I’m not a big fan of much of the language surrounding training and development. It is gauche to call adults “students” as opposed to learners or some other term. But for the most part, these changes are political as opposed to real. We still teach/train students because they tend to want us to be teachers. Some learn. Some don’t. Some learn a lot and go on to do things with what they learn. Call them “learners” or “students” or “trainees” or whatever is the best-fit term. There are characteristics of students of management and leadership that make them so much fun to work with … students from whom we as teachers learn a great deal as well.
I had the pleasure of working with such a group of students last week in Thunder Bay. It was a group of trainers from a world-leading mining company. Why were they the “perfect” students?
1. They were there to learn. Shockingly, many people attend training and development experiences with other motives. One of the most common is to advance their career(s). I do hope that the trainers I worked with advance their careers, if they wish to do so. But I truly believe the group of people, from all over Canada and the US, were there, first and foremost, to learn things. The willingness to learn and the associated curiousity go a long way.
Others attend simply because they must, but have no interest in learning. Job #1 of an organization that truly wishes to use learning as a way to advance its strategic interests is to convince employees that learning is worth the time … and that learning is part of the job, not a “vacation” from the job. This message was loud and clear, presented directly by the Chief Operating Officer of this organization. Learning is work.
2. They were there to play. Learning is also playful … or at least should be. They were funny, open to experiment, willing to take risks, willing to be silly, etc. We learn best when we fool around even if the “fooling around” is serious in nature. As children we don’t separate learning and play. Our formal education, sadly, drives a wedge between these two things. I was very pleased that this group hadn’t lost the ability to play and learn at the same time.
3. They were human. In some ways, this is the result of #1 plus #2. But perhaps it is even more than that. The group was human in that they were willing to be honest, open, authentic, and real with each other, with myself and my colleague (as teachers), and to talk about their lives as well as their careers. We don’t learn as positions in organizations, we learn as human beings. They brought themselves as human beings — whole selves — to the training, not as “positions”. Teaching/training is exhilarating when you are working with human issues … how to be a better colleague … a better friend … a better father or mother. Teaching/training is, for me at least, horrifying when it denies our humanity, our emotions, and our passions and reduces everything to “transactions” between the positions of manager and subordinate, for example. We were ourselves together as a group of learners, teachers and students, people. It lifts us up together, as opposed to reduce us to cogs in a machine
Thank you C20 (you know who you are!). I learned a ton.