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Smull Talk
TLCPCP BoardBlog
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Avoiding the Trap of the Naturals – Michael Smull
November 1, 2018
1

“The best doers
are often the
worst teachers”
~ Adam Grant

In an article in the New York Times Adam Grant articulates something that those of us who teach Person Centered Thinking (PCT) experience as a challenge. He notes that those who are the best at using the skills, especially those who say they were already using the skills, may not be the most effective teachers or coaches. In PCT practice, we refer to those who just “get it and do it” as naturals. Ironically those who are naturals, who are best at the work, may need to work the hardest in helping others learn. It has been one of the more difficult lessons that I learned in the early days of teaching person centered planning.

Some of those “naturals” say that our 2‐day training in person centered thinking skills could easily be condensed to 1 day or even less. This is true for them but not for most. For most of those being trained these are new skills that need to be taught and coached where there is structured practice with feedback. Simply presenting a skill is not sufficient. Opportunities within the training to practice the skills is essential and takes time. Two days is a minimum. Even with the intensive training, follow‐up coaching is required for consistent and successful skill use.

If you want to understand the skills, Grant notes that “…the best way to learn something is not to do it, but to teach it. You understand it better after you explain it — and you remember it better after retrieving and sharing it.” We hear this from those learning to be trainers. But we have also learned that to really explain the skills, you need to illustrate their use in stories that come from your own experiences. You need to successfully use the skills to be good at teaching them. The irony (and trap) in this comes when Grant quotes Sian Beilock : “As you get better and better at what you do, your ability to communicate your understanding or to help others learn that skill often gets worse and worse.”

The test for those of us who train is not our level of skill but in our success in helping others learn and use the skills we teach.