AKRON (Nov. 11, 2002)—Make no mistake about it, the best technicians in this industry always behave like serious students when you send them out to training classes.
Techs who don't take learning seriously do themselves and their employers a grave disservice.
Before I continue, I offer full disclosure for new or infrequent readers of Tire Business. I spend about 200 days per year crisscrossing the country, presenting training seminars. The overwhelming majority of guys and gals who attend my classes are quality people who really want to learn.
These folks are the salt of the earth, not to mention the future of our industry.
But any instructor I know will agree there are individuals we see who never got it, don't get it now and never will get it. By “get it,” I mean those adults who never seemed to have learned the process of learning.
If nothing else, they could have learned it from their classmates years ago, but these people are often too self-centered and self-focused to absorb the meaningful things occurring around them. Instructors who have known these characters a long time both recognize and try to cope with their “low-absorption” skills.
Most people who have taken anything worthwhile home from any classroom would concur that listening and writing are among the vital elements of learning. In other words, most students in any classroom at any given time are listening instead of talking.
What's more, most students instinctively write down things the teacher says that sound important. Or they immediately write down things the teacher tells them outright are important points.
Unfortunately, many low-absorption students fancy themselves to be mental sponges. They repeatedly boast that they just soak up everything the teacher has to offer without the undue stress of scribbling. After all, these braggarts will tell you, note taking is for lesser individuals—certainly not for someone of their caliber.
Most readers know what the world says about paybacks. Occasionally you see one of these characters, who absolutely refuses to take notes, get his or her come-uppance.
A recent example is an abject lesson for all owners, managers and technicians. Here's what happened.
A widely respected colleague of mine left a job as a working foreman in the transmission service industry to teach full time for a vehicle manufacturer. His low-key manner and excellent communication skills, which served him well back in the shop, also have helped earn him a reputation as a solid instructor.
One of the techniques he and I share is a knack for embellishing class material with real-world examples. We both emphasize that reading the book is just the beginning of the learning experience. The proof of the pudding is applying theory to daily troubleshooting and problem solving.
Then we pepper the students with examples of how applying theory solved a litany of difficult-sounding symptoms.
Most students write down these examples and routinely thank us for them later. Most students come to another class because they know we'll relate the material to the real world they face every day in a meaningful way.
Anyway, my colleague took a technical call from a dealership technician who has steadfastly refused to write down anything in class. This same fellow who sees himself as the proverbial mental sponge had already removed and reinstalled a front-drive transmission four times and the vehicle still wasn't fixed.
First he insisted, then his service manager later insisted, that my colleague diagnose the problem over the telephone.
Coincidentally, this instructor had cited this car's specific symptoms during one of the lectures applying class theory to real-world problems. The tech was incredulous and the service manager doubtful.
My colleague held his ground and challenged the service manager to skim through the tech's workbook from transmission class.
A much-subdued service manager re-turned to the phone. He admitted that he had inspected his star technician's workbook and there wasn't a single pen or pencil mark anywhere on it! The self-proclaimed mental sponge was, in fact, just another low-absorption hardhead who was costing his boss a small fortune in wasted time and bad faith with the vehicle owner.
Sometimes it takes a fiasco or two to reveal that a technician isn't the student he or she claims to be.