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Dominic Valentine

Dominic Valentine

Training Manager

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Your “ground rules” for training?


What ground rules or protocols do you seek from participants at the outset of a training course? Do they include these? Anything else? Do you present these protocols or ask participants to come up with their own? Or somewhere in between?  Respect for the views of others  Honesty  Give everyone space and time to express their opinion/make a contribution  Punctuality  All questions are valid- we don’t know what we don’t know!  Active listening  Participate  Have Fun!  Confidentiality – Chatham House Rules  Challenge the idea not the person  Clarify all jargon and acronyms  Appropriate language free of bias  No assumptions  Use the “Parking Bay” I have six techniques I use to challenge inappropriate behaviour. Drop me an e mail at [email protected] for a copy

7 Responses

  1. Here’s what I do
    Last week I delivered a course in Kuwait. Before we started I said…

    There are no rules

    I will start at 9am…you can arrive when you want to

    I will finish at 3-15 but you can leave when you want to

    If you need a cigarette please just leave and have one

    No need to turn your phone off

    Take from this course the things you find interesting and forget about the rest of it

    Needless to say everyone did the exact opposite and arrived on time and were very respectful of me and all other attendees.

    Treat people like adults and they usually behave like adults.

  2. Keep it simple.
    I keep it simple with a few ground rules like:

    a) Cell phones off or on silent (I train new hires for my department so they don’t need to be in touch with anyone during training).

    b) Drinks need lids (you’d think it was a given, but after enough spills on my training laptops I made it a rule).

    c) No food in the classroom (added after I came close to poking someone in the eye when they ate loud, crunchy foods in class, plus others have eaten smelly, messy lunches in the room).

    Other than that, it’s up to them how much they get out of the training based on how they choose to participate/behave. If they’re not going to pay attention or participate, I don’t think a rule won’t change that.


  3. Keep it simple – part 2.
    That last line was supposed to say “I don’t think a rule will change that”. 🙂


  4. Ground rules

    I would fully agree the saying, treat people like adults, and they will behave like adults. The training content would attract them to follow, not the rules. 

  5. Ground rules

    I love the assumption that you should "treat people like adults and they will (usually) behave like adults".  Doesn't always work like that unfortunately.


    I have worked for both a public sector organisation as an in-house trainer and then in the private sector where I trained external clients.  Unfortunately, in the former, there were "professional" people (people who were in charge of massive budgets of taxpayer’s money) who took great delight in being as disruptive and awkward as possible.  For instance, on my very first training delivery session, my then line manager plonked himself at a desk, listened to me for 10 minutes, then proceeded to text and email from his business phone, between walking in and out of the room.  All this from the “Head of Training” – what a laugh!  I can only conclude that this behaviour was displayed because I was not “uniformed” and a woman to boot (bear in mind this was an extremely male-oriented organisation who paid lip-service to E&D).


    In the private sector, I have endured behaviour ranging from being bullied by a person in front of their colleagues, to verbal abuse from receptionists who didn’t want to work.  My then managers didn’t bat an eyelid to resolve the issues. 


    Now I know this sounds like a moan (and it is) and it sounds like I’m a walkover (believe me I’m not!) but if we don’t have reasonable “ground rules” at the beginning of courses then how do these “adults” know what is acceptable behaviour or not?  I say get them involved in the process of making these rules.  Some people are out of their comfort zone and therefore believe that bad behaviour in a training environment is totally acceptable.  At least if they are consulted at the beginning of training, there is some emotional “buy-in” to the course.

  6. Acceptable

    Most of the best conversations will come when the plan doesn't go according to plan. Adults don't need to be told what to do…sometimes getting them to the place you want them to be can be achieved in an unstructured chaotic way…little do they know you actually created the chaos in the first place. 

  7. Ground rules
    I try to keep ground rules to a minimum however find it useful to accentuate the honesty of views, challenge (because there may not be any right or wrong answers) and listen to responses.
    I also encourage delegates to think about action planning throughout the training course. I refer them to a personal pledge form (copy at which asks them to record the start, stop and continue (but do more often) aspects of their behaviour. I find that if they keep this form in their ‘minds eye’ throughout the day, they have started action planning already.
    Hope that helps

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Dominic Valentine

Training Manager

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