Why investment in training (yours and your team's) is often not worth it

I am going to start with a caveat here; I am not an expert in the wonderful area of 'pedagogy', simply meaning the study of learning. This is a massive and exciting topic, and there are some wonderful advances in how we acquire then maintain knowledge, skills and attitudes.  

This is simply my observation on how some stuff that you learn sticks, and some just doesn't!  


Isn't it frustrating, when you (or your team) leave a course, full of intention to change the world, or at least your own life, and before you know it, you are back to 'status quo'?


It might be a leadership course, a personal development course or even something like how to manage your time better. I once went on a course in the 90's where we each received a large and very clever diary which was going to support us in being super productive. It all made so much sense, but then after a couple of months with my shiny new toy, I stopped using it altogether.

It is frustrating, because we know that adopting the 'new way' will certainly serve us, but it still doesn't seem to be enough. Like it or not, we are creatures of habit, and choosing to shift away from the status quo can really take something. I do believe it's not all doom and gloom, there are certainly courses where the shifts are immediate and measurable. The percentage of those that are should be higher than they are presently. As cliché as it is to refer to them, gym memberships and weight loss programs are typical in their inability to shift the behaviour longer term for many participants.  

So what can we do to make the chances higher? Here are three simple tips as a start.  

1. Place a longer term focus on the training and create a community around that.

If we refer back to gyms, boot camps seem to be more successful, because they require regular and ongoing commitment. In fact I know of instances, where the participants have graduated from the boot camp, and agreed to continue to meet as a group at the same time. The success for them has been atypically high. If you are attending a training session at work, see if the provider is open to some kind of follow up activity, and keep the group together. I often arrange private Facebook or LinkedIn private groups for those who are interested in continuing the conversation after a speaking session. I do think there needs to be some structure around the follow up training, eg scheduled get togethers or webinars.  

2. Focus on the whole picture, not just an isolated symptom

Again, this sounds obvious, but I think there are some training sessions (especially in sales) where only specific behaviour is addressed, rather than the whole picture. For example, I used to take people through the rigorous process of unpacking their IP through Thought Leaders Global, and often it wouldn't be until later on in our partnership, that I realised that they were on the verge of a marriage break up, or had big problems sleeping. In these instances, if we don't address that as well, they are hardly going to have the energy to be commercially successful as speakers and coaches. Sometimes we feel 'inappropriate' going into personal stuff or belief and behaviour topics, but these are the areas where there's going to be the shifts. Now I am not saying that if you are teaching a group about productivity, that you keenly offer some marriage guidance at the same time, simply that it is very powerful to encourage the participants some insight into taking all areas of their life into account (and taking action where it's not working).  

3. Attract the right participants

The people who I know who get results are those who are coachable, those who are committed and those who are happy to share their learning journeys with others. If you are considering investing into a program of some sort yourself, and are not truly committed, then you may as well save yourself some money and time, and wait until you are. A wise client of mine recently spoke with me, just as we were about to launch a longer term program for a small group of his team, and he said 'Laurel, I will be thrilled if we get even one superstar out of this exercise'. Thankfully we got more, but he has run his company for a long time, and has seen well-meaning advisers come and go; the committed ones are a real find.

Peer based learning is proving very effective, and personally for me, I know that the peer based approach for Thought Leaders Business School is one of the reasons that it has been so successful. Basically, learning off other people's successes and challenges is powerful as is sharing your insights with others who request it. But not everyone can cope with being open, with celebrating other people's success and with 'not looking good'. For those who are, this is a brilliant (and enjoyable) way to learn.

Next year I am changing the way I deliver what I know. Firstly, my coaching partnerships are now six months in duration rather than three months, so there is a way better chance of getting the success that they are seeking. Secondly, I am launching a number of private 'Leads Academies' where a small group of participants (by application) spend a year long journey, focusing on both their professional and personal growth, and certainly leveraging being part of a committed community where learnings are shared.

Have a think about how you currently deliver programs (if you are a thought leader) and how you participate in programs yourself. Sometimes just a small tweak in length, scope and level of commitment can make a big difference on the other side. 

Posted on November 20, 2015 .