Adult Rookies – Supporting Them Over the Hump

Warning triangle, Distance over which road humps extendThink about what it is like to have adult rookies – these are likely people who have attained a certain level of competence in their work.  And, just by being adults, they are able to learn many new things without going back to square 1.  Now – put them into a situation where they know very little and have very few, if any, skills at what you are asking them to do.  What will they feel?  Fear, anger, frustration, embarrassment?  How many times have you considered doing something completely new, but hesitated because you felt inadequate?  I think of this as the adult rookie hump.  If you can’t get over this hump, you’ll pull back and might never learn the new stuff.

This came home to me in the last couple of months.  Since I was a young girl, I have wanted to learn how to ride a horse in the English style.  And, since I learn new things quickly and had ridden both bareback and Western style throughout most of my life, I really thought it wouldn’t be that hard.  It only took two lessons before I realized that the only thing I had going for me was that I was familiar with, and not afraid of, horses.  I was a complete, and total, adult rookie.  In that realization moment – the question that went through my mind was – Can I really do this successfully?  Not, will I – or, should I – or, do I still want to.  It was ‘can I?’ – because I was feeling completely inadequate and afraid that I couldn’t learn, and be successful with, this new set of skills.  I had hit the rookie hump and thought maybe I should quit the lessons.

Whitney, my riding instructor, saw the look on my face, and immediately said to me – ‘Lorrie, you can learn this and do this.  I will help you.’  This was the pivotal point – and I think it is for many adult rookies.  Will we pullback, using an excuse to stop trying to learn the new skills?  Or, will there be someone who understands what we are going through and supports us?  Whitney never tried to talk me out of how I was feeling, she just listened and nodded.  She then asked me how I learned best, broke down the riding behaviors into smaller pieces, and reinforced what I did successfully – all culminating in my being able easily sit on my trotting horse — with no reins or stirrups, and have my eyes closed.  What a confidence booster!  I was able to shed my fear that I couldn’t be successful, remember why I wanted to learn this in the first place, and reset my commitment to sticking with it.  I was over the hump, still a rookie, but believing that I could be successful.

I believe that some of the resistance when implementing a change has to do with this rookie hump.  Who, especially an adult, is going to admit that don’t feel ‘up to the task’?  Whether it is new equipment to operate, new behaviors to demonstrate, or new knowledge to show – no one wants to feel inadequate.  And, if the training and development in the past hasn’t met their needs – it is even more likely that people will be angry and resistant.  It is vital, in the planning of the change, to remember the keys for helping rookies over the hump.

The keys include:

  • Recognizing that on any change there will be adult rookies – identify them early
  • Listening to how the rookies feel – no arguing or consoling, just let them get it out
  • Asking them how they learn best – then teaching to their style
  • Acknowledging progress, no matter how small – this is what keeps them coming back
  • Showing them the roadmap – they can see how they will get to the end goal

When planning your next project or organizational change, keep in mind your rookies and what they need, emotionally and skills-wise.  You can’t lose by giving them extra consideration.  The people who aren’t rookies will transition quickly because you’ll have an even better thought-out plan.  The rookies, will feel respected, listened to, and supported in getting over the hump.  They will have the confidence to produce good results, and might just become your best cheerleaders for the change.

Let us know how we can support you in planning for, and working with, your adult rookies.

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