Genuine learning is only half achieved through the experience itself. The other half may be more challenging as it requires us to pause, introspect and reflect.
Manoj had attended a two-day programme on customer service. He got back after a weekend’s rest and was hoping to get a chance to apply some of the skills he had learnt. All enthused and excited he reached office early. As he started his computer, he reflected on what he had learnt about dealing with difficult customers and communicating better. He rubbed his hands and waited with gleam as the shutters went up and customer started flowing in.
As the day proceeded, and the customers started coming in, he waited for an opportunity to show off his newly acquired skills. But the moment he started, he could see himself moving away from the skill he had learnt. Very soon, he realised that the day had come to an end, and he started winding up. While shutting down his computer, he suddenly realised that he had not used much of what he head learnt in the programme. But he still hoped to apply it the next day. Unfortunately, days passed by and so did weeks and months but … he did not get a chance to the skills he had learnt.
Wait a second, what happened here? We all learn, we all want to apply what we learnt. We return excited from every workshop, the HR department is happy —they conducted a great workshop; the trainer is happy — she delivered the best she could; the business head is happy — his team is now skilled to deliver the best. But the sad truth is, customer experience hasn’t changed much, nor have the business results, Everything else has remained the same.
Genuine learning is only half achieved through the experience itself. The other half may be even more challenging to make happen, because it requires us to pause, breathe, ponder and reflect upon what has occurred.
The development activity transforms into useful learning only when we integrate it with what we already know and do; when we find a place for it to play out through our heads, hearts and hands.
The problem is that in today’s hyperactive, hyper-busy workplace, finding the time to pause may be the greatest challenge of all. After attending a training, employees frequently feel overwhelmed by the work that has piled up while they were away.
We need to pause… in order to put the knowledge gained into practice
Going from knowing about something to really growing and integrating requires a pause. New ideas, new approaches and new skills all need some space to settle into the scheme of what we already know and do.
We need to give the product of training or development activities the space to breathe. We need to sit with new ideas and knowledge. We need to take time to step back, reflect, internalise, and consciously decide how to put new insights, skills and abilities to work. That is where the real payoff occurs.
So, the next time you — or those who report to you — engage in a developmental activity (formal or informal), set aside 15 minutes for respiration and integration.
Just these 4 simple “Asks” can dramatically increase the return on your training investment.
• Ask 1: – “What did I discover about myself?”
Learning is a process of self-discovery. Gaining a greater understanding of strengths, weaknesses, biases, preferences and approaches creates a solid foundation for growth and performance.
• Ask 2: “What did I find easiest and most challenging… and what does that mean?”
Consciously considering the content or experience from this standpoint provides powerful insights into current capacity and areas that may be most important to explore for development. Put down one easiest and one most challenging task of the day on a daily basis, and see how learning grows.
• Ask 3: “What three to five ideas will most dramatically enhance my performance and results?”
New knowledge must be translated into action for it to be productive. But too much of a good thing isn’t! Leaving a workshop with 20 ideas to implement is a guarantee that nothing will happen. Identifying just a few high-impact actions generates early results and the momentum to continue to put forth effort. Note down three to five high-impact items, put it up on your board and consciously tick it if you apply it every single day.
• Ask 4: “Who would benefit from me?”
Sharing with someone what we know is a powerful way to seal the learning while cementing individual commitment to it in the future. Identify a colleague or a junior and build a schedule to teach them what you learnt.
As organisations increase their training budgets and invest more heavily in the development of staff members, let us remember to build in that final step to ensure that knowing becomes growing.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Learn!
(The author is an HR consultant.)