Getting ready to learn

Last week I found myself in a situation which I have not been in for years, perhaps ever.

I had enrolled on a training programme to help me build some very specific skills. I was excited about the course as I could see how the new skills would be directly applicable to my role and I was eager to learn from the other participants. I realised when I enrolled on the course and read the course outline that some of the programme would be going over areas I know very well, but I still felt the course would be of value as I would be listening to the information with ‘new ears’ since I would be applying the skills in a new arena – that of selling. I turned up to the course eager to learn.

Imagine my surprise when I was the only delegate there on time. Slowly but surely other delegates arrived and some twenty-five minutes after the allotted time, we started.

No introductions were made and so it wasn’t until the first activity some time later that I found out who my co-delegates were. Long before that though, it became apparent they didn’t want to be there. The trainer worked hard to get involvement from the delegates and even resorted to telling some jokes! (I am sure that was to check that there was a pulse amongst his audience!) I squirmed in my chair as I seemed to be the only one wanting to join in, wanting to learn. I was starting to feel like ‘teacher’s pet’.

The day continued much the same; very little positive input from the other delegates, a reluctance to share their own experience with each other, or indeed to demonstrate how the information we were being given might help them perform their role better.

The day dragged on and on (a day hasn’t felt that long for an age) but finally we’d finished the course. The delegates completed the obligatory ‘happy sheets’ and filed out the room, barely saying a word to their fellow delegates. I wondered what they had learned from the day.

As for me, I learned so much more than I expected. Yes, the course covered much of what I already knew but it felt different somehow because of those ‘new ears’. I have an action plan and I feel ready to apply my new skills.

But what I really learned was something much more useful; I learned that our insistence that delegates who attend our programmes must be ready to learn is absolutely critical. I learned our facilitated learning approach which involves every delegate is essential. I learned that our process for ensuring a good brief from the client regarding learning objectives and outcomes is robust enough. A long day, but on reflection, a valuable day.

What’s your worst and best learning experience?