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The Most Overlooked Way for You to Improve Your Organization's Bottom Line
by Frank J. Troha


Less than 30 percent of training gets applied, according to a study reported by the American Society for Training and Development. And it doesn't matter if the training is delivered in the classroom, online or through a combination of the two venues. There are two plausible theories offered for this unfortunate fact: 1. poor instructional design and 2. a work environment that does little to encourage or support transfer of learning. I'd like to offer a third: irrational beliefs that all people unconsciously hold to one degree or another, and would be far better off without.

By beliefs I mean an individual's deep-seated views about himself or herself, other people and life in general. By irrational I mean unscientific, incapable of being proven, baseless. Here are some examples:

  • People must treat me fairly
  • I should have little discomfort in life
  • People must find me likable
  • It's awful when I make a mistake
  • I must perform well or I'm no good
  • People who treat me badly deserve to be punished
  • I must get what I want when I want it
  • I can't control how I feel
  • Such things should never happen
To understand the insidious influence irrational beliefs can have on an employee's application of learning, take a few moments to reflect on the potential negative result each irrational belief listed above can generate. I think you'll soon conclude irrational beliefs represent a major obstacle to an organization's investment in training paying off the way it could (and should).

Now consider how each of the above irrational beliefs can affect an employee's response to change in the workplace, whether it's a merger, a major new initiative, new leadership, expanded responsibilities, the introduction of new software or what have you. I think you'll agree that such erroneous, self-limiting beliefs can have a potentially devastating effect on the performance of individuals, teams, departments and the viability of the organization itself.

Recognizing the value of helping employees (and their management) identify and minimize irrational beliefs, my firm developed -- and for the past several years has offered -- a unique program. Known as How to Sail Through a Sea of Change or Unstoppable Selling (the version for salespeople) our seminar presents a simple but profound way for participants to identify and minimize their self-imposed obstacles to greater success. The results have been consistently impressive, according to our clients whose employees are trained to apply simple, proven techniques. Here is one such technique based on the work of prominent cognitive psychologists, including Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck:

Whenever you experience anger, fear or upset at work, respond to these questions:

  1. What am I so upset about?
  2. What am I telling myself about the situation?
  3. Is it true? (Note: The participant, having an understanding of the difference between rational and irrational beliefs, scans a comprehensive list of irrational beliefs, noting any likely to be the root cause of the upset.)
  4. What is a more rational, constructive way of interpreting the situation? (Note: Here the participant vigorously challenges the original self-talk -- which was rooted in one or more irrational beliefs -- and replaces it with self-talk that is reality-based.)
  5. What, if anything, can I do to improve the situation? (Note: If circumstances are beyond the control or influence of the participant, he or she is trained to accept this fact and move on.)

Dr. James Fadiman, a well-known psychologist and writer, captured the necessity of removing internal blockages, i.e., irrational beliefs, when he wrote:

"When we get stuck while trying to reach a goal, it usually isn't because we need to learn a new technique. Rather, it's because we've run up against one or more internal barriers. Until we deal with those inner obstacles, all the good intentions, plans and motivational strategies in the world won't be good enough to see us through to our goals."

Unlike motivational or positive thinking programs, our program gets at the root cause of an individual's thoughts, feelings and actions: his or her unique belief system. What does this mean to HR professionals? Simply put: Excellent Training + Excellent Work Environment - Irrational Beliefs = Maximum R.O.I. in the Human Resource.


The Author


Frank J. Troha, Ph.D., is an independent corporate learning design consultant, instructional designer and author. He is also adjunct associate professor of instructional design at Fordham University Graduate School of Education, New York City, where he teaches corporate human resource and training professionals. His e-mail address is: . Web: .

Many more articles in Training & Development in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2002 by Frank J. Troha. All rights reserved.

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