Learning to unlearn

Learn to unlearnAs managers, we believe we are doing the right thing by sending our employees on leadership and management training.

Would it therefore surprise you to read, that only 5 to 10% of learning is retained and can be applied after traditional methods of training?

Research on the forgetting curve, shows that within 1 hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70% of new information, and within a week, an average of 90% of information will have been long forgotten.

“Whole-day training can be a catastrophe. Our cognitive load is exceeded,” says Itiel Dror, a neuroscientist specialising in learning. His message to L&D practitioners is unequivocal: “Don’t do whole-day learning.” Dror’s view is supported by research by Paul King of the Christian University of Texas, which suggests that not only is traditional whole-day learning ineffective, but it can even be counter-productive. Once the brain’s capacity has been exceeded, learners can’t absorb any more information and they then begin to dump the most recent things that they have learned (HR Magazine, 2016).

Whilst many leaders will agree that one-day courses are ineffective, ‘they find them invaluable for networking, knowledge-sharing and disseminating a strong sense of company culture’ (HR Magazine, 2016).

So, as a manager or a learning and development leader, how do you ensure that you don’t throw away 90% of your training budget, but guarantee that your employees can network, collaborate and learn from others?

Would it interest you to hear how you could reduce this financial drain to below 30%?

While doing research for my dissertation on ‘changing behaviour in three months’, I stumbled on some fascinating facts, which have since been proven and developed further over the last year.

We are so focused on teaching our employees new skills, that we have forgotten to tackle the behaviours and limiting beliefs which are standing in an individuals’ way of successfully applying what they have learned.

Before change and new behaviours can be adopted, the previous behaviour needs to be unlearned or discarded (Lewin, 1946) yet, most organisations are focused on the ‘learning process and do not encourage unlearning structures’ (Argyris).

The AURA approach is based on Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ (1984) which helps learners ‘learn how to learn, by consciously following a recursive cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting’ and increases their learning power.

AURA starts with an Assessment (psychometric and 360-feedback) and takes individuals through a process of Unlearning (reflecting & thinking), Relearning (experiencing) and Application (acting); to help them act with purpose.

When leadership and management training is broken up into bite-size chunks, it is retained with ease, but there’s still the bonus of meeting others and sharing ideas. The difference of this approach is that it’s combined with one to one coaching and that’s where the bonus lies. Between the bite-size modules, coaches hold individuals accountable for applying what is learned, ensuring that individuals unlearn old habits, have the confidence to apply what they have learned and ultimately change their behaviour sustainably.

Who wouldn’t want a better return on investment for their training budget? To learn more about unlearning, contact me.

What can we learn from our ‘baggage’?

How often have you heard someone refer to their past experiences, as ‘baggage’, e.g. an ex-spouse, partner, redundancy, debt, etc?

We can’t change the past, but we can change the way we deal with similar situations in future.

Becoming self-aware helps us to understand and break through our beliefs about past experiences, helping us to learn and grow.

Asking ourselves questions like ‘What happened?’ and ‘How could I have done things differently?’ is a simple way to start an internal dialogue.

I like to think of my past in a positive light. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if it weren’t for all of my experiences; the good, the bad and the ugly. I have chosen to forgive and forget those things that do me a disservice and I use all of the experiences that serve me well.

What can you learn from your past?

How do you compare?

Seeing the attached picture, prompted me to write again. I hope it presents you with some food for thought and some reflection.

As a child, my parents penciled how tall I was growing on a doorpost in our hallway. My growth was never compared to that of my brother. As I grew older, way too often, I found myself comparing myself to my colleagues, my friends or even celebrities. I wanted to be slimmer, wealthier or achieve the success that others had. I may even have pointed an imaginary finger at a colleague who had worked really hard to receive a promotion and I pondered why my colleague had received it and I had not.

Everyone has a different pace, different priorities, different challenges and different things that they are willing to compromise throughout their lives. Before comparing yourself to someone else, remember that when you point your index finger at someone, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you. I’ve come to realize that when I look at someone who has achieved success, that I may only be seeing the result of that success. The diet and early morning rises to exercise; the scrimping and saving to purchase the larger home; the stretch assignments, late night calls and weekends at work; all go unseen.

