Over the past few years I have become fascinated with American History and the people who were instrumental in the foundations and development of this country. I believe it started with Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition exploring westward passages, followed by David McCullough’s writing of 1776 and John Adams about the founding of the country, and then Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, describing the unique presidential administration of Abraham Lincoln during one of the most challenging periods of this new democracy. Since reading these I continue to pick up volumes that describe the people and events that have contributed to this great experiment in freedom that we enjoy. They are filled with stories of wisdom, insight, courage, determination, love, faith, ingenuity, innovation, strength, and most of all, the providence of God, without which this country would never have gotten off the ground.
I recently started reading Pulitzer Prize winner, James McPherson’s, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. In the first chapter of the book McPherson describes the events and politics that led to that epic period our history. As he described the rapid growth and expansion of the nation, he gives insight into the unique factors that contributed to its unparalleled growth and rapid expansion. Among them, he cites the broad distribution of education that instilled the basic morals, values, and principles that allowed for flexibility, adaptation and innovation that propelled America beyond anything the world had ever witnessed.
British observers, noticed widespread literacy in America as one of the reason for the “adaptive versatility” among American workers and their “readiness of apprehension of a new thing,” as opposed to the apprenticeship training that most in the Old World had received, leading to a resistance to change and adaptation. They saw America’s commitment to training and education as one of the reasons for the great success and growth they witnessed.
When I read these words I thought about how critical education and training are to the success of any enterprise that hopes to grow and achieve a compelling vision. It is easy for organizations to underestimate the value of training and development for their leaders, and for leaders to allow the whirlwind of their work to get in the way of their professional development. Though the research is abundant, drawing a direct correlation between training and the achievement of high level results, including productivity, profitability, and customer and employee satisfaction, some still ask, why more training, and what does it really contribute to the mission of the enterprise?
Even if you are a skeptic when it comes to the research, take advantage of every training opportunity offered to you by your organization. It is easy to respond to these opportunities with a “Been there. Done that,” attitude. True enough the skills imparted in one training session may be similar to those you received in another. But the real truth is that you have never had this training in this unique time and circumstances of your career. What may have seemed as basic training with little value in one training session, may surface to meet your most unique challenge today. What may have been a novel idea before, may make absolute sense and have many practical applications today.
One of the great advantages of training is the “white space” it provides for you to pause from the whirlwind of busy-ness to think about your business, your team, your effectiveness and how you can use things from the current training or from the culmination of your experience and training to improve and become more effective.
As McPherson describes it, training and education opens the mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking, acting and responding. It is part of what makes our country so unique. It may also be the difference that makes the difference for your organization.
One leader once told me how distressed he was at the cost of training. He said, “What if I invest all this money and training in them and they are recruited away or leave? What then?” I said, “Well, you could refuse to invest money and training in them and they could stay.” With that, he said, “Okay, I get it!” I hope you get it too!