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I was recently talking to a client about the desired outcomes he wanted from the program I was going to deliver to his sales team.  As we discussed potential sub-topics which I felt should be included in the content, he said “I don’t think we want to include that one – our people have heard that before”.   It was updated content that was, in my opinion, critical to his desired outcome.

So I asked him “They’ve heard it already.  OK.  Did they really learn it and are they using it in a manner that has positively impacted your bottom line?”

He said “As a matter of fact, NO they haven’t – Let’s put it in the program”, which we did, and they found that it took a new meaning that was valuable.

My friend, Jim Pancero, and I were recently talking, and he asserted “One of the biggest mistakes managers and executives make is assuming that someone who is highly experienced is trained!”  I smiled and said “Good point, Jim.  There are a lot of people with 25 years of experience who haven’t learned anything meaningful in years!”

Experience does NOT mean that someone is necessarily trained with all of the skill sets and best practices they need to succeed in today’s tough and competitive marketplace!  Until one is at the “Level Five Learning Level”, they really are not trained.

It is only through embracing change, and incorporating the newest best practices, that we truly learn and grow.  Constant research in the quest to improve our craft is the only avenue to exceptional performance.

Here’s my model for the five levels of learning…

  1. The Energized Beginner – The time at which people are most excited about learning is when they begin a new job or learn a new skill. Managers should nurture the eagerness they demonstrate and subject them to the content and learning process that will enable them to progress;
  2. The Reluctant Novice – This is the person who says “Wow this is more complex than I anticipated. I’ve got a lot to learn here!”  Keep them committed to the learning process so that they can make headway and start to make a difference;
  3. The Tentative Performer – This is the person who is experiencing progress and feels good about things that are working. Continued training, coaching and habit development are in order for more achievement.
  4. The Competent Producer – This is the person who has continued to apply herself and is experiencing gratifying results. These people are on the threshold of being where they need to be, but their potential is still beyond their current performance
  5. The Internalized Pro – This is the unconsciously competent person who feels great about the results he is getting and utilizes the most critical skills as a natural internalized habit. They get results in a timely manner and are generally categorized as your best producers.

When one learns the skill, knows why it works, and has become so comfortable with its use that it is reflexive, he is on the way to improved performance.

Good luck on growing your team and helping each person in your organization become a “success machine” as an internalized pro!


Don Hutson is CEO of U. S. Learning.  He has given over 5,000 speeches in 32 countries and is author or co-author of 14 books.  Go to:  www.donhutson.com or www.uslearningvt.com