A common complaint we hear is that training is boring or worse yet, nonexistent. As we pride ourselves on being problem solvers, I would like to propose a way of training that accommodates everyone at any level, while still maintaining the push for excellence. It is called progression training and it is all about progress, getting better at all levels, everyday. I have used this method, with great success as a weight- lifting trainer, a soccer coach, the training officer at my fire department, and now as a leadership consultant. It all starts with a basic skill that must be mastered, and a way to measure progress. Then you simply make it harder, depending on the skill of the participant or the group. In weight lifting, it’s easy: Increase reps, increase weight, write it on the chart, praise the progress. In soccer you decrease the size of the field, add more offensive or defensive players, maybe add a few more balls, etc., praise the progress. At the fire dept. it was even more fun. Throw in a broken piece of equipment, a suddenly injured comrade, add some bad weather, time them, etc. and the possibilities were almost endless. And as always, praise the progress. Can you see the commonalities? Adding layers of complexity or problems to solve and letting them know that you can see them getting better addresses some of the most basic needs of all employees. The need for belonging to an organization that cares about them and the need to feel that they are growing. We do not want to diminish the role of the classroom. Every skill should have a classroom component to it that explains the necessity and the importance of that skill along with the steps needed to become proficient in that skill. But all too often that becomes the training, period, when it is really only the first step. Even the greatest classroom session where you find yourself all ears, complete with the best test ever written and you ace it, is no guarantee that you can execute that skill in the real world, complete with its own complexities and stressors. So you must take that classroom learning and apply it in the real world. In other words: Practice, practice, practice. Whether you use games, role playing, simulations, activities, train individuals or groups, you must find a way to make that practice real life. You must demand your personnel become problem solvers, you must allow creativity and cooperation to rule the day, and most of all you must be consistently insistent that the culture of your organization is growth. Finally, under the heading of “Lessons Learned”, let me offer a few suggestions. Human beings learn better and faster when they enjoy what they’re doing so encourage having fun without compromising skill. If you do decide to time a skill, time individuals or small groups against their last time, not against each other. It is always better to have many winners when training rather than just one. Pay attention to and thank your veterans. While to some they may be dinosaurs, there is a world of experience there that we too often discard without respect and then we wonder why they become rebellious or whiny and oppose any and all authority. Progression training is a tool. When used on a regular basis it can produce sometimes spectacular results. More importantly it can be used to drive the culture of your organization toward what should be everyone’s goal: The push for excellence. Please call us or email us if you have any questions or if you would like us to conduct a training session for your organization. Be safe, be prepared.
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