Something about old dogs and new tricks

Old Dogs New Tricks

At the beginning of June, I led a train the trainer program with a customer.

The other day, this customer sent a note that included these comments:

Brian and Tim, without question, completely changed our paradigm with their How Adults Learn training. These are the most critically important principles that I’ve learned in my 25 years of teaching, training, and developing leaders. Additionally, their instructions on how to facilitate training as opposed to delivering information was one of the greatest “Aha!” moments of my professional life.

It was high praise, and it got me wondering. I’ve spent much of my adult life developing habits and ways of doing things… when was the last time I chose to change any of those habits, especially in my professional life? How about you? 

One of the keys to changing old ways is actually being able to see usefulness in doing something differently. After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it? (Yes, I’m going to see how many cliches I can throw into today’s blog post!)

Here are a few places where I’ve learned a new trick or two:

Articles. For years I’ve been a crusader against lecture. Then one lunchtime in June 2014, I began to thumb through the pages of TD magazine and came across an article by James Goldsmith entitled Revisiting the Lecture. To this day, I still recall my conversion to someone who accepts lecture. I wrote about that conversion in a blog post entitled Hello. My name is Brian, and I’m a training snob.

Books. A friend of mine recently handed me a copy of a book called A Simple Act of Gratitude. It’s about a guy who decided to write a thank you note to a different person every day for a year. Saying “thank you” seems so basic, but this book has taught me that it can also be a lost art. Being intentional about finding things that bring joy or that lead to gratitude has just made me a more pleasant person to be around.

Of course, this is an L&D blog, so what do joy and gratitude have to do with the professional development of L&D folks? Well, in classic facilitator fashion, I’ll boomerang that question and throw it back to you, dear reader. Why would I mention a book about joy and gratitude when it comes to teaching experienced L&D professionals new tricks? (It’s a serious question, I’d love to hear responses in the comment section!)

Family. The people around me are constantly teaching me new lessons… whether or not I embrace those lessons and stray from old habits is a whole different story. A few years ago I reflected on 11 lessons my family taught me that have made me a better L&D and change management professional.

Drug Dealers. Back in April I wrote about how I came very close to getting in to a lot of trouble when I walked up to a drug dealer in a school playground and asked him to take his business elsewhere. It completely changed how I approached conversations and coaching situations with co-workers or training participants. You can’t expect people to respect what you have to say until you respect them as a person. Icebreaking activities, teambuilding activities and simply spending time building rapport are not nice-to-haves, they are must-haves.

The note from a customer made me stop and reflect. Adopting new habits is a very difficult thing to do, but it’s essential if we’re going to be better L&D professionals… and better people.

When was the last time you were inspired to change an old habit?


3 thoughts on “Something about old dogs and new tricks

  1. Regarding your gratitude question –
    I recently listened to a podcast called The Good Life Project and in that podcast the guy said something that really struck a cord with me. He said, “What AND who matters. Ask yourself, will this allow me to absorb myself in activities and relationships that fill me up while surrounding myself with people that I cannot get enough of?” If we build our lives around those two things, it makes it very easy to feel and express gratitude. We don’t always get to choose those two things, and lots of lessons can be learned in those situations, but we do get to choose how we show up. And I think that speaks to gratitude as well.

  2. Great question… my response is if you can successfully convince others to adopt an “attitude of gratitude,” it can change an entire culture of a company, organization. or audience you are teaching. Moreover, as a trainer/teacher/facilitator, wearing “cheap sunglasses” can inspire creativity, especially in the planning and preparation stages.

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