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Training with heart pt1


Do you feel there's something missing from your training experience? Mark Walsh suggests that you put your heart into it.
Does your training have heart? What is 'heart' anyway, and why might this be a question worth asking? In this article I make a plea for trainers to bring their humanity to work, champion the passionate and connect with their deepest values.
Having become somewhat nauseated with an excess of clever theories, shallow tricks and unethical practice throughout the training and development world I was compelled to ask the folks at TrainingZone if I could write an article on 'training with heart'. They agreed and I've been exploring the idea of what 'heart' might mean within a training and coaching context since. I'm still finding out myself so these are just a few ideas. One response might be to ask what am I on about, surely we all have a four-chambered blood pump in our chests; what's the problem?
"The problem, or opportunity if you've been on too many cheesy courses, is that training can be a humanising factor in organisations but is often just the opposite."
The problem, or opportunity if you've been on too many cheesy courses, is that training can be a humanising factor in organisations but is often just the opposite. It is frequently a way to stuff people into boxes, deny emotional reality and enforce the wills of those who buy it with little or no thought for the wellbeing of those who receive it. Let's take the example of stress training which I do quote a bit of. This can be done in a manner which acknowledges the real suffering that occurs at work and supports people with them as partners, or as a blame laden band-aid for wider organisational issues. Ultimately, training that is trying to enforce one group's agenda on another without real consent, or at least buy-in, is just a form of organisational violence and not heart-felt. I wouldn't train a dog this way.
If the 'why' of training is vital so is the 'how'. While there are many styles of training which could be considered heart-felt, and nobody has the final word on this, here are a few questions you could ask of a trainer as pointers.

Is the training a purely cognitive affair?

I've written before for TrainingZone [link to follow] about the importance of interactive and embodied training so enough to say here that no training that's a dry, overly cerebral powerpoint yawnathon can ever have what I call heart. The work of trainers with heart is juicy, lively and engaging.

Do they have the intention to emotionally connect with delegates?

Now this is not "are they touchy feely?" or even "are they emotionally intelligent?" - these miss the point - but does the trainer value participants enough as human brings to want to connect with them rather than treat them as a means to an end. I may only score a seven out of ten on an emotional intelligence test, but if I value people and want to understand their experience I have heart. Real empathy is a part of what I am talking about and this no more means forcing people to discuss emotions than it means denying them.
"To be an effective trainer you must care, not just be skilled at pretending you care."
Note that trainers with heart are not less but more effective than trainers who are merely transactional as learning is built on rapport. Talking about building rapport however as a pseudo-caring NLP trick again misses the point, and in my experience is quickly spotted and hated. To be an effective trainer you must care, not just be skilled at pretending you care.

Does the trainer have passion?

In the same way as pretending to care for participants is not enough, pretending to care about the subject also doesn't cut it. The word 'passion' is overused and over-talked in business circles - "we believe passionately in customer service" "I'm passionate about coaching leaders..." etc. Really? Passion is something that emanates from every pore of one's being. If you wouldn't do something all night for free, then you are not passionate about it. Is the trainer a bit of a geek (in the best possible sense) about their subject? Is their enthusiasm infectious? Do they really love what they do?

Part two will follow next week. 

Mark Walsh leads business training providers Integration Training - based in Brighton, London and Birmingham UK.  Specialising in working with emotions, the body and spirituality at work they help organisations get more done without going insane (time management and stress training), coordinate action more effectively (team building and communication training) and help leaders build impact, influence and presence. Clients include blue-chip companies, UNICEF, The Sierra Leonian Army and the University of Sussex. In his spare time Mark dances, meditates, practices aikido and enjoys being exploited by his nice and two cats. His life ambition is to make it normal to be a human being at work.

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