Three Mind Altering Techniques to Boost Performance in Training

August 14, 2017 1:47 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)
Written by Guest Blogger, Whit Shiller, Stick at Fish Sticks Comedy; Faculty Member at Fish Sticks University; and Executive Director at Comedy With Impact

The Power of Expectations in Training & Development

Expectations are set around us and by us all the time. They can be positive. They can be negative. Some expectations from childhood continue to weigh us down or lift us up years, even decades, later. Despite their prevalence, most expectations are unspoken and usually unrecognized. That generally gives them more power than they deserve, which also means that calling them out or recognizing them can have more of an impact than you might expect.

With a focus on training and development situations, let me suggest three mind shifts that will positively impact your learners’ results:

  1. Reset Low Expectations
    We tend to “over-focus” on those who don’t perform well. That means there’s a natural drag on expectations over time if we don’t course correct by re-focusing on what people have accomplished. Further, the pressure trainers face to achieve results creates disincentives to set the goals too high. Low, easily achievable goals, while good for stats, creates boredom and artificially caps growth.

    As you approach your next session, gives some thought to whether you’ve set difficult, but realistic, objectives. Evaluate whether lower achievers have been overly impacted by how you think your learners will do and adapt as necessary in your next session. Because your expectations of your learners impact their results, you’ll find achievement and interest levels will be higher when making these adjustments -- and that’s good for everyone involved.

  2. Reduce the Stakes
    High expectations are great as people tend to rise to the level that’s expected of them. But pursuing those high expectations with high consequences of failure during training and preparation can lead to poor outcomes. Ultimately, your learners will have to perform when the stakes are high, but if struggles with training and preparation are over-emphasized, it becomes more likely that your learners won’t thrive during live action. There are 100’s of sports analogies here, but I’ll leave those to you to consider on your own time.

    Many learners, when given appropriately high expectations, will be overly self-critical or express self-doubt. Nip that in the bud as soon as it presents itself. Coach them back to the reality of where they’re at in the process so they don’t short circuit the growth that’s coming.

    One quick note: while this is a mind shift for your learners, it’s also potentially a mind shift for you. While you’re in game time when training, you need to make sure that you haven’t raised the stakes too high for the learners just because you’re measured on their success. Be focused on what the stakes are for your learners and you’ll serve them better. If it’s helpful, think of it this way: the best tight rope walkers look more toward the platform on the other side then on the ground below.

  3. Believe in Your Learners
    I recognize that the three mind shifts I’m sharing here are all generally stated. This third one is probably that much more so, but stay with me. This one makes the most difference and makes the other two easier to implement.

    Great educators (and trainers) do not just impart wisdom and knowledge. They don’t just explain processes and techniques. They encourage. They motivate. They inspire. Then they watch with pride as their students achieve great things. How awesome is that? But you can’t encourage, motivate or inspire people that you’re convinced will fall flat on their face. You have to honestly believe they can succeed. If you don’t, your learners will intuitively sense it and they won’t be encouraged, they won’t be motivated and they won’t be inspired.

    So ask yourself: do I believe my learners can achieve all that’s asked of them and more? If the answer is no, figure out why and how to change that answer. If the answer is yes, follow it up with whether your expectations are high enough. If not figure out how to change that answer, too.

Expectations don’t equal or guarantee results – but they do affect them. By resetting low expectations, reducing the stakes if they get too high, and honestly, and with conviction, believing in your learners, you give yourself and your learners a greater chance of success. Try all three, and I expect you’ll agree.


About the Author

Whit Shiller is an improviser – not just in life, but on stage and in the training room.  He’s performed in over 1,000 professional improv comedy shows from coast-to-coast, with the last ten years with the Milwaukee and Dallas based group, Fish Sticks Comedy.  In that time, he and some of the other Sticks have facilitated numerous improv-based workshops on topics as diverse as inter-generational communication to collaborative culture to inventive thinking.  Now under the branding of Fish Sticks University, Whit and the other faculty members offer some of the most engaging and fun workshop experiences while maintaining a noticeably high level of focus on client-identified business, personal and organizational goals.

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