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Can Online Training Be Better?

I have to admit, I like delivering online training classes. I don’t have to “dress for success” (or at least not in the same way) and my commute is very easy. I get to teach from the convenience of my home where I have everything I need at my fingertips. My “assistant,” aka Calvin the wonderful wiener dog, appreciates being able to hang out with me while I teach, too.

I know that people will debate whether online training classes are better or worse than in-person classes. I would contend that poor content and training delivery is bad for learners, regardless where it originates, in a classroom or online. Nevertheless, online training requires the presenter to adapt content and change delivery for the online platform. In person, the trainer can gauge the reaction of the people in the classroom and change delivery or content accordingly. When online, the trainer relies on beefed up participation to get real time feedback. Sometimes this goes awry.

Online training has its benefits though. Both the trainer and participants can be anywhere. This broadens the scope of the trainer’s reach and delivers content to people who might not usually have access to that trainer or topic. Most online platforms are easy to access, depending on internet connection, of course. As a trainer, becoming familiar with various platforms and managing the content and delivery with them necessitates a learning curve. Once you’re familiar enough with a platform, you’ll waste less time trying to figure out what to do and more time actually delivering content.

With a broad reach comes the opportunity for participants to network with people outside their usual circle. I know some trainers who actively discourage participants from using the chat or questions functions to communicate with others. I’m not so concerned with that. I see the chat or questions boxes as opportunities to get to know other participants and engage with them. Most platforms will let you save the chat to your computer. That way, you can refer back to it and connect with other participants outside the formal training session.

This leads me to one of the biggest issues I see with trainers presenting online classes. It’s true that participants can engage with each other even if they aren’t in the same room; however, we must be intentional in creating communities of learning when online. This doesn’t come as easily as when you’re in person in a classroom. There is no natural inclination to talk to other people or exchange ideas when you’re attending an online class. The trainer and the students must make an effort to foster community and participate. From the trainer’s perspective, this can be something as simple as asking people to contribute their name and location in the chat box or more complex such as using breakout rooms with small group exercises. The trainer holds the key to unlocking the door to creating community online.

As we wander back to classroom training, will learners follow? The convenience of online training will continue to appeal to people who may not be able or are just unwilling to travel to an in-person class. The trainer who wants to broaden his/her reach beyond a local geography will continue to embrace and utilize the online space. I can see a move toward more “blended learning” approaches that use online training for the knowledge base and in-person workshops for the application of what was learned online. This type of online training could be static, on-demand courses or live instruction.

This still begs the question: When there’s a choice, will people continue to attend online classes? I think so. Online training existed prior to the pandemic, and it will continue to thrive. The difference going forward is the commitment trainers have to improving the online class. Its ease of use and the familiarity we’ve gained over time will make online training a viable alternative to traditional, in-person classroom sessions.

The Blank Page

I sat down today for the first time in 10 days to write in my journal. What used to be a firm morning routine of reading and writing with my cup of coffee before the newspaper and radio invaded my brain was swept aside by “stay at home” orders and “social distancing.” My routine had a rhythm of getting up at a certain time based on when my spouse went to work. Now he’s home all day. The routine got disrupted and I let the upheaval continue too long.

In much the same way, my training schedule and opportunities have been disrupted. I can’t count on in-person training to fill my schedule. Instead, my classes have moved to online offerings. There are always the basics to teach; however, in exceptional times, we trainers need to have exceptional content that speaks to our students now. I have to ask myself: What do real estate agents want to learn, and what do they need to learn now.

When the world changes daily (or hourly), it’s hard to tell people to do something when the result may not be allowed or applicable in just a short time. The uncertainty surrounding us all creates doubts about what we can teach people. Will it still be true in two or three weeks? Who will this resonate with if . . . ?

