Developing Skills and Self-Confidence

January 18th, 2021
Developing skills and self-confidence

Whether you like it or not, your thoughts affect your actions.  And that’s why how you feel about what you do counts.

The fact is, most of us struggle when we’ve got to show someone else what we can do e.g. to earn a driver’s license, or become a certified forklift operator.

Practice to Gain Confidence

Of course the best way to gain confidence is practice. The more you do, the more you can do. And the more you can do, the more you do. That’s self-confidence.

But what happens when the practicing itself is stressful?  That’s exactly what happens at the controls of heavy equipment, with all of the associated danger at the start, not to mention the costs of fuel, insurance, your supervisor’s time, and repairs to that equipment when mistakes are made (and there are always mistakes).

That’s why, when it comes to developing operating skills, the best way to practice, especially at the start, is with simulation. Here’s how one Simlog customer described it:

Simulation removes the pressure associated with training at the controls of real equipment and that’s why trainees who start with simulation have a level of confidence that you won’t find as a result of traditional training methods.

Still, it’s not enough “to do” simulated work; you need the right kind of “doing”.

About Simulator-based Practicing (to Gain Self-Confidence)

First, you need the right kind of tasks. And that’s why the best training simulators feature an instructional design that teaches you what to do bit-by-bit, with work that starts off easy and then becomes progressively more difficult.  

Second, you need the right kind of feedback, and lots of it, because you can’t know how to do things right when you begin. (If you could, you’d already be an expert.) So for each simulated task, you need to be able to measure how well you are doing in order to improve. Indeed, without the right kind of feedback, you’ll never notice that you’re doing something wrong and worse, down the road, you’ll need to “un-learn” bad habits (that can even be dangerous).

And that’s why the best training simulators provide feedback that is much more comprehensive and objective than a human trainer ever could. And that feedback will evaluate what you do in exactly the same every time, without ever getting angry, or impatient, or discouraged.

There’s a name for this kind of learning, “deliberate practice”, and that’s a topic explored in a recent Simlog Conference Presentation.

About Losing and then Regaining Self-Confidence

Now it’s time for a story about losing, and then regaining the necessary self-confidence to successfully operate heavy equipment.

A forest industry sawmill had recently purchased new heavy equipment and with a unionized workforce, the senior person operating the old equipment was first in line.

But because that new machine featured much new functionality (including two joysticks replacing four levers), the operator, so proficient at the controls of the old equipment, was having lots of problems. And after repeatedly damaging the machine over the course of one month, the local dealer refused to make any additional repairs under warranty, and that brought a halt to everything.

And that’s when Simlog entered the picture.

At first, the simulator was used to evaluate the operator’s “mechanical aptitude”, along with eight other, more junior, employees who were selected as possible alternatives. And much to everyone’s surprise, the operator ranked favorably, as measured by the simulator’s comprehensive Performance Indicators.

After that, the operator and the three other people with top scores received simulator-based training. Once again, when that ended, the operator ranked favorably, as measured by the simulator’s comprehensive Performance Indicators.

The final result? The operator returned to the new equipment and the improvement to his previous performance was dramatic. Today, everyone is smiling: the operator, mill manager, and the local dealer.

And when I got to talking with the mill manager, he suggested that it all came down to self-confidence or rather, to a lack of self-confidence: that with so much “new-ness” going from the old equipment to the new, and with so much financial pressure to make that new machine work well right from the get-go, the poor operator was feeling overwhelmed.

After each mistake, he lost more self-confidence, and then made even more mistakes. That’s the downwards spiral that the training simulator helped stop and turn around, as part of the re-gaining of self-confidence.

Concluding Remarks

The fact is, you can only be skilled when you’re confident. And that’s why gaining self-confidence is key to developing skills.

And whether you need to gain self-confidence, or re-gain self-confidence, the right kind of training simulator is the best way to practice, especially at the start.

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