When was the last time you participated in a really well organized, professionally facilitated training event?
No, I’m not talking about the ones you present yourself.
Perhaps you’ve sat through some disappointing workshops. I certainly have. So when I experience something really good, I want to do my little happy dance.
I’m excited to tell you about a great train-the-trainer program sponsored by The Blue Door Group. I enjoyed my time in Philadelphia – one my many “home towns” – but more importantly, I benefited from a really thoughtful and challenging workshop.
Here are three things I learned that changed the way I think about training.
1. Training comes in many, many flavors – and you can learn from them all
As a fundraising and organizational development specialist, I was amazed at the variety of topics, issues, and needs represented in our group. Here’s a small sampling of what participants were training people to do:
- Take part in labor union negotiations and arbitration
- Help interfaith groups talk about Israel and Palestine
- Identify and address hoarding behavior
- Lead youth trips
- Support and facilitate diverse coalitions working on homelessness
- Teach college classes on civic engagement
- Facilitate diversity training across a large university
- Organize tenants to exercise their legal rights
The point is that good training design and delivery can work in pretty much any context, and what works in one situation may be applicable in others.
Consider signing up for a training that’s outside your professional turf. It’ll shift your thinking in useful ways.
2. Before you design anything, clarify the who, why, what, and how
When asked to list my training objectives – “At the end of the session, participants will be able to…” – I tend to roll my eyes. I’m thinking, really? Isn’t it obvious from the agenda?
Well, maybe not. Depending on the audience, the purpose of the class might be very different – and your design must honor your purpose.
For example, during our session we worked through a simple but brilliant design exercise about learning to cook spaghetti. (Really!)
For an exercise about cooking with foster youth who are becoming independent, perhaps the class goal is self-reliance. “At the end of the session, participants will be able to budget, shop for, and prepare a healthy, inexpensive meal.”
The same spaghetti exercise for newly-arrived immigrants might include goals of learning English and mastering new kitchen tools. “At the end of the session, participants will know the English words for ten common kitchen utensils, and also how to use any unfamiliar utensils.”
Your training design must reflect both the purpose of the class and the needs of your specific audience.
3. If you want your group to open up, you need to open up first
In previous posts, we’ve discussed the value of humility. For example, perhaps the best option for trainer humor is the self-deprecating kind: making fun of yourself.
Our facilitators modeled vulnerability right from the start. Each of their introductions included not only their credentials, but also areas where they were striving to improve, and even their concerns about the workshop.
This is a conscious technique called “The Good Doctor” designed to model authentic leadership. When people experience the real you, flaws and all, it can create trust.
One participant practiced this technique by saying, “I can’t remember names, despite how hard I try. So if I forget your name, please don’t take it as a sign of disrespect. Help me out – remind me.”
The great irony is that by publicly embracing your fears and imperfections, you become a stronger trainer, facilitator, and leader.
Even great trainers need training
If you’re intrigued by what you’re reading, The Blue Door Group will hold its next train-the-trainer workshop in June. Check it out.
My thanks to Jessica Levy, Susanna Gilbertson, and Hillary Blecker for sharing their wisdom, their toolbox, and their graceful good humor.