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Tuesday Insight: Practice Makes Slightly Better than Eric!


Last week I wrote about Miss Wall, my childhood piano teacher. I came to be reminiscing about her because, after a long period of not playing the piano at all, I’d spontaneously bought a new book of music, when we were supposed to be buying floor tiles. (Trago Mills sells everything!) 

These days, playing the piano tends to be a rare habit; one that usually takes a brief hold in winter when the weather is bad, and the evenings seem longer and darker than they should rightfully be. 

At these times I drag out my limited repertoire, which can probably be categorised as follows:

1. The few show tunes and classics I can play pretty accurately.
2. Tunes that I make my own. (For which read ‘play inaccurately but with a certain ‘joie de vivre’.)
3. A whole pile of stuff I can sort of muddle through, in the style of Eric Morcambe (‘all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order’).

The first thing I did, back at home, was flick through my new book, stopping at tunes I liked, and which looked ‘easy’. It was rewarding to actually recognise a tune the first time I played it, and that success encouraged me to have another go.  Like all new learners, I want that feeling that ‘I can do it’. Those easy wins motivate us to take on the next, bigger challenge and I think we should always include some in our training.

For me, the bigger challenge turned out to be on the very next page - The Can Can by Jacques Offenbach. Now, those who read my blog will already know that this tune played a surprising role in my childhood development, but in addition, it just so happened that the night before we’d been watching the wonderful Stardust, which features Robert de Nero in an unlikely scene featuring this tune.

I went through the same learning process as I had with the tune before. The Can Can is a harder piece though, and I was less good. I was tempted to give up and stick to ballads where my brain has at least half a chance of keeping up with my fingers (or visa versa, I’m never sure which). 

If I continue as I am, I might get slightly better than Eric Morecambe, but if I want to really progress, I’m going to have to accept a fundamental truth. In order to get good I’m going to have to get worse, because, as with any change, there’s a ‘J Curve’ to go through. In other words, a dip in performance before the rewards of my efforts are realised.

I’ll need to fumble around whilst I work out the best way to get my fingers where they need to be for the next bit. I might have to practice playing parts (left hand and right hand) separately, and then, when I’ve mastered playing the two 
parts separately, I’ll fall over all over again when I try to put the two parts together. It’s going to be difficult.

Why go through all that frustration? I’ll do it for the personal sense of achievement, possibly because the tune means something to me, and, because, let’s face it, it’s just so much FUN! (Never underestimate the power of fun in learning.)

Moving on from the instant gratification of any quick wins, to really mastering new skills, needs motivation, inspiration and, most importantly perhaps, a willingness to get worse in order to get better. And it requires lots of opportunity to practise. 

In Trainers’ Library, we try to create opportunities for people to learn in a way that grabs their imagination with all the gusto of The Can Can, and which inspires and motivates the learners to continue their journey back in the workplace. But, no matter how great the trainer, or the materials they use, what follows back at work is critical.

We need managers who recognise that a training course isn’t a one-stop cure all, but a key part of a longer journey. We need managers who recognise that in order to get better, they and their team members, may fall down and make mistakes. And we need to ensure people have the opportunities to practice and refine their skills. It’s for these reasons, we invented Managers’ Library with Training Activities that managers can use with their teams and Self Study that give managers practical opportunities to develop and hone their leadership and people development skills. And, if you own your own LMS, those same Self Study modules can be purchased through Trainers’ Market too.

Until next time...

February 21 2018Rod Webb



Rod Webb





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