Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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Let's get the usual advice out of the way first - things like 'Make sure you participate', 'Turn your cellphone to silent', 'Be courteous to others'.

Now let's go a little deeper and draw on what researchers and Skillset's training specialists have observed. Here's my pick.

1. Decide that you are responsible for the learning

Consider how it will look on your CV - not just in a list of workshops you attended, but a description of the skills you learned and how you used them in your work.

The next suggestions all depend on your commitment.

2. Let go of the past

Okay, maybe you didn't do well at English at school and you have no confidence as a writer. Perhaps you're in a presentation skills workshop and you've always been terrified of public speaking. (If so, you are in a very big club.)

It will be a challenge to let go, but treat it as a choice and hit the reset button.

Watch your language. It's very difficult to let go of the past if you say things like 'I'm just not a writer', 'I'm hopeless at public speaking', 'These people-skills are just not my thing'.

Your past achievements may not count as much as you think. A good workshop should make it much easier to develop real skills, with simple methods and a new focus.

3. Keep asking 'How can I use this idea in my work?'

If there's no obvious answer, ask. You'll be doing the trainer (and probably the rest of the group) a favour. Above all, trainers want their workshops to be useful.

4. Choose a growth mindset

What's a growth mindset? The belief that life is a journey full of opportunities to learn and that mistakes are great learning opportunities.

Sound a bit cute? Top achievers, in business, sales, leadership, education, parenting and any other skill you care to name, have growth mindsets.

The alternative is a fixed mindset - the belief that we are either talented or intelligent or not. Fixed mindsetters avoid challenges because failure would suggest that they didn't have what it takes. Failure crushes them.

We can tell the growth mindsetters in workshops. They're the ones who ask questions. They don't care if anyone else thinks the answer is obvious. They don't care if anyone sees them taking notes and thinks they should have known that idea already. Their resilience shows when they try something new and it doesn't go well. It's no problem - they came along to learn.

Researchers report that Olympic-level sports people are so much into a growth mindset that they are not interested in praise. They just want to know where they went wrong so that they can do it better next time.

5. Make 'grit' a way of life

Grit is passion and perseverance for a long-term goal.

Many of the skills we teach are life-changing or at least career-enhancing. But those benefits only come after workshops. Embedding skills takes grit.

As Angela Lee Duckworth (a leading researcher on grit) says, grit means treating life like a marathon, not a sprint.

Duckworth's team has tested the power of grit in a wide range of settings, including the military and education. They found that grit was a better predictor of eventual success than any other measure they could come up with - including IQ and natural talent.

The best way to develop grittiness? A growth mindset - accepting that failure is an opportunity to learn, not a judgement.

Angela Lee Duckworth is a fine speaker. Want to see her six-minute TED Talk on grit as the key to success?