Can you learn “people skills” in the same way you learn to swim, or to play an instrument?
As a trainer, I dream of creating something like the Swimsmooth Guru.
Just keep turning up to the pool twice a week, follow the session plans provided, and you’ll become a better, faster swimmer. I achieved an unbelievable 8 min 16 sec 400m this week. The Guru is an awesome piece of work, reducing a complicated process to a simple, step-by-step formula. And it works.
A big question in my mind at the moment, though, is whether the kind of things I teach can fit this pattern.
We can start with someone’s decent model of the thing to be taught, which will make the complex fairly simple. For example, if I’m teaching people to run an online community, I can use the models in Richard Millington’s Buzzing Communities. “If your community is at this stage in its lifecycle, do this.”
If I’m teaching Clean Language, I can teach the questions, how to spot metaphors and so on, based on models from Penny Tompkins and James Lawley.
But in both cases, students’ results tend to vary! It’s not enough just to learn to do the stuff in a workshop: it’s not until the rubber hits the road and you are out there in the real world, dealing with real people, that the real learning starts.
It’s essential to get wet to learn to swim, so that you get real feedback. It’s by doing it that you discover what makes you sink, what makes you go faster, what makes you more or less tired and so on.
So, in my online classes, whether recorded or live, I insist that students must practice with real humans in between classes. When they do, it massively increases their learning. I notice that several of my “best” students are musicians: my suspicion is that they’ve internalised the idea that continual practice is essential when learning a new skill.
And… swimming pools the world over fit a fairly standard format, while human beings are all different. That’s what makes the whole thing interesting.
Is it reasonable to put together a set of training drills and expect people to follow them? Do other people-skills trainers do this, and with what degree of success?
I’d love to hear your ideas – please comment below.