If We Only Apply What We Have Learnt

We are our own worst enemy when it comes to applying new skills. The key to overcoming this is to practice and apply the learning fundamentals every day and at every opportunity.

Definition of Learning

I use this definition of ‘Learning’ - ‘Learning’ is behavior change.  The only way that I can show that I have learned is to apply the concept.

My Stories

One of the challenges for Human Resource or Training folks in big organizations is managing the training budget effectively.  Training is sometimes perceived as spending lots of money and results are not easily seen.  It is hard to justify the training budget if there is no visible behavior change that can be seen to impact the business bottom-line after employees come back from attending training seminars.

Here is a story which I am sure many of you can appreciate.  Have you as a Human Resource or training manager come across a situation where employees come to you asking for one training after another.  Do you approve every single application?  When I was a training manager at one of the big fortune 500 company, I had to decline a couple of training applications.  One of my favorite was declining applications for time management seminar (lots of them).  In my previous company, new employees were given as part of the new employee orientation a day planner and a video to watch on how to use the day planner in the context of time management.  I did that and that is how I was introduced to time management and how to use the day planner effectively. However, to my knowledge majority of employees just used the day planner without watching the video and thus simply used it as an appointment book. So, I pushed back on employees and their managers when they say that they need another time management class. When I declined the application, I wrote back to the manager and employee informing them that the company has an existing time management training that comes with the day planner.  I asked them to go back and re-watch the video and apply consistently the concepts they have learnt everyday and at every opportunity.  They stopped coming to ask for time management training.


We Are Our Own Worst Enemy When It Comes To Applying A New Skill.

Mastering Life Skills

  1. If You Own A Restaurant You Better Know How To Cook Well:   When I was a training manager, I would always remind myself that I am not just a manager but also a ‘practitioner’ of training or human resource.  I worked very hard to be amongst the top trainers in the company and in the country.  I also learned and practiced designing and developing all my training materials.  That way over time, I was able to coach and mentor my own training staff.

  2. Practice What You Preach: I like the concept of manager training his or her own staff.  As Lao Tze said ‘you learned twice when you teach’ and thus managers who taught management courses had to role model what they taught.  I was able to re-learn every time I taught a problem solving class or an effective meetings class. I applied and practiced some problem solving steps, presentation skills and meeting skills in between the classes – every opportunity I had was focused on practicing.  So when I came to the next meeting class, I would be able to share real life examples of my own learning experiences, my own successes and my own trials and errors. 

  3. Master Life Skills – Practice Makes Perfect:  I believe that the following are life skills that once mastered can be used in any life/work situation and in any industry – presentation/communication skills, meeting skills, problem solving skills and time Management skills.  I am sure you can add one or two more to the list. And here is the rule, after about two books or two conferences on one of those skills (example – presentation skills), you have to practice the fundamentals every day and every opportunity.

Typical Story: Sam attends a presentation skills workshop, gets buzzed during the workshop but then keeps the participant workbook in desk drawer. Intent is to bring up the workbook just before the next presentation for refresher. He might remember to bring out the presentation workshop materials just before his next presentation.  Sam might not.  Hence Sam does not practice what he learned in the workshop, he finds that his presentation skills have not improved.  Sam now thinks that either the presentation skills workshop or the instructor was not that good either.  So what does Sam do?  He goes looking for another presentation skills workshop.  The vicious cycle continues.

My Story: Whenever I need to teach a new workshop, I go through a Train-The-Trainer session and discover what the new key teachable points are.  That’s when I realize what I know and do not know (turning unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence).  I prepare two to three times before the workshop.  I add anecdotes or my personal examples to the trainer guide to personalize my training.  Then I go through my first delivery where I am at the stage of conscious competence. After teaching the same class 10 times my preparation time shortens, my delivery is very smooth and I am able to teach the same subject in various ways.  After awhile I never teach the said workshop the same depending on the students I have and the interactions I have.  The content and skill is at a level of unconscious competence and can be tailored to different situations.


Apply What You Learn – Move from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence!

Here are some steps to apply what you learn:

Step 1: Identify Teachable Points
Teachable points to me are simple concepts that can be transferred to someone else and can be applied to yourself and others.  When you read a management book or attend a talk or training, look for the teachable point.  I don’t care if you rather call teachable point something else as long as it makes sense to you - Sound Bite, Key Theme, Key Concept or Key Learning.

Step 2: Apply Teachable Points Immediately After Reading or Attending Training
Teach someone between three to six hours after the reading or training session.  Anything overnight would not be effective as you would have forgotten 50% of the content.

Step 3: Cross Reference Teachable Points To Find Links and Similarities
Have fun finding connections.  Each time I read a leadership/management book or attend training workshops/talks and I come across a teachable point, I search my memory bank for who said what or where I have heard this before.  It is not only a fun mental exercise but it also adds to my reservoir of information that I can use for future teaching.  I also try to see if the teachable points go into fundamental, intermediate or advance level of a particular skill set.  Try it. It is a great mental exercise and it keeps your grey matter in top form. 

So try these steps the next time you read a management book or attend a training workshop.  Remember that only you are responsible for your own personal reputation and success.  Good Luck!

About The Author:

Cheah Chin Teik is founder and President of Chin Teik Consulting Ltd., based in Hong Kong.  Chin Teik is an experienced coach in organizational and leadership effectiveness for business results, scale-ability and sustainability via alignment and engagement of entire workforce. Chin Teik facilitates senior executive and/or executive teams to a clearer understanding of their leadership behavior while embedding a system of management practices to deliver business results.

Renowned worldwide for his dynamic and intuitive consulting process, Chin Teik’s specialization areas are executive coaching and/or executive team coaching on strategic planning system and process, organization effectiveness, leadership and management development and system of management implementation. Chin Teik also specializes in enabling ‘HR and Training strategies for organizational impact’ and implementing ‘Continuous Improvement Process’. Chin Teik’s coaching and consulting efforts cut across a wide range of industries from Legal, Water Utility, Elevator, Oil & Gas, Advertising, Packaging, Precision Engineering and Semiconductor.

A charismatic global leader, Chin Teik has amassed invaluable experience in manufacturing, training & development, total quality management and over 28 years of experience playing critical human resource roles in Intel on a regional and global scale.  Chin Teik has to his credit the prestige of setting up the first-ever 10, 000 sq. ft. Intel University Training Center to deliver ‘Transformation of Workforce’ program to entire factory.  Chin Teik also played an instrumental role in the founding of the Penang Skills Development Center.