BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: I’m not a good trainer. I need to be mindful of that while ramping up a business development person—our next important hire. And I need to use this opportunity to get better at training because it’s a critical skill to have. What are the secrets of a successful trainer?
Thoughts of the Day: Be a role model. Have patience. Let your trainee make mistakes and learn from them. Let your passion show through, but don’t try to teach everything at once. Learn about the person you’re training and back it up with reference materials.
In many cases, you won’t be handling the training of your team members because your managers are tasked with that. Could someone else do the training and demonstrate more passion or expertise? Sure, but there may be times when you need to be involved if it’s a senior executive or if you are wearing many hats as the owner of a small company—and that’s when you need to step up to plate to be a teacher. It’s important to get this right.
Avoid the temptation to rush. Explain what you’re going to do and what to expect. Then ask trainees to watch how you do it. Tell them to do it the same way, and give trainees time to absorb and build muscle memory.
Next, let students test how things work. Once they can accurately repeat what you’ve shown them, let them try to do it on their own. Stick around to observe—resist the urge to overwhelm or take the wheel—and discuss how things are going.
Avoid overload by working in small increments and scheduling multiple practice sessions. Do not move on to something new until your pupils show some degree of competence at the last task.
Fight the temptation to rescue trainees from problems: Letting them work it out now will make them more confident when they tackle similar issues later. Be there to answer questions or offer suggestions—but only if the advice is truly helpful or needed. As long as they aren’t going to do permanent damage, let them make mistakes, discover what doesn’t work, and figure out how to do things correctly on their own.
Be enthusiastic. Talk about what the company stands for and how that helps your customers succeed. Encourage best practices. Set the bar high for how you want your company to be represented by them.
If trainees get stuck, ask if this task is a good fit for what is needed in order to succeed overall. If the answer is “yes,” keep on practicing. If the answer is “no,” consider assigning someone else."
Learning can be stressful, and people don’t always do well at first in a 24/7, high-intensity environment like this industry. Start by breaking big projects or tasks into sections and work on one section at a time. Take breaks and let students build confidence by having them work on something they already know how to do.
Figure out how each trainee learns best. Some people absorb information by being told how to do things. Others need to read up on a subject. Still others like to practice with their hands to get the feel of how things should work. Some people are good at conceptualizing; others need to see an example. Adapt your teaching style to fit each student’s needs. If people make mistakes or take longer than expected, be respectful. Encourage them to try. Take them aside to discuss problems one on one.
If trainees get stuck, ask if this task is a good fit for what is needed in order to succeed overall. If the answer is “yes,” keep on practicing. If the answer is “no,” consider assigning someone else.
Put together training manuals, checklists, and other tools to help. If you don’t already have training materials, ask trainees to keep notes and type them up. Then give the notes to the next people who need to be trained and ask them to make notes on where they get stuck. Repeat the cycle three or four times and you should have a good training manual in hand.
Finally, you will always be an example for your employees, and regardless of whether you are actively involved in training or not, they are watching you on how to act. Think about how you come across. How skilled and determined are you at what you’re teaching? Show your trainees the right way to do it and don’t talk about shortcuts. [CD1216] Looking for a good book? Try “Training Ain’t Performance” by Harold D. Stolovitch.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.