I remember as a child my mom would always tell me to stop always asking “why” and just do what I was told.  I believe she was on to something that most parents understand.   There are times when you just need to do what you are told and trust, especially as a 5 year old child.  On a visit with my God Son who at the time was 4 we had the most riveting conversation all based on the word “why”.  Never in my life had I been asked so many “why” questions, “why doesn’t Spiderman run out of webs, why does Kryptonite make Superman lose his powers, why don’t you live in Atlanta …… why is the sky blue?

I believe as we get older there is a transition point where the ban on asking why is lifted and we slowly emerge into a world where it’s okay to ask why.  This can be a scary and challenging place for some.  Asking why has the potential to challenge assumptions and reveal answers that may be difficult at times to answer and embrace.

There are problem solving techniques that require asking why to uncover the root cause of a problem.  There are times when we ask why out of frustration because we have no other recourse of action.  There are times when we ask why to get better understanding and clarity of purpose.  All are legitimate reasons to ask why.

Have you ever been given a task and wanted desperately to ask a why question?  “Why me, why this way or why now” Or have there been times when these why questions have been asked of you?  There is a time and place to ask why.  Maybe not in the middle of a crisis requiring immediate action but certainly there should be space for why questions in the course of our day.  Consider this:  If you want clarification or deeper understanding, you may have to ask”why”.  If someone asks why of you, it’s often because they want clarification and deeper understanding.  As shocking as it may be, sometimes our communication is not always as eloquent and thorough as we would hope.

As a progressive leader encourage those around you to ask the “why” questions and embrace the questions when asked of you.  The more clarity and purpose you can provide to your staff the better chance of their success, your success and the success of the organization.  Should you not currently be in a position of leadership, let this be your permission to ask those why questions, your supervisor isn’t my “mom”;) it’s okay to ask.

We have all heard it said “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick”.  I have most often heard this statement made in reference to someone that is unwilling to learn or adjust to a change in their surroundings.  I have even heard this statement in reference to ones staff or employees that are perceived as unwilling to change or learn something new, “All they want is to stay in cage wash”.

For someone that has had dogs most of my life it’s hard to figure out where this statement came from.  I have found that dogs do in fact tend to learn all kinds of new things throughout their lives, even in their more senior years.  So if the statement isn’t true for dogs than maybe it’s not true for people.

My mom is completely unwilling to own a cell phone or a microwave.  At first I thought she was falling into the “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” quagmire.  However when needing to use a cell phone or a microwave she is more than willing to do so.    My moment of eureka came when I saw that my mom was more than willing to learn something new.  She has no problem using my microwave when visiting and with a bit of instruction she can even use the cell phone.  She just doesn’t want to own either.

The problem with using the statement “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” is that we start to believe it.  It’s not true for dogs and it’s certainly not true for people.  Yes you may find that you or someone you know is unwilling to learn but that is very different from not being able to learn.  Our challenge as trainers, educators and manager of people is to assume that all of our learners are willing to learn and then create such an atmosphere that the only way they will not learn is if they willfully choose to not learn.

We are all capable of learning new things.  ACTS has the privilege of training lots of people and there is nothing more gratifying than seeing someone learn a skill, technique, or concept which had previously eluded them.

My goal is to have some we have empowered give a testimony that says the following “ACTS provided a training session that made me believe you can teach an old dog a new trick”.

AuthorCaroline Thompson