The third issue of FirstCuts can be found at the following link:
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An imperfect rendering of the newsletter is included below (sorry, but I have not figured out how to make it work in this blog.)
High-Stake Interventions — New Ideas Issue 3 September 17, 2006
The 6 Hardest and Best Ways to Learn a New Skill
Coming up with a new topic each month for this eZine is an interesting exercise. Whereas I can happily put anything I want in my blog, and just “follow the way the wind is blowing,” I started to think that I should choose only “official” and “serious” topics for the eZine. The problem with doing that, is that I then began to focus on writing what I “should” rather than what I enjoy.
A wonderful book on the art of writing called “Weinberg on Writing,” advocates writing only about that which inspires, without exception. To break that law is to court real trouble, I am learning, as the “serious” topics are the ones that I find the hardest to complete.
Furthermore, finding the time to write “official” material seems to be impossible. People often ask me: “Where do you get the time to write?” When I follow Weinberg’s advice, and ignore my own fears, the answer is easy — I follow my own, positive, inner energy, and the result is a virtuous cycle of “needing to write” from which I have been unable to escape since I started writing my first blog last year.
And yes, I am loving it!
The 6 Hardest and Best Ways to Learn a New Skill
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
Sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is to take the most difficult path.
The most effective, and by far the most challenging form of skill development I have found occurs using video-based training, accompanied with immediate “full frontal feedback.”
How does it work? Here is the recommended recipe in 6 Ways.
1. Start with a new interpersonal skill that is difficult to learn to do well.
It might be listening, motivating, reflecting or probing. Or, it might be a combination of several skills such as coaching, public speaking, performance feedback or selling.
In most cases of superior performance, the formula is simple:
Frequent practice involves creating multiple learning opportunities to improve performance. Unique distinctions are principles or mental models that are used to achieve better performance, but may only be used subconsciously by the most successful performers.
2. Create a workshop or seminar in which the new skill can be learned through repeated practice. Attempt to simulate the real environment in which the skill is to be used, and then provide opportunities to try different approaches, and learn from repeated attempts.
For example, if the skill is selling, a workshop could be built
3. To maximize learning, set the training up as an
Working colleagues serve wonderfully as familiar sources of
To balance the feedback given by colleagues, include someone new in the group giving feedback to provide a source of “fresh” insight. This person can double as the group’s facilitator.
4. To ensure that feedback is given at a rate at which
5. Use video-tape recording to capture the simulated roleplay, and to replay key moments. This ensures that the feedback given is based on the factual events from the simulation as they are recorded, as opposed to how they are remembered.
6. Provide sound principles to participants at the precise moment when they are looking for clues on how to improve performance. These principles might be known to experienced managers from prior training. However, they gain new life when they can be used immediately to improve roleplay performance. Once they have heard the principles, give them a chance to practice them in untaped replays until their performance visibly improves.
Furthermore, most participants experience a slight shock when they see themselves on tape for the first time, struggling through a difficult roleplay.
When the feedback starts, most are quite nervous at being so
Yet, most report at the end, that it is the best opportunity they have ever had to practice and learn at the same time.
Some of the reasons given are that the feedback is based on
Participants often report a particular surprising discovery.
Often, it starts with a feeling of embarrassment at a
Participants say they are surprised that the new approach they are trying feels strange, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, in spite of being told that their performance in the replay has visibly improved. We liken this to learning to write with one’s non-preferred hand.
This is all the encouragement that a participant needs to give up old habits and learn new practices. They demonstrate that even though this method is nerve-wracking, it is ruthlessly effective.
In a recent project, we were able to use the 6 Ways to deliver training to 80+ executives in three Caribbean region countries from a single company. These top-level managers were able to receive more feedback from their peers in a single session than they had ever received before, and many were able to demonstrate immediate, observable improvements in skill.
It helped us see that, like their extra-regional counterparts,
To download an article on training executives using the
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Upcoming Speeches: I will have the honour of speaking at 2 events. One is the upcoming inaugural Business and Management Conference sponsored by the University of Technology in October and the other is the annual HRMAJ conference — both in Jamaica. See the Framework News Room at our website for more information and details: www.fwconsulting.com
Current Research Update: Study of Trinidadian Executives Working in Jamaica. We are still in the process of conducting interviews. One new idea that we are backing is the formation of a Trinidadian-Jamaican Chamber of Commerce, with a vision of chapters in Port of Spain and Kingston. To discuss this idea, or to put your weight behind it, visit our blog at http://tinyurl.com/knjqf and add a comment.
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