No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

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

Trainer’s Diary: Train or Die?


Byron KaliesHow much influence do trainers have to change the way that learners go about their work? Byron Kalies is concerned that it may be much less than we think.

I give up. There really seems to be little point. I've just read an article by Alan Deutschman from Fast Company ( and it seems to contradict everything I teach. It would appear that not even if your life is in danger would you actually change. What hope have any of us trainers got against those odds?

The article looks at research produced for a worldwide conference on the future. Dr. Edward Miller's research into heart disease showed that people who undergo surgery as a result of this have a choice. If they lead a healthier lifestyle after surgery they could avoid pain, further surgery and stop the disease before it kills them. However, only 1 in 10 patients changed their lifestyle. It seems that they would prefer to die rather than change. Having gone through a few stages of the coping cycle myself reading that (denial: "that can't be right" and defence: "well I'm sure I would change" I consciously accepted the evidence and thought about it.

I started to realise that those statistics were right. I guess we all know of people who can't / won't change their lifestyles in the face of almost certain death (Illustrated last week by the death of George Best). Having acknowledged that I started to think of some of the positives from this and yes there are a great many positives.

It shows you can't bully people into change with threats - not even the threat of death or long term illness. There's something about humans that refuse to be told what to do. This links to Jack Brehm's studies on psychological reactance. Put briefly and very simply it says that as humans if someone restricts our choice we will react by doing the opposite. Again there will be hundreds of everyday examples of this.

Studies show that if we're not bothered which brand of chocolate bar we would like and we find only one in a vending machine we are likely to travel a considerable distance to have a different one. Psychologically the restriction in our choice (our freedom of choice) forces us to react and rebel against that restriction. No doubt this reaction would be a huge factor for the heart patients.

Another factor may well be linked to the Coping Cycle (Adams, Hayes, Hopson) I referred to before. Patients who receive such devastating news may well be stuck in the denial phase. It must be incredibly difficult to get past this stage into a more positive, proactive frame of mind.

In relation to management training it got me thinking about how important management training really is? There are successes in change management and I would hope that they are more than one in 10. Perhaps we can change people and get them to behave in ways they hadn't considered before exactly because its not life or death. As the article goes on to say there are methods of improving that success rate amongst heart patients.

The best result I ever had from a training event happened three years ago. It was after a week-long residential course. The course involved a lot of discussion and thought by a group of senior statisticians in an organisation. At the end of the week one statistician told me that he had been doing a lot of thinking and had realised how unhappy he was and that he was going to do something about it. A month later I had a postcard from Egypt. He had left his job and started training to be a 'diving with sharks' instructor.

Two months ago I saw him on a training event in London. He had recently returned and was now incredibly happy being a statistician.

As the article goes on to say there are methods of improving that success rate amongst heart patients. One main factor seems to be motivating people with the 'joy of living' rather than the 'fear of death'. This was certainly the case for the statistician. Perhaps that could be a better focus for change programmes?

A final thought on this. This article did get me thinking about the bigger picture and realising that sometimes I can get trapped into living and breathing training constantly and get too close. I know many of my colleagues do as well. Sometimes we do take the work too seriously. At the end of the day, really, it is only a training course.


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!