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Your Desk Is The Best Place For Learning

There is not enough time in the day for all the things that I want to accomplish.

Much the same can be said for the personal development of the guys that work for me. Over the years, I have done my best to give them every opportunity to grow and develop in their roles, but somehow there never seems enough time to expose them to the breadth of learning and new experiences that I would like.

Having said this, I have learnt that “getting on with the day job” and “developing for the future” are not mutually exclusive concepts. Sitting in a training room for hours has never been my preferred option. Being bombarded with hundreds of Powerpoint slides until all the concepts meld into a confused muddle is not ideal.

I believe that people need to take new ideas on board gradually, make them their own, and truly believe in them before they become habits. There has to be an external stimulus for these new ideas – for me, the best solution has proved to be a quick and simple lunchtime training, followed up by suggestions from the team on how to make some practical changes in the workplace.

When someone thinks about 5 ways to improve their productivity over a sandwich at lunch and then steps straight back into the “real world” after lunch, I find that the learning is so much more immediate.

Encouraging continuous self-improvement is also a way of avoiding the dangers of the “I haven’t been told how to do it” mentality. There are people out there who might not venture near a spreadsheet because they haven’t had Excel training. In certain environments (maybe not recruitment), some people expect to be spoon fed with knowledge. If they haven’t received the training, they can’t be expected to know how to do it.

I would argue that this is a load of rubbish.

Creating an environment in which people can guide their own learning is the best way of getting them to take ownership of their development. They did an online course on Excel? Great, encourage them to mention it at their next appraisal and ask them what difference it has made to their work.

Another aspect of learning on the job is that you can share your experiences with others. You are all on a constant loop of mistakes, mastery, mistakes, mistakes, mastery, and the more you learn from each other and help each other through the process, you more you will develop. Sometimes learning is hard – you will never get it right first time. It is encouraging to see others going through the same thing, and there will always be someone who has “been there” to show you the light at the end of the tunnel.

Coaching someone is so much easier in this environment. You can apply their learning directly to their real work, ask them questions about how they would do things differently, and show them the real impact of their behaviours and beliefs.

At LMA I’d like to think that we are a pretty accomplished bunch, but there is always something more to learn. That is what life is all about!

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