There is a seemingly self-contradictory situation when it comes to developing the skills of managers and leaders in organizations. Everybody is for having better skills and at the same time against engaging in serious learning and devoting real time and effort to that. It is as if you were trying to accelerate your car while pushing hard on the brake pedal. We spend more time inventing ways how not to do something than actually doing it.
Not because it is not important. It is at the top of many leaders’ agendas, figures high in many strategic plans, and is in the operational plans of HR L&D departments. In fact, there is agreement that learning and development is critical to the success of any business, company, government agency and non-profit organization.
However, the “yes, but” attitude prevails.
Many of the typical excuses against engaging in essential continuous learning and development turn out to be weak. Let’s review some of the all-time favorite ‘yes, but’s’ and turn them into action-oriented activities.
“It’s Not Urgent”
“There are so many other things that are urgent, and we cannot find time for them. This is just not one of them.” Well, let’s take a closer look. Think about the time, effort, stress and money involved when staff have no idea how to handle an urgent situation. Isn’t it better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to training? In today’s day and age, you never know what will become urgent when. So, it’s not about immediate urgency, rather about being ready when you need it. Get ready so that you are not blindsided by unpredictable events.
“We Don’t Have Time for This”
Really? When did you last analyze how you spend your time? Think about the number of times in a day that you look at your iPhone or stop to chat in the break room. “We don’t have time to learn” is not a valid excuse. You make time for what is really important. And polishing old and developing new skills are essential to the success of any organization. Building learning events into the schedule is the best way to improve employees’ performance and agility. Schedule time for learning.
“We Don’t Have the Budget for This”
While you may not have a budget to invite McKinsey consultants and other expensive trainers to instill new skills and knowledge, there are many low-cost and no-cost methods of professional development. It costs nothing to put managers or leaders into small groups to allow them to learn from each other. They can discuss their current challenges, role-play scenarios and solve common problems that they face. “We don’t have the budget to train” is not a valid excuse. You can do it on a shoestring.
“We Had a Workshop”
One-shot training is ineffective because real behavioral change only happens when new learning is frequently and continuously reinforced. Learning requires repetition. Each person gets better with practice, so it is important to plan recurring learning opportunities. Learn often and repeatedly.
So How Can You Move Beyond the “Yes, But” Mentality?
Organizations need to recognize the excuses that torpedo well-considered learning and development efforts. Whenever you hear pushback from leaders and managers, ask them about the cost of not learning and developing, and the risks that the organization is taking in slacking off on skills, knowledge and company-wide collaboration. For each of the above-mentioned excuses not to do it, find a simple and compelling reason that will counter the opposition.
Not urgent? The world is complex, volatile and unpredictable. You need to be ready when the urgency shows up. Even though you learned something once a long time ago, this is not enough. You need to refresh and get better. Things change all the time. No time? Schedule it and treat it as part of your weekly or monthly routine. Fix it in your calendar like you set other recurring meetings and events. No budget? You do not need a budget to work together and learn from each other. We did it once already? Once is not enough; you need to practice skills and refresh your brain so that you can move on to more advanced solutions.
How Can Peer Learning Groups Eliminate the “Yes, But” Problem?
There is a simple way to negate the “Yes, But” excuses described earlier. Peer learning groups are small cohorts of managers who learn from each other and work together on topics of mutual interest. They meet onsite or virtually for a 90-minute group session at the managers’ convenience, so it is not a drain on the managers’ time. Practice of new skills is reinforced and supported for a month to ensure lasting behavioral change. After that, they debrief in a second 90-minute group session and commit to new behavior going forward. Peer learning groups cost next to nothing and can be run on a continuous basis. The managers can practice core skills while solving the pressing issues of the organization. By learning continuously, they will be ready for the unexpected urgencies and contingencies that arise.
If you want to learn how to set up an in-company professional development program using peer learning groups to make learning timely, responsive, affordable and continuous, please schedule a call with one of The Peer Learning Institute’s training specialists at https://calendly.com/peerlearninginstitute/discoverycall
Peter Korynski, Chief Program Officer
The Peer Learning Institute