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Leadership “training” is not enough

July 23, 2015

A popular definition for learning is “a change in behavior based upon experience.” But the problem with this definition is that managers and leaders often believe that “training” is the same as “learning.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that training is only a precursor for learning.

What turns any training program into real learning is application. Managing/leading is not a spectator sport, and while we create and apply theories that suggest performance gains or behavior changes, we have to follow up to assess and prove that learning did in fact occur. And when training is closely tied to performance objectives (not just training objectives), a manager is in a much better position to judge the ROI of any training program.

Performance gains are always achieved through experience, and the more realistic a training environment is (i.e. where actual failure is a real option) the more likely the student will be able to apply the training. As they say “hindsight is 20/20,” so failing or underachieving at a task is often the best teacher.

Examples of such environments exist in military forces across the globe. Special Forces teams, combat pilots, and other roles requiring critical behaviors experience extreme “training conditions” before they are allowed in the “real world.” Medical interns go through years of education and training but are not fully qualified until they are engaged in the real world where they apply their training and truly learn what it means to be a doctor.

In real estate the mantra is “location, location, location.” In training the mantra should always be “experience, experience, experience.”

The question is: Do you have training objectives or learning objectives?

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