I’ve been riding horses for more than 30 years. But at least once a month I pay an instructor to give me a riding lesson. My mates think I’m mad. “You can already ride,” they say. “Why do you need lessons?”
The answer’s simple – I still think there’s something I can learn, something I can improve and I still need help to make it happen.
I always think it’s strange that in the UK you learn how to drive, pass your test and are never required to improve your driving skills ever again. That’s it – you’re done. From 17 to 75, provided you don’t do anything dangerous you’re good to go.
But think about the last time you were out driving – were you annoyed by other drivers’ skills? Did you struggle in the snow or squeezing into a parking space? Would it help if you’d had the chance to practice driving in poor conditions or if the driver in front of you had?
If you had to take your driving test again would you pass it? Possibly – but I bet I’d fail.
With more than 22 years driving under my (seat) belt I’ve developed some seriously bad habits. And with no-one keeping me right they’ve become permanent. Is there a case for refreshing the skills you think you’ve already got?
And can the same apply in your professional life? It’s something everyone should watch out for. If you’ve written press releases since you first cut your teeth in PR does it mean you can’t do better? Or if you’ve presented to the board every month for years, does it make you an engaging and charismatic speaker?
Training budgets are tight and are often the first thing to cut when budgets are sliced. There’s a temptation to focus on new skills but there’s value in making sure you’re still doing the basics well.
Top athletes are coached through every aspect of their sport till they are perfect. Then they practise perfection till it becomes permanent. They don’t practise being mediocre or just good enough. Excellence has to be second nature to them – an automatic response.
So what can comms professionals do to make sure that as well as doing the right thing they’re doing things right – with little or no budget?
The answer as ever has to be get on line. Exploit your networks. Web sites of training companies often contain piles of useful information – as well as course details for those with cash to spend.
The CIPR website has tons of resources for non members (although here’s a reminder of why all comms people should be members from Robin Fenwick : )
Comms 2 point 0 collates best practice examples of real-life comms.
Skills Studio has lots of helpful stuff to improve your presentations.
Or check out PR Examples
I’ll add more links as I track them down.
Meanwhile, I’d best get my boots on – there’s a brutal riding instructor waiting to put me through my paces.
(in the picture: My baby pony, Harris, and me, under the watchful eye of our trainer, John Cameron)