It’s not about me … it’s you

IMG_1126If you are at the centre of what you do, whether a trainer or leader, you are most likely to push people into what you want them to do. They may well do things under sufferance but the buy in may not be there.

If it’s about them, they have a choice to accept or not. If you genuinely take time to find out what they need, trust develops. So consider this, if you are a trainer or leader, be a servant to the group, go with what they need, make it about them, not you….gift them your time and the space to grow….you will be amazed at what emerges.

Why corporate L&D needs to change and how

IMG_5820Yesterday I saw Mike Collins of DPG talk about why corporate L&D needs to change and why. It was music to my ears!

The bottom line is…. we as L&D professionals need to get closer to the business. Simple? No? What does that mean in reality?

  • Identifying the key stakeholders and their impact (as well as how supportive they are)
  • Engaging with the stakeholders by speaking their language (£££££ and ROI!!)
  • Asking about business objectives not just learning outcomes
  • Doing a thorough needs analysis (not just an LNA or TNA!)
  • Getting buy-in from the line managers to support and imbed the learning
  • Getting the stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of learning

Don’t know how to do this? Then why not come onto the open workshop for The Learning Loop Workshop or if you have a team of 6 or more, ask us about in-house workshops.  You will learn about how to become more strategic as well as how to be creative, inspiring and engaging as a facilitator.

Are you the font (of all knowledge) at the front?

IMG_0022A discussion about learning styles has sparked off another train of thought about learning and the role of the facilitator. There are some questions around technical and knowledge heavy training/learning that have sprung to  mind.

  • Can you facilitate when you have to give a lot of information?
  • Does it all rely on you, knowing your stuff?
  • Is lecture/presentation the only option?

So here are some of my thoughts…..

    • Facilitate means to “make easier” so even as a lecturer, you can always make the learning easier for your learners. Use memory techniques to aid retention. Watch this short video for some ideas:


  • You need to know your stuff but you also need to know, more than that……how to inspire learners to learn more. Leave some questions unanswered and challenge them to find the answers. Get them to guess…pose thought-provoking questions. If you just talk, their minds can wander anywhere…but if you ask a question, the brain just has to look for an answer, even if it does not know it. Be wary of asking too many rhetorical questions though…that can be a  switch off…
  • To “present” new knowledge here are some alternatives to lecturing or “presenting”: book research, online research, teach back, an activity where they guess the structure/process/model from the components given, jigsaw, quiz and there are more….

For me the key thing is, that even if you have to present a lot of information….seeing yourself as the font of all knowledge puts a lot of pressure on you and no shared responsibility with the learner. Open them up to the possibility that the quality of the learning experience is down to them, you and also anyone else that supports them (manager, tutor etc).

The anatomy of a story

Enormous TurnipMy favourite story for use with teams, in a team building setting is “The Enormous Turnip”. When using this story, once I have read it out, I have used the following questions to stimulate a discussion:
“If you could take one character out and the story remain the same, who would it be?”
“Who would you be in the story?”
“Who is the most important character?”
“What does this teach you about team work?”

It is amazing the discussion that these questions and the story have sparked off. One person suggested they were the mouse while another, the dog. They thought teams are full of very different characters, each bringing something different, but when focussed on a common goal can work miracles!

So what is it makes a great story and one you can use in training? This is probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but at the risk of overlooking such a fantastic tool, here goes……..let us dissect the story, revealing it’s anatomy….

They all have a beginning, a middle and an end. It is great if they have suspense, surprise and intrigue to keep people engaged.

In the beginning we learn about the “issue” or the problem and more often than not, who the protagonist is.  We then move onto the meaty middle…. “Then one day…….” and this is where you explain the “shift” that happens, or the beginning of the resolution, we may even discuss the “villain” of the piece. And finally the “happy ever after” or the cautionary tale that teaches us a lesson.

The beauty of a story is that in this world of multi-media and access to data, stories are a familiar pattern to us. We grew up listening to stories at home, at school and TV. The brain knows what a story is about, the model is familiar, so the pre-frontal cortex (that part for of the brain concerned with new learning), which is limited in its capacity, is not under too much pressure.

When we weave in emotion into a story, the right hand side of the brain is engaged. Recognising the pattern and processing the words takes part in the left hemisphere and we all know if we can engage both hemispheres during learning, it makes it a more engaging and memorable experience.

I sometimes write my own stories – taking examples from past stories such as one I wrote about the barriers to learning, using two characters called Quasimodo and Esmerelda. Of course Quasimodo is the underdog and Esmerelda the kind heroine! Familiarity, mixed with some humour and a little imagination can even make the dullest of subjects come to life!

Try playing around with unusual phrases to arouse interest and shock the brain into thinking differently. If I told you the plan was as “ugly as a rumour…..” what would that mean?

If you have never used stories, they appeal to all sorts of learners because the words produce images in our brains, evoke emotions and the language can be used to stimulate discussion and curiosity. Try small existing stories to start and maybe progress to writing your own.

I had the privilege of working with and attending training run by Margaret Parkin, who has written a number of books on storytelling in business. I can thoroughly recommend them if you need a starting point!

Trainercraft – setting expectations


My last blog was on setting objectives and so I thought I would follow up with “Setting Expectations”. This follows quite naturally from setting objectives – in fact by being picky with your stakeholders about the objectives, you set their expectations of what will follow. These expectations will be:

  • You will be focussed on learner outcomes that make a difference to the organisation
  • ROI will be something that can be easily measured, because you have planned it into the design
  • Your workshops are organisationally focussed and not content driven

So how else might you set expectations? What about the learners?

The welcome letter/video/poster whatever you send beforehand to let them know details of what will be happening, is a great way to set their expectations such as:

  • You  will expect participation from them
  • There will be time for their own questions
  • You are interested in their objectives
  • It will be a safe environment to be able to learn and try out new things
  • If they put lots into the workshop they will get lots out, but only if they follow up
  • What the objectives will be

Setting expectations in the workshop can be a little dull and has worked to varying degrees, in my experience. Then I discovered the “Clean language set up” and it sets expectations at a much deeper level than ever before! This is how it goes:

  • At the flip chart stand pre-write the 3 questions and then glide effortlessly from one to the next
  • Take care to write down EXACTLY what they say and do not change
  • Do not explain what the question means
  • Keep asking “Any thing else” once you have asked the questions
  • The first question is:  “In order for this workshop to be of value to you, it has to be like what?”
  • The second question is: “In order for it to be like this (pointing to the previous chart), you have to be like what?”
  • The third question is: “In order for you to be like this (pointing to the previous chart), others have to be like what?”

I have been amazed at the thought that has gone into answering these questions and the depth of the responses. It is a great way to contract with your learners and if you have not come across it before, but have encountered some tricky learners, it does deal with a lot of stuff!

Also I often start with a bold statement at the start of a workshop “This workshop will NOT make you great at customer service/selling/presenting etc…….It is what you do afterwards that will make you great!”

So how do you set your learners expectations and how do you manage them during a workshop?

If you are enjoying this series on “Trainercraft” then subscribe to this blog or sign up for my free monthly activities on my website.

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