You have a choice depending on your priorities.
There are always options.
When you are looking to seek new knowledge, develop a new skill, or build on an existing one, you have a number of options:
– self-help (books, videos, courses are numerous on every topic)
– seek out anyone who can take you stepwise through what you are required to do
– work with someone sufficiently experienced that they can build on what you already know and do to develop that skill
– outsource the activity
Self-help can be very effective but most resources won’t be tailored to your specific needs, albeit they are valuable. The difference between options two and three are a useful discussion as while the benefit of selecting the third option is an accelerated path as the learning is adapted to your existing capabilities, there is a role for option two. The final option os reserved for the times when you need to get something done but you have no desire to learn how to do it.
What various approaches to personal training can teach us.
This conversation arose with my personal trainer this morning and my keenness to share here is that the learning is particularly relevant to (1) anyone working with clients on a one-to-one basis and (2) anyone who is seeking that support.
When an inexperienced personal trainer takes on a new client in the gym, they will apply the methodology that most of the training providers teach them. That is, the trainer will take a new client step by step through the correct way of executing a particular exercise. Let’s take performing a squat as an example. The real simple website, for example, outlines the 5 steps to performing the perfect squat, as follows:
The Basics: Proper Squat Form
1. Stand with feet a little wider than hip-width, toes facing front.
2. Drive your hips back—bending at the knees and ankles and pressing your knees slightly open—as you…
3. Sit into a squat position while still keeping your heels and toes on the ground, chest up and shoulders back.
4. Strive to eventually reach parallel, meaning knees are bent to a 90-degree angle.
5. Press into your heels and straighten legs to return to a standing upright position.
That inexperienced personal trainer will most likely, as they were trained, demonstrate the perfect squat themselves and explain each of the 5 steps as they go. Their client will then be asked to recall each of the individual instructions and repeat the 5 steps per squat. There is nothing wrong with this approach per se but training is not being tailored for the client. The trainer is teaching the optimised way to do the exercise but is assuming no prior knowledge through self-help videos and books or any previous training at all. The same instruction could be given in a group setting as it is not being tailored to an individual’s needs.
What experience provides.
If you have ever watched a highly experienced and adaptable trainer in the gym, they will ask a new client to perform their first exercise, in this example, the squat. Their starting point is a desire to ascertain how much that client already knows. They want to understand a client’s existing experience of a squat that can be built on. If a client has no understanding, to avoid the risk of injury, the stepwise instruction will be provided. However, if the client is able to make a reasonable attempt at a squat, the role of the trainer will be to fine-tune what they already know. As the client squats, they can suggest improvements, tweaking how chest and shoulders are put in the right position, that toes are facing front and not sideways and so on. The benefit of building on existing understanding for the client is that the tweaks are often easier to adopt and recall than restarting from a baseline of zero. Importantly, it is more motivating for a client to know that their existing skills, however rusty or poor, are being built on, as opposed to starting from scratch. This could be the difference between a client walking out of their first session feeling they have been empowered to build on skills they didn’t know or forgot they had, versus a head full of new instructions and a sense of overwhelm. Which is most likely to get them back in the gym again?
How does this apply to business
It should be exactly the same when you mentor, are mentored or are accessing any professional help. The parallel of asking for the squat demonstration is an expert asking the right questions to elicit the true starting point. At no time must an expert assume a client knows nothing about something. They are required to ask great questions to ascertain existing knowledge and experience to build, focussing on the gaps.
In that first personal training session, just like a discovery meeting with a client, it will be important for a trainer to understand the goals of the client. A client trusts their trainer to tailor their programme around the outcome they want to achieve. Is it about weight loss, toning, competing as a bodybuilder? Mentoring is initiated and tailored thereafter in the same way.
I have explained how accelerated learning can come from working with someone highly experienced, however, this still remains a choice. For certain aspects of your business, you may choose to go down a route of self-help or work with someone that can teach you the mechanics of a skill. However, do not expect to get the same results in the same timeframe as you will working with a highly experienced and knowledgeable subject matter expert. What the right expertise is for a particular scenario comes from understanding the importance of that development to the business.
When I have a curiosity about something, I read a book, watch a video or listen to a podcast, parting only with a few pounds or dollars and a commitment of time. When I want to learn something quickly and really well, I will find the best expert I can, scraping together the funding I require to access it. And for everything in between, there are options, I work with peers in the same part of their entrepreneurial journey or with less experienced trainers who are new to the area themselves. All are feasible and all are a choice, depending on your priorities at any one time.