Picture this. You and some friends are at a park with a large pond. You let your dog, who loves to swim, off of his leash. He immediately runs to the water and starts swimming, fetching sticks, and enjoying the deep grass around the edges of the pond. After some time, you call for him and he obediently returns to you. We all know what happens next – he shakes water all over you and your companions, leaving everyone wet and frustrated.
From my experience, the dog’s behavior is prevalent in many organizations. People attend workshops, conferences, seminars and other training events only to return to their offices and, because they are excited about what they learned, begin shaking ideas off on everyone. They often don’t care whether the sharing is useful, appropriate, or informative in the context of the situation. They simply shake ideas on others. In the end, nothing sticks. Colleagues are frustrated and learning is quickly lost as it is shaken here and there with little or no noticeable results.
In contrast to the dog, the camel treats water as a precious resource. While the dog scatters water about, the camel puts it to good use sustaining himself for long periods of time and drawing on reserves to accomplish his purpose. The camel understands and values waters and chooses how best to employ it.
Do you want to behave like a camel? Here are actions you can take before, during, and after your next learning event:
Take 10 minutes to define your expectations. Answer the question, “What do I hope to better understand and/or be able to do?” By doing this, you will prepare yourself for the learning event and ensure that you enter the room with a clear understanding of what YOU expect to get from YOUR investment.
Find an accountability partner and commit to meeting periodically to discuss your progress implementing what was learned. Research has shown that the chances of a new behavior being incorporated into one’s life increases significantly when the individual commits to someone else that she or he will do something because of what was learned and then sets a specific future time to share progress with the other person.
Track your progress by creating a personal tracking tool that is easy to understand and update. Many nutritionists suggest that if you want to lose weight, one of the first steps is to keep a food journal to track everything you consume. Seeing daily food intake in writing is a very compelling way to tell if you are on track to meet your goals. The same concept applies when it comes to applying new learning. So, take time to track what you apply and the results you achieve.
If you do these three things, you will be well on your way to achieving camel-like status.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.