She’s been struggling to learn all of the different components of the new role and she hit a low point this past Wednesday. With the training coming to an end, she felt she had only mastered 40% of the required skills. As a result, she was thinking of turning down the advancement and asking to remain in her previous role. Even worse, she was reconsidering her decision to take the job in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for her, she told me.
I was surprised at her reaction. I knew my wife had been struggling to pick up the new skills, but I also knew that she was a bright, capable, woman who had mastered much tougher content in the past. I did my best to offer a word of encouragement as I left for a 2-day business trip, but it didn’t seem to help much. I could see the concern on her face as I kissed her goodbye.
Normal, but still painful
I thought about what she was experiencing as I travelled. I knew that her reaction was normal and something that all people experienced when they were learning a new skill. At Blanchard, our Situational Leadership II model called this Development Level 2: Disillusioned Learner. It’s when people go from being enthusiastic about a task when they first start, to disillusioned when the task is more difficult than they anticipated. However, with encouragement, and as they begin to apply their new skills and gain confidence, they finally move on to mastery. It all sounds so neat in theory, but as my wife demonstrated, it doesn’t make it any easier for the person going through the process. Still, reconsidering whether to stay with the company seemed an especially strong reaction.
That’s why I was so surprised when I returned home and she told me that she was moving forward with the new role and was even looking forward to the next position beyond that.
“What happened,” I asked, amazed at the complete change in her attitude in less than 48 hours.
What she told me next were two important actions that all managers need to add to their skill set when asking employees to stretch and try something new.
- She received some positive feedback. After two weeks of practicing her new skills (badly, in her mind) she received some outside feedback on how she was doing. She was surprised to find out that she had received a 97 and a 98 rating on her two recent evaluations. These scores were consistent with the scores she had been receiving in her previous role. She was shocked that her work was so good. She was sure that she was going to receive bad scores. The lack of feedback up to this point had caused her mind to imagine the worst. A little bit of positive feedback provided a different perspective and dispelled that fear.
- She talked to her manager about her concerns. She shared with her manager that she felt that she had only mastered about 40% of the material. She also expressed her concern that maybe she wasn’t a good fit for the role. Her manager reassured her that she was right on track and even shared a personal story that she remembered only being 20% confident of the material when she had completed the class years before. The manager also shared that my wife was doing great, was one of the best people on the team, and that she had a bright future with the company. A little bit of encouragement and my wife’s confidence was restored. In fact, she now had a “just watch me grow” attitude I hadn’t seen since she first started.
Is it time to check in with your people?
How are your people doing? Are they knee deep in learning new skills? Have you checked in with them lately? It never hurts to ask.
Disillusionment is a normal stage of development. By responding appropriately with encouragement and support, managers can help their people get through this difficult stage and move on to confident performance. Don’t risk losing any of your best people to an extended period of disillusionment. Don’t let a drop in confidence and perceived skill keep your people from moving forward. Check in and see how they are doing. Offer a word of encouragement if appropriate. It can work wonders!
People aren’t picking up new skills fast enough? It might be your fault. Six questions to ask yourself
In a recent webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage, 76% of participants said that in their opinion, at least 60% of a person’s success on the job can be attributed to their ability to learn job specific skills. Yet only 9% identified that any company they had ever worked for used a mindful process when teaching people new skills. For most of the webinar participants, learning a new skill was something they had to figure out for themselves while on the job.
If learning is important to success in today’s complex business environment, why don’t more organizations take the time to train people in the skills they need more effectively?
It’s because most managers and leaders are not trained how to teach according to Dr. Vicki Halsey, Vice President of Applied Learning at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Most leaders are more accustomed to telling instead of teaching—and are often disappointed when they check back to see how people are doing with applying new skills.
If you want your people to pick up new skills more quickly, Halsey recommends addressing six areas when rolling out a new initiative. Have you got a new program that you are getting ready to launch? See if you you’ve covered these six basics to maximize learning and application.
- Energize learners. Set the context for learning before anyone steps into the classroom. What can people do to get up-to-speed on this subject? What can they read, or who can they talk with, to become as excited about this topic as you are?
- Navigating the content. Is the presentation learner friendly? Have you put together a good structure that includes breaking the content down into bite-sized chunks that people can easily digest? Or have you designed this as a lecture type presentation where you will be doing all the talking and it will be a challenge just getting through the content—let alone actually retaining anything?
- Generate meaning. Have you connected the dots so people see why learning this new content is important? People need to see why they should take the time to invest in learning new skills. Your job as a leader is to provide that meaning.
- Apply the learning. What does this new skill look like in the real world? Have you included some opportunities to practice the real life application of this new skill—or is that something you are leaving up to individual learners to figure out for themselves?
- Gauge and celebrate. How will you measure if people are really doing something different with the content? Don’t be vague on this point. What is the business metric you are looking to impact? ROI is something you need address at the beginning of a new initiative—not after the fact.
- Extend the learning. How will you keep the initiative alive beyond the initial rollout? New habits take time to develop and a lot of support in the early days. What is your follow-up plan? How will you ensure that skills learned in the classroom are applied back on the job?
A 2010 Bersin report shows that organizations that successfully create strong learning cultures are more likely to be strong innovators in their markets, more likely to get to market before competitors, and more likely to be a market-share leader.
Learning new skills is an important necessity in today’s work environment. Don’t leave it to chance in your organization. Take a proactive approach to teaching people new skills.
Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a complimentary webinar and online chat beginning today at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (12:00 noon Eastern). Dr. Vicki Halsey, author of Brilliance By Design will be discussing learning and application strategies for leaders in a special presentation on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage.
The webinar is free and seats are still available if you would like to join over 600 people expected to participate.
