How do you cultivate courage…specifically the courage to try new things, like training our boards to raise more money?
Our colleague Beth Raps, who was kind enough to review an early draft of our book, recently asked us that question.
Like Fundraisers, Trainers Need Courage
If you listed the attributes of successful fundraisers, you might start with characteristics like passion, persistence and being a good listener, but courage would easily make the top ten.
But to be a successful trainer, you need courage too.
You need the courage to claim expertise, to try new things (and maybe fail), and – scariest of all – you need the courage to let go and trust the group you’re training to do the work it needs to do, even when it’s not exactly the work you planned.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it’s the ability to proceed in an intuitive, organized way — despite your fear.
(For the record, neither of us is a professional therapist, but we are in the fear-reduction business whether we like it or not.)
What’s the #1 Fear in America?
No, the number one fear is not asking for money! Google the phrase “number one fear in America” and see what happens.
Survey after survey demonstrates that the number one fear of most Americans is public speaking.
So you’re not alone if you’re afraid of standing in front of a group, talking about what’s important to you. It’s even scarier if you have to ask the people in the room to do something. And that’s what it takes to be an effective trainer.
But you can manage your fear!
With courage, good planning, and the willingness to adjust your plans, you can be a terrific trainer despite your anxiety. Here’s how.
Six Ways to Overcome Your Fear
1. Prepare but don’t obsess.
Plan your training session step by step. You might even write an outline.You can’t predict every twist and turn in a training session, but you can hang onto a clear, simple road map.
2. After you plan, take it one step at a time.
A new route is less frightening if you scout it in advance – study the map – and proceed step by step. Each exercise in our book is mapped out one detail at a time, including room set-up, materials, time required, etc. Knowing the details inspires self-confidence.
3. Trust the group to provide content.
Most people think of training as providing content. But as a trainer, your most important job is to design a process to generate content from the group – which is why we favor flip charts over PowerPoint slides. (See blog post here.)
4. Encourage the group to discuss what they learned.
Debrief everything, using open-ended questions: What will you take from this exercise? How might you apply it? This is one way that people create meaning from an experience: they talk about it.
5. Study good trainers.
Whenever possible, pair up with an expert trainer. You’ll learn a lot by observing your peers and co-facilitating workshops and other meetings.
6. Try out your training plan in a safe setting.
Recruit friends and colleagues you trust, run the exercise, and ask for feedback. Many people are flattered when you ask them for help because it gives them a chance to be part of your success!
Try This Exercise: What Are We Afraid Of?
One of our favorite exercises, What Are We Afraid Of? is about addressing the fear of fundraising – but you can also use it to build your confidence and courage as a trainer. It’s easy to set up and guaranteed to be effective.