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Trainer’s Diary: The Big Picture


Byron KaliesWhen facing a barrage of questions, it is easy to doubt your own ability to communicate. Byron Kalies offers this reassuring tale.

A long time ago a colleague was running his very first consultancy session. It was particularly stressful for him as he was training a group of economists in team building over two days. At that time he had an over inflated view of economists. He would put them on a pedestal as never having been that great at maths he was in awe of anyone that could add up big numbers. He thought they were incredibly clever, knew everything and basically had brains the size of planets.

The session was the first in the programme. At first it seemed that things were going well. Then one of the economists (the team leader) asked a question. This was fine, He’d been asked questions before but there was something about the way he was asked that didn’t feel right. Bear in mind his feeling towards economists, and this person was the top economist. This person had worked with Members of Parliament and was the one who was wheeled out at press conferences. He had the reputation of calculating the most difficult of sums in his head.

Anyway he answered the questions and carried on. Again the chief economist stopped the session to ask a question. Now, there are at least two things going on in his mind at this point. In one half there’s the logic, rational part thinking, ‘perhaps I’d better slow down, or explain things more carefully it’s obvious that this guy needs more time’… However the other part of the brain is screaming “Help. What an idiot I am. I hate this job.”

By the time the session was over he was practically a nervous wreck. There were more questions and he could feel myself turning toward the others in the group, almost shunning this individual.

The end of the day couldn’t come quick enough. Dinner with everyone was a tense time and all my colleague wanted to do was to get to bed and forget it. However, as he sat in the bedroom he began thinking about the day. He decided that he had to do the right thing. He’d been talking about honesty, disclosure and Johari window so decided it was time to put the theory into action.

Slightly nervously he went to the bar and saw 3 or 4 of the group chatting away. He joined them and took a deep breath and told them he wasn’t sure that the chief statistician had got anything out of it. As he was explaining how he felt he could see the others laughing.

“Well I don’t think it’s very funny” he said.
“No. No. we’re not laughing at you.” One of them said. “We’re laughing at the economist.”
“How’s that?”
“Well he has got the reputation for being incredibly sharp and he can answer questions in his head, but they’re never right. “
“Never right. You wouldn’t trust anything he says. He’s good at the big picture but hopeless at the detail which is why he asks lots of questions. It takes him an age to really understand things.”

I’ll leave you to work out the moral of the story, but it has helped me a great deal over the year.


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