February 23, 2019

Learning is not a one-way street



I frequently hear colleagues and friends complain about all the money they’ve spent on coaching or training with disappointing results.

Literally never have I heard someone complain about all the work and effort they put into coaching or training, with disappointing results.

I’m going to flip our usual conversation on its head and instead of talking about your job as the one providing service, I’m going to talk about your job as the one receiving service. 

Whether you’re the training attendee or the coachee, you have responsibilities. 

Have you ever had those audience members who seem like they would rather be elsewhere? The audience members who don’t participate, who look annoyed, who spend all their time looking at their phone? Or worse, the audience member who’s constantly interrupting or trying to impress everyone with how much smarter they are than you?

Have you ever BEEN this audience member?

If we want “good” audiences (ask great questions, participate in exercises, express interest, stay awake), perhaps we should start with modeling good behavior ourselves as audience members. I often remind my audiences and my coaching clients that they get out of the relationship what they put into it. 

As speakers, we can’t expect to just pour knowledge into an audience of empty vessels. That’s not how it works. And as audience members, we can’t expect to sit back and have knowledge poured into us. 

Have you had a coaching client who wasn’t open to trying new things, who was unwilling to take risks and get outside of their comfort zone? Have you had a client unwilling to question their own current beliefs and practices, or unwilling to do work outside of the coaching sessions? 

I occasionally have a coaching client who expects me to hand him all the tools he needs on a silver platter. Instead of doing the work and pushing himself into new territory, he makes excuses about why he “can’t” do this thing or that thing. Or s/he comes to me with a last-minute event to prepare for and expects miracles.

Have you ever BEEN this coaching client?

Of course, coaching is a delicate process. It’s not easy to be comfortable with discomfort. I acknowledge those who come forward for coaching to improve their speaking skills and confidence, because it’s not an easy road.

But a coaching client or an audience member cannot just sit back and be a passive observer of the process.

The audience member or client cannot just “take” from the process and not “give.” This is a sure path to disappointment.

As an audience member, as a coaching client, you have a job to do as well! Spending the time, effort and energy (not just the money) to do your part contributes to a successful outcome for both the participant and the teacher.

It’s actually pretty easy to type your credit card number into an online order form or click that payment button in PayPal. That’s not the real work. And no one is going to unscrew your head and dump in a bunch of knowledge.

Pay attention to how you approach learning opportunities. Be honest with yourself.

It’s possible that these opportunities haven’t worked for you in the past because you were not fully committed or open to taking responsibility for the goals, focus, tasks, reflection, timelines, preparation, emotional exploration, and growth mindset necessary for a successful coaching or training process.


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