Anybody can learn anything right? Actually, no. It’s not even close to the truth.

For instance, as much as I’ve tried over the years I just can’t absorb anything much about cars. I like how some of them look and I love the colors. I sometimes like the interiors. But if it involves engines or anything under the hood, my mind’s not taking it in. I don’t even know where the oil goes; yeah, I know, it’s a shame.

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This means I’ll never put in to do any kind of work in the automobile industry. Everything isn’t for everyone.

That being said, one would think there should be some things that you might be able to teach anyone. I tend to believe that I can teach anyone leadership. I like to think that I can help anyone get motivated.

I know that’s not true though. Often, the reason isn’t that someone isn’t smart enough, but that they’re not ready to learn the lesson, or don’t want to learn the lesson. It’s a shame because sometimes you really want to get a lesson across that’s just not going to work because the other person won’t cooperate… sometimes they don’t know they’re not cooperating.

Case in point. Over the weekend I decided to try a kind of experiment, although when I first thought about it I wasn’t thinking experiment.

Some of you might have heard about this guy who, after Serena Williams won Wimbledon, went on Twitter and said that the only reason she won is because she’s so “manly”. J. K. Rowling responded to him, yet the entire thing stayed on the inside pages of the news for about a week.

It stayed on my mind as well, and I decided to try to engage him and talk about the ethics of his actions. To save time, I wrote about the experience on my other blog, which you can check out here if you’re interested.

At the end of about an hour I realized I was beating a dead horse. He didn’t get it. He couldn’t figure out why deciding that not only was a person good because of her physical presence but calling it out in an insulting manner wasn’t a good thing to do. I tried everything, including asking him how he’d react if the tables were turned on him or his family members. Nope, he just wasn’t getting it.

I left the conversation feeling pretty good with what I said and how I said it. I was also slightly frustrated because he never seems to get an indication as to why people didn’t like what he said. He wasn’t ready to learn it I finally figured. He’s relatively young, early 20’s. Sometimes it takes a bit of aging for more ethical behavior to come to someone who, I assume, isn’t necessarily bereft of some niceties.

Learning how to use the simulator
Oregon Department of
Transportation
via Compfight

I could afford to just leave that conversation and get on with life. His not figuring it out won’t affect my life. Truthfully, it wasn’t just for him. Seems he’d accumulated a number of followers since his first statement, people who felt he had the right to say what he said. None of them helped him out during our conversation; maybe someone got the point.

In business though, you can’t afford to do the same thing. We all have to face the reality that what we do isn’t for everyone. I’ve always said that we have to treat everyone fair, not necessarily equal. This means figuring out the speed at which people learn and how much they retain once they’ve learned something. We have to acknowledge that everyone won’t learn at the same pace.

Sometimes people never learn it though. I’ve seen that in health care; it’s really not all that easy a business. There are always nuances; it could take years for someone to fully figure out everything there is to know about the work they do.

Still, there are minimum standards that have to be reached. That’s why, as with almost every other job I know of, there are probationary periods. That’s when you’re supposed to be at your most adept in evaluating the training and learning process of each person.

If they’re missing a few things here and there, you modify the training process to help reinforce what they need to learn. If they’re not getting it at all… you have to do the right thing for the company and let them go.

No one likes firing employees. I haven’t had to do it often but I’ve had to do it. As Mr. Spock once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one”. If you don’t let go of an employee whose work is substandard, one who can’t figure out the process, it impacts the morale of everyone else in the department and smacks of favoritism. Then you have another problem to deal with, one that’s harder to overcome.

When people aren’t learning and you’ve done everything you can to teach them something, you can feel good about having to take the next step because it’s necessary. If you didn’t do what you needed to do, that’s when you should call your own processes or motives into thought.

Never be afraid to make the right decision, even if someone can’t learn from your trying to teach them the right way.
 

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