People Are Sponges

People Are Sponges

In observing and providing training to many groups over the last year, there is one common thread that shows up in every session: Trainees are wanting to be trained, learnings generally exceed their expectations, and there is always a hunger for more. This should not come as a surprise because human nature is such that we constantly want to develop ourselves and generally appreciate the time “away” to do so. People are inherently sponges. We want to absorb as much as we can and it is difficult to satiate our need for learning.

We are curious creatures and especially so when the subject matter is ourselves. People want to improve themselves and how they interact with others. We appreciate well-delivered feedback and crave deserved positive reinforcement. The peculiar thing about people and learning is that we usually don’t acknowledge any of this before we enter a training class. Most trainees go into a session with apprehension, concern, fear of taking time from ongoing business, expectation of wasting time, and many other negative thoughts. It sometimes takes a few hours to let that all go and allow yourself to be taught. As described by one attendee, “We don’t know when to get off the treadmill and it keeps going faster and faster. When we are told about a training class we resist getting off this proverbial treadmill and even resent it.”

However, there is one trainee that I encountered in several sessions that, despite his many responsibilities, he is always fully engaged in our training from the very start. When asked to explain why this is, he replied, “This is time for me. I get to focus on myself and how I operate for a day without interruption. It allows me to clear my mind and I find that when I get back to work, everything seems clearer just because I come back with a fresh perspective. I also have the opportunity to learn something in the training that helps me improve myself.” We should all approach learning and development with that mindset.
Regardless of the perspective coming in, the general consensus upon leaving a training session is that it was a beneficial use of time. Spending time with co-workers in a non-work setting, not having the constant barrage of e-mails to respond to, and having time to think about the business and yourself are all extremely beneficial and sometimes even cathartic. Learning a new skill or approach is the primary benefit, but the collateral benefits involved in face-to-face training are equally important.
To return to our sponge analogy, sometimes there is a need to get through the abrasive scrub pad to get to the absorbent part of the sponge. A simpler way is to turn the sponge over and approach training with the absorbent part first. Some are better at this than others but regardless of the approach, the idea is to leave having absorbed the benefits of learning.

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