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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

What You Wanted To Be When You Grew Up . . .

maybe you got where you wanted to be, and just didn't notice

On a recent morning radio show, listeners were asked to call in and say what they thought they were going to be, when they grew up, and what work they actually ended up doing. Two things I noticed were:

  1. As you would expect, a great many people were doing something other than what they thought they would be doing, and
  2. Nobody called in and said, "I hope to grow up and help people do their jobs better."

Surprise! You're a trainer now!

"Trainer" indicates an activity, a function, not a title. If you "help people do their jobs better", you're in training and communication, no matter what your official job title or job description.

It's a safe bet that most of the people who are training other employees didn't aim for that function, but just grew into it. Generally, we're talking about people who handle training responsibilities for a particular area of the company's operations in addition to doing all the other parts of their jobs. Your colleagues may not think of you as a "trainer", even though you expend a good deal of time, thought, and effort on spreading best practices in your organization.

Of course, some functions in some large organizations have professional training staff. But even in those companies, there is a huge amount of training -- of helping other employees achieve higher performance -- that is done by "non-professional" trainers.

So, if you find that you're spending a significant amount of your time -- with or without formal recognition -- guiding other employees in their work, providing knowledge and tools to support best practices, building skills and awareness, does that mean you're not following your original dreams?

Maybe not.

Recognizing Your Dream

Keep in mind:

  • Most of the people who called in dreamt of careers in which they would be important in some way. The success of your company is important to a lot of people, and you are helping build that success. And being better at their jobs is personally satisfying for the individuals you help.
  • Most of the callers probably envisioned themselves at being really good at their chosen career. And from their brief comments, you could tell that most of them had discovered that being good at something else was pretty satisfying, even it that "something" wasn't what they expected to be doing.
  • People tend to acquire training responsibilities because they are good at something, or highly knowledgable. You get those extra duties because you've been proven effective, and you're a role model.

So, maybe you're not an astronaut or a ballerina, or even a firefighter. But you are still somebody who does something important, doing something that has a positive impact on a lot of people, someone who was chosen to provide the best training help the company can offer because you are one of the best at what you do.

That's not too bad, is it? The industry, job title, and type of work might differ from what you once imagined, but the core attributes you were looking for in your work -- accomplishment and impact on others -- are reflected in the fact that someone higher up in the company asked you to help improve outcomes.

Making Dreams Come True

There is one hitch in the practice of picking someone who is good at something and asking him/her to teach others how to be good at it as well:

"something" and the "teaching of something" are two different things, requiring different knowledge and skills

Did you ever have a language teacher who was fluent in French or Spanish, but not very good at getting you to speak the language? Or a math teacher who was a wiz with numbers and formulae, but who left you hopelessly confused?

Choosing someone who has done a job well to help others do that job well is not the simple solution it appears. Someone without experience and education in teaching and instructional design may struggle with issues like:

  • How do I know what information is important, and what I should leave out? (If you didn't know that you probably have to leave something out, in most training situations, you might need expert help.)
  • How do I structure content? What topics come first, which ones come later?
  • How do I design activities that fit my audience, their needs, the company's needs, the desired outcome?
  • What are my delivery options, and how do I choose the ones that will get the best result? (See the "how" of what I've done for my clients for some initial hints about this.)

Don't be afraid to look for help, from professional instructional designers and trainers, from colleagues who seem to be effective in their training efforts, from web sites and books and newsletters. There are a lot of resources out there, and the best of it is developed by people who are experienced with helping those who take training seriously, but never expected to be in that line of work.

Hire, borrow, and learn to develope the expertise and experience you need to make your dream -- helping others do their best work -- come true.

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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