As a young pastor, my dad once advised me, “You can start chopping on a tree anytime you want, but it’s better to wait until the wind is blowing in the right direction.” I have found that advice has applied to several situations over the years, and training is no different.
Let’s face it; training isn’t the most popular topic in the world. When I talk about leadership development, the topic of training and how to get people to training usually comes up, often in the form of a lament. About half of the problem is how we are training volunteers and the other half comes down to motivation.
The reality is people only want training when they want training, and it’s frustrating for leaders to figure out when that magical time is. Does this dilemma sound familiar? There is a motley crew of unique individuals who must come together in the right place, at a specific time when the stars of the universe have aligned in a specific way, with just the right things in place in order to save mankind from certain annihilation. What I’ve described could be the plot of a blockbuster movie. Or it may seem like the next ministry training event you have on your church calendar.
Several years ago, I read research on the “Five Moments of Need” model.1 It provides a great framework for understanding when people want to be trained. This model encompasses both formal and informal pathways of training and fits in well with the competency-based model we have developed in our Leadership Pipeline. According to the study, people are most receptive to “just-in-time training,” which happens when they feel an imminent need for knowledge or how to do accomplish the task at hand in a timely manner.
The Five Moments of Need Occur When People:
- Are learning for the first time
- Are compelled to learn more
- Are trying to apply what they have learned
- Have recognized things are going wrong
- Have recognized things are going to change
We like to focus on competency-based learning and believe it happens best when you have an overlap of knowledge, experience, and coaching. These elements quickly fall in line with the Five Moments of Need model, as each moment is an opportunity to engage a learner strengthening competencies and addressing weakness that may come to light along the way. If this research is correct, then a person’s openness to formal or informal training should be at its peak around these times.
It is important to remember that the training process you have developed is for the people; the people are not for your process. We often try to force a training process with a specific time, place, and pace that just doesn’t fit where our people are at the moment. Be on the lookout for the five moments of need and be flexible enough in your training process to engage people when they are in a receptive posture.
You may want to consider using a mobile first training platform like Ministry Grid that puts training in your pocket and makes it available at any time and place and allows people process it at their own pace. This enables you to immediately address a moment of need and not miss an opportunity for development by trying to lock it into a specific time and place.
So, like my dad advised, take advantage when the wind is blowing in your favor and you will be much more successful in equipping your people and accomplishing your training goals.
1. Con Gottfredson and Bob Mosher, Innovative Performance Support (USA: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 37-38.