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Losing the faith: Training when your heart isn’t in it


HeartRattling around in the doldrums of a lacklustre enthusiasm isn't a happy place to be - but at one time or another a trainer may face the sad truth that their heart just isn't in it. Annie Hayes asked TrainingZone members how they re-discover that va va voom.

Motivating the trainer:

Motivating yourself: When your heart isn't in it:

  • Use positive self-talk

  • Get into the right mental state

  • Get yourself energised

  • Visualise yourself running the course, and seeing how well it is going

  • Identify 'milestones' in the course

  • 'Model' enthusiasm

  • Use music

  • Try something new

  • If the course goes well, treat yourself

  • Set yourself simple goals

  • If all else fails, think of this as a short-term job for longer-term benefits

  • Source: Sheridan Webb, Keystone Development

    Sheridan Webb, an independent consultant, sums up that feeling of languishing in the doldrums perfectly: "We have all had days when we have had to deliver training that we would rather not," she says. "And we have all faced delegates who would seem to rather be anywhere but on your training course!" So how can trainers re-energise, re-focus and re-discover that inner strength?

    Playing the part is part of the solution, says Rich Lucas of Supremacy Training Solutions who has confronted his own doubts in the past: "Having been in a role in a large corporate where I would deliver a 'Welcome to x' 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 it's not about me, or any trainer for that matter, but the delegates."

    Lucas says the key is never, ever let your negativity affect those around you: "Be professional, be upbeat and find good in whatever you're doing."

    Of course negativity often comes from finding the subject matter lifeless. member Nik Kellingley suggests getting creative if things are flagging: "If the material is dull - rewrite it, get creative, throw new ideas, new exercises into the pot and away you go."

    A fail-safe plan is to avoid going there in the first place and Kellingley suggests understanding the subjects you aren't interested in teaching: "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."

    Jan Springthorpe, another member, who has over 30 years' line management experience, agrees: "First, 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." And like Kellingley, Springthorpe says just changing the content or looking for new activities can do the trick.

    Tracy Murray of Decorum Training believes you must surround yourself with positivity, in the shape of associates that really 'love' their subject in the hope that sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm will rub off.

    "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 is routine - and they are merely going through the motions - the feedback is always poorer. Not surprisingly, I no longer work with them."

    Murray says if motivation levels are still flagging it may be worth exploring external reasons for the unhappiness, including what's going on at home and in the company at large. It can be a problem, particularly for freelance trainers who may feel isolated. Murray says in this case it's crucial to have a strong support network in place, yet members Juliet LeFevre and Nick Hindley are less forgiving.

    Hindley, training and development manager for the Clinical Research Organisation, says trainers must simply buckle down and get on with the job in hand: "Shape up or ship out. It's not about the trainer it's about the learners so you need to lose the ego and focus on the job you are paid to do, it's not an option. If you cannot get 'up for it' then do not try; find another occupation."

    LeFevre is similarly resolute in the belief that it's the trainer's job to make things interesting, irrespective of the subject matter: "It therefore goes without saying that they wouldn't be doing it if they found the subject matter de-motivating."

    Sadly this is not always the case and things can get worse when the delegates also show signs of being turned off and bored.

    Motivating delegates:

    Motivating your delegates:

  • Ask for personal objectives at the start of the day

  • Manage expectations by sending out joining instructions

  • Explain what delegates should achieve from doing the training, and how it will help them

  • Appeal to different learning styles

  • Provide lots of water and nutritious snacks

  • Use music to set the mood

  • Recognise and respect the knowledge and experience in the room (positive strokes)

  • Use a story such as Steven Covey's 'sharpening the saw' to illustrate that even though delegates may feel they don't have time to be away from work, it will be worthwhile if they make the best of it

  • Be realistic

  • Acknowledge any moans and groans, write them down, accept them, but then draw a line under the subject

  • Involve delegates as much as you can

  • Make it competitive

  • Make it fun

  • Reward delegates for applying themselves

  • Source: Sheridan Webb, Keystone Development

    Many members believe the key to delegate engagement is involvement. Kellingley says: "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."

    Spicing things up with some interesting facts, stories, group work and tests, role play and accelerated learning all helps to buoy up levels of enthusiasm, says Kellingley.

    Jan Springthorpe invests time in exploring why delegates are attending the course, how they feel about the topic and what elements they are particularly interested in. In turn she can then spend more time on those aspects: "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." member Robin Cox says thinking like a child can help and suggests casting your mind back to your early days, 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."

    Mixing things up can also help, says member Rich Lucas: "Most of my work is in the insurance sector, so I will inevitably come up against doing compliance training.

    "But the key is not committing 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 customers fairly) training but combined it with customer service and sales training that makes it all the more relevant to their jobs."

    Thinking of the delegate rather than yourself is a tip shared by member Rashmi Nagasubramanian, who says getting a feel for the participants' background in advance can reap rewards.

    Many members agree that one side of the coin quickly leads to the other and being motivated yourself will rub off on how your delegates perceive the learning they receive. member Sue Beatt is a particular advocate of this principle and says: "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."

    Enthusiasm really does rub off as does negativity so staying on the right side of your motivation levels is crucial to the overall success of the transfer of learning, and understanding how to achieve that is the key.


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