What does training mean in your organization? You may think, “Well, training is training.”
I might have given a simple answer, too, before I talked to Josh Seibert, veteran trainer and the CEO and president of Sandler Training in North Carolina, for our Expert Interview podcast. He believes that the term “training” is “overused and abused.”
“Oftentimes, training is a disciplinary tool,” he points out. “If you aren’t performing, then we’ll send you to training. Therefore, if you don’t perform later, we’re protected. We can fire you – inappropriately.”
In addition, Seibert says, training is used “for onboarding, to bring someone up to speed.” And sometimes it’s a “reward.” Being sent to an exotic overseas location for a training session, all expenses paid, can be a real treat.
But, if we look beyond those checkboxes, what should training really be?
Training Is a Step on a Staircase
“In my world, training should be viewed as a step on a staircase we call ‘development,’ to get to that next level that we want to get to,” Seibert says, in our Expert Interview podcast. “But training itself won’t get us there without a development strategy that it fits into. So, think of training as a tactical step in the development strategy, and learning happens along the way.”
As we talk, I discover that “learning” is another misunderstood term.
“In the corporate environment, we oversimplify the adult learning process,” Seibert explains. “‘All you’ve got to do’ – I hear that all the time. ‘All you’ve got to do is read this book.’ ‘All you’ve got to do is recite this for 30 days and you’ll be fixed.’
“Adults don’t learn just by being exposed to newfound knowledge. We have to take that knowledge and we have to figure out how to adapt it and apply it appropriately in every given situation.
“As we do that, we become skilled at that application, so that it’s more automatic. Hence we own that skill. As we gain courage from that skill building, we develop habits, and those habits are the behaviors necessary to get the new result. That’s how adults learn.”
From Knowing to Owning
This idea of going “from knowing to owning” is one of the principles explored in Seibert’s book, “Winning From Failing: Build and Lead a Corporate Learning Culture for High Performance.”
The book’s title reminds us that we need to embrace failure as part of learning.
“We learn to ride a bicycle as a youngster by losing our balance and falling off. That’s part of the process, and unless we’re allowed to do those things, we’ll never really grow,” Seibert says.
In the book, Seibert identifies four roles that all managers should adopt to help their people learn: supervisor, trainer, coach, and mentor. The trouble is, most new managers don’t know how to perform any of those roles.
“Organizations often find their next manager by looking at people who are performing well in the technical role that they’re doing,” Seibert says. He uses sales as an example. “A high-performing salesperson is looked at as a possible next manager. Yet the core competencies of management are completely different than the competencies to effectively sell.”
Return on Investment
So, training managers in those four leadership roles is key. Only when they have “owned” those skills will they be ready to support their team members in their learning.
“Without that development, [managers] will tend to fall back upon their strengths,” Seibert says. “If they were a good salesperson, then they’ll be a super salesperson. If they were a technician, then they’ll become a super technician. They won’t get results through people but with people, and that causes burnout and failure.”
Training managers, training team members – all of this takes resources. And eventually someone, somewhere in the organization will ask about the return on investment (ROI). In this audio clip from our Expert Interview, Seibert offers his advice for handling this important aspect of training.
Listen to the full 30-minute interview in the Mind Tools Club.
Do you agree with Josh Seibert’s definitions of training and learning? Join the discussion below.