Just Send Them to a Workshop!

I just left a meeting with a prospective client. Like most of our clients, she came to me because she thinks her team needs some training. “They need to take responsibility. They need to communicate better. They need some motivation. I want to send them to a workshop!”

If it’s not an actual statement, at least the thought goes through the minds of managers and executives across the globe daily. But should you send them to a workshop?

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m in the business of helping people become more effective as leaders. So when she said, “I want to send them to a workshop,” you’d think I’d be excited. Quite the opposite.

Let’s talk about workshops. My view of a workshop is an event where people gather to gain information, engage in exercises related to the topic, and leave with the intention to put the information to work. Workshops can be fun and informative. But, let’s be realistic…when people get back to their normal responsibilities, their good intentions tend to get lost. They put their course materials on their desk hoping it will remind them that they wanted to take action. Eventually that material gets buried. And misplaced. And eventually thrown away.

Now I am not opposed to workshops. In fact, the benefits of getting people together can improve communication and trust, especially if those that attend get to spend a great deal of time talking. But, what if it’s not just one workshop? What if you scheduled multiple sessions for people to attend, with action plans and expectations between sessions? Wouldn’t it be much more effective?

But the best part about multiple sessions is that behavior starts to change. And you can see the results. Sometimes the hardest part of change is knowing where to start. At the beginning of each session, people can problem-solve and discuss what they’ve tried since they last met. They can bounce ideas off of each other. Then there’s additional learning that happens for the whole group.

Let’s take the concept of a workshop a little further. What if people were assigned to read or listen to an assignment before the session? Then, instead of presenting information, the time spent in the session could be used more effectively for things like problem-solving, practicing, or debates.

It is known that the more times people hear or read information, the more likely that information goes into their long term memory. (Think of the song you can’t get out of your head.) Information in the long-term memory is available for the future when you need it. If people read or listen to information multiple times, they will eventually be able to recall it. This also changes behavior. It’s repetition. It’s practice. Just like how you learned to ride a bike. You did it over and over again.

And isn’t that what we want? The goal isn’t to send our team to a workshop. It is to somehow help them to change their behavior. It’s to help them be just a little more effective.