What drives us to learn? And what does this have to do with how we grow our businesses, train our teams, or advance our careers?
This memorial day weekend I have family and friends staying with us. I shared at breakfast that I was writing and recording this month’s newsletter today and it was all about adult learning. My husband’s cousin, Dennis chimed in “Why do I need to learn as an adult?”
But really...what for? What drives us to learn?
As a kid, I was - and I still am- driven by curiosity about nearly everything- it’s what drove me to join in the reading programs at the library every summer. And if I’m being honest, I was also driven by the reward of having the most gold stars on the poster board at the end of summer too.
As an adult, I am still driven by some curiosity and definitely by the reward and so I constantly push myself to learn because while it helps me to understand the world and others so that I can make life better.
As an adult, learning isn’t just about gathering information, it is about the world around me better.
Learning isn’t just for kids in school, but the way we learn as adults is not the same as the way kids do.
I think of it like this- as adults- we’ve heard it all... there really isn’t much that is new under the sun. Sure, we know, but as Dennis pointed out, “Why do I need to learn this”, is actually the question that drives adult learning.
According to Malcolm Knowles, who made popular the Andragogy theory (or Adult Learning theory) as many refer to it:
The biggest difference between how we learn as kids and how we learn as adults, is that as adults, the process for how we learn is more important than the content.
For example, my husband and I have taken on a few remodeling projects at home during the pandemic. And let me tell you, there is a reason we have a rule that anything said during construction projects, are not to be held against one another after 12 hours. Probably a key reason we are still married.
The latest project is remodeling the bathroom closest to my office. He gutted the whole room, re-wired it, drywalled, and then I painted everything and tiled the floor.
When we would get stuck, we watched YouTube how-to videos, make a trip to the hardware store, and tackle the next obstacle.
And more than a few times, we couldn’t figure it out through YouTube or based on something we have done before. So we had to call in expert help to show us how.
Which is why our cousins Dennis and Cindy are here helping my hubby to solder heating pipes, replace the washing machine hookups and move the plumbing traps for the new vanity and sink to fit.
Now, I don’t know what any of that means, and I don’t feel the need to, because I am not the one doing it. But I am really good at holding pipes and lights so they can.
So how does this apply to how you learn, or how you train your teams? There are 6 parts to the Adult Learning Theory model here is how you can apply 3 of them to your own learning, or the program for your teams:
First, you have to answer 'the Dennis' question, “Why do you need to know this stuff?”
You must identify why what you are learning is important. How does it get to your goals, or help you accomplish something right now?
For hubby and me, we need to get the new bathroom done because we can finally have people over and they need a place to go! Until the new pipes get moved, we can’t move forward to the next stage of the process to get this done.
As a business owner or seller ask yourself, how can you apply what you are learning right now to getting your next customer or client?
As a sales manager, leader, or trainer, how does what you are asking your team to learn to relate to their day-to-day job? How is that important to the overall company direction, next stage of growth, and their own personal goals?
Learning something new is tough, and stressful at times, you may need that reminder to stick through the mistakes that are sure to be made. I can’t even tell you how many times we have gotten the wrong tool, part, or messed up something we had to do over in the bathroom.
No, really- don’t ask me...
But we couldn’t just give up, And neither can you.
This must get done.
The next important aspect to learning as an adult is to focus on the problem, not the content.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves with so many sales onboarding programs. They start with the content on the product and the sales process, and not on the problem sellers need to be addressing and solving with buyers. What happens is like the argument I got into with hubby when he kept telling me “I’m not a plumber you know! I don’t know how to do this!”
Ever heard something like that from one of your team members?
Now, one thing you need to know is that my husband loves to brew beer. And he has watched more hours of YouTube videos on how to cut copper and solder pipes to create his “rig” which he has taken apart and rebuilt at least 3 times.
In my mind, “How is that any different from the pipes and soldering in plumbing?”. You know what you need to do, just do it!
Turns out, there is a big difference.
While the content seemed to relate and be transferable to me, the person who was not doing the job, it wasn’t to my hubby who had to do the job.
That is why your training programs should not be focused on content alone, but rather on its practical uses to solve a specific problem. What do they need to know to fix it? Because that, and only that, is what is important to them.
To tie the content to the problem at hand, a regular cadence of practice and coaching is key. My husband’s cousin came this weekend to walk him through each of the steps, doing it with him, having him do it, so now he can take new knowledge and transfer it to practice application with the immediate task at hand
If you don’t have a coach, then ask yourself, “How am I going to apply this? Where? With who? How will I practice it and what feedback do I need to seek to improve?”.
And low and behold, while his cousin was here, I didn’t have to remind hubby of our deadline to get this done, he got up ready to learn and do it. Because he wanted to get this bathroom done too!
And that is the third aspect to adult learning:
We have to be ready to learn.
And when you tie what you are learning to something that solves an immediate problem you are more motivated to learn and apply it.
Now there are 6 different aspects to the Adult Learning Model, and there are several other learning models and styles we use as adults.
That is why I hope you will join me for the next episode of What Sales Can Learn. My new friend Rogers Turner who wrote his thesis paper on Malcolm Knowles and the adult learning theory.
He is going to share some insights and tips on what his research said about how to make training stick and transform business outcomes as a result. Check out the button below to watch the on-demand session.
What do you struggle with as an adult learner or a teacher of adults? What did you learn recently, and what was key for it to stick for you?
Until next time!