How did you learn to type? To sew on a button? To make an omelet?
Did you (A) receive instruction; or, (B) did you figure it out for
If you're like me, the answer is (C) both.
I took a typing class in high school, but had to teach myself how to cut
and paste. My mother taught me how to thread a needle, but when a button
came off my shirt 10 minutes before a TV interview, I had to improvise
in a hurry.
As for the omelet, my college roommate showed me the ropes; but over the
years I tweaked his recipe, and my eggs are far superior.
Training vs. Self-Reliance
The point is, most everything we do combines formal instruction with
trial and error. Otherwise, there can be gaps in our understanding or
performance. And the same is true with recruiting.
For example, some recruiters are information addicts. They constantly
seek out all manner of training and coaching, but seem to make the same
mistakes over and over again.
At the other extreme are the autodidacts-those who are totally
self-taught. As a trainer, autodidactic recruiters drive me crazy,
because you can't teach them anything. By nature, they're resistant to
any method they didn't figure out for themselves.
The Best Teacher of All
I've found that the most successful people-recruiters or otherwise-are
receptive to training and eager to stand on the shoulders of giants.
They're comfortable working within a system, as long as they get good
But people also have a sixth sense for when a system breaks down, or
they need an answer that can't be found online or in their training
materials. At that point, their inner coach kicks in, and they begin to
look for ways to solve problems, or at the very least, learn from their
That's why I love the expression, "Success is a poor teacher." No matter
how rigorous your training, there's no better or more personal learning
experience than a setback or a failure. Being forced to learn on the fly
can be difficult and frustrating. But as Tony Robbins once observed,
there's a lot to be gained from turning the frustration of a problem
into fascination for the solution.
Giant leaps in proficiency rarely occur as a result of preparation
alone. Rather, success has a way of arriving just in time, at that
lonely intersection where formal training and the need for