As Christmas is now only days away, it seems a little strange to be writing a blog with a title that seems more suited to Halloween. However, the younger husky recently decided he wanted to start and watch some scary films. After much deliberation we decided to keep it festive and watched Krampus. In my opinion it was not the best of films but a couple of jump scares for a younger viewer did the trick and I think we have a horror film fan in the making now in the family.
After we’d finished watching, I expected to have to start and explain that he needed to remember that its just a film, none of it is real and so on to avoid bad dreams. However, the main question asked was “what scares you?” The real honest answer to this is moths. I really don’t like them. However, his question stuck with me as I was preparing for a train the trainer event. I started to consider some of the barriers to learning that can be presented in the training room.
Despite a background in development I’m no stranger to the potential nervousness that can kick in just before you start to learn something new. There’s a whole host of reasons but the main ones that stand out for me are:
- What if my suggestions look stupid?
- What if I say the wrong thing?
- How am I going to get my work done while I’m stuck in here?
- The new skills we’re learning are taking away my “hero” status, I’m used to being the expert
As I compiled lists and got busy designing materials I found myself thinking more and more about these barriers. Initially this was so I could help new trainers to find a way to overcome them when delivering but then I started to focus more on the real reasons.
Each has anxiety over something at its core. Whether that be a fear of change or even worries over being able to stay on top of the to do list, our own unease can form so many barriers to helping us move forward.
Far too many years ago when I first started learning how to be an effective trainer I was aware of the need to cater for different learning styles. As time has moved on, I’ve found myself not only working on this core principle but also working more effectively with individuals on a 121 basis in the room.
The inclusion of a practical activity should always be something that brings an opportunity to “do stuff” to the session. In doing so, individuals have the chance to learn through doing, we all know that. What’s become increasingly important to me though, is to take time out to talk to individuals about how they are feeling and not just getting on with the task at hand.
Not everyone responds well to a more emotional support approach and I’m certainly not suggesting that counselling now becomes part of the core offering for training sessions. However, taking the time out to just check in on the current thoughts and feelings of individuals can bring so much more to their learning journey.
With that in mind, I pulled together these suggestions for helping with the barriers listed above.
What if my suggestions look stupid – Reassure them that everyone is there to learn, without mistakes or trying anything new we wouldn’t have innovation. The only “stupid” activity might be keeping thoughts and suggestions to yourself, if we don’t release them how do we grow?
What if I say the wrong thing – Set expectations at the start of the session and reinforce throughout that all commentary is welcome, people are there to learn. At some point mistakes will be made, that is part of the learning process.
How do I get my work done – The mounting pressure of an ever-increasing workload is something that we can all relate to! However, the learning of a new skill could easily help us to work much more efficiently to achieve a better outcome.
I’m used to being the expert – If you are one of the fortunate ones that happens to be the very best in the business at what you do then well done! Sharing that skill and helping others achieve the same technical skill level as you can help with your own workload, not to mention increase the engagement of others you work with. Discussing areas such as this with a learner can help to motivate them to even higher levels.
There is no blueprint for the best way to work with others. For me it’s about taking the time to get know people, understand them and their needs. Throughout any training session I have the pleasure of getting to know many new people each week. Taking a few moments out of my day to understand what their fears are drives greater levels of impact through any programme.
Whenever we are delivering any learning initiative it is always important to remember that whilst a lot of learners will embrace the chance to learn something new, there will always be others who don’t necessarily fall into that category.
For me, its important to think about why you are training others before you commence any programme delivery. What are you looking to change? What are you looking to develop? How do you want your business to perform as a result? All are good questions to help form the session and associated materials. Perhaps just as importantly though we should be asking other questions too:
- How do we engage people with the programme before they start?
- How have they responded to training before?
- Who has experience of this type of learning event and how can we motivate them to attend another?
- What will the impact to their day job be while they attend training and what can we do to support them?
If we actively engage with people before spending time with them on a programme we will find that some of the barriers will start to tumble.
What barriers are you putting in the way of learning something new? What fears hold you back and how will they impact your plans for 2019? Take a moment to think about how you can tackle these challenges head on. For me, I really do need to find a way to deal with moths before the summer. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
Have a great Christmas and New Year!