Many moons ago, back when I was a PR executive I was very fortunate to be employed by an organisation that invested heavily in staff development. Not only did we have a monthly allowance which we could spend on anything that would help us in our jobs – be that a Swiss ball to sit on, a trip to a gallery to be inspired or, in my case, money towards my MBA  – we were also signed up to a multitude of innovative and exciting executive development courses.

However, these were compulsory.

Therein lies the first problem.

I remember my heart sinking when we were told we were off to ‘funny camp’ – a workshop hosted by a professional comic, who would help us to bring humour to our pitches. Yes, it was as awful as it sounded. I hated every minute. Standing alone on a massive stage with a spotlight glaring down on me and all of my mainly junior colleagues staring up at me whilst I tried to think of anything even remotely funny. As a result of the three hours of torture I am certainly no funnier. And in fact if anything I think it actually traumatised me a little bit and damaged my presentation skills.

That was lesson one learnt. Don’t force your team to do things they aren’t comfortable doing – no matter how beneficial you think they might be.

But lesson two for me was in the actual embedding of the learning. Even if I had enjoyed my stint at stand up (and to be fair, many of my colleagues did) how was I to embed the learning? At the end of our session we were packed off with a cheery wave – there was no instruction manual to help us actually BE funnier in a presentation, or in fact useful things like how and when to use humour to defuse a potentially awkward situation. That would have been incredibly beneficial… and something that I would have called on a lot throughout my career.

So I guess the moral of my story is when thinking about skills and career development for yourself or your teams, don’t be afraid to fully investigate the learning outcomes and how these will be embedded in the day job. For instance on some of the courses we offer we include mentoring sessions 3,6 and 9 months after the training to talk about how the learning has been used and to share best practice meaning that the life of the training lives on.

I’d love to hear of any other techniques people are using so please feel free to comment!


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