I escaped a time warp. An honest-to-goodness, no kidding time warp. And it happened in the most unexpected of places. A human resources seminar.
The time warp was disguised as an event hosted by one of those big-name, top-dollar training companies who help you make the most of yourself and your employees.
We had a lot of group discussion answering questions like, “What does employee engagement look like?” and “How can a manager show employees s/he cares about them?”
At one point I looked around the room and saw chart paper stuck on every wall. On every paper was a list of notes written in colored marker and compiled by groups of eager professionals. I had, just moments earlier in fact, stood among them listening as well-spoken and obviously intelligent men and women shared ideas that were quickly scribed and enthusiastically received by others who nodded in approval and muttered “great idea.” Not to be left out, I threw in my own two cents on How To Hold Team Members Accountable to High Performance. My new friends “mmm-hmm’ed” knowingly. “Yes,” they seemed to say. “We must Hold Team Members Accountable to High Performance. I’ve thought of your idea before and I’m so glad you said it so it could be added to the list.”
Groups dissolved. Back in our seats. Spokespeople for each topic presenting their colorful Sharpie markered lists. It was THEN that I realized this was no ordinary seminar. Or was it? Was it SO ordinary that I had been here before? Yes, I had. Many, many times. We were in a time warp. Memories flooded my brain of sitting in countless classes, conferences, team meetings, and company-hosted trainings just like this one where we had discussed EVERYTHING that we had been discussing here!
As of this writing, I’m 45, which by many standards is not even that old, but I can tell you for 100% certain that 25 years ago (and 20 and 15 and 10 years ago) we were talking about the very same things.
Have we learned nothing?
Or is there nothing new to learn?
I think the answers are YES and YES.
There’s really nothing new to learn when it comes to basics like bringing out the best in our teams. There are new terms to describe old ideas. There are new methods for measuring outcomes. There are new research studies to contemplate. There are new people to put new spins on tried-and-tested material. But genuinely NEW stuff? In some fields, yes. But when it comes to the basics of motivating employees, understanding client needs, providing great customer service—NOPE.
Plus, we keep passing the reigns to the next generation who has to learn the same stuff we did. And we can’t open their heads with a can opener and simply pour in our hard-earned, hard-learned knowledge and experience. We can only support and mentor and teach them. So there’s always a new group of professionals growing up and climbing up the ladder, sitting in seminars just like the ones we attended decades ago. Let’s hope they take good notes.
BUT—and this is a BIG BUT—there’s a reason we have to keep attending classes where we struggle not to roll our eyes or jump up on the table and scream, “I KNOW ALL THIS! TELL ME SOMETHING NEW!”
The reason we have to keep hearing the same stuff over and over is because we need to APPLY IT. Hearing it, memorizing it, regurgitating it—these steps are easy. Applying it and measuring results, adjusting and measuring again? This part we mostly suck at.
My recent time warp adventure was in a room filled primarily with people my age. I met dozens of them, and they were no dummies. They were passionate about their work, eager to help their employees, and desirous of greater success for themselves.
And most of all, they were teachable, open vessels for information they had doubtless heard as many times as I had.
I won’t venture a guess as to how skilled they are at APPLYING what they’ve learned. For sure, they all intended to return to the office and make changes. But it’s likely many of them have already failed to start creating the vision they had while sitting in the time warp. Perhaps some faced resistance from upper management, or difficulties with passive-aggressive employees, or a company focused on beating sudden competitive threats. Or maybe they just suck at applying what they learn.
The point is, most of them will need to be retrained. They’ll need to have another “A-HA” moment to re-inspire them to march back into the office and effect change.
What about you? Do you suck at applying what you learn? I know I do more often than I want to admit.
I really feel humbled by a question I’ve heard and read many times: are you 5 years into your business, or have you repeated the same year 5 times?
Apply this question to your relationships, your health, your well-being. Most of us are doing the same things we’ve always done and we’re getting the same results.
Don’t fight the time warp. Embrace it. Listen and learn and APPLY WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED. This is a step toward success.
photo credit: 2009.09.09-17.40 – 0307 – Jon Schioldborg Baglo 2009.jpg via photopin (license)