10 Hurdles to Overcome When Learning New Skills


You have no time, but urgently need new skills to stay relevant in a rapidly changing business environment. Regardless of your role in your company, if you are not continuously growing and evolving, you will regress very quickly.

So, what is stopping you from learning new skills required for success? What are your options? What should you do first?

Globally, we are seeing new skills being required to turn:

  • Sales people from order takers to business people who sell
  • Leaders from the star player to the head coach
  • Accountants from compliance-focused to advisory-focused employees
  • Advisors from consultants to facilitators

The 10 key issues we see that need to be addressed when learning new skills are:

1. Too much theory, not enough practice. While it is important to understand the theory of a new model or approach you are learning, it is more important to practice the theory in a real-life situation, so you can quickly learn what works and doesn’t work in the field. Don’t spend too much time on the theory, since learning through rapid trial and error can often be much more beneficial.

2. Get the context right. Reviewing hundreds of marketing flyers for training courses yearly quickly shows that most are too focused on the topics being covered and less on why a businessperson should invest the time in doing so. Before starting any sort of training, spending time outlining why it is required in the context of your personal or business vision (and strategies) will greatly assist in ensuring it’s completed properly and applied quickly in the business.

3. Fear of failure. Fear of not succeeding is very often one of the biggest hurdles to adopting new skills. What if I’m exposed as not being as strong in a skill as I’m perceived to be? What will people think of me? The saying that often comes to mind is that fear stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”, since very often these thoughts are just irrational beliefs raising their head.

4. Fear of success. It sounds strange, but very often business leaders/owners hold themselves back due to the extra pressures and lifestyle changes that come with increased success. Will I have to travel more for work? Will that affect my work/life balance? Will I have more responsibility? These thoughts can be managed with proper planning and preparation.

5. Just-in-time learning. You have an issue with improving the profitability in your business, so you search the Internet for a face-to-face course that suits your needs. The next one, however, is in three months, but you need it right now; so, what should you do? Many business owners/leaders find themselves in this situation, and the only alternative is an online or e-learning solution, which involves taking a course of your choice at any time, from anywhere in the world. These courses often feature videos from leading experts around the world to help you get up to speed and instantly apply new skills to fit your needs—a great, just-in-time solution.

6. Ensure the learning is customized to your needs. Most courses in the market are very prescriptive by nature. For instance, to learn how to be a great leader, you go through 10 set modules, which is supposed to be all you need for success. However, the experience of the person or his/her desired objectives are rarely considered when building a learning experience tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

7. Before and after the learning. Before you learn a new skill, be sure to establish a clear definition of why you are going through the training, and upon completion, allocate time to debrief how you are going to start applying those new skills. Partaking in the actual course is only a small part of the learning journey.

8. Retaining your new skills. Those who attend a face-to-face course forget 90% of what they learned within 24 hours of the event; it is a lot of wasted time and energy to only retain 10%. So, what are your options? E-learning provides the opportunity to regularly go back and review the content, via an online platform, to ensure that you continuously relearn the skills over a period of weeks and months. As a result, learning retention can increase dramatically.

9. Great leadership support. In a business context, ensuring you have the support of your manager and/or the leadership team is critical to the application of the new skills you learned. Good leadership support will enable you to apply the new skills quickly, overcome hurdles, and allocate time for the development process.

10. No time. We all have just 168 hours a week—no more, no less. How a person leverages him/herself to make the best use of that time is often the difference between success and failure. In a learning context, it’s becoming more difficult to take two days away from the office to attend training, as the distraction of returning to a heavy workload can negatively impact the learning experience. Looking for ways to break up the training into smaller, bite-sized chunks allows new skills to be learned and implemented quickly. So, experiment with a more blended learning approach (balance between face-to-face learning and e-learning) and different time frames (potentially 3–4-hour blocks once a week) to overcome hurdles and fit this time into the busy business environment.

So, if you face challenges to learning new skills for yourself or your team, think through the issues above and determine those most applicable. You can quickly develop 3–4 strategies to overcome each, and dramatically improve your ability to change and adapt.

Comments are closed.