I work in the real estate business. I train people to be better, more productive real estate agents. Here’s what I know to be true: real estate agents are relatable people. They want to help people and grow their businesses. Consumers look to them for advice and assistance. Agents form close personal relationships with people as they walk through the buying or selling process. This is something the big real estate search engines can’t do, despite their presence in the market. Training should reflect what agents need to know to reach consumers and prove their value proposition.

There’s little or no opportunity for influencing people in person right now. We must provide training online. This scares some trainers, I’m sure, but it’s time to learn the tools if you haven’t already. There are different ways to conduct training virtually. In addition to Learning Management Systems that provide on demand training, we can conduct live webinars and even utilize Facebook or YouTube live to engage our followers on social channels. We can create training content such as video quick tips. These static videos become “evergreen” content online that we can continue to use in the future.

Beyond these somewhat traditional means of training virtually, we can reach out to students via phone, text, and email with “micro-learning” opportunities. If you utilize a platform that gives you the ability to send mass emails or text messages, you can send a group of people a mini lesson with a short assignment. Have participants upload their completed assignment or results to a closed Facebook group to create conversation and the ability for you to give feedback.

The opportunities are there and depend only on your willingness to be creative with training now. You may need to create new content for delivery through different means than you have in the past. You may need to learn something new yourself to be able to deliver training in a new way. Keep moving forward with your ideas and plans despite the temptation to throw your hands up and give in to the disruption. Your people need you.

Fill up the blank page.

You Are What You Learn

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Winston Churchill

Once upon a time, I thought that my students were like empty vessels, waiting for me to pour needed information into them. When they were full of whatever I poured into them, they would be able to do something, speak intelligently, or act upon the information. I was new to teaching adults, just able to drink legally myself, and scared out of my mind that I would say or do something wrong in front of my class. Many of my students were older than I.

My favorite classroom activities involved drills and simple games. I honestly didn’t know any better, and this is what I was taught to do with the students. They were learning a foreign language and needed the repetition. Never mind no one understood how to use what they were saying. That would be a lesson for a different day, in a different class. So, I kept repeating the verb conjugations and sentence structure. They did learn something, I’m sure. My students tested highest on the department exams. I knew what to teach them.

Fast forward several years to a different place and a different subject. There is nothing to drill these students on. They are more skeptical about the validity of what I’m presenting than those students learning a foreign language. I had to find new techniques and skills to reach these students. I had to understand that they do not always like being taught. For this group, learning how to must lead to application.

It makes sense to me that I have evolved in my teaching as I’ve grown older and observed how others teach. I couldn’t depend on the way I was teaching people over time. I had to accept that my students are not in class for me to fill them up with information that they should process on their own, outside of class. What I teach needs to be relevant and compelling. They want to learn, but they don’t like being taught.

This might seem evident, but I know instructors and trainers who are still simply lecturing to students and don’t seem to care whether what they say resonates with the them. They read slides from a PowerPoint presentation, droning on about whatever with little regard for the learners they are charged with teaching. If adult students and professionals are constantly told they know less than they thought they did, they will not respond to the message. Eventually the only people left in these classes will be the instructors and the few people who absolutely need to take the class on that day at that time. Adults vote with their feet.

LearningI choose to focus on application of skills and ideas. We discuss, we practice, we wrestle with the topic until we (notice it’s not or they) work together to learn and become better at what we do. Each time I step in front of a group of people with the charge to teach or train, I need to be better at what I do than the last time. This is how I approach the privilege of being a trainer. I help people achieve something they want or need through my instruction.

I am most certainly a different teacher/trainer today than I was at the start of my career. I believe this is due to one small question that I ask myself when I get ready to teach: Why is this important? More specifically: Why is this topic/skill/tool important for the students in my class today? If I can answer that question, then I know that I can confidently stand in front of the group and lead them through the syllabus for that session. Asking the question does not absolve me from presenting the material in an entertaining and relevant manner. It does not mean I can just tell stories or read from PowerPoint slides. I have to engage my learners.

My students may be ready to learn, but they don’t like to be taught.

