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How to train when your heart isn’t in it


Dear members,

I'm interested to hear your tips on how to raise flagging motivation levels.

There are times when you are tasked with teaching a subject that your heart isn’t really in. There’s also the flipside of how to motivate delegates that are less than enthusiastic about the subject matter. I’d love to hear your tips on self-motivation and how to lift yourself out of the doldrums.


Annie Hayes
Contributing Editor, TrainingZONE

Annie Hayes

11 Responses

  1. Do unto others…
    Having been in a role in a large corporate where I would deliver a “Welcome to XXX” day long presentation when I would tell new starters how great the company is while I absolutely loathed the place, this really resounded. I think it came down to the fact that its not about me, or any trainer for that matter, but the delegates. If you can, avoid training on things that drag you down because as they say, lifes too short, but if you find you are in a situation where you are training a subject that de-motivates you, never ever let your negativity affect those around you. Be professional, be upbeat and find good in whatever you’re doing. If you are unable to do this, get a new job :O).

    On the flip side, motivating others when the subject matter is dry, I’ve had this in the past. Most of my work is in the insurance sector, so I will inevitably come up against doing compliance training. But the key in not commiting to the stereotype. For example, when I ran a competition law workshop, I had syndicate work, case studies, presentations and a blended learning approach, I delivered it to 30 people and many commented on how much they had learnt and how engaging it was. I’ve also delivered TCF (Treating customer fairly) training but combined in with customer service and sales training that makes it all the more relevent to their jobs.

    End of the day, you’re never going to please everyone, but I think the underpinning point here is that to pick up others motivation, think of them rather than you.

    Hope this helps


  2. getting out of the doldrums
    Hi Annie

    This can be a tough one! Fist, I try to avoid getting involved in training on a topic that I know I don’t enjoy. If I can’t avoid it then I am very honest with myself about why I don’t have my heart in it. Next, I focus on those reasons and try to find more creative, energetic, inspirational ways of lifting the subject and raising my enthusiasm. I am always aware that, if I’m not enjoying it, neither will me delegates and it is essential that I project the right mood in training. Just changing the content or looking for new activities usually does the trick.

    As for de-motivated delegates, if I sense this early on I take time out to explore with them why they are there, how they feel about the topic, what elements are of interest (to spend more time on) and which bits turn them cold, and why. Then I involve them in some creative thinking about what it would take to make this topic lively and interesting. Through being open and honest and involving delegates in developing their own motivation (after all, it has to come from within) then they tend to get more enthusiastic.

    Hope this helps!

    Jan Springthorpe
    Growing People and Performance

  3. Need to reconsider the starting point for trainers
    This is tricky because I genuinely believe trainers train because they are passionate about learning and getting a message across. The subject matter and how interesting or not it is is secondary to them.
    Its their job to make things interesting irrespective of subject matter and it therefore goes without saying that they wouldn’t be doing it if they found the subject matter demotivating.
    Its a bit like paramedics who are disheartened when patients die on them, if it affected you too much you wouldn’t do it, and its not the reason they entered it in the first place.

  4. Trainer – not up for it?
    Shape up or ship out. Its not about the trainer its about the learners so you need to loose the ego and focus on the job you are paid to do – its not an option.

    If you cannot get “up for it” then do not try – find another occupation.

    If you are ill then you are ill, nothing more to be done.

    The day I ever have such an experience will be the last day I train.


  5. Think like an actor
    I often think that being a trainer is a bit like being an actor, you are putting on a performance which lasts for however long the session is.

    No matter how I feel, I start by consciously acting out the role of being motivated. It’s a conscious choice about how I am behaving. That motivation soon transfers to the delegates,who reciprocate and pretty soon I’m caught up in the session and it becomes unconscious. This works particularly well for me when I’m delivering the same day/session for the umpteenth time over a short period.


  6. Your attitude shows
    Personally I will only have training associates work with me if they really love their subject and are able to share there knowledge and enthusiasm with the delegates.

    This works well as even the most potentially boring subjects get good delegate feedback. Our highest rated course is on the fascinating subject of drainage investigation.

    Interestingly, for the trainers who know the subject but to whom delivering the training has routine and they are merely going through the motions the feed back is always poorer – not surprisingly I no longer work with them.

    If your motivation is flagging you must understand why you feel this way. Is it because you don’t have enough knowledge of the subject? Unhappy in your current role/company? Other work issues? Home Life? Or has it all just become to routine?

    Once you understand the underlying issues you can then look at ways to put things right – not always an easy or quick fix.

    I’m a great believer in talking things through that can give you objective advice as well as some support. If any of my training associates are having problems I am always willing to listen and try and resolve the problem.

    Freelance trainers in particular can feel isolated and it is important to have some sort of support network.

    Tracy Spark

  7. Change it about
    There’s nothing that’s really totally dull to train – even if the subject matter is uninspiring, a lot of people out there are truly passionate about the work they do – even when outsiders start snoring just thinking about it.

    If the material is dull – rewrite it, get creative, throw new ideas, new exercises in the pot and away you go.

    If you still can’t stand it – get a different training role, you won’t ever find me queuing up to become an NVQ trainer for example because I don’t like the qualifications much, and I don’t value the output. Others however excel in this area.

    As for delegates, it’s all about involvement, I don’t lecture, I train, I want their opinions, I want to know what they want to get out of the course, and then I set out to deliver that with enthusiasm.

    One of the best courses I’ve ever done was for the Railway Industry on a software surveying tool – the feedback (and measurable results) were incredible. Despite many people not having the first clue why they’d been sent on the course at the beginning of a session and the subject matter being a little dry.

    Throw in a few interesting facts, some stories, some group work, some tests (and real tests that stretch your delegates – not stuff to make you feel better because everyone passed), some role-play, some accelerated learning (if the subject fits) and so on…

    As a trainer, it’s my job to make things interesting, and to encourage participation from an audience. Not to complain about it when the material is poor and they don’t want to know.

  8. Work is Play
    Cast you mind back to your childhood, when you first started to learn through play.

    Then try to think of ways to make the learning experience more fun for yourself and your learners, instead of a chore to get through.

    Design a quiz, or maybe a puzzle to solve, or a treasure hunt to assemble clues that lead to key answers. Split the learners up into groups and have them compete to find the answer first, like they do in TV panel games.

    Use your ingenuity, and your sense of fun, and share your experience through making it easier for others to learn.

    Emphasize the fun aspect.

  9. Response :How to train when your heart isn’t in it
    Hello Annie –

    The first thing you may want to do is the design of the program. The design should have the participant engagement built into it. Also make sure that you have a good combination of the concept and your experiences. That’s what participant will be keen on. Also, get a feel of the participant background well in advance. There are a lot of ways in which you could do it. One of the ways is NLP. This would help you design your program accordingly so as to retain the participant attention. When participants pay attention to what the trainer says,the trainer would automatically feel motivated.

  10. Turn it around …
    Just to add a bit more:

    Mix it with what you already like. A subject may be dull because it is dull and delegates will also know that it’s dull.

    However if everyone knows that you have to go through it, then all you need is a bit of imagination to turn the subject around and make it entertaining. Then everyone will be in, including the tutor.

    The most fantastic example of using unusual mediums to deliver potentially difficult topics is the recent release of Google Chrome. Have a look at the comic they created and so elegantly described a pretty difficult-to-explain topic.

    As an analogy, imagine if you were an amateur comic maker and had a job of teaching a dull topic. Well, mix the two world together and you may thoroughly enjoy the creative process more than you even imagined.

    Conclusion: think out of the box, turn topic on it’s head. The delegates would love it as much as you do.


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