No Image Available

Claire Savage


Editor, news

Read more from Claire Savage

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Trainer’s Diary: Buddha and the Art of Learning


Byron KaliesEver felt like you had truly cracked something, only to find that you've still a lot to learn? Byron Kalies has been there...

I was sitting next to a new trainer a little while back, who had only been in training with me six months or so. We were attending a training course on "The Implications of Freedom of Information". It was a mandatory event for us to attend, and (like most trainers I know) we had waited until practically the final session to attend - I wonder why that is? Anyway, I digress.

The presenter was a specialist on the Act, and she really knew her stuff on the technicalities and the implications. She was less adept at the presentation aspects. We had handouts halfway through the talk. There didn’t seem to be a great deal of thought in the structure. However it did achieve what it set out to achieve.

Afterward the new trainer and I talked and she asked me what I had said to the presenter at the end. I told her that I had thanked her (the presenter) and mentioned one or two things that she had done well. The new trainer was astonished. She thought the course was dire, boring and the presentation was really poor. “I would have had to tell her how bad it was and what she could do differently,” she replied.

Now without wishing to sound like Buddha, or presenting this as a ‘thought for the day’ I did reflect a little about this… Relax. The point of this isn’t about “old-fashioned values”, “youngster’s today – no respect,” or even “why aren’t I doing a more effective coaching job with my new staff”. I started thinking about the strange way we learn. I’ve seen it a thousand times in a thousand different circumstances. Once someone masters the first step of anything they think that that’s it – they’ve cracked it. This has happened to me with golf, driving, sex (joking, or am I?) and of course training.

The first time I ran a half-day equal opportunities seminar on my own I was convinced I’d got this training lark sorted. It took a lot of good and bad experiences over the next ten years to convince me otherwise.

My move into training coincided with my application to study for a psychology course with the Open University. Before the course began I was convinced that I could practically read minds. I used to analyse people's body language. I would listen to their words, study their non-verbals, watch their eye movements, listen to the silences etc.

Five years or so later after completing the course I knew far less that I had at the beginning. I knew now that folded arms could mean: defensive, pretending to be defensive; disagreement or pretence at disagreement; nothing; “it’s cold in here” or something else altogether.

So, how does this help in training. I guess it’s to do with awareness and realising that we all go through this: “I know nothing - I know everything – I know nothing – I know I know nothing – I know a little bit,” cycle. It’s taken me a long time to get this far and occasionally it works. Frequently it doesn’t and I’m in the “I would do that better” mode when watching someone else. Now and again though, as mentioning right at the beginning I can see people for what they can do well, rather than what they can’t do.

Maybe I am turning into Buddha?

4 Responses

  1. Brilliant observation, encouraging and insightful
    The article was great. Why? Because I am there, wondering a great deal about all that hard work that got me here and all the learning that remains. Catch them winning – it works [why not catch yourself winning too?]
    Lynne Ewer Morgan

  2. Cosy corner or robust feedback?
    Your story is a telling one but it reminds me of a manager I once knew who couldn’t bear to tell his team members when they were getting things wrong. Instead he would praise them for the things they did well. Which was fine as they all loved him and they were really disappointed when he was sacked for incompetence. You may well have been right not to have told the presenter how bad she was – it might not have been the right moment, she may not have asked for any feedback and it may not have been your place to give her feedback. But if you did feel able to give her feedback, you could – should? – have given her a balanced view of the positives and negatives of her performance. If everyone did what you did, she may never know how awful she was. I don’t think you actually did her any favours.

  3. It depends
    I am working very hard on giving constructive feedback and have sometimes resorted to ‘only mentioning the good bits’. Afterwards, I have felt irresponsible and unchallenging to us both.

    The type feedback definitely depends on the circumstances.

  4. Is life a tree?
    Perhaps a learning tree,money tree or behavioural branches:where you make decisions to act,watch or just simply listen.

No Image Available
Claire Savage

Editor, news

Read more from Claire Savage

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!