THERE IS A LOT MORE TO TRAINING than just ‘show slides and tell’. Adult learning is not an automatic consequence of pouring information into a trainee’s head. Lectures and workshops, alone, do not lead to real and lasting learning that organisations demand to fill skill gaps. Instead, training delivery that is positioned from the audience’s point of view, allowing the trainees to hear, see, do, reflect, question and to be inspired, will make a true impact on behaviour change.
This is what I’ve learnt from my 10 years in the training and development industry in China. I’ve personally implemented programs with multinational companies and State-Owned Enterprises and have uncovered the most common reasons that lead to unsatisfactory training delivery. They include:
– The trainer usually presents only from his/her own perspective,
– The trainer does not include a clear logical agenda at the beginning of the program,
– The trainer does not return to the key messages during the program,
– The training is dry and boring,
– The trainer fails to customise the material in a way that allow trainees to practice and present their opinions,
– The trainer fails to conduct seminar with energy and enthusiasm to ensure trainees interest in the topic,
– The trainer fails to answer trainees’ questions with examples that relate to trainees’ industry,
– The trainer is not flexible enough and usually pays too much attention on the PowerPoint slides instead of the trainees themselves,
– The trainer fails to include interactive ice–breaker and group activities throughout the day, and
– The trainer fails to conduct the training in a manner that enables most of the trainees to speak and interact with trainer.
This list of failures might seem daunting, but there are actually only three major steps needed to fix each. They involve planning, showing appreciation, and controlling your emotions.
1. Plan Every Little Thing
I’ve never thought of myself as an adult trainer – I think of myself as an organisation development (OD) project manager. And this is in total contrast to my personality which, based on the Belbin Team Roles model, shows that I score low on the ‘Monitor/Evaluator’ and ‘Completer/Finisher’. In short, that means I DO NOT have an eye for detail. So why do I consider myself a project manager? This is because I consciously leave no detail to chance. I actively double-check the details of all stakeholders, including the trainees, and prepare, prepare and prepare. My preparation quality is reflected within the feedback scores.
And yet, I am not naturally a detail conscious person. I have a free spirit, but I’ve realised, since my very first training, that the more time I take to prepare the more I enjoy the training. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and I don’t want that to be me!
2. Say ‘Thank You’ and Compliment your Trainees with a Big Smile
For most of the in-house training that I have delivered, trainees are usually from different departments, with different years of experience within their firm. Their seniority also varies, not to mention the trainees’ personalities and learning preferences. Therefore, to treat all your trainees equally will be offensive, as it fails to recognise anyone as an individual.
I like to place sincere and to the point compliments with a big smile throughout the whole workshop, both during individual sharing and with group presentations. I even go as far as encouraging applause for answers, which inspires all trainees. By emphasising on an individual’s positive input, I can usually feel an noticeable change of the entire class dynamic. Not only do the trainees clap without my encouragement, after the first morning, but also they are more willing to share in front of the rest of the group.
And when I praise someone, I always look into their eyes and give specific reasons as to why I liked their point. But that means I must actively listen, which involves me writing down their answers, and this level of respect is greatly appreciated. In short, a simple “thank you” or genuine feedback goes a long way to improving the trainer-trainee relationship.
3. When handling Difficult Trainees or Tough Questions, Choose your Emotions
David Hawkins was a philosopher that developed a map of the levels of human consciousness called the ‘Scale of Consciousness’. In his book, Power vs. Force, he talks about disease, which he breaks into ‘dis-ease’, or not being comfortable. Hawkins believes that this happens in the lower states of our mind. Being human, especially when we are training or facilitating in a public environment, we can’t escape emotions of ‘dis-ease’. However, what Hawkins says is when you feel embarrassed, nervous, anger, fear or related negative feelings, you should let yourself ride that emotion, not dwell within it. Ride it, feel it out, and then choose a positive emotion to executive the conversation or speech.
If you change your thoughts, then you change your reality. A trainer is not expected to know everything, and reasonable trainees would not expect you to. But sometimes trainees ask questions with a deeper, hidden psychological reason of wanting to be recognised by the group. The question itself is totally irrelevant in this case. So before you sigh, and say to yourself, I can’t believe he is crazy enough to ask this question, realise that your body language is going to automatically match this defensive thought process. Instead, you could think he must have asked this question for a reason. Let me find out why and see if I can provide a good answer. Thought patterns like this will create positive body language, which will be appreciated by all the trainees.
These three small changes will greatly improve your performance as a trainer. And as Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger said in their book ‘The Orderly Conversation – Business Presentations Redefined‘, “Improvement is achieved by the ripple effect of a few simple changes in approach, attitude, or habit.” Good luck!