How To Overcome Self-Inflicted Obstacles To Learning
If you arent learning you arent growing, and if you arent growing youre dying.
As important as learning is to professionalism in our industry, how many of us are really good at it?
Agents and management often say that training and education are critical to their success, but they struggle to accomplish their continuing education requirements, complain about the difficulty of learning how to use new technological tools, use ineffective procedures rather than learn new ones and sometimes find themselves in the uncomfortable position of discussing products they arent familiar with.
In an earlier article (see NU, Aug. 5, 2002) I discussed the barriers to training created by the people who develop training and companies. It is true that the people who create training and education have some of the responsibility for the difficulty people have in learning. However, the learner also has responsibility. Adult learners are often too quick to blame companies and trainers for problems with learning when some of the blame is their own–due to self-inflicted obstacles to learning.
The first step in removing those self-inflicted barriers is to identify them. Once you know what they are, the next step is to accept responsibility for them. Agents and managers need to confront their attitudes and approaches toward learning so that they can remove them.
Learning is hard work for most people and it is common for us to run into difficulty or experience frustration when learning new skills and knowledge. If the learner accepts responsibility for the problem, he or she will be motivated to solve it. However, if the learner blames the trainer, the training program or other factors instead of accepting responsibility for the problem, it is unlikely that he or she will get anything out of the training.
The following are some common examples of self-inflicted obstacles to learning. Which ones do you have?
–Devaluing Training: “Its Not Worth the Time and Effort.”
One of the most common self-inflicted obstacles is to devalue the investment in time and energy required by learning. Believing that training and education doesnt have a payoff in increased productivity decreases motivation and creates a psychological barrier to retention because of the attitude that “Im not going to get anything out of this.”
This attitude is sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe training is not worthwhile, you will avoid it or reject it. If forced to deal with it, you will not take it seriously enough to gain real value from it. This is sometimes the attitude agents and managers have toward continuing education.
–Training Is Just Theory: “Training is Impractical, I Cant Use It.”
Another common attitude that decreases motivation and blocks retention is that training doesnt increase sales or improve productivity because it isnt practical. The real payoff from training comes from applying what is learned. Sometimes this is difficult. Though applying what is learned may be difficult because the training was not designed properly, sometimes the reason is that the agent or manager does not actively try to apply what they have learned to their actual work. They view what they learn as facts and ideas rather than solutions to everyday problems because their attitude blocks them from putting into action what they learned.
–Taking A Passive Approach: “Ill Find Time for That, Sometime.”
Agents and managers sometimes approach training and education from the point of view that they are passive activities that are fit into their normal business schedule whenever there is some free time. They think they are learning when they listen to a training tape while driving in their car in rush hour, talking on the cell phone and drinking a cup of coffee. They skim a brochure or manual while waiting for a meeting to start and expect to learn the information in it. That isnt the right approach. It gives the impression that learning is going on when it isnt. It lulls agents and managers into a false sense of building skills and knowledge.
Agents and managers should approach training and education as an activity that has specific goals and objectives. They should develop a plan to accomplish those goals and then carry out the plan.
–Being Disorganized: “Theres Never Enough Time.”
Interruptions are common in most agents and managers days, but interruptions disrupt the flow of learning. Most learners need uninterrupted time to concentrate and learn. But often, agents and managers treat training and education as a low priority that is sacrificed for other activities. Too often, agents and managers start training and education programs and never complete them.
An organized approach to training requires less effort than a disorganized approach and less motivation since progress in learning the information gives a sense of accomplishment.
In addition, many agents and managers do not examine their training and education goals to determine if they have the right prerequisites, resources or materials available when they begin their training or education. A disorganized approach to learning results in inefficient and ineffective learning.