To be a great leader, one doesn’t have to be born with great leadership skills–they can be developed through study and learning. In the corporate environment, learning occurs in 2 ways: experience and observation, and enterprise learning.
Experience and observation occur every day, all around us. Enterprise learning, on the other hand, should be planned and sequenced to provide learning experiences immediately when needed. Such enterprise learning requires a great deal of hard work to accomplish successfully. The objective of enterprise learning is to provide a meaningful experience that will cause the learner to conduct business differently.
The following 5 principles only scratch the surface to the science of learning, but assuming your objective is not to get an advanced degree in adult learning, these 5 may help you improve what you do today.
Principle #1: Learning means changing behavior.
Too many “training” sessions involve putting people in a room and flashing PowerPoint presentations at them. This is unlikely to cause a lasting change in behavior. When I’m invited to watch a PowerPoint, the only behavior it’s likely to invoke is using the time to read the mail I bring with me.
Will a PowerPoint presentation cause a change in the way you do business? Will it cause you to behave and do things differently? Very rarely. This type of learning is not stimulating and brains don’t learn this way. Adults have to be involved to process new information and know what to do with it when they get back to work. So, if a PowerPoint won’t work, what will?
In their book, Telling Ain’t Training, Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps debunk the old model of an effective presentation: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Stolovitch and Keeps write: “It makes learners aware … it’s the receptive model of training. It’s telling. It sure ain’t training.”
Good training is an interactive experience where one has learned the concept from experiencing the training. Here are the key factors that I believe make a positive training experience:
? The learning objectives are clear. “When you finish this training experience you should know/be able to do the following things.”
? The experience is interactive and facilitative. The facilitator is asking questions and through those questions guiding the learner through the content.
? Various methods are used to involve the learner: questions and facilitation, exercises, small group projects, reports, etc.
? There is a test at the end of the experience. If it’s worth training, it’s worth testing to see if participants actually learned anything.
Principle #2: “Shining Stars” are generally not good trainers.
Hearing successful colleagues share how they accomplished their great success is interesting, often entertaining and, if done well, very motivational–but it’s not training. Featuring a “Bright and Shining Star” (BASS) may earn you great reviews from your audience, but it probably won’t achieve the desired results. If your learners could do what the BASS does just by hearing about it, they would be doing it already. This is not learning from the masters and mentors. That takes repeated sessions carefully watching the master in action. This is asking the number one sales person to tell all the other sales people how to do it his/her way.
BASS presentations are not the place to teach new content or to reinforce knowledge that you need to get across to a group of learners. Your learners may not have the skills to implement the systems and processes that the BASS has taken years of hard work to build.
BASS presentations do have a place. Where a BASS can work well is as a platform presentation to disseminate some information to the large group. Then they are broken into smaller groups where a facilitator works the group through a series of questions to allow the group to process through what they can actually do differently based on what they heard from the BASS.