Imagine this scene: a team of 6, all dressed in black, black shades on, walking into a room with about 70 participants to the tune of the Mission Impossible theme. There are giant fake explosive devices placed around the room and the audience is wondering “What in the world…?”
Next scene: 25 members of a Children’s Museum team leads laugh and talk excitedly while using glue sticks, rulers, scissors, pieces of paper and markers to complete an exercise on collaboration and team building.
Scene number three: three members of our team return home with 30 lbs of fresh mangos each, given in gratitude by a group of teachers from a coastal community in Southeast Mexico after a week-long training on leadership and teaching skills.
What do these scenes have in common? They’re all true. Trust me, I was there. Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of these scenarios that can help you understand why training your team or yourself is crucial to your success.
- Clear goals – At the beginning of all these sessions, we explained the purpose of the training and what was in it for them.
- Fun – Both presenters and participants enjoyed the experience.
- Creative– I like picking a theme and running with it. The Mission Impossible one was especially fun. We went all out and had to stop at dropping in through the windows. It engaged the audience from the start and carried our message: “Educating and training is not impossible” if people know what to expect.
- Meaningful– We used many real-life examples on how to apply what we were teaching. We drew on the audience’s experience and made it clear that we were not there to teach, but to help them reflect on what they already knew and could validate.
- Competency-based– The programs and materials were adjusted to meet the needs of the specific jobs people held: customer service, management, teaching, training, administration…
Learning really is a life-long journey. You won’t hear anyone think that they know everything about a subject, especially with the overload of information we have right at our fingertips. The same principles we just discussed also apply to your personal career path and your own training and professional development needs. Your leader, your company or your coworkers are not solely responsible for your learning. You are. If they don’t provide you with what you need, you either switch jobs or do the learning on your own. Initiative is a highly marketable skill.
Training should not be optional
If you are a team leader, giving your team members the tools they need to succeed is a must. I’ve heard of people who asked to attend a training that would help them improve their skills significantly and it was denied by their supervisors. If you are a team member, your career path is still your responsibility. Seek out resources beyond what your employer offers. Most people are just willing to do the minimum to get by and you will definitely stand out if you demonstrate a passion for learning.
Share with your coworkers
Tell them about the blogs and books you read, the Webinars that have caught your attention, the podcasts you follow and the conferences you are interested in. I know of a manager that was impressed by a team member who shared he wanted to join Toastmasters International to improve his leadership and communication skills. The manager praised him and offered to pay for his Toastmasters membership as part of his professional development plan.
Read, learn, apply, repeat
As I mentioned before, there is SO much information available at your fingertips and most of it is free. If you don’t want to accumulate books to collect dust or use as doorstops, you can get anything you want at your local library, even e-book downloads that you get access to for two or three weeks. Search iTunes for the thousands of podcasts out there on all kind of professional development topics. Subscribe to great quality blogs and newsletters to read the experts first-hand. In a mobile world, you can even do all of this on the go. I’ve done all of it on my 90 minute daily commute to work both ways. Most importantly, apply what you’ve learned right away. Don’t just saturate your brain with information. And when you are ready for more, repeat the process.
Some Great Resources
Here is a quick list to get you started. Are you ready?
- Read Jon Acuff’s Quitter if you want to learn how to plan your transition from your day job to your dream job. Read his blog if you want a good laugh and get some food for thought.
- Check out Brian Kurth’s Test Drive Your Dream Job to find out how to dream big on what you could be doing instead of what you have been doing.
- Jim Collins in Good to Great shares the secret of good corporations that became great, with principles you can apply to your own career.
- Seth Godin’s Poke the Box and Linchpin provide witty insight on how to stand out, be different and change the world. Read his blog for short snippets of genius.
- Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership provides a wealth of great tools to run a business and succeed, whether you have a landscaping business or run a small empire. There’s an awesome podcast that you must listen to if you want to listen to the experts talk about their success and failure stories that have made them rockstars –in a good way, not a self-centered, pouting, emotionally unstable kind of way-.
- Chris Locurto’s blog provides on-going wisdom for business leaders, professionals and anyone who wants to take control of their career. The posts are inspiring and thought-provoking and there is an awesome community of commentators who add tremendous value to the content.
- Listen to Michael Hyatt’s This is your Life podcast for inspiration and wisdom.
And… the list goes on.
Learning is your responsibility. What will you do to improve and succeed?
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