So what was “Trainercraft” all about at the BFLG?

On the 30th of April we had the 3rd Brain Friendly Learning Group meeting in Leeds attended by 12 people from a wide range of industries and organisations. To name a feIMG_0001_2w, we had representative from Leeds Building Society, Asda and Capita as well as a consultant from Nigeria!!

The topic of the morning learning session was “Trainercraft – the art and science of engagement” delivered by Lucie Pearmain, an NLP Master Practitioner and NLP trainer. We started pondering over what physicality we are aware of when training, which led to some great discussions and insights.IMG_0005

It made me really think about some of the things which I have done naturally and some things which I have picked up over the years. One thing I did naturally when I was being videoed for the first time, was to hold a pen at both ends with both hands (to stop the pen shaking with my hands!) Looking back at the video it made me look confident and now that I know that I can hide my nerves, it helps me to relax. So the mind-body connection works really well for me, what calms me is knowing that I don’t show my nerves so this in turn helps to create an air of confidence.

IMG_0014We then went on to look at the SATIR categories, to understand how certain gestures can help to convey meaning. Looking at David Cameron’s repertoire of gestures certainly opened my eyes! WE were able to put these into practice and feedback to each other about what our own gestures were like and if we did any of these things naturally. What I loved was being able to spend some time with some trainers getting some real insights into how body language is such an influence on how we can influence our learners.

In the Learning Clinic there were 3 tough issues that we managed to tackle head on. So much so, that the people who had them went away energised, excited and impatient to tackle them,

If you are interested in becoming part of a group that meets quarterly, shares ideas and helps you with your tough training issues, then why not consider the Brain Friendly Learning Group? At the next meeting on July 4th the topic will be “3 tools to improve the EI (Emotional intelligence) of your learners.”

Here is Debbie Palmer of “The Brand Coach” telling us what she got out of the Brain Friendly Learning Group meeting”


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!

Corporate training is broken; so why are you still doing it?


TheMarch 2014 Training Journal had a very thought provoking article by Libby Drake of Consalia, which immediately got my attention from the title, “Corporate training is broken; so what are we still doing it?”. In it she discusses  some outdated practices out there that people still cling to and quite frankly this is the stuff that gives training a bad name. So I thought it would be good to look at what she is discussing…..

Issue #1: You know training alone won’t solve your performance issues – so why are you still doing it?

Libby quotes Dr. Brent Petersons study demonstrating that 25% of learning effectiveness comes from the learning event itself but a huge 85% of the training budget goes on the event. Does this make sense? What about pre learning and post learning?

Issue #2:You  know that failing to get line management support is potentially fatal – so why are you still doing it?

There is a wealth of evidence to support how a line managers influence is crucial in imbedding new behaviours and the transfer of learning. But are these line managers themselves getting the training and support they need to support their staff? Says Drake; “Leimbach and Maringka found that the more managers are trained in how to support and coach the skills their employees learn, the more those skills will be used in the workplace”

Issue #3: You know that neglecting to invest in post-course follow-up can seriously affect transfer of learning – so what are you still doing it?

Using and applying new skills is vital to reinforcing them otherwise people revert to their old ways, just like “memory foam”. Practicing a new skill until it becomes a habit is crucial. “A 2006 report by the American Society for Training & Development showed that 70% of training failure could be attributed to lack of follow up after a training event.”

Issue #4: You know that ineffective L&D design hampers storage and recall from long-term memory – so why are you still doing it?

Learning design has to ensure that new information and learning moves into long term memory, but many trainers just do not understand how to do this. Stories , repetition and an understanding of the quirky ways the brain works are just a few things trainers should really get to grips with.

Issue #5: You know that condoning poor-note taking impairs learning – so why are you still doing it?

Studies have shown that good note taking can aid retention. Putting the information into our own words and then the physical act of writing stimulates the motor cortex, gives an opportunity for recall and moves information into the long term memory.

