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Adrian Pitt

Develop-meant Training Consultants


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“The Smiling Assassin”


You've had an amazing day's training. All your fears, doubts and apprehension around whether the session would go well are unfounded. Fifteen happy learners, fully engaged. They've loved the content, enjoyed the activities and even laughed at your jokes!

Fifteen happy learners filling out evaluation forms - or so you thought!

<Cue scary laughter>

You review the feedback. Gasp! Fourteen happy learners and then someone I call "The Smiling Assassin". Fourteen learners thought you were the "Torville and Dean" of trainers. HE thought you were "Eddie The Eagle Edwards". Fourteen learners would shout from the rooftops that you're the reincarnation of Albert Einstein. HE thought you were an extra from "The Only Way Is Essex". Fourteen learners hung on your every word the whole day long. HE hung on for dear life!

Have you ever been faced with this situation? How did you deal with it? Did you brush the comments off? Did you approach the disgruntled delegate? How can us trainers deal with "smiling assassins"?!


7 Responses

  1. Hi Ade, a couple of points.
    Hi Ade, a couple of points. The first being about that person (and I’m sure that has happened to everyone who delivers ‘training’). The danger is that we totally ignore it because it doesn’t fit in with the experience of others or the view we have of ourselves. I would recommend if there is an obvious ‘outlier’ that we go back and see if we can chat about it with them, get some insight that may help….you’re unlikely to get that depth on a ‘happy sheet’. It may not be that easy if you aren’t doing it internally but if it’s prompted a post on here, I suspect you do care about it so it’s worthwhile to go back. It’s just the way you approach it and that shouldn’t be about challenging them on it but being genuinely interested in what they have to say.
    The second is about the sheet itself and a review of what it’s actually asking. If you have structured the questions to identify how much they like you as a trainer/facilitator then you are going to get this type of response. However, if the questions are structured to discover how what you did aided the learning experience, you may get different results. Hope that helps.

    1. Sound advice, Clive. It’s a
      Sound advice, Clive. It’s a scenario that happened to me and my colleagues a year or so ago (I’m over it now!). A really keen and enthusiastic delegate, engaged with all the activities, smiling throughout! It’s only when we read his evaluation form on the way home, we were a little
      bemused! We’ve carefully crafted the questions on our form to make it tricky for folk just to put “Yes”, “No” or “N/A”. However, he managed to find a way around it! One element of the form asks delegates to score various aspects of the training, delivery etc. We gave him the benefit of the doubt the first time around, thinking he’d misinterpreted the grading and got his scores the wrong way around! i.e. O was poor, 10 was excellent (he’d given us quite a few 2s!). However, following another workshop, he did the almost the same again. My colleague, Carol, followed it up via email, politely asking if there was anything we could have done to improve the experience – we never heard from him again!

  2. An idea why wait till the end
    An idea why wait till the end of the course ask the learners to reflect on the course material and delivery part way through. Use post its exercise to get them to identify what they have learnt / Enjoyed / Change. Useful for evaluation and if you run after lunch it gives you chance to accommodate their requirements.

    1. It’s a good tip, Val and one
      It’s a good tip, Val and one we’ve adopted. I’m not a big fan of trying to capture ALL feedback right at the end of sessions. Staff are usually keen to get home, catch their bus, train whatever and sometimes the quality of feedback suffers.

  3. Some really interesting
    Some really interesting points being raised here, (this has been the best post in ages). Just a few more thoughts from me, in general, rather than specifically about this example. I can totally relate to courses that I’ve been on where I’ve enjoyed the activities and engaged with them but haven’t actually learned anything new so have found little value in attending them. I don’t necessarily think happily engaging in activities means too much in relation to learning. For example, I really hate, with a passion, any activity that’s about getting into a group, discussing a topic, then flip-charting answers and feeding back. I can’t state how much I hate it but if I had to do it, I would do it without complaint and participate fully, I just wouldn’t be learning deep down.
    I think sometimes having fun during activities and learning something can be two different things.
    I agree with Val about not waiting until the end of the session to evaluate but I would start right at the start of the day by asking people how much they know about the topics or subject areas (on a scale of 1-10); then check again mid-way through and again at the end.
    Finally and specifically about e-mailing people after the course; that never works in my experience, you have to talk to them directly to get a better insight.

  4. Kathryn from our LinkedIn
    Kathryn from our LinkedIn group says:
    “We have had a situation like this and realistically you can’t please everyone all of the time. On a positive note they did not disrupt the training for others. As this was a key topic for us around behaviours we discussed with their manager and asked the manager to have a conversation with them to highlight that whether or not the training was to their taste there are some fundamental common sense elements that the delegate is expected to apply. We do know that with this particular training people don’t like “the packaging” and we have taken that on board and are in the process of changing it.”

  5. If the course is more than a
    If the course is more than a day, I debrief at the end of each day with ‘what went well / areas for improvement’ and I asked them to do a ‘teach back’ so I can see how they feel about the course and more importantly what they’ve learnt.

    If it’s a 1 day course, I do something similar (but briefer) after exercises.

    Generally don’t get that shock at the end then.

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