Posts Tagged ‘trainer’

Skills for Growth

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

I got on the train at Harrogate. I sat behind a man who got up soon after we had pulled out of the station – he went to the toilet. The train pulled into the next station which is only about a mile from Harrogate Station, and he suddenly left the toilet and got off the train. He hadn’t left himself much time, I thought. Then he looked back into the train from the platform – he seemed to be looking at his seat. Why did he go to the toilet directly before the station he was getting off at? Why was he rushing? Why did he look back at his seat? I had so many questions.

Some of us sit happily in the ‘Reviewing the Experience’ stage of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) or are shown to be strong Reflectors having undertaken Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles questionnaire. For others, this reviewing or reflecting is not a strength, not something that comes easily or naturally. As you can probably tell from the first paragraph, it sits very comfortably with me … or should that be too comfortably?

What is this process? Rowntree (1988) says reflection is, “… studying one’s own study methods as seriously as one studies the subject and thinking about a learning task after you have done it”. Unless you do this, he says, the task – as a learning experience – will almost certainly be wasted. In any learning situation, he adds, you should prepare for it beforehand, participate actively during it, and reflect on it afterwards.

Donald Schon (1983) suggested that to reflect “on action” so as to engage in a process of continuous learning is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He argued that the model of professional training which loads students up with knowledge in training schools so that they can then discharge it when they enter the world of practice has never been a particularly good description of how professionals “think in action”, and is quite inappropriate to practice in a fast-changing world.

The cultivation of the capacity to reflect “on action” (after you have done it, retrospective thinking) and “in action” (while doing something, thinking on your feet) has rightly become an important feature of professional training programmes in many disciplines. It can also be argued that effective reflective practice needs another person such as a mentor or coach, who can ask appropriate questions to ensure that the reflection goes somewhere, and does not get bogged down in self-justification, self-indulgence or self-pity.

If the student can be coached to identify the feelings they have experienced and the thought processes they have used – to reflect on his/her own learning – then learning will continue at a much swifter pace and ultimately with less support from the coach or mentor.

As the makers of the man’s iPhone say, “Think Different”.

Enabling a person to initially reflect ‘on action’, and subsequently reflect ‘in action’ is the key to sustainable self-development. Due to its importance, trainers, coaches and facilitators have a responsibility to ensure that this is a golden thread throughout all their contact time.

Returning to the man on the train … I got to ask him all the questions I listed above. That’s because having seen him looking back into the train, I had a look around his seat – and I found his iPhone.

When I returned it to him a couple of days later he explained that he had fallen asleep. When he awoke he needed the toilet, but didn’t realise how close to his station he was.

If he had reflected in action – as opposed to on action – he may well have not gone to the toilet, and thus not lost his phone – a significant potential return on investment! And whilst I accept that most of us are not at our most effective when we wake from a sleep, the more practiced and engrained reflection is, the more likely it is to become the default position, and so just happen.

It all made me reflect on how my son had left his iPhone on a bus a year or so ago – he also spoke to the person who found it, but they didn’t return it. Not all reflection is helpful …

Paul

How similar is Parenting to Coaching?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

My last blog related to Khalil Gibran and his thoughts on Teaching, from his book, “The Prophet”. This blog relates to his writings on Children from the same book. This passage was where I first learned of Gibran. Sara, who I had trained as a trainer and then stayed in contact with after the course, gave me a framed copy of this passage together with a copy of the book for my birthday many years ago. The passage moves me every time I read it:

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘Speak to us of Children’. And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Read it again – I’m sure you can’t have taken it all in from one reading!

Ever since being introduced to this passage I have used it as my strategy for bringing up my children. It was very much what I think I already did, but it sums up how I wanted to be as a parent so beautifully. It also highlights how easy it is to be unhelpful to those we seek to assist in growing.

And I say ‘growing’ rather than ‘growing up’ intentionally – because I often wonder how much this passage relates to training, coaching and other developmental activities? Does is encapsulate Carl Rogers approach to such relationships? Gibran was very good friends with Jung – how much of Jung’s influence is present?  Most importantly, can it be used as a backdrop to what an exceptional coach or trainer seeks to achieve?

As a trainer or coach, my clients “come through” me when they attend a programme or a meeting. I show them unconditional positive regard, but I hope I don’t give them my thoughts. I should not “seek to make them like (me)”. And they certainly must be responsible for their own arrows, although hopefully I can assist them in making their bows more stable.

