The best people train themselves

Edited excerpt from Colin Jensen’s answer to From the perspective of a CEO, what are the most underrated skills most employees lack?:

Don’t ask to be trained.

The one thing I never want to hear, but have heard as much as anything over the years, is that an employee doesn’t know how to do something. Great, google it, find a book–but don’t take three other employees off their jobs to write a curriculum to train you.

“Training” is for corporations to document that they’ve trained you, mostly when their insurance company or licensure requires it. Sometimes it exists so companies can reinforce a mystique that they’re like no other place you’ve ever seen or you have to do things their way to fit in.

But successful people don’t have a voice in their heads telling them what’s “possible,” or what they “can” do. So saying “I haven’t done that before” or “I’m not trained in that” sounds to them like “I refuse to put any thought into this job.”

I personally remember the profound flattery I felt when a boss told me to write him a simple software program by next Tuesday. I had never taken a programming class. And whenever I tell that story, someone in the room always pipes up about how they wouldn’t have taken it and how I should have asserted my rights (rather than write the darned program!). But those guys don’t go far.

Notes:
(1) When is there a need for organized training? When does organized training work?
(2) Thank you Persha Valman for the tip.

10 thoughts on “The best people train themselves

  1. My father taught and phrased this differently…”If you don’t have the right tools to do the job, go out and get them. Not having the tools in never an excuse. Do the job and do it correctly”.

  2. I completely agree. I think there are two important needs for organized training:

    1) training employees on the product – Every employee should be thinking about the user when creating, programming, service ads, ect… knowing and understand the product and how users use our product emphasizes the user’s importance and helps create passion for what we do. Should employees do this anyway? probably but I think a little training would go a long way.

    2) management training (specifically centered to the company culture) – this is something often new managers don’t know that they need, how to manage and when to get more senior management involved in HR.

  3. Organized training is appropriate for executing repeatable processes with well characterized success and failure modes, where training reduces unnecessary variability in outcomes. It’s for eliminating predictable boneheaded mistakes (boneheaded but completely understandable if someone’s untrained!) or proliferating best practices (unintuitive tricks and shortcuts).

    If someone comes into a true startup looking for training, they’re probably in the wrong place because nothing’s routine enough yet to have boiled down into a training routine. I avoid these people.

    If someone comes into a true startup with a demonstrated ability to solve problems, a willingness to learn, and a desire not for training but for mentorship? That’s a keeper.

  4. I think rather than explicit training, maybe the way to think about this is guidance. What direction do you want to point our employees in? Self-starting is great, but it’s a lot easier when you’re running onto the field and not back to the locker room.

    (Desire not for training but for mentorship is well expressed, similar point).

  5. Pingback: Why I Learn | Anshumani Ruddra

  6. When someone doesn’t want to train people it makes me think they don;t know how or why the perform their job other wise they would be more than happy to explain why and how they are performing it. assembling a medical kit no training required but, working in a Pharmaceutical chemistry lab requires several months of training to learn all of the assays required to produce medicine. Now should we allow new chemist right out of college to do all of the testing with no training? What I am saying is it depends on the job.

  7. Also a chemist…. Reinventing the wheel is a tremendous waste of time and resources. Ask for training when you need it and offer it to others when you think they might.

  8. Pingback: How to increase your sales team’s product and industry knowledge | A Founder's Notebook

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