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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

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All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust


So said the wonderful JM Barrie; but what do his wise words mean to you? What does it mean to you in your job? What does it mean to you as you try to support your learners?

I reflect upon this over the weekend, a weekend that contains a certain reality TV show final that used to be 'must see TV' that has somehow lost its way and I wonder why that is?

I refer of course to the once ubiquitous X Factor which reaches a climax this weekend. 

I will be honest, I don't think that the X Factor has ever been aimed at me (I like people who play loud guitars too much). But my kids? They are probably squarely in their target audience. Yet are these once mega fans still interested in watching? Absolutely not.

Me? Well as I said before, it was never for me. But I watched because there was so much that happened that could be used to highlight a learning point. There was so much we could draw upon in training, discuss, debate & share. But even that has been missing for the last few seasons.

Why is that I ask myself?

Well without getting into a debate on the finer points of what we consider great music (which, after all, is entirely subjective & down to personal taste) I find myself coming to the conclusion that the heart of the problem is that the viewer's/voter's trust has been broken.

Our opinions no longer seem to matter. Too often, our vote appears to have been ignored in favour of what looks like the decisions of others; decisions based on who will make the most money. Whilst you can never blame business men/women for maximising the return on their investment, it is interesting to observe how such a 'focused' approach is seen by other people.

Do we say "wow, you certainly knew better" or do we say "well, I won't get involved/vote again because you have no intention of listening"?

So it is perhaps unsurprising that many viewers are now choosing to be entertained elsewhere. Why is that? Well, to be brutally honest, we prefer to be proved right rather than to be shown to have got it hopelessly wrong. It will always feel better to 'know' we backed a winner than to feel like we are being told "ner ner ner ner ner we told you so."

It is a really good reminder for all of us in the world of learning & development.


Because it does not matter how much we know, it does not matter how many theories we understand, it does not matter how certain we are that someone else has made a mistake. What matters is that we create an environment in which our learners feel safe. What matters is that we create an environment where people can learn; that our learners feel that they can discuss, share, debate, try & even make mistakes.

In short our learners need to know that we trust them to let them work things out for themselves. They want to feel nurtured. They want to feel respected. But most of all they want to feel like they have a say in the process. 

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where it seems clear to us that our learners prefer their way of doing things  & we don't share their confidence. When that happens we must remind ourselves that trust is everything in the world of L&D. If we can't demonstrate that we trust our learners, we can't be surprised when they don't trust us back.

Great training is often about challanging and changing the beliefs of our learners. Great training happens when trainers provide that challenge and support their learners as they change their view of how they have done things in the past.

It is never enough to assume that people will change just because we ask them to. The route to success is to create the environment where the beliefs of our audience shift, so they know that this new way of doing things is right and, more importantly, they know why too.

Trust lies at the heart of great training and (dare I say it) at the heart of what initially made X Factor so popular. If trust isn't there it makes influencing others a heck of a lot harder. It will be interesting to see what they do next year to try and make up the lost ground. 

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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