Training: Lessons from a Teenage Driver

car-wheel

My oldest daughter is 16 and she just got her permit to learn to drive. Yes, it’s been two days and we’ve already had some white-knuckle moments, but the paint is still intact! Learning to drive is not quite the same for her as it was for me. I grew up on a farm and was driving everything long before I got my license. She hasn’t had anywhere near as much driving experience, just riding mowers, go-carts, and an occasional ATV.

This experience got me to thinking about training. I’ve had my license for almost 30 years so I’m a relatively “expert” driver, she’s a beginner. There’s a lot involved in driving that I can do automatically, my mind and body are highly trained to drive. For example, think about pulling up to a simple, 4-way stop sign, and making a left turn. I don’t “think” about putting on the turn signal or applying the brake for a smooth stop, I just do those tasks automatically using muscle memory. I’m “thinking” about looking out for other drivers and probably some other topic totally other than driving.

In contrast, my daughter has to “think” hard about letting off the gas at the right time, applying the brake without slamming on it, steering the car, flipping the turn signal the right way (oops, accidentally turned on the windshield wipers…!). After all that she has to think about looking for other cars and wondering what her nervous dad is thinking over in that passenger seat! Driving is overwhelming for her, it takes so much mental processing because so many new and unfamiliar things are happening at once!

This situation is not unique to driving. Every time you train a new employee to do a taskĀ  you know well, you are the expert and they are the beginner. Probably 70% or more of the task you do pretty much automatically without “thinking” much about it. They can’t do that, they have to “think” hard about every step. For them it’s overwhelming, for you it’s going painfully slow!

Training is a special and important time, it helps a new person to get started right. If you are the trainer you need to take these steps:

  1. Remember to slow down! Everyone learns at a different pace but it’s always going to seem slow when you are an expert.
  2. Set aside time without distractions to train. If you’re constantly interrupted you will lose focus and shortchange the learner. It also sends a message to the learner that his/her training isn’t that important to you.
  3. Break the task down into its step by step components. Don’t leave out steps that are automatic for you.
  4. Use Tell-Show-Do-Review. Tell the learner how to do the task, show them how, let them try it, then give them feedback on how they did.
  5. Encourage learners by praising and reinforcing the things they did well.

I added some training resources to www.agworkforcedevelopment.com. Remember to like and share my posts. Thanks for your support!

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