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Trainer’s Diary: Looking Good!


Byron Kalies This week Byron Kalies explores why the way we aim to present ourselves and what others see doesn't always correlate.

Recently I've been thinking about clothing. Not in the sense of whether to or not, but what is the 'appropriate wear'. All the advice ever given talks of wearing the appropriate clothing - but what exactly does that mean?

I guess, if you've been in this business for any amount of time you've been through dress-trends as often as training trends. When I started, years ago, it was easy. You wore a jacket and tie (or the female equivalent) at all times. Then there was the phase where it was more relaxed, looser. If we dressed more casually it would create a more casual atmosphere, people would be more open to learning, etc. So, the tie and jacket disappeared and hey it became a little more casual: Ben Sherman's and chinos and sandals (well not quite that far, although I have seen sandals worn). It felt strange to start, conditioning I guess, yet it soon became comfortable.

As time went on it felt a little easier to mix and match - choose the appropriate attire for the appropriate session. There were 'tie sessions' (interviewing training, consultancy with senior managers, strategic programmes) and 'non-tie' sessions (assertiveness, stress workshops). I don't remember how this divide happened though. We certainly never talked about it as trainers. It wasn't that we didn't talk about everything else in the world - it was just one of those things that didn't get discussed. There was also a problem with certain courses, eg customer care training - was that a corporate 'tie session' or a relaxed 'non-tie session'. It was a tricky business.

There was also the extra difficulty of co-training. It just wasn't done to phone a fellow trainer and ask what they would be wearing. Well, it didn't feel right somehow. Absolutely stupid I know but we would discuss, in depth, everything else, session - splits, questioning, feedback etc.

One day I was running a communication 'non-tie' event and had some feedback. This wasn't from a co-trainer it was from a course member in an office I hadn't worked at before. I had some real critical feedback for being 'too relaxed'. It was 'not what they would expect someone of my grade to wear'. After a little internal defence reaction about people being petty and 'can't they see it's for their own good' I had a think. I realised my focus was on me rather than on the trainees. I had assumed that people would enjoy the relaxed approach, because I did.

In my experience I see a fair amount of trainers' focus turned inward on what's comfortable for the trainer rather than on the audience. Sometimes trainers go for the easy option. I don't believe it's deliberate or that trainers do it because they are bad people. It's just too easy to get into the mind set. Maybe now and again we need to ask the question: What are you about - looking good or being effective?

* Byron Kalies' latest book "25 Management Techniques in 90 Minutes" (Management Books 2000) was published January 2005, for more information click here.


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