Avoiding a Zombie Workshop Experience: Here's what high-achievers do to gain more value from their learning & development experience.

By Michael Costello – Chartered Psychologist & Director of Workplace Evolution. Michael shares what he believes high-achievers do to ensure they achieve maximum return on investment of their time engaging with learning and development activity.

After 20 years of training thousands of delegates to reach their potential and being on an endless quest to find the perfect model, theory or concept I finally realised something; something blindingly obvious but often over-looked. You can be a zombie in the workshop if you want to be!

The Pre-Work Tasks For The Workshop we A Little Daunting

If you are struggling with workload, question the value of personal development, are glued to your phone, or petrified of stepping into the workshop environment - it is understandable that you might not be present and engaged with the content of the day. Training companies will explore the client’s learning and development needs, share their design and implementation process as well as their evaluation activity – all valuable. Little time is spent on how the employee can prepare for their learning and development activity to get the most from the experience. This is still a grey area, a gap between the sofa...between the in-house team and the provider. This Halloween, I want to encourage you all to come out from behind the sofa...

Here's what I believe life-long learners and high-achievers do before or during any training and development solutions they attend:

1.      Suspend your disbelief and kick out the sceptic!

Often I meet with delegates who I will be spending a day with but they do not have a learning mindset for the day ahead. This means being totally open to new ideas and being present for the day ahead – and being optimistic about taking something valuable away. This can be tough if you have had a previous experience that has been poor but that does not mean your next experience will be the same.

2.      Remember you are networking on the day

Workshops are a rare opportunity to be with colleagues in different departments and at various levels of seniority – do yourself a favour and save the morning and afternoon breaks to talk to a colleague and find out more about their world.

3.      Challenge Your Trainer - No More Asking For "Top Tips"

Don’t ask for “Top Tips” or something new for the “Management Toolkit” – be bold and ask for something specific from the trainer at the start of the day – challenge them! They should be asking you what you would like to get from the session (or exploring your expectations).

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4.      Get up early, crack on with your emails before the workshop starts

I know this is tough but we have the habit of over-checking our emails more than we need to. If you can, try to save the breaks in the workshop for other activities suggested in this article (you can always check your emails just before you head for lunch).

5.      Be Brave and Stretch 

Be clear on your development area/s beforehand and realise that you will have to work on this. Don’t like the way you sound or present? Then set yourself a stretching goal and ask for feedback or even film yourself present.

6.      Bang the Drum Via Social Media

Why not champion personal development and your business? If appropriate, take pictures of the workshop / event and share your thoughts. This can only be positive for your profile…as long as you keep it clean #familyshow

7.      Practice giving and receiving feedback

If you do not line manage anyone this is a great chance for you to practice a crucial managerial skill so take the opportunity to provide balanced, specific and objective feedback (…”you’re a great team player” is ok but we can do better!). Lastly, be clear on what you would like feedback on from others – and capture it!

8.      What Message is Your Body Sending to Your Brain?

Be aware of your body-language and not just the messages this is sending to your fellow delegates but also the messages it is sending to your brain! Slumped, vacant, with hand to chin position is not a good-look and tells your brain – “This is Pointless”!

9.      Capture, Capture, Capture!

If I had one penny for every great idea shared in a workshop I’d be a wealthy man. If I had a penny for every great idea lost I’d be a multi-millionaire. The moment you raise or hear a useful point, write it down. The moment you find a development area or something of interest to you – write it down. The moment someone gives you valuable feedback, guess what?...write it down!

10.  It’s a Focus Group in Disguise!

A workshop is a rare opportunity to hear your colleagues talk about a topic of interest to the organisation. Try to understand the other person’s needs, wants and motivational drivers – many senior executives I have worked with see the workshop as a focus group for their organisation as well as a chance to develop their skills.

I'd welcome reader's thoughts on what other ideas are out there to avoid the workshop of the living dead - please comment below!

Michael Costello works for Workplace Evolution – specialists in Talent Development, Change Management and Assessment Services. For more information go to www.workplaceevolution.co.uk   

Based in Lancaster, Workplace Evolution have worked with well known brands and organisations such as KPMG, Liverpool FC, the Co-Op, Nike, Lancaster Univeristy, the British Red Cross and the Civil Service. For more information go to www.workplaceevolution.co.uk . If you would like to discuss the development of your talent further or how the company supports organisational development please get in touch at admin@workplaceevolution.co.uk