This post could have been called
Things that happen to trainers
Cultural Fit is Important
Are you open to feedback?
but anyway, here goes….
I did a course last year for a reasonably large company who shall remain nameless
It was two days on leadership, how to be a great boss etc
All went well – in fact the training manager was sitting in on the course and was very happy with it
And the feedback forms at the end were all fine – so, job done, all good.
During the course I describe how managers would ideally communicate a lot, involve people in their decisions, walk around and chat to the normal people (the workers!) every day, do a day of Back To The floor once a year so they don’t forget what it’s like etc, and as I always get on every course there were cries of “But our bosses don’t do this!” – if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that! And also “Are our bosses going to come on this course?” to which the answer is “Probably not. It would be good, but it doesn’t often happen”. My answer to the first cry is probably “Well nobody’s perfect, I don’t know your boss so I can’t really judge, but all you can do is run YOUR area really well, and remember this course when you’re at the top”.
This happens on every course, it’s inevitable really, because as soon as you talk about the ideal leader, people always compare that with their actual boss and there’s (quite rightly) a discussion about whether it’s done is this company, should it be, why isn’t it, etc. Particularly when it’s a residential course like this one was, we all have a meal and a drink in the evening, the delegates open up to me and tell me about all the good and bad things at the company, and I think that’s a measure of a good trainer – do they trust you and want your opinion.
Then, five weeks later, I get an email from the training manager saying “Apparently on the course last month (“maybe when I was out of the room”) you said that the senior managers are crap, and the MD wants you to phone him to discuss this.
Nice email to receive!
Apparently two out of the 16 people went to their manager after the course and said “There was criticism of the company on the course and we weren’t comfortable with it” and their manager went to the MD and said “Chris is criticising you on his course”. Deliberate or accidental misquotes, who knows, but that’s where we’re at. It reminds me of a mug I’ve got…..
So the question is, what should the MD do? what would YOU do if you were that MD?
(Less important, less interesting, is could I have avoided it …and what should I say to the MD?)
And I think the MD should have gone for ALL or NOTHING – I’ll explain what I mean
ALL – “Tell me everything they are saying, you’ve built up trust with them and they are opening up to you, so I’d like to know what they really think of the management. Is my message getting through to them, via the chain of intermediate managers that I have? Perception is all, so if I mean well but they can’t see it, that’s a problem, or if I think I’m doing well but I’m not then I need to know. If I agree with them that there are problems but they think I don’t see it the same as them, then that’s worth knowing – and easy to correct. So Chris, be honest and open with them, and let me know everything that’s relevant, maybe without naming names, so I can do the right things to make the company even better”.
That would have been good.
NOTHING – “I don’t want to know anything that is said on the course – it’s between you and them, I trust you to get the message across and make them better managers. Feel free to tell me things if you want, but I’m not interested in hearsay and Chinese whispers, I don’t have time for rumours and politics and brown nosing. You can discuss my strengths and weaknesses, no doubt you will, in fact that’s probably necessary in order to really think about the subject properly, whatever, that’s fine. I’m leaving it to you.
That would have been good too.
Of course what we actually had was a half way house, trying to adjust the way I run the course in order to avoid any more instances of people actually thinking or questioning things.
I’m not good at minefields so I’m not going to do any more for them – and I guess they’ll now get a beige trainer who plods through powerpoint and there’s nothing to be offended by.
And it’s a victory for the two snakes, and their brown-nosing boss, and the culture of hiding that everyone really thinks, …and nothing will change.
What do you expect from Training? Do you want people to be changed in a day or two when their managers haven’t succeeded in 10 years? Do you just want some new and magic techniques, without any thinking or questioning? Do you want things to be done better but somehow to achieve this without any criticism of the current ways? Do you want the group to open up and be honest, or to roll their eyes and keep their heads down?
So there we are, a window into my world, not always as easy as it appears, with a certain amount of unfair stuff going on every now and then. But still the best job I can think of doing, I love it 99% of the time. And getting a good fit with your customers’ culture is key, not just in training but whatever industry you’re in.
onwards and upwards!