I lost track of the number of trainers I have met over the years. Must be thousands of them. I observed them, I trained them, I coached them. All over the world. When it comes to effectiveness, not all of them scored high. Here is what the most effective ones practiced: 5 mantras for the ROI focused trainer.
1. Outcome overrules content
Many trainers are content experts who think in terms of information they want to transfer. Already during the first few minutes of their training this content appears on slides or flipcharts, disguised as ‘objectives’ or ‘goals’. The training then becomes an attempt to ‘cover’ all of them, if needed at full speed.
As a start for their preparation trainers should think of what capabilities/results they want to check with participants at the end of each module. So when they tell you they will teach this or that to their participants, keep asking them: how will you know that they know, understand, are able to…? It will urge your trainers to think in terms of checkable outcomes of training rather than chapters to cover. In addition to that, it will force trainers to carefully select and limit content
2. Design backwards.
Content expert trainers primarily focus on the input they will offer to participants. Their training design reflects this: the first part of the training being about telling. The second part about exercises to consolidate and practice. All too often during the second part, trainers find themselves re-explaining the exact same things as in the telling part. Why? Because people ask the questions they didn’t have after the first part. Content embedded in their reality triggers questions and makes people learn. So why not skip the telling part all together?
The impact on delivery models is obvious: outcome focused trainers will imagine what they want learners to do or say at the end and work their way backwards to a methodology. This will obviously make them think of delivery methods in a lean way and unlock their pedagogical creativity.
3. Don’t mistake silence for attention
If you don’t pay attention to something, you will not learn it. A definite no brainer.
I remember my school teachers tapping on the desk to get the class’s attention and then moving on to explaining as soon as everyone was silent. The thing is, many of them never got my attention longer than a few seconds.
No tapping with the good teachers. They ‘earned’ my genuine attention by making me curious. It’s like they gave me a reason to want the information just before they were about to share it: they made it relevant.
The others just got my silence masking a wondering mind.
I see corporate trainers all over the world mistaking silence for attention: they ‘ask’ for attention, then kind of ‘hose’ information over silent people and conclude by asking if all is clear. No surprise no one speaks. Perhaps they are just happy the trainer stopped? Does that mean all is understood and there are no more questions? I doubt it.
Grabbing and re-grabbing attention at least every 10 minutes is probably the most important thing trainers should carefully prepare with relevance as their mantra.
4. Open & close gaps.
When children learn, they go through the circle of competence, becoming aware of a skill they need but lack: the awareness of a gap. This awareness is the engine behind their motivation. They teach themselves or let others teach them, practice and repeat until they reach mastery. So do adults.
Effective trainers looking for increased ROI, start by framing the learning need within the reality of the learner. Then they plan for gap awareness right from the start: a kick off activity that brings people to the limit of their abilities. This gap- if opened with care- jump starts the motivation for adults to learn until they feel they can close it.
ROI oriented trainers keep opening and closing gaps all through their training session. They have the courage to check how well the gap is closed at several moments during training. This allows them to adjust as they go and avoid disappointment during a final single check.
Mind you, opening & closing gaps is impossible without trial and error. So we need to talk about mistakes. Celebrate them is all I can suggest (read my blog on Awesome mistakes)
5. 20% of you, 80% of them.
Another crucial difference between an average and an effective trainer is that the first one shares information with audiences while the second one invites people to transform information.
Receiving shared information activates the retrospective integrative zone in the back of the brain where we make sense of incoming information. No more no less. Transforming information means wrapping your mind around it and processing it (in the retrospective integrative zones of the brain) and then plan for implementing it, acting on it. This last process activates the prospective integrative zone in the front of the brain, the zone where we make plans and imagine ourselves performing new actions. (The art of changing the brain- James Zull) This transformation process results in deeper learning. It also increases probability of this new behavior as mirror neurons, key in all behavior, are also activated by ‘imagined’ new behavior.
This transformational deep learning, one of the main keys to increased ROI of training, cannot be achieved through a trainer centered training where most activity comes from that trainer. It requires a training design where engagement and activation of learners is the main training format.