Tips for a Memorable Webinar

Whatever you want to learn, there’s probably a webinar being held to teach you or present an update. A webinar is a cross between a live, in-person class and online learning. You watch the webinar in real time, but you’re not in the same room as the presenter. You most likely can’t talk to the presenter although you can ask questions through a chat or Q & A function on the webinar platform.

What webinars make up for in convenience for the viewer they typically loose by a lack of interactivity or feedback. This, of course, depends on the webinar presenter and how willing the presenter is to use certain techniques for a more enjoyable and memorable webinar experience. Here are some tips I have learned and utilize to create webinars that are positive learning opportunities for the participants.

  • Customize the registration: Most webinar platforms (I use Zoom, but this is also true of GoToWebinar) give you the ability to customize the registration page, if not the entire presentation. Take advantage of this to give people an idea of what you’ll present and how you’ll deliver. This could be anything from color scheme to description and even the information you request from the registrant. If you can ask questions beyond name and email address, use this to determine participants’ experience with the topic or what they hope to learn on the webinar.
  • Tell people to register even if they can’t attend: You want people to attend the live webinar, but if they have a conflict at that time, you still want to get the information to them. If you encourage people to register even if they can’t attend, you will capture their information and be able to distribute the recording after the webinar has been completed. You can stay in touch with them and invite them to a future webinar.
  • Add handouts: Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can’t give people something to hold onto or take away from the webinar to refer to. Handouts typically can be shared during a webinar through the platform. Participants can be prompted to download the handout at the appropriate time during the webinar and asked to refer to it later as well. If you use slides during the webinar that contain a great deal of information, give participants the ability to download a PDF copy of the deck for future reference. If you’re an independent trainer, you can use the handouts as a way to give participants your contact information and a call to action.
  • Use polls: Because the webinar is a one-to-many form of delivering content, the presenter has to work to encourage interaction. Polls are a great way to get feedback or information from participants. You can gauge whether participants are paying attention or checking their email by the number of responses and how long it takes for people to register their responses. If you are encouraging adoption of a tool or process, Polls double as a way to determine whether participants are on board.
  • Have everything open and ready to go: Close any programs on your computer that you do not need, especially email if you have desktop notifications enabled. If you are using web-based tools during the webinar, be sure to close other websites and browsers to avoid a drag on bandwidth during the webinar. Have your presentation open and in slideshow mode. You can then use the webinar platform’s menu to switch between your open documents or websites during the webinar and avoid having to minimize documents or switch between browsers. This makes for a smoother viewer experience.
  • Use a headset and test your audio: You will have more control over the sound of your voice with a headset. If you tend to move your head or use your hands as you talk, a headset will follow your mouth and you won’t risk toppling a microphone on the desk. If you have a multi-directional desktop microphone and are used to using it, by all means use it. I prefer a headset because I don’t have to worry about where the microphone is during the webinar. Test the audio before you begin the broadcast to be sure the webinar platform is picking up your voice adequately. You can also ask participants at the beginning of the webinar if they can hear you and see your screen.
  • Record the webinar: Recording your webinar serves two purposes. You can review your webinar performance and use what you discover to improve on future webinar presentations. I discovered that my gaps in presentation were disturbing (too many ummms and ahhhhhs!). I worked on making my presentation more succinct and cohesive after reviewing the recording. You can usually share the recording easily through the platform with participants and absentees for their review after the live webinar. This gives them the ability to go back over the material when they most need it.
  • Have someone monitor the webinar for questions or chat: If possible, it’s nice to have an assistant checking for questions during the webinar and posing them to you as you present. Otherwise, you must keep an eye on your chat or questions boxes to address questions during the broadcast. If you don’t have someone to assist you, notify participants that you’ll address questions at certain times during the webinar. I often answer questions at the end of the webinar for the participants only. I turn off the recording and make this personalized attention a bonus of having attended the webinar live.
  • Include the recording in the follow-up e-mail: This goes with the previous point about recording the webinar. Distribute the recording through the platform. Most webinar platforms give you the ability to create a link for the recording and include the link in your follow-up email. You will want to do this instead of attaching a recording to an email (usually not possible due to the size of the recording) or posting it on YouTube or some other video sharing platform. Why? Webinar platforms are set up to register when someone views the recording after the webinar. You can see who viewed the video and when. If you’re asked to provide this kind of information, you’ll have it at your fingertips. You may decide to post the video to YouTube, for example, but wait until a few days after the webinar to encourage initial viewing through the webinar platform.
  • Use the survey function: If there is a built-in survey function in your webinar platform, use it to launch a survey upon completion of the live webinar. This is a quick way to get feedback from participants. If the webinar platform allows for integration with a survey external survey, you can make more detailed surveys to judge participants’ retention of the material presented. Use this information to tailor the next presentation on the same subject matter.
  • Get the log: Access and download the webinar log to follow up with questions you didn’t answer during the webinar and to see who attended and for how long. Use the information you get in the log to help you prepare your next webinar.
  • Edit the recording: If you are able, download the recording and edit it before posting to other platforms. You’ll have the ability to delete dead air and take out the ahhs and ummms. If you’re demonstrating a technology tool during the webinar, you can add call-outs, annotations, and pan and zoom on the screen. I like Camtasia for video editing, but there are other options you can use.
  • Practice, practice, practice: It helps to practice before your webinar. Even more important is to practice before your next webinar. Learn from your mistakes and make the next webinar one that will have participants asking for more.

