Monday, July 9, 2012

10 Things I Learned from a Training Program That I Still Use Today

Kodak European Management Development Program
2000, Lausanne, Switzerland (can you find me?)
 Having spent most of my career in corporate training, I’ve attended more training programs than the average bear. For some of them, the only recollection I have is pain and suffering, and regrets that I wasted so much time and gained so little in return.

However, there were a few that taught me things that I’ve used throughout my career and still use today.

While I sure hope there are more than 10 things that stuck, but here are the first 10 that came to mind:

1. How to design and facilitate meetings.

2. How to address a performance issue with an employee.

3. How to listen.

4. How to deal with conflict.

5. How to do a root cause analysis and a structured process for making decisions.

6. How to analyze and improve a process.

7. How to work with different countries and cultures.

8. How to remain open to possibilities (possibility thinking).

9. Situational leadership (how to adjust your approach based on the developmental needs of your employees).

10. How to prepare and make a presentation.

It’s an interesting exercise in that it made me think about if I was designing a training curriculum for managers, what skills would be the most important to include? However, everyone’s different, and your list may look very different than mine, so you’d need a good sample size to draw any conclusions.

I also found it interesting that I couldn’t think of a single thing I learned in college – Bachelors’ or Master’s – that I still use today on a regular basis. Hmmm, so maybe my college courses had a short half-life, I wasn’t paying attention other than memorizing what would be on the test, or I didn’t have an opportunity chance to immediately apply what I learned and keep using it over and over?

How about you? Thinking back over all of the formal training programs (or college courses) you’ve attended, what did you learn that you still use today on a regular basis?


Anonymous said...

On a quick read followed by a slow reflect I take away the "primacy of listening" point as key to all the others - useful food for thought here - thanks for the meal!
Found via @LollyDaskal

Ashok Vaishnav said...

Dan McCarthy has done a virtuoso job of listing out Top 10 MUST for a training session not to have a short half-life.
Depending on the topic and ecosystem of the training sessions that one has attended, one may add more to this core list, with a view to ensure that training sessions, from now onwards, do not have a “Also-Attended” CV decoration value.
I only would add one aspect: involvement – both of the attendees and the presenter – can be that magic potion of elixir that can enliven a session, and in turn, leading to a turtles’ life expectancy. I have vivid memories of the sessions of my primary school class sessions, because [as I realize now, after having read the present article] our teacher ‘sounded’ so friendly [to a toddler!]
Of course, how the attendee will bring in that Involvement or the presenter can generate and sustain the participants’ involvement is a subject of a full-scale discussion on its own right, hence beyond the scope for the present.

Duncan Brodie said...

Good piece as always and a great reminder of the importance of learning real practical skills that you can put to work regularly.

Duncan Brodie

Mary Jo Asmus said...

Nice list, Dan. Two things that stand out for me are how to ask powerful questions (these are an essential twin to good listening!) and the importance of courage to leadership effectiveness.

Dan McCarthy said...

Thanks! The course where I first learned listening skills was People Skills, from Ridge Associates.


Mary Jo-

Jennifer V. Miller said...


Nearly 20 years ago I participated in a multi-day Action Learning session. Among the many powerful things learned, one of the most memorable and helpful was the "Ladder of Inference" (term coined by Chris Argyris and further elaborated upon by by Peter Senge in The 5th Discipline.

It was the beginning of my journey in learning how to re-frame my thinking.

Dan McCarthy said...

Thanks for sharing!

Skip Prichard said...

Dan, love your list and it's comprehensive. I was struck by your comment on what you learned in college and beyond. That's true for me, too, though I guess watching various styles was probably worthwhile. I always watched both to learn the content and to watch the way it was communicated.

J.D. Meier said...

I've been lucky enough to attend extremely effective training.

Overall, the best trainings that I have taken have:
1. Shaped or re-shaped my perceptions
2. Given me new tools for intellectual horsepower
3. Exposed me to personal blind spots

The one thing that accelerated my learning was the idea of asking better questions to get better answers. Just by focusing on asking better questions, I continuously learn at a rapid rate, and it helps me solve new challenges vs. getting stuck in old ones.

Dan McCarthy said...

Skip -

J.D. -
Thanks, you sound like a good learner!

Alex said...

Improving a process is always a great effort. Running efficiently requires streamlining at all times.

Dan McCarthy said...

Alex -
Thanks for your comment!

John Murphy said...

Dan, isn't it interesting that your list does not include things you learned in college, as you said. I think we would all say the same thing.
One I would add to the list, is how to manage my time effectively. A great lesson, and still leraning!

Dan McCarthy said...

John -
Thanks! Yes, I too still use a lot of what I learned in my first Time Management seminar.