I loved this article as it highlights beautifully some bad practices out there – but this does not apply to everyone! Those organisations who fully take on board these 5 key point will not only be improving learner retention, but engagement as well the impact of the learning on the organisation. Take heed!!!

Trainercraft – practising what I preach?

So far in this series I have shared by thoughts on my 5 secrets of Accelerated Learning, objective setting and setting expectations. So some of you may be asking, “Do you really practise what you preach?”. To answer this question, I thought I would share my experiences from a current project to illustrate the answer and you can make up your own minds…..


For the greater part of this year, I will be working on a Team Leader Development programme for a technology company in Yorkshire. It is a very exciting project as the CEO and Senior Management Team are very motivated to see it through.

This whole programme started with a conversation about requirements, outcomes and what prompted the request for training. This then led to a detailed needs analysis, which uncovered some interesting underlying issues that training alone would never have  addressed.

Learning needs and other needs identified, I presented my findings and discussed possible solutions. This led to an invitation to put together a proposal for the design of a bespoke programme for the 15 individuals involved. The design would be based around ten key areas highlighted during the Learning Needs Analysis.

Before the design work could begin, organisational outcomes were agreed as these would be the bedrock on which the design would sit. Without focussing on what the organisation truly needs, this programme could falter before it even begins. Having agreed the high level outcomes, learning outcomes were then listed and these then were used to come up with a rough outline for a programme lasting 6 months and involving the team leaders, their teams and their line managers and of course the CEO. The outline is seen below.


Is it really necessary to involve all of these people? For the team leaders to make space for learning and change to happen, they need support:

  • From their teams, so they have to delegate certain tasks to them:
  • From their line managers, so that they can help to become the leaders they aspire to and the organisation needs
  • From the CEO, who will “model the way” and will continue to demonstrate great leader skills

I am just about to begin the detailed design of the workshops, using accelerated learning principles, to design them to be “Brain friendly”. I will let you know how it goes. But for the project so far …… how am I doing? Am I practising what I preach?

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.

Trainercraft – objective setting

So let us get it out of the way…. the thing that is least likely to excite all you creative trainers. Let us face it though, without business focussed or learner centred objectives, your credibility as a trainer/facilitator will be compromised.

I am speaking to a client today and will be taking them through the same process I go through with every client prior to running a workshop. We have already agreed the topic and the areas that they would like to improve. Today I need to find out what impact this workshop will have on the organisation. Some of the questions I will be asking are:

  • What would you like to see differently in the organisation as result of the workshop?
  • What will people be doing? Not doing?
  • What will happen as a result of this?
  • What will not happen as a result of this?How will it impact the bottom line?
  • Will there be any money savings?
  • Will it affect productivity/sales/quality?
  • If nothing changes after the training, what will you do?

These will help to illicit those high level outcomes for the workshop, which  will form part of the evaluation. With the right high level outcomes, you can measure the impact of the learning that has taken place. The impact though, will be organisational, sometimes measured according to the affect on the bottom line (ROI) and sometimes by what is to be perceived as a welcome change in the way they operate (ROE). They will also alert the client to the fact that they also have  responsibility for making the change “stick”.

Once the high level outcomes are agreed, I will then discuss the learning outcomes. “When you say you want your learners to be more creative, what do you want them to be able to do?” is a question I might ask when discussing creativity workshops. One learning outcome may be “By the end of the workshop, the learners will be able to use 3 creativity techniques to generate ideas around existing problems in the workplace”.

Some topics are notoriously difficult to set objectives for, so here is a short video on how to set objectives for “Feedback skills for managers”. In the video, you will see how to set both the performance objectives(what you want to see them doing differently) and the learning objectives.

If you would like to know more about this then check out my website. For training teams or subject matter experts – check out the learning Loop. For lone trainers, consultants or training managers – I do one to one coaching.

©Krystyna Gadd 2014

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