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Annie Ward


Editor, HR Zone

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Trainer’s Diary: It’s Only Rock and Roll But I Like It


Byron Kalies
Management training is the new rock and roll. So, I’ve been told. The profile of management gurus has risen a great deal over the past five years or so. There are speakers like Stephen Covey, Kjell Nordstrom, Jonas Ridderstrale, who, I gather charge almost as much as Madonna. They’re motivating, amusing, a little evangelical so I believe. But, hey that’s entertainment, isn’t it? So, is this our aim?

Well there is a bit of that I guess. You wouldn’t want attendees to start talking in their sleep would you when you’re talking. But then again you can have too much style without that much substance can’t you?

I would like to see Charles Handy presenting a Performance Management System half day overview for job holders and make it riveting.

But I digress … what about us mere mortals? I assume the right thing to say would be … “Let’s get back to basics. What is the reason for the training? Are the objectives being met? Are the corporate messages being transferred effectively? What is the ROI? What really is the point of training at all?“ All fair points.

However, and there is a however, surely there’s more to training than meeting your objectives, passing on the corporate message, explaining the new system? If that’s all there is then that’s a great excuse for getting rid of trainers and replacing them with e-learning robots. For me training is about something more.

It’s about connecting. The word itself comes from the Latin trainore meaning connecting to another through words and gestures. Well. OK I made up that last point but please. We’re not lecturers. We’re not schoolteachers. We are giving messages but it’s more than that. It’s about values. It’s about role modelling. If not then what difference does it make?

You know yourself the training events you remember. You don’t recall anything about the communication course except the food because the trainer was deathly dull, even though it was exactly what you wanted at the time. I bet the best thing that ever happened on a training event was the trainer that kept you interested for four days on the dire financial management course.

So, entertainment = good, boring = bad. The end.

A fair amount of whats makes it interesting is in the head of the trainer.

A long time ago we were spending two days at a hotel ‘revamping’ the management development course. After a day and a half of tinkering we were almost talking ourselves into scrapping the whole programme and starting again.

Fortunately we had a wise manager at the time who made us stop and advised us that the course was getting boring for us because we had done it for so long. This didn’t mean that it was a boring course. The participants were still really enjoying it and it was only us who were the problem. We changed a few things, swapped some trainers around and started really enjoying it again. The course continues to get great reviews (and better evaluation).

The obvious danger though usually happens when there are a team of trainers trying to ‘out train’ each other. The messages become almost incidental and we strive to show off, and trump each other.

On one shameful occasion a few of us were trying to drop as many song titles into the role plays we were acting. This was interesting and fun for us. What we forgot is that it’s not really about us. I think this is probably the crux of it. Who are we entertaining? If it’s for us then it’s showing off.

If it’s for the attendees to make the event more exciting, memorable and enjoyable then surely that’s a good thing. If not and people don’t get the message completely but have some fun, well it’s hardly the end of the world as we know it, is it?

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Annie Ward

Editor, HR Zone

Read more from Annie Ward

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