Do you learn more from being told how to do something, or being told how NOT to do it?  There’s a nice question to ponder, about which my training professional readers could no doubt debate for hours.

This was not me.

I think most people intuitively go about helping others to learn by showing them how to do it.  It’s the way we learnt when we were toddlers – Mum showing you how to read and so on.  Imagine trying to show a child how to ride a bike, by demonstrating going too fast downhill, ramming on the brakes so hard you go flying over the handlebars, cycling the wrong way round the roundabout and so on.  A hazardous experience for the instructor, that’s for sure.

As someone who earns a living out of training people in effective behaviour, 95% of the time I attempt to model best practice, and have people observe and learn from what works (most usually by watching each other and sharing good experiences).

The trouble with this approach, it seems to me, is that the assumption is that I know what the best way is.  If I am explaining how to push for a better price when they negotiate, the unspoken agreement between me and the learner is that I am modelling good practice.  That’s quite a big assumption, and it puts me unwittingly in the role of ‘expert’ (not a role I take to that comfortably, generally speaking).

I wonder whether doing it the other way –  pointing out what doesn’t work – might be more effective and indeed appropriate?  Using this approach the learner can work out for themselves what might be the right way to do it.  This requires them to think harder, be more active in the learning, whilst at the same time reducing the pressure on me to deliver.  That sounds like a few good reasons to do it more often.

Which leads me neatly into the latest in a bunch of “How not to” videos I filmed recently with my old nutter friend Spencer Holmes.  It’s on the old chestnut of the annual appraisal, and we use the How not To approach again to get people to work out how to do it right.  It’s completely improvised and filmed in one unedited take, so we must be drawing on some deep personal experiences to pull out so many errors!   We reckon there are 23 major gaffes perpetrated by the Dysfunctional Appraiser, many of which you may have been personally exposed to at times over the years.  If you want to know what we think they are, let me know via the Comment box.


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