“The training was great! But there’s a ton of stuff to remember. I don’t know if I can do it. Was it like that for you?”
I knew that Robbie was just back from his company’s management training program, so I asked him about it when I ran into him on my walk. His comment took me back to the time my company sent me to similar training.
It was a two-week program. The days were long and the training was good. But I’d been in exactly the position that Robbie was in. There was so much stuff, I didn’t know what I should do first.
One of the good things about being my age is that you’ve learned some things along the way, so I could share some things with Robbie. Here’s how he and you can get the most out of those formal leadership training programs.
The Problem with Classroom Training
Most corporate leadership training is pretty much like what Robbie and I went through. It lasts several days. The training covers a broad range of things and, even if it’s good, is entirely in a classroom. That’s not how human beings learn best.
We learn best when we’re learning to solve a problem that’s part of our everyday work. We learn best when there are a few specific things to learn. So, for most of us, becoming great at something means becoming a little bit better every day. Here’s how to turn that classroom training into little bits that help you move forward.
As soon after the class concludes as possible, and before you go back to work the next time, debrief yourself about what you’ve learned and what you need to learn. The debriefing process will drive the key learning points deeper into your consciousness. You should also make a plan for trying the ideas from the classroom when you’re on the job. Make two lists.
Make a list of the key learning points from the class you just completed. Go through it and identify the things which are most important for you and the things which you need to work on the most.
Make another list of the things that you want to learn. Start with areas where you need the most improvement. Pick the first thing you want to work on. That will be your starting point.
Find a Partner
You’re more likely to put your learning to work if you have an accountability partner. Find someone who understands you and knows a little bit about the kind of work you do. Pick someone who will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear the truth. Pick someone who you will listen to when they do that.
The fact is that people who go through a class and make a commitment to learn and share that commitment with a partner learn a lot more. When you’ve got your list and you’ve got your partner, it’s time to start learning in little bits.
Pick one thing to work on every day. Pick it the night before. Write it on an index card that you can keep with you, or put it on your smart phone.
The next day you’ll be ready to work on what you’ve decided is an important thing.
Review and Reflect
At the end of every day, review how you did that day and select your learning point for the next day. You’ll often pick the same point for several days in a row as you work to improve on it.
Every week take some time to review how you’re doing and make any changes you need to. Meet with your accountability partner in person or otherwise, at least once a week. Report on how you’re doing. Ask for advice.
The Bottom Line
Turning the massive learning you get from a course into small bits of learning will help you learn more effectively and keep you learning between those classroom experiences. Choosing an accountability partner will help you, too. I wrote my book, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time, to provide some inspiration for particular situations. You can use it as a guide to what to learn or as a resource when you face a tough challenge.
Remember, the road to success is paved with little bits of progress.
– Wally Bock has been there and done that. He learned leadership lessons as a U. S. Marine, an executive in a multi-national corporation, and as the owner of a small business focused on improving leadership for his clients. Today, Wally writes about leadership and helps other people share their own leadership lessons as a ghostwriter, writing partner, and coach. You can find more of his leadership writing at http://threestarleadership.com.
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