I’ve learned to be happy for the achievements of others and to be ecstatically happy with what I have achieved myself because as the old adage goes, ‘you reap what you sow’, and all that I have accomplished is what I have been willing to commit to; what I have been willing to sacrifice and the work that I have done.

So, next time you find yourself comparing your own efforts to someone else, you may want to stop yourself and reflect.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer based in London.

Measuring up

7-steps to manage a difficult conversation

Whether you need to have a discussion with your manager or give advice to a friend, just the thought of some conversations may leave you feeling anxious and you may decide to avoid the subject altogether. Today, I’d like to share with you, a fairly simple 7-step method to manage difficult conversations.

Please consider the following:
A. What do you want to achieve by the end of the conversation for yourself and for the other party?

B. What do you really want? What are your feelings telling you about what you really want?

C. Why would smart, well-intentioned people be behaving in the way that they have been? Develop 3 hypotheses (use respect, empathy and curiosity).

Use the following 7 steps to structure the conversation. I have also included a completed example below:

Step 1. Name the issue. Give a neutral and concise description of the issue.

Step 2. Clarity – give a specific example of the issue.

(At this stage, you may need to break eye contact to stop the person interrupting you. If they still interrupt you, ask if they would kindly let you finish what you would like to say).

Step 3. State calmly how you feel about the issue. I feel ‘disappointed, annoyed, sad…..’ If you can substitute ‘I feel….’ with ‘I am…..’ you’re on the right track as this will prove that it’s a feeling.

Step 4. State why it matters…..’This matters because…’

Step 5.  Identify your own contribution to the problem.

Step 6. Reassure that you want to work with the person to resolve the issue.

Step 7. End with an open question.

Follow the steps and write down an issue of your own; then practice on someone as you may still need to work on your tone of voice and/or body language to achieve the best result.

Example:  Your statement should take under 60 seconds.

1. I would like to talk to you about the job application process in our company,

2. for example, the ‘senior’ position that was recently posted to the intranet.

3. I feel disappointed that this new position was posted without anyone in the department knowing that the job existed.

4. This matters because I would have liked to have applied for the position and the current way of doing things is perceived as unfair.

5. I understand that it’s my responsibility to manage my own career and therefore to keep an eye on job postings,

6. I would be happy to help build a new process so that everyone who is interested in new opportunities has a fair chance to apply.

7. What’s your take on this?

It may take a few test runs, to become comfortable with this process, but it’s one that has been found to work well.

Good luck!

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.

Managing yourself through Change

Some of my friends tell me that I am brave because I am not afraid of change, while others think I am crazy and that I take unnecessary risks; I would like to challenge them all.

Change is not comfortable; in fact it’s scary! But what’s scarier: Having the carpet pulled out from underneath you because you would rather ignore change; or, having your own plan in place, irrespective of what the world throws at you?

As a leadership coach, I have met many people who have become paralysed by change, even if they knew it was coming: from, company reorganisations in which they have been made redundant, divorce, to promotions, etc. Change paralyses! Or does it? What if you always had a plan?

Acting like the victim in ‘Karpman’s drama triangle‘, blaming the establishment, government, schools, your partner, your family, your manager, etc. for all of your woes, won’t make your problems go away. When you point your index finger at the world, there are three fingers on your hand pointing right back at YOU. Is there something YOU could have done to avoid a situation? And more importantly, how do you ensure that you take control in future?

Are you happy with your job? Is your organisation happy with you? Where do you see yourself in a few years? How would you need to develop yourself to get there? What are you doing to remain true to yourself? How can you ensure that you are always one step ahead? What’s your Plan B?

Don’t wait to be unpleasantly surprised and for change to happen to you. Be part of the change. But before you start, ask yourself how committed you are. If you want to lose weight: how committed are you to going to the gym, eating less and moving more? Work towards your own ideal future and towards your own goal, irrespective of what other people expect you to do.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and quiet reflection. Change need not be scary if you are following your own plan. I will close with a few words from someone much wiser than I am, “We, but mirror the world. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Life changes are inevitable but when we initiate personal change, we rise to the challenge, ensuring a more positive result.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.