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We don't have time for development

Up and down the country the referee’s whistle blows to signal the start of a competitive game. Be it netball, hockey, or football, what happens the moment after the whistle blows is based on a whole host of factors. One major contributing factor is the level of training the competitors have put themselves through. Training is as much a part of the job of the athlete as the competitive game. So why is it so different in other workplaces?

This post was triggered by a coaching conversation, where a quite stressed individual had got themselves caught in a loop that they didn’t have time for learning and development as they were too busy, yet recognised the gaps in their own performance that were adding to the busyness.

“Everyone is busy. So are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?“

Henry David Thoreau

Some people are probably reading this and thinking, I get the point, but sport is different. And on many levels, they’d be right. However, I’d ask that you reflect to see what we could learn from sport, adapt it, and then apply it to our own circumstances.

What constitutes work is made up of a whole host of things. Here are a few examples: the outcomes to achieve, the interaction with others, and the culture of the organisation. I’m confident you’d be able to add to this list. It’s the last one of my list that really interests me.

In the high-performing cultures, I’ve worked in and with, learning and developing isn’t something that’s nice to have when all the ‘real work’ is done. It is real work. Here are three things I’ve learned from those environments:

Invest to be the best

People begin to doubt anyone who is not open to and dedicating time to L&D. If we are going to be the best, then we need to keep ourselves sharp and relevant to the changes internally and externally. Not overly relying on what has worked previously.


L&D is a mindset, not an event

L&D comes in many forms. Many people, quickly revert to formal elements such as courses. L&D in high-performing environments is a mindset not an event. The mindset is how can we get better? This could be asking questions as a team, does the agenda still work for our weekly meeting? Or keeping up with the latest changes in software by dedicating time to research and get familiar. Or practicing a difficult conversation you might need to have.

Shift the language from failing to learning

Going back to the sporting analogy. The brilliant set piece on a Saturday afternoon in the stadium which comes off to much applause from the fans has likely been worked on all week. The team will have worked hard, with multiple adjustments and changes to get it ‘right’. In sports, they call that training. Often in the workplace trying things that don’t work the first time are referred to as failing. Which one makes you feel more energised, learning or failing?

As we head into the new year is it time for you and your team to rethink how you might change how you spend your time? I suspect if you decide L&D needs to play a bigger part, it will be one investment that pays off in 2022.

Either way, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season. Here’s to 2022. Best year yet?

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