Webinars are a great tool to help people in far-flung places learn the material you want or need to teach. If done well, they can be a learning experience that will motivate participants and get results.

Technology Training Options

My favorite go-to source for “how to” instructions is YouTube. When I need to learn how to do something on my computer, phone, or tablet, I open up YouTube and type “how do I .  . . ” into the search box and at least one of the results usually gives me what I want to know. I can watch a video and dissect the steps needed to perform the action necessary at the time. I’m not the only person who does this, but I do know many whom a video on YouTube does not help. They need something more than watching a video, alone. They need an instructor and a class.

This is where technology training comes into play. There are essentially two ways to deliver technology training: Demonstration or hands-on training. Demonstration classes can be either live, in-person or online, or on-demand. Hands-on training is always live, in-person training. Both have their place, and they each have pros and cons. Let’s look first at demonstration as a means to deliver tech training.

In a demonstration class, the instructor shows the participants a particular work flow or how to accomplish a task. The participants watch the instructor work through the process while the instructor explains each step. There are at least three positive aspects to delivering tech training by demonstration:

  • Low internet need: Because students are not using internet bandwidth for online tools, this type of class can be helpful when the location may be challenged to make enough wifi available for participants. An instructor can run the class using a wifi hotspot, if needed. Sometimes the best laid plans for hands-on training turn into a demonstration class when the wifi won’t support the number of devices being used in class.
  • Quicker: Because the instructor doesn’t need to start and stop to deal with individual hardware or connectivity issues, a demonstration class can be delivered faster than hands-on training. There should always be time for students’ questions as you demonstrate a tool.
  • Create excitement: When participants see what a tool can do for them when used as intended, they become excited about using it themselves. A demonstration class can cause them to try out the tool where if they had tried it themselves with or without hands-on training, they may have become frustrated and tuned out the instruction.

Hands-on training gives participants the ability to become familiar with using the tool. For some learners, “doing it” is the only way to truly learn how to use technology.
The instructor acts as a leader through a process or task; the student mirror the instructor’s actions to learn how to navigate a new tool or process. Positive aspects of hands-on training include:

  • Learning by doing: As much as we’d like to think people can learn by reading or watching instructional materials, some of our participants prefer to learn something by doing it. For these learners, hands-on instruction is their preferred method.
  • Answer questions: As learners work through a process or task, questions arise that may not have occurred to them watching a demonstration. Hands-on classes give them the ability to ask these questions and the instructor the opportunity to answer and reinforce what has already been presented.
  • Corrections: In hands-on training, instructors can address common usage mistakes on the spot. Nobody’s perfect, and often participants make mistakes that become learning opportunities in class. This can lead to less frustration when participants go back to work and begin to use technology tools on the job.
  • Individual help: If you have additional instructors available to roam the room, you’ll have people to address individual needs quickly and with fewer interruptions for the entire group. This gives participants the security to ask what they perceive to be “stupid questions.” If they feel comfortable, they may learn easier.

