Practice works when it’s focused

Revisiting Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence is always worthwhile.  Today I noticed this, from Working with Emotional Intelligence:

“Training programs that offer people a chance to practice the desired competence through well-focused simulations, games, role-playing and other such methods can offer a strong beginning for practice….The overall recommendation…is that they be carefully planned, focus on specific competencies that are clearly described to participants, and end with a debriefing of the experience.”

Our sentiments exactly — and more important, our practice.

Here’s a couple of things we’ve learned from our years of designing practice experiences:

Target the learning points.  The design of the practice situation should require learners to try out the behavior you want to teach. Because new learning feels uncomfortable, most participants will want to repeat their usual patterns.  Close the escape hatches by creating a situation that can only be solved by putting the learning points into practice.

Focus on a small, important piece of behavior.  Don’t try to do too much in a single practice session.  If you’re training people in a process, work it section by section (for example, in sales training, focus on establishing rapport, then on asking probing questions, etc.) Give feedback or coaching after each part, with an option to try it again.

More lessons learned in future posts…

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