Note: part of a series from From Followers to Leaders.  See Feb 21 blog entry for backstory.

To the degree that learning content doesn’t incorporate experience, it begins losing value. Conversely, learning that incorporates experience is exponentially more valuable… as well as more likely to be remembered later. So getting people started doing something experiential immediately after orientation is critical to their moving forward on the journey. This process also builds in a degree of quality control and troubleshooting. If something isn’t working, it’s best to have that become apparent early on so it can be more easily changed.

When people start down a trail, it’s new. They are all coming in at different levels with different experiences. They’re in the figuring-it-out-stage. And they need a guide, someone they can ask questions, someone they can look to as a model. The beginning of the trail is the experiential, early-stages, hands-on learning part. This is the messy part where most of the mistakes happen. This is also the exciting part where people are really learning.

What do people need at this stage of the path? They aren’t yet operating independently; they need a guide. Someone to come alongside them as they learn, providing direction, encouragement and feedback. Someone to act as a sounding board for their questions and help them process their options. It takes time to get people started well; they don’t learn everything all at once. No initial orientation, however well-done, can personalize training to this degree or cover everything that needs to be covered. Real skills are learned on an as-needed basis.

Beginning of the trail questions:

  • Is this the right direction? The right pace?
  • What obstacles need to be overcome?
  • What’s the first goal/milestone?
  • What’s the best approach?