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How Do You Make Training Stick?

12-12-2012

Keep Flexing Those Muscles

Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions at one time or another. Unfortunately, we rarely keep them. To say it another way: despite our best intentions, we usually fail.

For example, take one of the most common resolutions – to lose weight. In our minds, we commit to some combination of diet and exercise to help us look and feel better. We all know how to make it happen. Yet somewhere between day one and day whatever, we gradually, and sometimes immediately, return to our old habits. Why?

Generally we revert to what’s comfortable. It’s just tough to do something differently from the way we usually do it. And we cannot sustain that kind of momentary change.

But lasting change is possible.

Set Yourself Up for Success.

When it comes to communication skills training, some people want to take advantage of a class while others have training imposed upon them. And which group you’re in likely affects your approach to the process. But we clearly see that your attitude about the experience significantly impacts your final result. What can you do to make the most of it?

  • View training as an opportunity – Look at training or coaching as a chance to grow both professionally and personally. Knowing what truly motivates you to excel helps your attitude tremendously. Find your triggers and use them. Do you fear falling behind? Do you want a promotion? Do you envy the presence and poise of some of your co-workers? Focus on whatever gets you going and see how a training class might help you reach your goal.
  • Identify expectations – Determine how your employer will gauge your success in the class. Some organizations make the skills taught in a class part of the criteria for your performance review. Others merely look for improved performance. Make sure you understand what skills you’ll need to demonstrate when you finish the program along with how those skills will be measured.
  • Try new ways of doing things – Accept that you may stumble, look silly, and feel awkward at first. That’s what happens when we do something that’s familiar in a different way. Once you come to terms with that simple truth, you won’t feel nearly as self-conscious when you’re not as perfect as you’d like.

And When the Program Ends…How Do You Keep the Magic Alive?

Challenge yourself and plan ahead. You put in the time and effort to learn something new. Find the areas where you can improve on your existing skills and strategize about how you can make these new tactics work for you. Here are some things that will help:

  • Implement your new skills – Own the skills you worked on by using them in your job. And the more you use them, the more muscle memory takes over. The old saying is trite, but it’s true: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Take advantage of tools to reinforce your skills, invent other tools that make sense to you, and find future training opportunities to further build on the skills you learned.
  • Look for role models and mentors – Choose people in the class and in your daily routine who are good at the things you want to do better and watch them. Look with curiosity. You learn from these people by watching them and talking with them, so don’t be afraid also to ask questions. Chief among them might be, “How do you do that?”
  • Build in accountability – Let others push you. Going back to the weight loss example, one of the best things you can do whenever you change your diet or start an exercise routine is to do it with a partner. They act as cheerleaders when you doubt yourself and they become drill sergeants when you need a jump start. And we’re more motivated when we think someone else is watching or depending on us. So work with a partner to help make these skills a permanent part of your repertoire.

Ultimately you chart the course of your own career. And you’ll continue to get better by changing and adding to what you already do. Just like eating well and exercising, if you make a concerted effort to try, and keep trying, new skills will start to become second nature and ultimately part of who you are – a better you.

Here’s to all of us continuing to improve in 2013! Happy New Year!

All the best,

Sean Romanoff – Exec|Comm Consultant

Exec|Comm
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