“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.” – Chares Dickinson
The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year brings with it a flood of memories and emotions. At times we long for simpler days and wish we were young and back in school. Some of us are old and have gone back to school! What we have learned in the world of the workplace is that whether or not school is in session we are always learning.
With school starting it is hard to miss the fact that technology is evolving. The tools that kids need for school these days are substantially different that the Number 2 pencils and Big Chief Pads we started with (or the chisels and stone tablets for some among us). Today we have phones that have more computing power than was in the Lunar Module. Computers come in all shapes and sizes. And where we passed notes, now kids send text messages in a language most adults cannot comprehend.
Technology in the workplace changes even more rapidly it seems, with new gadgets, programs, and upgrades every week. So not only are we always learning about the business, our products, and our customers. We are also learning to adapt and use new technology to do our jobs.
When it comes to learning we all know the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Those of us who have worked for any length of time in the real world know that this statement is false. It may take a little more time and effort, but old dogs can indeed be taught new tricks. Just think about the way business was done when we started in our job and look at how things have changed. Most of us manage to at least keep up.
Along with technology we see the job markets, economy, and even our customer base changing. How do we learn to adapt in changing times? How do we learn new tricks amidst difficulty and stress? To teach old dogs new tricks we have to use the right TOOLS. What are these TOOLS?
T stands for Tone – whether teaching or being taught it is important to have a positive tone. This really is a key to learning because we know that effective communication is more than saying the right words in the right order. Tone of voice indicates attitude and emotion, and a positive outlook goes a long way to helping people hear what we are saying.
OO stands for Over and Over – a positive outlook is followed closely in importance by repetition. In order to catch on quickly and learn new things we need to do it over and over. Notice, it is important not just to hear what to do, but to actually do it. Doing something is the fastest way to learn. Hands-on experience has been proven to re-wire how our brain works when it comes to learning new tasks. Old dogs tend to shy away from new tricks, or assign them to younger pups. Instead we need to take on new tasks with enthusiasm.
L stands for Listen – often it is difficult for older dogs to listen to those who are younger. At times this is based on a lack of respect. It may also be the difference in experience. While experience does help us in our outlook and expectations, we need to give those younger than us an opportunity to teach us what they know. Face it, they have grown up on new technology. We may have finally figured out how to set the clock on the VCR, but that is just to make it stop blinking, we have not used it since we started using DVDs. Kids entering the workforce today are several generations ahead technologically. They do lack experience, and wisdom, but that gives us an opportunity to teach each other.
S stands for Success – we need to celebrate success, no matter how small! As we set a positive tone in the workplace, do things over and over for consistency, listen and learn from others, we also need to take note of our successes. Even when it is a small achievement, it is still an achievement. Often times we put such an emphasis on getting it right and learning new things quickly that we disregard the small victories and are not satisfied until we have a major breakthrough. We need to remember that a large breakthrough is nothing more than a series of small successes added together.
With the right tools, proper motivation, positive reinforcement, on the job experience, and respect for others, we as old dogs can be taught many amazing new tricks of the trade. In fact, if we don’t we will not find success. Success in business requires the ability to learn. To learn is to grow. We need to be growing, or getting out of the way.