My family has a cat named Chuck and Chuck is a stray. Well, he was a stray; since 2008, he has lived in the lap of luxury, i.e., the only way cats live when taken care of by my mom. Our other cat, Chester, also came to us as a stray, a horse barn kitten with ears and skin filled with worms and goo sealing his little eyelids at the seams. But he became a spoiled, finicky, entitled housecat, and Chuck’s behavior followed suit. They are both big, orange tabby cats, Garfield-in-real-life kinds of characters, adopted brothers who somehow look exactly the same. And, above all else, they love to eat.
These are not unique attributes of Chuck and Chester, as far as cats go anyway. I have anecdotal evidence of a cat’s love of food, sure, but thanks to a recent New York Times article I am now privy to veterinary research that focuses on this topic exactly. “Fat Cats on a Diet: Will They Still Love You?” by Jan Hoffman examines the behavioral changes in cats when their humans decide to adjust their eating habits.
This reminded me a lot of education managers making training decisions on behalf of their learners. Sure, your learners might be used to a particular way of training, one that endears them to you and results in some “World’s Best Boss” coffee mugs at Christmas. But are you choosing the absolute best training for your learners, the training that will help them succeed in the long run and give them the skills and confidence to succeed?
It’s as easy as this: Think about the ultimate goal of your training and the overall “health” of your learners’ experience. It is profoundly important to push them beyond their comfort zones, even if there is the possibility for push back. NogginLabs aims to develop engaging courseware with outstanding results. But the “outstanding results” can only happen if you’re willing to try something new. Everyone wants to be liked, and we get that. But imagine how much more your learners will like you when you give them the chance to see what they’re really capable of.
Behavior changes are possible—it just depends on having the right kind of training. Dr. Emily D. Levine, the leading researcher in the cat weight study, “said that one reason cats gain too much weight is that owners 'misread' their pet’s behavior, unwittingly reinforcing it with treats.” How are your learners attempting to voice their opinions or concerns about training and its efficacy? What, exactly, are their needs? Once you understand what needs to be solved, then the e-learning solutions will be far more effective.
I often think about the incessant meowing my mom had to put up with from Chuck and Chester when she initially changed their feeding schedule. She said it was hard at first, knowing they were grumpy, but as time wore on, they adjusted and their health improved. They reacted this way because change is hard, regardless of species. As a leader, you must demonstrate the empathy necessary for understanding a change, and then to develop a plan that makes it easier. Your learners will thank you, your cats will thank you, and you’ll thank yourself for having such amazing e-learning foresight.