- have clear objectives
- have a purpose that drives them
- pay close attention to learner feedback
- have an attitude of success
- expect their learners to succeed
- have a sense of humor
- give feedback during the training
- are not consistent
- are reflective
- seek out a mentor
- communicate with their learners before the training
Continuing on, we see:
12. Successful trainers enjoy their work
There is a management principle called the Law of Replication that says followers will replicate their leaders – like begets like. In a training setting, the trainer is viewed as the leader and the followers (learners) will replicate their trainer’s attitudes. If the trainer doesn’t enjoy their work, shows an attitude of disinterest or even dislike for what they are doing, the learners will mirror that. It becomes a death spiral. Commit to having an attitude of interest and excitement and the learners will mirror that attitude resulting in both parties having a positive experience. The more genuine the feeling, the more genuine the response.
13. Successful trainers adapt to special needs
Just like in a traditional classroom setting with formal education, special needs learners can show up in a training session. (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act addresses the types of accommodations that should be made in self-directed learning scenarios (like webcasts, print pieces, pdf changes, etc.) so I will address live training here.) Look at the materials you hand out – are they very small type in an attempt to squeeze everything into as little space as possible? Are your slides the same way? What about the color scheme you use – if someone is color blind (almost 7% of men) can they interpret your slides correctly? Do you enunciate and speak clearly – 20% of Americans have some form of hearing loss? Do you change the scene so people with mental disabilities like Attention Deficit Disorder have an easier times staying engaged? Consider all these things as you plan your presentation.
Special note: If you train live or speak publicly with slides and haven’t read Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte (get the print edition, not the ereader version) then you need to right away. It’s a fantastic look at how slides should be crafted.
14. Successful trainers explore new tools
New technology comes out every day and much of it can make your job easier and your training more engaging. Yet I still know trainers using overhead projection screens, wet erase markers, and plastic sheets to illustrate their lesson. Or even worse, self-directed training that is just a series of PowerPoint slides the learner flips through. This is always a quick turn-off for the learners, especially younger generations. Learn modern technology and use it…catch this!…when it enhances the learning. Don’t just use it for flash – the learners will see that and it will simply be a distraction.
15. Successful trainers bring fun into the training
Remember the scene changes mentioned in #8 and the humor mentioned in #6? Well when you combine those two it often creates a sense of fun that will carry the learner through the “boring” parts. It usually isn’t possible to make the entire training event fun, but if parts of it can be fun/exciting/surprising than the overall training will be much more effective. One thing I used to do was ask questions of the group to assess their understanding, and then toss candy at them when they answered correctly. Things flying through the air certainly woke them up and the sugar high helped carry them through the rest of class.
16. Successful trainers understand learning
A lot has changed in learning theory, especially for adults, in the last 50 years. In the 1960’s Malcolm Knowles published his theories on adult learning and really sparked an interest in the study of how adults and children learn differently. Since then a flurry of studies, research projects, and changes in practice have occurred. The successful trainer learns about learning so their courses have the greatest chance at success.
17. Successful trainers are masters of their subject matter
A personal illustration here: I went to a small Christian college in southern California and one of the best parts about its business program was the liberal use of Adjunct Professors. Rather than having a few faculty that taught everything, the college hired Adjunct Professors to teach specific courses. My Money & Banking instructor was the head of the Merril Lynch office in Los Angeles and my Business Law professor was a practicing lawyer who had to miss class one day to attend a hearing for her client. They were experts in their field and this came out every day they taught via war stories, personal experiences, and hands-on knowledge. These people knew their material to a depth no mere academic could understand and it showed in how well their students learned the material. A trainer’s knowledge depth will always show in the way they teach. Make sure yours is good.
BONUS: Successful trainers break out of the box
Successful trainers fight for what they feel is the best way to educate their learners. Expand your borders – you just might find some surprises. Perhaps it is a box created by someone organizing the training such as a poor location, bad time, no audio, bad lighting, too big of a group, or an overly diverse topic matter. Or maybe it’s a box you created for yourself like a lack of knowledge depth, a fear of failure, or the paralysis of just doing it like you’ve always done it. Whatever the case, break the bounds you are stuck in. Like Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society, don’t be afraid to take your learners out to the courtyard and march them around if it will help them grasp the material.
In the end I find that when my training doesn’t go well it’s usually because of something I’ve failed to do, not because of something I didn’t know. Training, though not easy, can be extremely rewarding and when I put into it everything I know I should do, it works out much better. Good luck!