Both types of training and advantages and disadvantages, so when should you use demonstration or opt for hands-on training?  First, answer a few questions about the intent or purpose of this class:

  • Is this an overview to familiarize people or an opportunity to try out something?
  • Do you expect people to generally understand what to do or be able to perform tasks?
  • What is the method of delivery? (Online, in person, or recorded?) How will people be able to apply learning if they are watching a webinar, for example?
  • Will you be the only instructor available to work with the group?

When you answer these questions, you’ll find that the method of delivery becomes clear. You might also find that you plan for a two-step process where you might introduce the tool in a demonstration class or webinar and then follow up with hands-on training to take participants through the material you presented in the first class. When creating your lesson plans for either type of training, chart the process based on case studies for ease of presentation. Build in time for questions and getting side-tracked (you know it will happen). Encourage participants to get one-on-one assistance after class by scheduling the time and publishing that you (or another instructor) will be available for personalized help.

Be prepared for class with job aids. You might create printed materials with screenshots and step-by-step instructions. You could use infographics to illustrate the steps needed to work with a tool or perform an action. Perhaps you have created or have access to videos that participants can refer to after class. A web page with links to resources could be part of a follow-up email after the class.

Technology training doesn’t just “happen.” It takes time and consideration to put together the appropriate approach to the material and plan how learners will be introduced to it. Moreover, you will want to place technology training in a larger context of your training program. How will it fit in? How does learning technology tools help people do their jobs? Then, consider how you want to present the material and what will be the next steps when you determine whether to use a demonstration class or hands-on training for technology tools.

What’s So Funny?

Professors who used corny jokes in my college days were considered at best quirky and most often just plain silly. We rolled our eyes at the jokes and thought they were crazy. They got me to pay attention, though, and herein lies the wonder of humor in the classroom: People are more likely to sit up and listen to what you’re saying if they like you or at least chuckle at your silly jokes. Humor enhances learning, especially when the humor is perceived to be relevant to the lesson being presented.

There have been many studies done on this topic. Some of them are anecdotal (this is what people told me) and some are more analytical (results of questionnaires or surveys). The basic question the studies seek to answer is: Why does humor help people learn? The consensus seems be that humor, when used appropriately, can have several benefits from helping students retain information to an increase in interest in learning and a decrease in anxiety and stress when dealing with difficult material.

One interesting study looked at the pros and cons of using humor in college classrooms. It became clear to the author from the answers to survey questions collected that humor done well improves students’ learning, retention, and attitudes toward the subject matter being taught. Humor that falls flat or is even inappropriate lessens the likelihood that students will understand the material or pay attention. Humor, when done well, is a positive reinforcement of the subject matter being taught and a way for instructors to help students learn.

How can you use humor with adult learners? It doesn’t really matter if you’re a naturally funny person or not. What counts is appropriate and relevant uses of humor in the learning environment. Humor that makes people uncomfortable or isn’t germane to the subject will fall flat (or even cause students to reject the instructor), but a well-timed joke or story that relates to the material being presented can solidify the point you’re attempting to make. To do this well takes a little practice and a good supply of stories and jokes.

I keep a list of stories and jokes to use in the classroom. For any particular topic, I can usually find something on my list that will help me warm up a classroom or drive my point home. If people truly learn well when you use humor in your lesson, then it makes sense to work this into your lesson. And, if using humor gets you invited back to present again, why not? At the very least, if you can’t be funny, be fun. Laugh at yourself if you make a mistake!

