Listening To Be a Better Trainer

This past week, I was off doing some training. Most of the time, when I go to do training onsite, I’m the only one traveling, and I spend much of my free time on my own. There’s something to be said for that, after spending all day in front of people, it’s nice to unwind a bit. However, this trip was a bit different. This organization had brought me out to do training, and had their people travel in to a central location for training from around the country. So we were all staying in the same hotel. Again, after a long day of training, that can be a challenge. If I wanted a quiet dinner alone, I needed to get out of the hotel. Luckily, for this trip, I actually didn’t mind running into my students in the hotel bar when I went to grab a bite to eat. If anything, it was a reminder of one of the things that can make me a better trainer, and just a better person all the way around; listening.

Too often, I think trainers are slaves to their outline. We have an agenda to cover, and we have x hours to cover it in. We allow questions, but we don’t really understand where the student is coming from, or what is driving the question. If we do really listen to the question and take a few minutes to understand it, we can provide a better, more complete, answer. But that might take us off our agenda, and we can’t do that.;-)

On the other hand, one of the ways in which we can still do both, is to actually understand where our students are coming from before they ask the question. I can draw on my own experiences in law firms to get a better grasp on questions being asked when I’m teaching in a law firm. I understand where the question is coming from. With other organizations, it’s a bit harder for me. I need to work at understanding where the question is coming from. Wouldn’t it be great if I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to folks from these different types of organizations and pick their brains a little? Listen to them tell me their war stories from cases past, find out what they love about what they do, what they hate about it, and where they want to see improvement? Wouldn’t information like that, from within the organization, help me better understand where the students are coming from? Especially if I know I’m going to be doing other training for this, or similar organizations?

What a great opportunity it is for me then, to run into these students at the hotel bar, and get them talking about their work! I can’t begin to tell you how helpful the conversations from this week have been. I have more information, not only to understand where questions are coming from when asked, but to anticipate the kinds of questions that are out there, and tweak the training just a little bit to help them apply it to their workflows.

So the next time you find yourself in this kind of a situation, don’t underestimate the opportunity in front of you. It might be tempting to order room service and hide away from people and their questions, but you might just be a better trainer for avoiding that temptation.

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