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The Influential Trainer Part 2 – Be the expert they expect


Another way we are influenced to take action is by direction from an authority figure. In fact, we have been conditioned throughout our lives to believe people who wear white coats and stethoscopes, those in uniform, or simply those who ‘seem’ like an expert. Otherwise known as the Rule of Authority, this is a particularly effective way of influencing others to do what we want them to!

I remember some years ago teaching a class of teenagers about the importance of this rule and I introduced the topic by dressing myself as a (much younger!) person with the standard ‘young person’s’ trappings – torn jeans, sneakers, backpack, ipod. I sat in the middle of the classroom at one of the desks, amongst the rest of them. I had never met the group before so they had no idea who I was. My first attempt at beginning the class was largely ignored. A few curious students glanced sideways at me. The rest carried on their conversations and wondered aloud ‘when the teacher was going to get there’. I left the room. And returned in my usual teaching attire. Their jaws dropped and they listened. A powerful lesson in the power of authority, or the perception of it.

Subject matter expertise, while only part of the equation in delivering what learners want, is one of the most powerful ways we as trainers can put our stamp of authority on our learning programs. In current organisational L&D environments there is a trend towards outsourcing subject matter expertise. Training programs are often delivered by trainers – not themselves the SME – who have designed the program with input from an SME. Even more alarming is the tendency to deliver a program designed by another trainer – subject matter expertise twice removed.

Working as I do with training consultants and training teams, the power to influence others by creating ourselves as an authority figure is something I can never stress highly enough. Authority is perceived through titles, appearances, demonstrated knowledge and past experience. Some ways to establish authority in your training rooms are:

·       If you are published, make it known to your audiences. Provide them with access to a relevant body of your work.

·       Establish your credibility early – explain to your learners exactly why you have earned the right to teach them in this area.

·       Dress appropriately.

·       Speak as if you know what you are talking about. Use command tonality.

·       Authority figures stand authoritatively. Notice what your body is doing.

·       Seek feedback from colleagues to check that your perception of your authority and presence matches what they see.

Love to hear what you think you could add to this!



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