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

Is Being a "Training Professional" a Handicap?

being a professional does not automatically earn your client's respect

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Training responsibilities vary not only between organizations or companies, but within them. In some cases, most of the formal training activities are handled by "training professionals," that is, staff who do nothing else but work on creating and delivering training. Often they have an educational background that consistently points to training work, and they may never have held significant "line responsibility" for a "normal" job within the company.

Other trainers are recruited from the ranks of employees because they are good at something. Your best credit analyst trains other analysts, your safest worker becomes a safety expert, your best sales person ends up doing sales training.

There are, of course, strengths and weaknesses on both sides, and often a combination of the two is very powerful.

But for many of your internal clients, being the "professional" instead of the "home grown expert" can put you at a credibility disadvantage. Your clients may wonder if you know enough about how their real world works to be truly useful in helping them guide their employees to work more efficiently, safely, effectively, and so on.

Many "training professionals" only make things worse, of course, when they spout learning theory and training acronyms at the drop of a hat. And too few put enough thought into how they are perceived by their clients, on a more general level, much less initiate explicit discussions around this topic with those clients.

It isn't that managers and supervisors in your company cannot respect people who haven't worked on the front lines. They all have personal experience with specialists.

After all, if you are a professional athlete who needs surgery to save your tennis, or baseball, career, you don't eliminate any surgeons who don't play your sport themselves. You just look for the best surgeon. And you want to hear a "before and after" story about how the surgery will affect your performance, not a detailed explanation of the procedures involved.

In training, it is unlikely that you, as a training professional, know more than the client about the desired outcomes, about how employee behavior needs to change. Respect their superior knowledge in that arena, and explain how you, like the surgeon, can bring different expertise to bear to help them achieve the desired outcomes. Just don't clog the discussion by throwing too much training-speak in there, pay attention to your bedside manner!

Mutual respect for different, complementary experiences and skills can certainly be nurtured, and it will produce the best results for everyone. But you have to work at it. Assuming that you deserve a hearing, that you have credibility, just because you are a "training professional," is a huge mistake.

© 2012 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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