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Are You A Mac? Or a PC?

My father is in the market for a tablet computer.  Yesterday I took him to the Apple Store.  Then we walked across the street to the Windows Store in order to get a look at an alternative to the iPad. Those experiences couldn’t have been more different.


The Center for Creative Leadership has offered a model for leadership development named the 70/20/10 rule.  Basically, the model indicates that leadership skills emerge through a mix of learning that includes a ratio of 70% challenging assignments and on the job training, 20% supportive relationships (such as supervision, coaching and mentoring) and 10% formal training and classroom study.  This ratio has been embraced by many in the management field to serve as a model for general professional development.

Even though most people still think of training, learning and development as formal classes, training workshops and conferences, that type of learning is often confined to 10% (or less) of professional development.  And manager feedback and coaching only accounts for another 20%.  How then can managers, leaders and training professionals help their staff grow and develop during that other 70% of the time?

A Tale of Two Stores

When my family walked into the Apple Store, we walked into a store abuzz with activity.  There were easily 80-100 customers in the store and there were at least 30 Apple Store employees (“Geniuses”) walking the floor.  We were greeted and right away someone asked how they could help us.  My father began receiving his iPad education (indoctrination?) within 180 seconds of walking through the doors.

He seemed like he was ready to pull the trigger on buying a new iPad, but I suggested we walk across the street to the Windows Store, just to see what else the market had to offer.  When we walked into the Windows Store, we were greeted by three store employees at the door.  One was holding a wireless speaker.  Two others seemed to be full time greeters.  My entire family walked up to the display of Surface tablets and we tried to figure the machines out.  There wasn’t a “Home” button (or any other buttons) on the front of the machine, so we weren’t quite sure what to do when we were greeted by a screen that seemed to be asking for a password.  We poked the touch screen.  We tried hitting the ESC button on the cover/keyboard.  We looked around the store for some help – there were only 3 or 4 other customers in the store.  And there were a few employees milling about, but we weren’t able to catch anyone’s eye.  Unable to figure out how to use the Surface and unable to attract the attention of anyone in the store, we walked past the two professional greeters and the guy holding a wireless speaker and exited the store.

A Guiding Question for 70% of the Time: What’s Possible?

Perhaps there were many reasons nobody came to help us or ask if we had any questions in the Windows Store.  Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if the employees in the store felt they were doing all they could, all that was expected of them.

Sure, Microsoft can conduct wonderful training sessions on sales and customer service (that 10% of the ratio).  Windows Store managers can even observe employees in their own environment and offer feedback (another 20% of the ratio).  But I wondered what would have happened if the store manager took his employees on a field trip across the street to observe what happened inside the Apple Store.  Would my family’s experience have been different if the Windows Store employees had a chance to see what was truly possible within a high-end electronics retail environment?

I believe there are two words that a manager or a learning professional can plant into the minds of their direct reports/trainees that can serve as an ongoing quest for which they should always be on the lookout.  These two words – what’s possible – can guide self-directed professional development (a key element in 70% of the ratio) for any employee or trainee from now until he or she retires.

Knowing that formal training accounts for only 10% or less of professional development, how do you encourage people to seek out “what’s possible”?

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