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Krista Powell-Edwards

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Are you credible as a trainer?


How does playing bridge relate to training? Krista Powell-Edwards explains.
It's Friday evening, the start of a weekend residential course called 'Bridge for Absolute Beginners'.
The weekend starts with dinner, and in the dining room 17 people sit down at the allocated tables. Most of the group are aged 50 plus. Several are professionals. People are chatting, finding out about each other, and wondering who the course tutor is amongst them. The course tutor is present. Someone asks her "What is your experience of bridge?" and she admits "I'm the course tutor."
She knows that her relationship with the learners will change when she acknowledges her role. People will be assessing her. 'What does she know about bridge? Will I learn something from her?' One or two will think 'How is she the trainer? She's young and female, not someone who I expect to be a bridge player never mind a bridge trainer'.
Yet I am. I know I know bridge and know I train effectively so that people will learn. At the end of the weekend everyone will be playing bridge. I achieve the learning outcomes required. I distilled this training experience when formulating a Credibility Model. We know what credibility is and is not, but what are the 'ingredients' needed to be perceived as credible? How can we use this model to be credible as trainers?
"How will we know we have achieved our outcomes? What will we be hearing, seeing, feeling? We need to consider what amount of credibility is required to achieve this outcome"
The first thing we need to consider is an Outcome.
What is the outcome we want in our learning situations? In the example, my outcome was that the adults attending the weekend learnt to play bridge. As trainers we need to consider what our outcomes are. How will we know we have achieved our outcomes? What will we be hearing, seeing, feeling? We need to consider what amount of credibility is required to achieve this outcome.
Secondly we need an Audience. As a trainer we have to have someone to be credible to. My audience was a group of adults who were learning a new skill. Audiences are different and we need to consider many aspects of the audience including their previous experience, attitude, skills, and expectations when assessing how we are demonstrating our credibility to them.
There are four key factors that have to be present for credibility to be demonstrated to our learners.


What is your relationship with your learners? 
In a learning situation the trainer's expertise could be a handicap in that we are seen as 'experts'. The competence gap is so large that learners could use this as an excuse to not attempt to learn. In my bridge training I spent a lot of time encouraging the learners, reminding them of how they were progressing. My connection with them was as 'comrades in adversity' - my role, to hold their hand and support them as well as train them.
My training style is informal and friendly. Some people had the perception that an expert or trainer or both does not have this style. So they challenged me, usually by asking questions about my bridge experience. I told them of my 10 years bridge playing and international experience. This established my credibility as a trainer with those who needed the track record. Some people didn't need this information for me to be credible to them, but some did and the relationship, the connection, required me to meet their needs.
Some useful questions when assessing the connection you have with your learners:
  • What do your learners need from what you have to offer?
  • What do you have to offer that they don't know they need yet?


What is your particular expertise and knowledge and what skills do you have?
To be an effective trainer we need both knowledge and skills. We will have knowledge and skills that are not required when in a particular situation with a particular audience. We need to focus on the particular knowledge and skills that are of most value in the specific situation.
Some questions to ask yourself when assessing the know-how you want to demonstrate:
  • What do you know that the learner needs to know?
  • How did you get to this point of knowledge?
  • What do the learners need to know about you? 
When training bridge, I needed to demonstrate I knew about bridge inside out, and I used to say 'You can give me any hand and I will tell you what to bid and why. I've been there, ate the T shirt'. I also needed the skill of explaining concepts such as the Game bonus ('Brucie bonus') and strong hands, ('real stonkers') in understandable and memorable ways. 
"Congruence is essential in a trainer. Incongruence will undermine your credibility as an expert which is your rationale to train."


How are you 'fit' to achieve your outcome?
We communicate on the outside what we are feeling and thinking on the inside. We cannot not communicate and any uncertainty we feel will be communicated to our learners. People do not trust dissonance and so congruence - matching non-verbal and verbal communication - is essential to being perceived as credible. Congruence is essential in a trainer. Incongruence will undermine your credibility as an expert which is your rationale to train. It gives learners excuse number 1 to not take on board what you are saying. 
Some questions to consider to help you behave congruently:
  • How are you uniquely suited to be training these learners?
  • What are you bringing that no one else can? 


What is your purpose in this interaction?
We have to believe in what we are training and show that we believe in it. Energy and passion helps motivate others. If we are lacklustre or non committal about what we are training, it will show. If we are not convinced of the benefit of learning something, how can we expect our learners to be?
The more we believe in what we are training then the easier it is to sell it. I am totally convinced of the benefits of playing bridge. It keeps the brain active, it's a useful social skill, it's very enjoyable. I've got a lot from bridge and I see teaching bridge as a way of helping others get similar benefits. It's my role to communicate that bridge can be played by anyone who can learn the rudiments, that people have choices to play competitively, socially, seriously, for fun, and it can be played at any level of competence that suits the player. 
A useful question to connect you to your conviction is: How are you meeting your purpose, objectives, and outcomes through the form of intervention, content, and approach?
Krista Powell-Edwards is an expert in the 7Cs of performance, one of which is credibility. She is managing consultant of Humanistics Solutions, which helps individuals, teams and organisations develop their effectiveness, credibility and impact so they know it and show (they know) it


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