If you are going to used well-timed jokes or stories in a presentation, practice enough to make them succinct and natural. Try out new ideas on colleagues or friends first if you’re in doubt about how something might work in a presentation. If a joke or story falls flat, try to figure out why and don’t use it again in a classroom until you have determined whether it was your delivery or the topic that didn’t work well. Avoid singling out students and centering the joke or story on one person. If you make a reference, be sure it’s something most people will understand (TV references from your childhood may not work!). It’s important to focus on both your delivery and the relevance of the humor you’re using.

Humor can be a wonderful tool in your training/teaching repertoire. Use it well and wisely to help your students like and trust you, understand the material better, and leave the class wanting to come back for more.

 

Playing in Class: Role Play in Training

What’s so bad about role playing? If you ask a group of adults to find a partner and role play a situation, they will most likely balk at the task. People shift in their places and look uncomfortable. There is deadly silence. Then there’s usually someone who has to return an “urgent” call or use the rest room. Suddenly everyone has something better to do than role play.

We don’t like being uncomfortable, and role playing puts us in a place we’re not used to. We’re not accustomed to pretend play as adults. In fact, we’re not used to playing at much in our business lives. It’s all so earnest and serious. Asking an adult to role play a situation is about as foreign to them as asking them to sing or recite a poem in front of their peers. (Except for those who are singers or actors!)

Role play has its place in training though, and especially in sales training. It’s one way an instructor can evaluate whether the learners have understood the material that was presented. By having learners engage in applying what’s been taught, the learner can begin to internalize the words and use and evaluate facial expressions and body language. Also, it’s nice to practice on someone who is not a client or prospective client!

So how do you get people to agree to role playing? Or perhaps more importantly: How do you get your learners to engage in role play? I believe there are five points to consider and implement for a successful in-class role playing exercise:

  • No pressure Participants need to understand that this is practice and anything can (and does) happen. There is no expectation of perfection. All they need to do is try.
  • Clear instructions Make it easy to understand what participants need to do. Break it down into bite-sized chunks.
  • Keep it short and simple No role play should go on and on. Very few people can remember what to say beyond a few questions or topics. The role play should focus on a discreet topic or line of questioning and be short enough that participants can change partners once or twice during the role playing exercise.
  • Sample script Have a sample script available either on a screen or in print that participants can refer to. Let them take the script with them or reference it as they practice with different partners in the class. No one needs to memorize a script to be able to role play. In fact, emphasize that participants should use their own words during the role play. This encourages them to adapt language so that they don’t sound “scripted” when talking to a prospect or client.
  • Self-evaluation Let participants evaluate their performance. Alternatively, have the partners in the role play give their evaluation. This should be as objective as possible. The instructor should not ask for these evaluations. They stay with the participants who know instinctively and immediately what they need to do to improve.

What do you do as the instructor through all the mayhem caused in a full classroom by role-playing participants? Wander around. Listen in to the conversations. If something is challenging all of the participants, you may wish to stop everyone to mention it. If things are going fairly well, let them continue. You may need to prompt students to move to another partner to practice again. Determine before you start how long you want the role playing to go on and end it promptly. Participants should have had the opportunity to role play with at least one partner, if not two.

Role playing can be an effective option in the trainer’s tool box to help learners understand how to communicate particular ideas, ask questions of prospects, gain appointments, and present information. By using role playing intentionally, keeping it short and to the point, and letting learners evaluate their performances, you’ll find that people don’t run for the door when you announce that “now we’re going to role play.”

New Year – New Business

The beginning of a new year is traditionally the time when we create new goals to attain during the year. It’s a clean slate where anything we want can happen. These may be personal goals or they might be business goals, depending on your situation. I set very different goals for 2020 than I have in the past.

