• Matthew Carberry

10 hurdles to overcome when learning new skills



You have no time but need new skills to stay relevant in a rapidly changing business environment. Regardless of your role in a business if you are not continuously growing and evolving, you will very quickly go backwards.

So what is stopping you from learning the new skills required for success? What are your options? What should you do first?

Globally we are seeing new skills being required to turn:

- sales people from order takers to business people who sell

- leaders from the star player to the head coach

- accountants from compliance focused to advisory focused

- advisors from consultants to facilitators

The 10 key issues we see that need to be addressed when learning new skills are:

1. Too much theory, not enough practice: Whilst it is important to understand the theory/background to a new model or approach you are learning, it is more important to apply it to a real life situation so you can quickly learn what works and what doesn’t in the field. Don’t spend too much time on the theory as learning through rapid trial and error can often be much more beneficial.

2. Get the context right: Yearly reviewing 100’s of marketing flyers for training courses quickly show that most are too focused on the topics being covered and less on ‘why’ a business person should invest the time in doing it. Spending the time before starting any sort of training experience outlining ‘why’ it is required in the context of your personal or business vision (and strategies) will assist greatly in ensuring its completed properly and applied quickly in the business.

3. Fear of failure: This is very often one of the biggest hurdles to adopting new skills. What if I’m exposed as not being as strong in a skill as I’m perceived to be? What will people think of me? The saying often comes to mind that fear stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real” as very often all these thoughts are just irrational beliefs raising their head.

4. Fear of success: It sounds strange but very often business leaders/owners hold themselves back due to the extra pressures and lifestyle changes that may come with increased success. Will I have to travel more for work that affects my life balance? Will I have more responsibility?

5. Just-in-time learning: You have an issue in improving the profitability in your business. You search the internet for a face-to-face course that suits your needs. The next one however is running in 3 months’ time but you need it right now, so what should you do? Many business owners/leaders find themselves in this situation and the only alternative is an online or ‘e-learning’ solution. This involves taking a course of your choice at anytime from anywhere in the world. Often these courses will feature videos from leading experts from around the world to help you get up to speed and apply instantly to your learning need. A great, just-in-time solution.

6. Ensure the learning is customized to your needs: Most courses in the market are very prescriptive by nature. For instance, to learn how to be a great leader, you go through 10 set modules and that will be all you need. However, the experience of the person or their desired objectives are rarely taken on board to build a learning experience tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

7. Before and after the learning: Before you learn a new skill ensure you define at the start a clear definition on ‘why’ you are going through the training and upon completion, allocate time to de-brief what you are going to do to start applying the new skills. ‘Doing’ the actual course is only a small part of the learning journey.

8. Retaining your new skills: Those that attend a face-to-face course forget 90% of what they have learnt 24hrs after the event, which is a lot of wasted time and energy to only retain 10% of what you learnt. So what are your options? E-learning provides the opportunity to continuously go back via an online platform and review the content you have learnt, the videos you have watched to ensure that you continuously re-learn the skills over a period of weeks and months. Retention of learning is dramatically increased.

9. Great Leadership support: In a business context ensuring you have the support of your manager or the leadership team is critical to the application of the new skills you have learnt. Good leadership support will ensure the new skills can be applied quickly, hurdles overcome and time allocated for the development process.

10. No Time: We all have only 168hrs a week, no more, no less. How a person leverages themselves to make the best use of that time is often the difference between success and failure. In a learning context, it’s becoming more difficult to take two days away from the office to attend training as the distraction of returning to a heavy workload can negatively impact the learning experience. Looking for ways to break the training up into smaller, bite-sized chunks allows new skills to be learnt and implemented quickly. So experiment with more a blended learning approach (balance between face-to-face learning and e-learning) and different time-frames (potentially 3-4 hour blocks once a week) to overcome time hurdles and fit into the busy, business environment.

So if you have blockages to learning new skills for yourself or your team think through the issues above and determine those most applicable. Quickly you can develop 3-4 strategies to overcome each and dramatically improve your ability to change and adapt.


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