Today I attended my “first ever in years”, face-to-face workshop with an actual external facilitator!
I thought it was worthy to tweet first thing this morning while sipping my coffee…
Things like this don’t come up often in Learning and Development but in the words of a colleague in the training room today, “I’ll take any professional development whenever I can get it”.
Sad state of affairs really.
It’s as if Jane knew something was going to happen. How right she was!
Back in 2004, I worked for a company who had a HR Shared Services function. We had a Learning and Development department that had clear processes, tools, methodologies for working with clients; preferred supplier and vendor arrangements; a department of facilitators and a pool of qualified learning and development professionals. Every consultant had a business to look after.
Life was good.
People paid us to go on training courses.
Training courses had catering.
What more could you ask for?
The management of the day saw the need for Learning Consultants to develop skills as ‘Trusted Business Advisors” and we were all put through 2 day an intensive facilitator-led course that involved theory, practice with role plays; tests and reflection.
It was the one course that not only set me up to to work and relate to my internal clients; but it became critical in my next role when I consulted on all matters L&D to organisations as an external consultant.
So it was fitting today to be in a training room with windows that faced the building of the company that first introduced me to The Trusted Business Advisor!
But I had a different experience this time around. Much of it relates to the “learner experience” all of which was negative.
Discounting the content which I took no issue with, especially around the importance of earning trust, giving advice effectively and building relationships, the manner in which it was taught was less than ideal.
I received an invite to the course in our calendars and told that I was registered for this 3 hour workshop. There was no prior communication to us about this workshop, nor any context provided about who it was for, what it was about, why I needed it and how I was selected. I got the feeling that it was something you “just had to accept the meeting request”. So I accepted.
This morning admittedly I was looking forward to this training because I hadn’t been in a workshop for years. I wanted to see if there was anything new I could learn but also curious about how they managed to squeeze a 2 day course into 3 hours.
When I arrived at the training room, I entered a lecture style set up and immediately, my senses were on alert. “Hello,” I thought, ” how are we going to practice the content in a lecture format?” This program didn’t lend itself to a lecture format so I was perplexed and I saw others were talking about it too. So I took my seat and waited for the program to start.
The Powerpoint slide in Times New Roman said it all. “Trusted Business Advisor Awareness Program”
Now I was really confused. Were we going to spend 3 hours in a room to be told that this is not the full course but just a teaser?
(And a full course that we may never attend anyway as there’s no budget?)
When the facilitator was introduced and then immediately commenced into his rapid pace of delivery, incessant pacing back and forth and overbearing style of lecturing, that’s when the dread set in.
I didn’t know if I could handle 3 hours of this and I was thinking of ways to make my escape during the morning coffee break.
I had to remind myself to stay focussed on his content – on the ‘what’ he was saying and mentally override all the other traits I found irritating. His manner, loud booming voice and examples he gave with an arrogant air did nothing for me.
But it was when he said, “We will talk about respecting hierarchies in the 2 day course,” I switched off entirely.
Despite his style and belligerent approach to delivery, what he had to say (in between trying to deciper whether he was joking or arrogant) made sense. He talked about stakeholder value, the varying degrees of contacts vs scope and diagnosis. For example, there are times that you will be called upon to be a ‘high touch’ service provider – someone who is expected to deliver a service but whose primary diagnosis has already been done by someone else; or an ‘expert’. However, the most value you would create would be if you were a Business Advisor – someone who focusses on the overall success of the stakeholder but does not resolve issues; someone who provides insight through a big idea or big question.
He also talked about why we behave the way we do by our paradigms and mentioned that he it’s easier to change behaviours than it is to change paradigms. Just to be sure, he told us that “if I knew your paradigm, I would tell you exactly how you would react in a workplace situation.”
By this stage, I was feeling uncomfortable with his delivery. I looked around the room to see other’s reactions but they seemed focussed, madly taking notes.
Maybe it was just me? Was I being too critical?
Throughout the session, he gave quick run downs of the content and then followed it up with, “there’s no time for this, it’s in the 2 day course if you do it”.
I had lost count of the times he said, “we don’t have time for this”.
There were a couple of lightning speed activities that we broke away in groups but told, “don’t discuss it at length, just come up with the answer, don’t talk about it, write it down then move on, we don’t have time”.
So what’s the point of this? Why are we doing these? I was unable to hide my frustration.
When the time came for the session to end, he promoted his one and two day courses. However, you could sense from the fidgety nature of the people in the room, they would be unable to attend either course due to a lack of budget.
I felt that this was the wrong approach to build learner expectations without opportunity to attend the full course or provide any type of contextual basis of what he was trying to teach us.
When we discussed our thoughts at a team meeting later on, we were advised to “not consider the manner in which he taught it but only focus on the content of what he was saying” and as a Learning and Development professional, I don’t agree with this at all.
Learner experience has to be considered.
We can’t discount it. If the learner takes some issue or offence with how the material is presented then simply, they’re not learning.
I left with more questions than I entered the room and so did many others, “where to from here?” “How do I use this information know?” “What am I expected to do with this?” and so we all returned to our desks without giving this training any further thought.
Unfortunately, this lecture was an unpleasant learning experience for me and one in which I don’t care to repeat.
Positive learning points from it was the importance of setting context and expectations, working with constraints and the importance of effective learning design for the performance you want to achieve.
Let’s not forget the learner. It’s not just about saving money.