Written by our experiential facilitator and certified coach Craig G Howe, this article aims to help you find the right training and continuing education program — whether that is in coaching or any other area of your life.
As a child, education dominates your life. From around 4 to at least 18, there feels like there is little time for anything else. Children crave their holidays and long for the day when they will leave school. Exam certificates in hand, they feel ready for the next stage of their life’s journey. They hold the pervasive belief that upon finishing school, their education is complete.
For me, the opposite has proven to be true. I have studied both topics of personal interest and for my professional development. I have remained in almost continuous education. The term coined to reflect this trend is “lifelong learner”.
There seems to be a constant flow of new opportunities to grow and develop. The only real limit appears to be our imagination and capacity. So how do we decide what learning opportunities to say yes to and, just as importantly, what to say no to?
In my work as an Associate with Lever Learning, our priority is Turning Learning into Action™. I have learned that without adequate support, learning transfer typically reaches a lowly 20%. With a strategy in place, this rate increases towards 80%. With this in mind, I set out to create a framework to improve my return on future training investments.
With hindsight, many of my learning choices have not been all that successful. I have spent considerable sums. Programs that promise a lot do not always deliver. This has highlighted for me the opportunity cost of my poor decision making in the past.
I am keen not to make the same mistakes again. I would also like to help others avoid the pitfalls too. So I have taken time to reflect on what helped me reach successful decisions. I have also considered the lessons learned about what led to poor outcomes. Using examples, I share my framework for improved decision making. I hope this will help others to reach better decisions. Rather than focusing just on ROI, I aim for a holistic, heart centred evaluation.
I have created the acronym CHOOSE to summarise my new decision making process. I am keen to share this with you also, in the hope that this may inform your future learning decisions.
C — Capacity.
We often overlook our capacity when excited by a new program or workshop. Yet, failing to give this proper consideration leads to not getting the desired outcomes.
Capacity includes time, funds available and energy to commit. Assessing our true capacity is an important step in evaluating a learning opportunity. It is no use having the time, if you don’t have the energy and cannot afford the program. Showing up will only get you so far. Funds may enrol you. But without enough time and/or energy, any investment will not yield the anticipated results. Nor will energy alone suffice without time and the means to pay. It requires all three to fulfil this criteria.
Without capacity, a feeling of disappointment can emerge. Remember that now is not forever. Waiting until energy, funds and time align will lead to better learning outcomes.
H — Honest.
Is my evaluation truthful of the perceived benefits of this learning? I have often adopted an optimistic viewpoint. I have chosen to ignore any information that does not suit my chosen perspective. A healthy dose of humility helps. I am then able to reach a better informed and fairer assessment of the costs/benefits.
As well as looking inwards, honesty also offers rewards when looking outwards. What is your instinct pointing out to you? Do you feel that marketing materials presented are accurate? Or do you have a nagging doubt that there is an unhealthy quantity of hype? Trust your gut on this. If in any doubt, ask more questions to assuage any anxiety.
O — Objective.
What is my goal for this learning? I have often lacked clarity about what I hoped to gain. Learning remains abstract without application. If learning is to deliver lasting value, I need to consider learning transfer. How will I transfer the learning into practical actions? My plan may well look different from the next course participant. I will base my decisions on my own current needs and priorities. Yet, the more explicit I am, the greater the chance of this proving to be true.
By considering what success looks like, we are better able to measure our outcomes. Are we on track, or not? If the latter, what can we do to redirect? Calculating how we will repay the training investment allows an improved assessment. For example, how realistic are our goals for new clients or increased business volumes? What would cover costs? What is the best case scenario?
O — Opportunity.
Two aspects of opportunity are relevant here:
Opportunity to complement this learning
A. By saying yes to this opportunity, what will I need to forego? As the maxim goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. By saying “yes” to this learning, what will I have to say “no” to?
I have an example to share here. I invested over $15,000 in two virtual learning programs. The vendor’s promises of a seven figure business and a full coaching practice hooked me in. I took the glowing client testimonials at face value as “proof”. And I overlooked the high pressure sales tactics. I am now aware that such pressure should ALWAYS be a red flag (need for extra caution).
I also hoped to invest in the CTI leadership program. I assured myself that I could do this once the above programs had delivered on their promises. I did not pay enough attention to the risk that if this did not materialise, I would no longer be able to proceed.
I now recognise that there were three faults in my decision making: 1. underestimating the risks, 2. not considering the opportunity cost and 3. inaccurately evaluating the value of this learning. I would have reached a better decision paying more heed to these factors.
B. Complimentary learning opportunities often exist. Whilst participating in many programs may feel possible, is this the best choice? (see capacity above). A learning road map helps establish a direction of travel. This more holistic overview makes decision making around prioritisation much easier.
S — Suitability.
Think of this as whether the program is a good fit for you or not. This includes your preferred learning style, size of the class and many other variables.
I have learned over many years and on many programs that I learn best by experiencing the learning. It is stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying something new. Sure, I may fail at first, but this is always the source of the richest learning. I found this to be the case with the Wisdom Tree Academy’s Decoding the Coaching Genome program. I had a safe space to try out my deepened skills around the 11 ICF core Competencies. So for me, a good question would be “Is the training is experiential, or not?” So many learning opportunities now exist. You will likely be able to find the content with the right delivery if you look.
I’d also encourage you to reach out to the program provider for a one on one conversation. This is often the best way to assess “fit”. You can gauge whether the program is as described and to how well it meets your needs.
E — Experience.
Do I know anyone else that has undertaken this learning? Before asking their counsel, ask yourself two questions. Do I value their opinion? How well do they know me? The opinions of others can help validate our decision making process. But this is only of value if they know you well enough to assess the likely fit.
I have left this criteria until last for good reason. Only when you have already reached your own decision should you seek to discuss with others. Doing this too soon risks swaying your choices based on another’s viewpoint. Remember that YOU are always best placed to make your own choice.
Our journey of lifelong learning will continue to unfold. Without doubt, many varied and evolving opportunities will offer us continued growth. Now, rather than confusion, there will be greater clarity about how to CHOOSE. What makes sense for you in this moment?
Craig and The Wisdom Tree Academy Team would appreciate your comments and suggestions on this article. If you have any ideas on how to improve it, feel free to share!