Immediately after the webinar, Vicki will be answering follow-up questions here at LeaderChat for about 30 minutes. To participate in the follow-up discussion, use these simple instructions.
Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat
- Click on the LEAVE A COMMENT link above
- Type in your question
- Push SUBMIT COMMENT
It’s as easy as that! Vicki will answer as many questions as possible in the order they are received. Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.
We hope you can join us later today for this special complimentary event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Now posted! View recording of 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage
As a young college professor, best-selling business author Ken Blanchard constantly found himself in front of disapproving faculty boards. The reason? His insistence on giving out the final exam to each of his students on the first day of the class he was teaching.
As soon as they found out, the board would call Blanchard in to explain himself. As Ken describes it, the exchange usually went something like this:
Ken: “I’m confused.”
The Board: “You act like it.”
Ken: “I thought we are supposed to teach these kids.”
The Board: “You are, but don’t give them the exam ahead of time.”
Ken would never listen and would actually spend the entire semester teaching the students the answers to the questions. Ken’s belief was that his main job was to teach students the content they needed to learn, as opposed to worrying about evaluating them properly with the final exam.
Dr. Vicki Halsey, VP of Applied Learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies uses a similar approach when it comes to teaching. Instead of using tests to identify what people don’t know at the end of leadership training, she uses tests to help people claim and celebrate what they do know. A recent example is work she did with pharmaceutical representatives who needed to learn a new skill in collecting information from doctors. Halsey’s approach helped the learners to feel confident in what they knew and successful when they walked out the door and returned to their jobs.
How do you want people feeling when they finish a class? Do you want people focusing on what they don’t know, or ready to put into practice what they do know? It’s a subtle difference that makes all the difference.
You can read more about Halsey’s unique approach to adult learning at Leaders Need to Be Teachers. Also check out Halsey’s free July 20 webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
A lot of leaders are disappointed these days. Even though they work hard to provide clear direction to their people, when they check in on progress at the end of the month, they often find that little has changed.
The problem, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies is that leaders confuse telling with teaching. In a recent article for the Blanchard Companies’ Ignite! newsletter, Halsey explains that, “If leaders want people to develop new behaviors, they have to become better teachers of what to do and how to do it.”
For leaders looking to get started, Halsey recommends three strategies:
1. Break Learning Down into Manageable Chunks
Leaders need to give people an opportunity to learn the new skills over time, using a variety of different modalities that go beyond a one-time exposure to the content.
2. Create Meaning to Embed Learning
Executives need to generate meaning for the new learning. They need to answer the question “Why is this important for me to learn?” Generating this meaning and connecting it to learning the new skill helps people retain the skill over the long term because now they can see the importance of the task.
3. Remember the 70/30 Rule
According to Halsey, “When people are getting ready for a presentation they focus 70 percent of their time on what they are going to say.” Halsey believes this time would be better spent thinking about how to create a learner-centered environment that helps people learn. As she explains, “Leaders need to shift their focus and spend only 30 percent of their time worrying about what they need to say and 70 percent on how to create the greatest transfer of learning to their participants.
According to Halsey, “The biggest thing is to teach, not tell. Very often leaders think that because they are telling people what they want them to do, people are turning around and doing it. We need to realize that teaching, not telling, is a discipline at which all leaders need to become effective—because the more you teach, the more people will learn and the more successful they will be.”
You can read more of Halsey’s advice to leaders at Leaders Need to Be Teachers. Also check out Halsey’s free July 20 webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
As the world becomes more connected by technology, there is a growing expectation that modern professionals are accessible and responsive. Often, this means stretching boundaries and developing new skills to conduct business with people in far-reaching time zones and geographies.
One of the basic requirements in today’s new connected world is “virtualosity” when it comes to responsiveness and engagement.
For HR, OD, and training professionals, “virtualosity” means acknowledging and meeting the needs of participants who are located across a widely-dispersed network, and using new technology and enhanced instructional design to keep your audience engaged.
Close your eyes for a moment. Place yourself in a traditional learning situation. What’s happening? The teacher is at the front of the room, right? Who is doing the talking? The teacher, right? Who is standing, moving around the room? Who is engaged with the ideas and the information? Whose voice do you hear most of the time? Who’s excited? The teacher, the teacher, and the teacher.
In her new book, Brilliance by Design, Vicki Halsey explains that if organizations want participants to be as knowledgeable and excited about the content as the teacher, they need to shift the focus from the teacher to the participants.
In any good design 70 percent of the total learning event time needs to be the learners practicing new skills, working with them, and teaching others. Only 30 percent of the time should be devoted to the teacher teaching the skills to them.
That means that instructors need to focus less on what they are going to say and instead devote a full 70 percent of their time and energy on creating activities that embed learning.
As Halsey explains, “Active involvement with concepts—versus passive listening—enhances learning and application. The more active, rigorous practice the learner does with your content, the more automatic and natural it will be to use that content.”
To help presenters make the shift, Halsey suggests a six-step ENGAGE Model to replace the old “sit ’n’ get” model with “woo ’n’ do” so learners are actively drawn in and perform activities that reinforce the learning.
Energize learners by challenging thought patterns with pre-reading before session
Navigate content by presenting it in small chunks with interactive experiences
Generate meaning by helping learners determine the significance of the content in their lives
Apply to the real world by helping learners put into practice what they’ve learned
Gauge and celebrate by creating ways to assess and celebrate what has been accomplished
Extend learning to action by following up and helping learners create action plans
Where is your training focused? Is it on the material and your role, or is it on giving students a majority of the time to practice and engage the new skills? Shift the focus for greater success and application.
To learn more about Halsey’s new book, visit her book page at Amazon. To see Vicki in action with engaging content check out her recorded webinar on Managing and Developing People to Be Their Best: The three keys to becoming a smart, flexible, and successful leader