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The philosopher’s stone of training


Continuing our month of features on adding value in training, Nigel Wood, Business Psychologist at PMSL contemplates change, our constant search for improving ourselves and whether there ever can be a one-fits-all solution to anything.

Spring is here. The clocks have changed and so too, it seems, has the weather. Everything’s changing. And that’s what Spring is all about isn’t it? Well, it occurs to me that being human is all about change too. We’re constantly changing; developing into someone else, someone better (hopefully).

A big part of this is often getting someone else to help you make that change because, like everything that happens at Spring-time, there needs to be some impetus, some cue, some catalyst for change.

Catalysts are sought in many disciplines and always have been. The great alchemists of history spent collective centuries trying to find the ‘philosopher’s stone’, the thing that would turn base metals into gold. Religion and mysticism also rely heavily on the theme of transformation – whether it’s the Christian resurrection, the spiritual after-life or a pharaoh’s journey’s to the stars and godhood.

There are many parallels, and probably too many to list exhaustively, but training and development is no exception. There is an ever-present search for what will make training better. What approach is best for getting the best out of someone?

What different approaches are there? Many. From NLP’s visual, auditory and kinaesthetic perspectives to people’s different Learning Styles (reflector, activist, pragmatist, theorist); left brain/ right brain thinking to spiral dynamics; emotional intelligence to cognitive-behavioural therapy. If you are involved in training and developing others in any way, then these terms (and many more besides) are likely to be familiar to you,.

Can any one of these work for every person in every situation though? Unlikely. Time and again we’re told that taking a different approach, depending upon the needs of the individual or the situation, will work much better than assuming that because we have a ‘way that works’ it will work all of the time. That is, using a number of different approaches, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket and hoping that the ‘chalk and talk’ method will work for that group on that day.

This may mean having a repertoire of skills and a bank of knowledge that you apply in a fluid way, every time you get involved in developing others. It may mean that a single approach is recognised as the one most likely to foster a change for the better, for this individual at this time. The call is yours. You are the philosopher’s stone.

And just remember as you watch your garden blossom, not every plant wants to be watered in the same way.


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