My new year began with a renewal of sorts and a big change. For over eight years, I’ve served in the corporate training department of a large, independent real estate company. Most recently, I was the Director of Training and Professional Development. I’ve taught new and existing agents sales and technology skills. I’ve managed the budget, engaged outside trainers, produced a company convention, and handled a myriad of administrative duties. Over the course of the last year, I decided to leave this position and strike out on my own as an independent trainer. I began 2020 as a trainer for the Floyd Wickman Team, resolved to create my professional world according to my goals.

I have been trained to be able to present the Floyd Wickman Program to real estate agents across the United States. Unlike my past role, my ability to train agents will depend on connecting with like-minded brokerages that see the value of spaced training for real estate agents that focusses on creating a repeat and referral business. In other words, I have to work for the opportunity to present the program.

I believe strongly in the power of the Program. I have seen many agents participate and become stronger and more confident in their abilities as real estate agents. Agents who take the Program average one transaction (one listing, one sale, or one listing sold) per person, per week with more production coming after the Program ends. Most agents who take the Program are in the bottom 50% of their brokerages in terms of production. Most can really use this kind of production!

But why such an abrupt change in professional direction? I saw my training become perfunctory and routine. The minutiae of running a training department began to weigh more heavily on me each day. I have found that I am happiest when I am in front of a group of people, speaking, training, teaching, and motivating them to be better. Ultimately, I want to be able to affect lasting change in the people I train. Independence gives me the opportunity to focus on the aspects of training I can use to do this.

I decided to maintain my certification as a Realtors Property Resource trainer and to market my services as a continuing education instructor for real estate also. Being able to teach multiple topics gives me the flexibility to offer different kinds of classes for different purposes.

I am not the first nor the last person to leave a corporate job in hopes of creating a sustainable business as an independent trainer. I know that much of my success will depend on my ability (and tenacity) to find people who are willing to let me teach their people. It is a privilege to stand in front of a group of real estate agents and help them achieve their goals. In return, I am able to achieve mine. For that, I am profoundly grateful.

Perfection Paralysis

“Practice makes Perfect.”

“If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

These were two of my mother’s favorite sayings. The first one appeared when I didn’t want to practice for my piano lessons. I knew I was a decent piano player, but I was never going to be “perfect.” My ten-year-old brain’s reasoning surmised: “So why spend all that time practicing?”

The second of my mother’s favorite sayings could be heard when her children were saying nasty things to one another. At that tender age, I heard it to also mean that if you did’t pick your words well and couldn’t speak eloquently, be quiet.

Fast forward a few years. With maturity comes insight. I realized at some point that practice has benefits other than perfection. In fact, the saying should read: “Practice make competent.”

When we teach others a functional skill, we are working to get them to a level of competency so they can perform a task. We expect correctness, not perfection.

Much of training in a business consists of teaching people how to do something. If we force the issue that an employee or associate needs to do something error-free, we end up with frustration and disappointment. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

This is not to say that compliance training is unimportant or can be glossed over. When we teach for compliance, we expect associates to leave training with the tools they need to do their jobs competently and in compliance with the law. Perfection is not the issue here. Associates must understand and be aware of their words and actions.

We train people to lead in the organization by communicating effectively and being good listeners. No one is served if everyone keeps their ideas to themselves and does not express thoughts and opinions. Many of us have experienced the leader who shuts down associates in meetings in favor of his or her ideas. Done frequently enough, this results in associates not saying anything at all for fear of saying something wrong.

Self-censorship puts a stop to advancing the organization. What happens is that the lack of different viewpoints or ideas leads to staleness. Diversity of opinion offers fresh looks at a situation or problem. Everyone benefits when associates are encouraged to offer their ideas and solutions.

What can trainers do? Create a climate where people accept their mistakes and share ideas. Encourage differing viewpoints. Promote and listen to discussions. Help associates understand how they can better themselves. Embrace diversity. If we insist on perfection in actions and words in the workplace, we’ll experience a paralyzed workforce with little impetus to move forward in their work.

Perfectionism stops a lot of creativity.