So is the passage really about children? Or is it also about teaching, training and coaching, or life or relationships in general?

I struggle with these questions every time I read the passage – which hangs on the wall in my office. But what I don’t struggle with is the brilliance of the writing, the beauty of the metaphors and the wondrous skill of Gibran’s storytelling.

Paul

Prophesising facilitation?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post arguing that training can never be exceptional. In short, this is because training is an output – whereas it is the outcome which is of value. I’m not sure whether people agreed with me or not, but it is actually my most read post so it has been at least of interest to people.

I do believe, though, that training (the output) can vary considerably dependent upon a number of factors, perhaps the most important of which is the trainer or facilitator.

A few years ago I was introduced to the work of the poet Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), and in particular his book “The Prophet”.  The book comprises 26 short essays where the Prophet speaks to the crowds on a number of subjects.

As for Gibran himself, he was an American-Lebanese writer, and is the third best-selling poet of all time behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu – so there is a good chance you will already know about him.

I really enjoy his short essays as they say so much – and so succinctly. One of the essays relates his thoughts on ‘Teaching’. He tells the crowd:

“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.”

I just love that! What do you think of it? As I said at the start, the essay is about ‘Teaching’, but the term ‘Facilitation’ in relation to developing others had not been coined when Gibran published his book in 1923, but in my eyes it sums up facilitated learning beautifully.

And he makes it sound so simple! In less than 200 words he has given a wonderful account of what differentiates a poor trainer or facilitator from a great one. And within that word count the Prophet has included examples, together with visual, auditory and kinesthetic references thus appealing to the different learning styles within the crowd.

If more trainers, coaches, managers and the like went with the view that all the people they work with have all this ability which, “lies half asleep in the dawning of (their) knowledge”, what would be the effect? Too often such people are judged as opposed to being given the opportunity; closed down as opposed to being encouraged to grow – not the led to the, “threshold of (their) own mind”.

If you think there are any aspects missing, what are they? What additional sentence might you add?

Paul

Can training ever be exceptional?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I saw a question on a forum yesterday that got me thinking. The question was, “I’m interested to know how folk define ‘exceptional training’ – what makes training outstanding, and sets it apart from an everyday training course?”

As a trainer, what have I delivered that has been exceptional? I can think of many sessions that I have been pleased with, and that have gone better than others that I have delivered. I can also think of ones that I have thought have been very powerful in the learning that has been generated for the delegates. But I don’t think any of that necessarily makes them ‘exceptional’.

Then I considered what training I had attended that had been exceptional. What came to mind was not training that had been exceptional, but exceptional learning that I had taken from sessions or courses – and the two, I think, are completely different.

For training to be exceptional (if, in fact, it can be) it will depend upon how the delegates respond to it – and not necessarily whilst they are experiencing it, but how they respond back in their workplaces and lives in the weeks, months and years to come.

For example, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Work Foundation’s Runge Effective Leadership Programme about 10 years ago. There was a session on how to create a Vision for a Company or Department. I cannot remember the name or much about the man who delivered the session. It wasn’t a particularly innovative or interactive session, and at the end of the one-week Programme it wasn’t in my ‘top three’ of the sessions I had attended. When I look back on it, however, I realise how valuable it was to me and how much I have used it since. It has been a foundation, a starting point, for many of my successes since then. But I really couldn’t class it as exceptional training.

Which supports my view that only delegates can really say whether such experiences are exceptional, and they can only really do that further down the line. Perhaps there can be ‘exceptional learning’?

So as a starting point in trying to answer the original question how about this – exceptional learning occurs when 100% of the full cost of the learning event is recovered within 12 months of the event – in other words, the person or company acquires a full return on its investment (ROI) within that time frame. I think that could then be classed as ‘exceptional’.

The first step in seeking to achieve this is for trainers to stop thinking of themselves as trainers, but to think of themselves as Performance Improvers – who can play their part in achieving such improvements by effective training methodologies. By reframing their role, their thought processes are likely to have a greater focus on how they create exceptional performance improvements – which then brings the realisation that it is as much about the part the delegates play as the trainer.

It includes getting the right people on the right events in the first place, and motivating and developing them once they get back to the workplace.

The trainer – or Performance Improver – plays their important part in such achievements, but others also have very important parts. And all must play their parts well to achieve exceptional learning.

Unless, of course, you think differently?

Paul