Assisting Your Staff in Developing Important Skills

Bill Morin<br />Chairman & CEO<br />WJM Associates

We all know every organization's success rests heavily upon having people with the right competencies, skills and behaviors.

All too often we place good people into challenging jobs and expect them to acquire the skills they need through the hard teacher called experience. Experience and practice are essential to mastering skills, but not until people have had some formal instruction. Therefore, experience alone can be a very costly teacher.

Let's say you are teaching staff members to confront situations more effectively and resolve conflict. To maximize the learning experience, organize your instruction according to the following steps:

Prepare the Person to Learn. Put your colleagues at ease. Meet in a place and at a time that is conducive to learning. Don't place undue pressure by rushing through the training. Express your confidence in them, but don't make it sound like you expect them to master the learning in no time. Explain the purpose of the behavior to be learned. Find out what is already known about the subject. Stimulate some personal interest or motivation for learning the skill. People learn best when they want to learn. Create an environment where individuals will motivate themselves.

Present the Information. Break the task or behavior into basic elements, steps or phases. People learn best when information is presented in manageable chunks. Everyone learns at a different pace. Stress key points or critical ideas. Share with the person any tips that will enhance understanding and help increase memory. Demonstrate the behavior while you explain. When you can, demonstrate and instruct at the same time. The more senses you engage, the better.

Practice -- Let the Person Try. Have people model the behavior. Don't ask them to do so until you are fairly sure they will have a successful experience. Correct mistakes and errors as they occur, then have the learner repeat the task.

Follow Up -- Check Results. Put people on their own and tell them where they can go for assistance. This will help the person remain calmer, knowing that if they forget, they have someplace to go to ask questions. Check frequently on their performance. When you do, don't appear as though you are policing them. Do so in a spirit of helpfulness.

Yes, these steps are basic, but they do work.

WJM Faculty Cabinet

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