Behaviour or Beliefs? What's our Role?

Rod Webb
Commercial Director, Glasstap Limited
Glasstap Limited
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When I began my career in Learning and Development, I remember being told that our role was about changing behaviours, not beliefs. 

The thinking in those days was that beliefs were too fixed and difficult to influence but that if you taught people a new behaviour, the effectiveness of that new behaviour would eventually influence their beliefs. So, for example, an overly directive manager who started using more coaching, would see the positive impact of their new approach and learn to appreciate its value, and thereby change their underlying beliefs about management and its role. 

But there’s a fundamental problem with this approach, and that problem can be summed up by the phrase 'Confirmation Bias'. Confirmation bias, a proven phenomenon, means that your learners are already filtering out and sub-consciously dismissing the learning that doesn’t fit with their existing beliefs, so they probably won’t be applying those changes you want to see back in the workplace at all.

Consider equal opportunities training and legislation, which has focused, almost exclusively on acceptable behaviour, rather than on building mutual understanding. Certain language and behaviours have become socially unacceptable – but does that mean that we’ve removed social stereotyping, racism, or other forms of prejudice from society? The recent reported increase in hate crime would suggest not. 

So, the challenge we face as trainers can pretty well be summed up by the old adage, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. 

For the last twenty years, my passion has been for developing training that does encourage participants to reflect on and challenge their their current thinking and beliefs. My goal is to continue to create training that results in real changes in behaviour because a) it is remembered, and b) it challenges and inspires the learner to think differently. 

The best bit about my job is when someone tells me about a learning experience they’ve never forgotten, and the positive impact it had on them. And I’m very proud of many of the training activities my team and I have developed over the years that have helped other trainers achieve those ‘light-bulb’ moments.

Some of my favourites are:

​And, of course, The Witches of Glum (available as a Free Sample of our materials) which is a fun, but powerful way to show participants the stereotypes that exist in their map of the world, and where they’ve come from. 

If you’d like to learn more about my passion for creative, inspiring training, gain loads of great tips and techniques to inspire learners and learn some of the training design skills I’ve developed over the last 20 years, then I’d love to see you at my Trainers’ Masterclass on 6th July 2017 in Bristol.  I want people to attend because this really matters, and because it will make a difference to you and your learners. Attend for just £195.00 and I promise you’ll have a fun, inspiring day and experience your own light bulb moments – or your money back.

You can book your place online here. 

Thanks for reading and, as always, all feedback is welcome. 

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