t. Instead, I watched skiers that I wanted to ski like. I’ve been told countless times to let the skis do the work. I’ve never managed it. Making C shapes helps but not on the steep stuff. It felt like every time I tried something new, I got worse somewhere else. But I needed to improve. I’m holding everyone else back.
On the 4th day of the ski holiday this year, we decided to just ski the local runs. All if them, from easy blues to testing blacks. We started on the easy stuff, and (because I knew I was definitely capable of doing these runs) I decided to completely alter my ski style. I role modelled the skiers I admired, whilst remembering all the lessons I’ve had, and found it worked! Over the next few easy runs, this was confirmed. More speed, no less control, and (for the most part) less effort.
I then felt willing to try my new technique on the more challenging runs. Apart from when I hit the unexpected (when I reverted to the old way – remember it DOES work even though it’s not quite right) it worked. I genuinely feel that I’ve made a break through.
It made me think of all the training and development we provide in organisations. How often do people not make a change because the way they’ve done things for years isn’t strictly wrong…it does actually work, even though it could be better and take less effort?
The factor that made a difference for me was risk (and to a lesser extent, reward). I realised that if I was to try something new, it had to be in a situation that was low risk. If my new technique didn’t work on the blue runs, any accident would be gentler than if I tried it on the reds or blacks. The consequences less dramatic, and I could easily revert back to my old way if I had to. Of course, if it worked, I wouldn’t be such a hindrance to the family.
So when we ask people to do something new after training, we really ought to be encouraging them to target not just things that they want to improve, but also low risk situations, where if it doesn’t work, the consequences will be small, and the situation easily recovered. The challenge then of course, is to apply the new skills in more challenging areas, and keeping up momentum is critical to transfer of learning.