A guest post by Lia Nichole Smith
Recently, a question was posed on ASTD’s LinkedIn message board:
“What are your thoughts and responses to the mindset that training is easy and ‘anyone’ can train?”
There were all sorts of comments supporting and condemning this mindset. ASTD published a few of them in their September issue of T&D. One comment in particular stood out to me. It came from a Corporate Trainer named Laurinda. She wrote:
“Training is easy if you know your audience and the types and preferences of adult learners. Training, however, does not equal standing in front of an audience and spewing information; we as trainers are facilitators of the discussion. A trainer should be the one who motivates, inspires, empowers, encourages, challenges conventional methods, and has diversity of thought. She should foster an environment that is conducive to learning while being open to feedback, flexible and adaptable.”
WOW! I could have used that bit of insight 15 years ago when I first began my training career. At the time, my training department consisted of myself and another colleague. We were asked to put together a training program because we just so happened to be able to teach customers how to use their cell phones effectively and explain their 25-page monthly bill. I had no clue what training entailed; but I did have the ability to make complex things simple for others to follow. I’m not sure if that qualified me to be a trainer…although I have never been shy in front of an audience. And so a trainer was born.
I used to get so agitated when comments were made about training not being effective and how employees would spend all day in class and had no change in performance upon returning to their duties. In my opinion, the class was perfect; the content, activities, slides, room temperature, seating chart, lunches, everything was perfect. So the problem must be the employee, right? It took me years and many ego bruises to learn that training is never about the trainer. It has to be about the audience – we trainers are merely facilitators as Laurinda pointed out. The sooner I realized that, the sooner I was able to get out of my own way and grow into a stronger facilitator. And so a trainer learns to get over herself.
I still come across presenters from time to time who are more concerned with the content than the connection and vice versa. There has to be a balance and the best trainers know how to bring the two together and create a learning environment which is engaging and effective. Each time I facilitate a class, I look at it as an opportunity to “turn on lightbulbs”…what the employee decides to do once the room is lit is basically one part reinforcement and two parts motivation.
Turning on lightbulbs is similar to the “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” analogy. I think my earlier frustration stemmed from wanting to not only train employees, but to do it so perfectly they had no choice but to remember it all. Not only did they have to remember it all, but they also had to prove they remembered it all by their actions. I didn’t want to see the same faces, in the same class twice…wasn’t once enough? Oh how naïve I was back then! Since then, I’ve worked with newbie trainers who have gotten thrown under the proverbial “lack of training bus” and it’s good to be able to provide the kind of direction I didn’t have when I first started out. These same trainers say things like, “I wish I could train like you” or “You just make it look so easy” and I always tell them it took years to get to this point. Too bad I don’t have video to prove it.
Learning as an adult is an ongoing process for all of us; participants as well as facilitators. Anyone one who thinks they know it all is doing themselves a disservice. Think of a participant in your class who came in with a “why am I here…I already know this stuff” attitude. How much fun was that person to work with? How disruptive was that person’s verbal and non-verbal messages to the rest of the class? The same holds true for us in the training world. We will never know it all, we will never be perfect and we will always be learning. I love it when someone turns on a lightbulb for me and shows me something new. As Laurinda put it, training does not equal standing in front of an audience and spewing information.
Ask yourself this, when was the last time you facilitated a discussion as opposed to trained a class? Hmm, I think a few lightbulbs just turned on…
Lia Nichole Smith has over fifteen years of experience in training, property management and marketing. She has presented at several industry events on topics related to affordable, conventional, student and tax credit communities. What Lia has found to be synonymous with all of them is value, quality and service – things every resident deserves. She is also the author of “101 Marketing Ideas To Get You Through The Slow Season”, a practical guide to apartment marketing. You can follow Lia on her blog, The Property Management Think Tank at NotJustOneDoor.com, where marketing, training and industry information is consistently posted.