Thursday, September 7, 2017

Training Gone Bad

How many of you have had the pleasure of attending a well-planned training session that inspired you to share the information with others?  Quite often most people take it for granted when a training is simply amazing and don’t think much about the work that actually goes into it.  Last week, I had the experience of attending one of the worse trainings in my entire life.

As a trainer/facilitator for over 15 years, I have learned from many of the best professionals in the field.  It’s also true that trainers can be the most difficult participants in any training because a good presenter knows from the start if the training is going to be fantastic or horrific.

Last week, after getting over the initial feeling of horror and wondering why the fire alarm hadn’t gone off so that we could escape the building and not return. If the windows had opened I would have pretended to commit suicide to save my colleagues and myself. Once returning to some state of sanity, I struggled to consider why I was mandated to attend this training from hell.  After a wave of depression, I realized what a great opportunity to watch the worse trainer ever for the next 4 days and to remember to learn what not to do as a facilitator. You are probably thinking that someone facilitating a training for 4 days should be able to get back on track after hearing the feedback from participants after Day 1, but it didn’t happen at all. 

Here are a few things that caught my attention that a good trainer should NEVER  do:

Lack of Planning:
  • Failing to Plan is a Plan to Fail. We have all heard this before, but believe me, it’s true. It was clear that our trainer was unprepared and presented poorly and continued to get worse each day. It was later discovered that the trainer had missed every planning session and/or conference call with key staff that would have ensured a successful training that enabled participants to learn more about the topic.  It’s normal for a good facilitator or trainer to schedule planning meetings with the client and work out clear details of the scope of the training and how each day will be created and completed successfully.
Bad Attitude
  • When a facilitator or trainer lacks the ability to be humble, the audience will feel disrespected and may lose interest in the entire training. When entering a room as the leader or trainer, all attitudes and big egos should be left in the car or outside of the door. After all, those negative characteristics were not invited or engaged to participate. Arrogance is not a positive trait to possess as a trainer.
No Icebreaker:
  • Most training sessions usually begin with an icebreaker or an activity to create a fun and friendly atmosphere, especially when people don’t know each other well.  There are many great icebreakers or fun games to get people talking, laughing and sharing information that can help the trainer to make subtle changes in the presentation. There was no effort to create a warm atmosphere in this horrible training, and each day continued to be more miserable than the one before.
Expectations Exercise
  • In an effort to ascertain the needs and desires of training participants, presenters often conduct an activity where participants can introduce themselves and give an expectation of what they would like to take away from the training. Often if the group is too large, they can be placed into smaller groups and share that information within their groups. Once coming back together as a full group, one member of the team will introduce its members and a couple of expectations. Notes are made on an easel and are reviewed by the trainer. Do I have to say it?  Well nothing similar happened at the training I attended. I watched many people who struggled in working with strangers, preferring to work with one of their co-workers instead.
Poor Introduction:

  • Try to remember that the training is not for the benefit of the trainer but for the participants. Our imposter trainer was not concerned about finding out who was in the audience, nor why people had given up 4 days of work to be there. This trainer kicked off the training by giving a very dull self-centered presentation for 20 minutes or more. Everyone was totally turned off almost immediately and confused whether or not the topic was about the trainer’s life or about a family member being ill.
Inappropriate Language:

  • Try to not use inappropriate language with speaking to training participants, especially when the relationship or trust has not been created with the team. Humor is always good in training if you are a humorous person with a bubbly personality. Without creating trust and a positive rapport, Trainers should avoid odd comments. My target trainer spent some time taking about the constipation of a relative when looking at the words To Do as part of the PDSA presentation on a slide and decided to explain in detail why the personal information was being shared. The PDSA cycle is shorthand for testing a change – by planning it, doing it, observing the results, and acting on what is learned.  This is a scientific method used for action-oriented learning.
Work Plan:
  • Once the trainer got into the power point presentation, it was clear that they were unfamiliar with any of the information and started to make things up. I can’t repeat often enough that the trainer must be extremely well prepared and familiar with their slides. Not the case in this session. Lack of being prepared caused complete confusion among participants starting on the first day. The situation did not improve or correct itself over the next few days. Hard to imagine that it could have gotten worse, but it was on a downward path.
  • It can be disrespectful to argue with participants or try to shut them down from asking questions. The role of the trainer is and has always been is to support workshop participants and to make sure they leave the training more knowledgeable since they have taken many days from work for the purpose of attending a training to gain more information or skills to increase their job skills. A good trainer uses active listening when dealing with participants. When most people are speaking, those listening busy are thinking of their response. Active listening is listening 100% to what is being said or asked of you so that you can respond appropriately, correctly and respectfully.
Follow Through:
  • As a trainer, facilitator, presenter or teacher, it’s important to always follow thru on what you promised to do for participants. It may help to put items on a parking lot – which can be on large white Post-it paper or a white board that will remind the trainer of things that need to be addressed. Quite often a good trainer will place white paper around the room so that participants can make comments throughout the training. Parking lot items may be reviewed several times during the training. Trust me, you will not see this at a bad training session.
  • My biggest gripe of all is when a trainer or facilitator share untrue information with participants or those in Leadership positions who are doing the hiring.  It’s a problem that could be eliminated if the leadership of any organization, large or small, would check in with staff or participants during or following a training to check to see if everyone was happy and to get feedback.  It’s important to do so because a bad trainer can do harm to participants and risk damaging staff morale while creating negative feelings and poor morale.
These are key reasons why everyone should all take a stand and voice when you are being exposed to a poorly presented training. Any leadership needs to know how their staff felt and were treated.  Firms that hire trainers or facilitators also need to find out how their presenter was received. Remember, evaluation is key to providing feedback that may make a difference in your next training session. Let us know what makes a training GREAT for you.

For over 15 years, Mikael Wagner has been a professional trainer, social marketing/media practitioner and project manager with Promotions West.