Not all training or trainers are created equal. When you think about training, are you prioritizing what will really create change, or what will look good on a resumé?
The course in Leadership begins. The instructor, a PhD in sociology and psychology, gets started:
“Ladies and gentlemen, pay close attention to what I’m about to say. The purpose of this course is to teach you to be better team leaders. At the end of the course I will give you an exam to see if you’ve learned it all. I am going to give you some technical notes to read (185 pages) and my book: “How to be a good leader in 5 steps”. I want to warn you: nothing that you’ve learned before this course will work. Please pay close attention, because I won’t repeat anything. If you get distracted, I will ask you to leave the session. The rules are: leave your cellphone in the basket at the door, don’t interrupt, and leave all questions until the end. Discipline is important – no jokes. Leadership is a serious subject. Are we clear?”
A month later, the company’s director of training asks herself: “Why are the team leaders behaving the same way after that ‘great’ course?” They all passed their final exam and their exit evaluations were satisfactory. There was a course and nothing changed. What went wrong?
All the following things:
- Participants DON’T READ. Contrary to what you might believe, the majority of training participants don’t read – pre-reading, manuals or their own notes. At the end of a course or workshop, they’ll never read or study what they were given. They don’t have time. They expect to assimilate or learn what they need during the course and be able to apply it immediately.
- Participants will behave the way you treat them. If you treat them like students (banning cell phones, passing obligatory attendance, not interrupting the instructor, etc.) they will behave like students. They will sit passively, take notes and pass the exam. They won’t really learn anything.
- A participant needs to know how the course will benefit him and what its immediate application is. If the objective is to “teach” then there is nothing of interest to the participant. Passing an exam is not aan authentic benefit for the participant. The participant needs to know how all of this will apply in the short term.
- Learning – or failing to learn – is the participant’s responsibility. No adult learns by obligation. No one can make them learn. And even when they’ve assimilated the content, if there is no real transfer of information it doesn’t apply. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” doesn’t work on adults.
- Past experience is the starting point for learning. A participant cannot ‘erase’ her experience. Quite to the contrary, it should serve as a springboard. To apply new behaviors, you need to know what to unlearn and in so doing, change your behavior, or how to build new learning adding on to what you’ve already done. Additionally, feedback based on past experience is important and valuable.
- Participants need to see role models of what they’re learning. The trainer is the first model they should be taking examples from. It doesn’t matter how much experience or wisdom trainers have, but what they can model for participants.
- Seriousness – meaning the absence of emotions – doesn’t favor behavioral learning. Science has proven that learning is more powerful and permanent when it is accompanied by emotional experience. Games, role-playing, videos, even debates, among other tools, generate emotions that favor learning.
Are you going to invite teachers with lots of knowledge and experience or facilitators who know how to extract the best learning from participants?