How to find a learning program that’s right for me

Last week, I embarked on a new learning journey, or should I say a sub-journey of the one I have been on so far. I am on a five months education program now that is dedicated to team coaching and facilitation. Choosing the right training program can be tough (at least it was for me). That’s why I thought I’d share with you here a couple of considerations that helped me to make a conscious choice.

  1. Objective: What would I like to achieve through this training and what/who am I doing this for?
  2. Style: In which settings do I learn most effectively and what kind of sources do I best learn from?
  3. Balance of subject matter vs. self: To which degree am I willing to be changed as a person through the training or is it just about acquiring knowledge?
  4. Chemistry fit: Do I feel drawn to the trainers/facilitators? How much are our mindsets towards work, people and life in tune?

I had been looking around for a while on what and how to learn next. There are so many offerings for education in the space of coaching, new work and facilitation, so I asked colleagues and friends for their advice on what kind of experience had helped them along their way. Still, I quickly felt overwhelmed by the plethora of options I got pointed towards. I checked out numerous websites and tried to compare alternatives. Some providers just did not resonate with me in the way they came across. It’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly put me off; probably a certain know-it-all demeanor or the notion that education should be tough, discipline-heavy and academic. My gut reaction made me pause and consider:

What are my objectives for development? What is my preferred learning style and pace? Which level of depth do I need? If I know that then I can find a path that feels right for me on all of these dimensions.

It dawned on me that having clarity for myself on my own preferences if critical before making a choice. Ok, so let’s look at the objectives dimension first. My primary objective is to become better at what I am already doing for a living: Creating and holding spaces in which new ideas flourish and transformations can happen. I feel that I am intuitively doing this quite well and at the same time I sense that there is a lot to learn for me still. I would like to be more purposeful about how to navigate certain situations, about which tools and methods to choose when and – importantly – knowing when to stay put and let things evolve freely without too much steering.

My objective is to enhance my proficiency through learning, practice and feedback. I don’t necessarily want or need a certificate from a renowned institution. Now that’s a relatively new insight. I used to suffer from a mild form of imposter syndrome that led me to believe that I need certificates to prove my worth to myself and others. This attitude has changed. For one, because I have become more confident in my talents and abilities and also because I am less relient on ticking boxes or pleasing the expectations of others.

The value I bring is in how I work, in how I am present, and in the energy I share and create.

If there would ever come a business opportunity that could be a great fit but a certain lacking diploma or certifictae is the only thing standing in the way – well, I am willing to take that risk and feel that for these kinds of clients I would not really want to work, anyway.

Now, what about learning style and preferences? It does make a huge difference. I personally learn best from applying, experimenting and conversing with others. Back in school or in my studies, the best KPI for whether I had understood a topic was always if I was able to give a talk about it to someone. I really struggle with reading more than 50 pages at a time or with keeping up my attention in one-directional online trainings. Even longer pieces of audio-only are tiring for me. It seems that for me, bouncing thoughts and ideas with other people is an enromous catalyst for learning. When I am deprived of that element, I have to invest high amounts of energy to stay focused and absorb the content. So any training with a high amount of unidirectional content absorption is bound to be a struggle for me. In-person or remote settings both work for me, as long as they come with a high level of human-to-human interaction and trying out what I learn through practical application and then reflecting on that experience.

It is invaluable to know your own learning style and preferences because they vary greatly between individuals and any training you choose is bound to be more effective, if it caters to your style and needs.

Another sub-choice might be language. I can attend programs in English or German and I do not have a particular preference as to that, but English does take more bandwidth than German.

Next, let’s take a look at one less obvious point that occurred to me along the way. Balance of subject matter versus self: There are trainings that are dedicated to understanding something on a cognitive level or maybe mastering a technique whithout intending personal change. So your attitude and your world view, your habits and lifestyle are not touched by what you learn, and that can be absolutely fine. In my case, I need something different:

For me, especially in my line of work, personal transformation and professional progression are intertwined and interdependent.

Therefore, I am looking for a certain level of “depth” in a training program. I would like to be invited to reflect and challenge my beliefs. I appreciate receiving feedback that helps me grow – be it encouraging or pointing out blind spots. I am willing to be changed as a person through the training – it’s not just about acquiring knowledge for me.

So now let’s take a look at the last criterion on my list: Chemistry fit. One training program that I looked at seemed great in terms of the content, the way of learning and the level of depth but in the orientation session with the facilitators, I realised that I would struggle to listen to them for more than 30 minutes. Something inside me rebelled against their style. Maybe there would have been a learning for me hidden underneath that dislike as well, but my inutition was advising against going onto that ride.

I would like to like and personally relate to the people who I learn from, otherwise I cannot see them as role models.

So, ideally, my teachers should be a bit further along their own development journey than I am in mine, they should be wise and humble in equal measure, relatable and equipped with a certain sense of humour. We should share a similar mindset towards work, people and life in general.

In case you’re wondering: The program I am on now is called “Sensing the Essence” and it takes place over the course of five modules with a total of 15 full days, live and in-person in Berlin and Austria. It’s in German language and so far, I think I’ve made a good choice in finding a training that suits my needs and helps me grow. I am looking forward to all the discoveries and learnings and of course to the connections and interactions with my colleagues.

All that being said, there are probably other aspects that are also relevant and there may be points that are more crucial for some people than for others. Please comment with your suggestions and reflections! Sending you warm regards, wherever this finds you.

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