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  • Writer's pictureIra Ketkin

The right way to choose learners for a development programme

A big part of my 2019 was occupied by a development programme for first-time managers. And it has been one of the most taxing, rewarding and humbling experiences of my life. There were many lessons learned along the way. And today I want to share one of those lessons.

Let's begin at the start. One of the biggest mistake done (and one, unfortunately, I couldn't influence) was the selection of the people to participate in this programme.

When it comes to selecting people for a programme, there are roughly 2 ways to approach it - push and pull. In the push approach, you tell people that they will participate in a certain programme and that's that. In a pull approach, you announce the programme and then let people sign up for it, if they want.

By now, you are probably thinking that the push approach is wrong and should never be used. But you would be wrong. There are times when you should use the push approach. One such example are all sorts of compliance trainings that are mandatory. Imagine working as an operations manager at a factory and not knowing what are the industry-specific standards of the production. Or a legal council who doesn't know the applicable law. In this cases you should absolutely push people to take this type of training.

However, when it comes to a management programme and one that will require a significant amount of your time and efforts, not to mention your manager's involvement, it's better to use a pull approach.

So, you can probably see what was the mistake that was done - using the push approach to participant selection. The reason I couldn't influence this decision was because I wasn't involved in the selection process. But that is beside the point.

The outcome was that there were several people who:

  • didn't understand why they were participating

  • were already managers and thought they were too good for the programme

  • didn't think there is anything new they can learn

  • thought the programme was a waste of their time

As you'd imagine, working with these people is incredibly hard. Just like working with anyone who doesn't want to learn in general. But there was one more downside to this - some of these people would influence others, who were genuinely curious about the programme and wanted to learn. On top of it, they would question everything being done and they would consider the programme as something that is "being done to them".

The good news is that this gaff self-regulated in the course of the programme. Eventually, all of the people who didn't want to be there left the programme, leaving only those who were sincerely interested in their development. I call this the development natural selection. What's interesting is that these people's career development stalled as a result. Where before great things were expected of them, management became content with their capabilities.

If there is one thing I hope you learned from my experience is that you should only use the approach to selecting participants which is most appropriate - push for compliance, pull for growth.

Until next time!




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