What has leadership got to do with being a corporate trainer?
Recently we have written about having disruptive participants in the learning environment. That may be a talker in the room, someone who is constantly engaging with their technology and not the learning, or one of dozens of other ‘participants’ who test your skill and your patience.
One of the most challenging participants of all is the one who constantly argues with you and undermines everything you say. However, this participant can also be an excellent opportunity to take the learning up a gear or two.
Learning facilitator as leader of learning
As a learning facilitator, you are responsible for the performance of the group of people in your training room – just as any manager is responsible for the performance of the people they are supervising at any time.
Of course, each individual is also responsible for their own performance – whether it be on the job or in the training room.
However, as a facilitator you may need to help them step up to that responsibility and that’s where leading learning comes in.
I am going to come back to this balance of responsibility later in the article.
Just like a manager in the workplace, a corporate trainer is a manager by default. It is your job to manage the logistics, keep things on time, work through a training plan, etc.
However, while you are a manager by default, you are a leader by action – and learning facilitators that step up and lead learning invariably get better outcomes for their participants.
When you lead learning, you proactively create a culture in the learning environment that fosters learning, encourages each person to participate positively and helps them take responsibility for their own learning outcomes. You influence rather than control. Critically, when you have a participant that undermines everything you say, you use that as an opportunity rather than a barrier.
This isn’t just a nice theory – a facilitator with The Real Learning Experience had this challenging experience in the training room recently.
I am not here to participate!
The facilitator was delivering a two day program called The Emotionally Intelligent Communicator. He had a relatively small group in the room – some arrived with an open mind, others were there because their boss said they had to be.
One person arrived and made it very clear that they wouldn’t be participating in discussions and activities. As a facilitator we need to encourage people to get involved but we also have to respect the choices they make in the training room – as long as they are prepared to live with the workplace consequences of those choices.
As the two day course progressed, this person stuck to their guns – they declined to actively participate in activities. The irony was that they were very happy to argue the point on pretty much everything that was discussed.
It was pretty clear that the course content could be highly valuable to this person!
The impact on the participants
Have you been in a training course with someone like this? It can be highly frustrating especially if you are keen to learn as much as you can.
The participants our facilitator's course reacted in two broad ways:
- They became frustrated and annoyed with the disruptive individual
- They expressed empathy for the facilitator for having to deal with them
The skilful learning facilitator’s point of choice
This was a pivotal moment for the facilitator. Should he act as a manager of learning or a leader of learning? Should he see this individual as a barrier to the learning or as an opportunity?
He made a critical choice that changed the dynamic in the room. He responded by using the exact skills that he was there to teach the participants.
The Emotionally Intelligent Communicator is all about being, well, an emotionally intelligent communicator. Instead of just covering the material, the facilitator modelled the principles to deal with this person. He held himself to a high standard and demonstrated to the participants in the room exactly how interpersonal communication in the workplace can be improved by using the skills he was teaching. Walking the talk is a cliché – but this is what it really means. This is ‘do as I do’ and not just ‘do what I say’.
A third choice for participants
This approach gave participants who were previously either empathetic or frustrated, a third option. He turned the disruption into a live demonstration and created a real learning experience!
For some of the participants, they really got it. They approached the facilitator and talked about the way he used the skills to deal with this person. For these participants, the skills had been brought to life; they weren’t just theories and principles, they were strategies they had seen applied in action and under pressure.
For these participants, it simply wasn’t possible to say that phrase that all corporate trainer’s dread hearing: it all makes sense but it wouldn’t work for me because (insert excuse of choice).
The outcome of the course
For the participants, it was a mixture. Some had significantly improved learning outcomes, others left still frustrated with the disruptive individual.
The facilitator left the course exhausted but gratified. He entered the training room as a highly skilled learning facilitator and left it an even better one. He had helped people develop despite less than ideal circumstances.
What about the disruptive participant?
Let’s go back to the earlier discussion about responsibility for outcomes in the training room.
The responsibility of the leader of learning is to create an environment in which everyone has the opportunity to learn, to make that environment as positive and respectful as positive and to work to engage each individual who walks into the training room.
The responsibility of the participant is to respond positively, participate in creating a conducive environment, and to be accountable for their own learning outcomes.
Did this disruptive participant gain a lot from the course? They were given every opportunity, time will tell whether they took it.
Becoming a skillful facilitator of learning
When this facilitator joined our team, he had minimal experience delivering corporate training. He did have a number of characteristics that made it obvious he had everything required to step up.
Since joining our team, he has been given a lot of 'train the trainer' training and support - but most of all, he has worked hard to develop his skills. He is a great example of taking responsibility for his own learning outcomes!
If you would like to facilitate learning as a corporate trainer, don't let a lack of experience or the perfection myth stop you. Give us a call or download our information kit and start the journey today.