A standard dictionary definition of silver bullet is ‘a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem’.

Last week, whilst working with a variety of management groups I was reminded of how complex the process of learning new skills, developing one’s approach and generally changing any existing behaviours can be – yet we often try to do so using a silver bullet!!

The silver bullet I am referring to is the traditional, standalone, isolated training session or workshop.

I love the definition’s wording – “simple and seemingly magical solution” – it seems so relevant to how training is often viewed. One day of training “should do the trick!”

The one-off event in the training rooms starts the process of learning and development but expecting a day to go from “new to subject” to “pretty good at it” is incredibly optimistic.

Participants need so much more to genuinely develop what they have started to learn in the training room.

I genuinely felt a sense of ‘double’ frustration recently; I felt frustrated that I hadn’t been able to help in the level of depth I knew at least one or two participants needed and I also sensed they were frustrated that they had started down a road but it was far from complete.

We know all change takes time – it takes commitment and ongoing support. It is complicated and challenging and a one size fits all, “sliver bullet” approach at best starts the learning process. I would add that this is obviously a crucial and much-needed part of the process and I welcome all those who embark on it.

I was delighted to hear that the groups I worked with had found the sessions very useful and practical but I am now worried about how much they are going to be asked how they will use what they have learnt and how much support they will get to do so, let alone what their ongoing development objectives will be!

In short, if you want your managers to be better – absolutely use some training and development programmes – but don’t reach for silver bullets. Commit to the process and all the challenges it presents, think long term and recognise that whilst the first step is crucial, to really see results it will take time, effort and patience.

Bill Osmond, Head of Learning