Playing the part of the Head Trainer
Vol. 1, No. 4 * 02 March 2009
I love public speaking. This is my profession: to stand before a crowd, transfer learning, and provide a good learning environment for learners.
I get very little opportunities to do those 3 things now after I hit the rank of International Training Fellow. Yes, I get invited to conduct workshops that are non JCI official courses.
But that pales in comparison with the number of JCI official courses I have run as Head Trainer over the last six months.
Todayʼs blog is a rant actually. I am going to talk about what I OUGHT to do as Head Trainer in a JCI official course.
LISTEN MORE. TALK LESS.
In a JCI official course, I listen more and talk less. Personally, I find this difficult because I love sharing my ideas in front of an audience. Being head trainer, i listen and observe for signs of (or lack of) learning.
I come to the rescue whenever my assistant trainer hits the blank wall or is overcome by anxiety. I talk only when my opinion is needed. I provide the hints described in the manual so that both participant and assistant trainer can discover the learning experience that JCI promises to deliver in its official courses.
Listening allows me to learn more about my participants. Observing them allows me to see patterns of success and patterns of limitations. The moment I see a glimpse of those two, I call them out so my assistant trainers and my participants can be aware of them.
AT THE BACK AND NOT IN FRONT
I am seated at the back most of the time. In my hand are pages and pages of the trainerʼs manual for the JCI official course. As each module runs, I pay attention to what the assistant trainer says. I compare that with the script.
Yes, JCI official courses work all around the world because there are standard scripts and phrases that need to be said. If an assistant trainer departs from the script, the promised outcome will not happen.
I see myself as the police man watching over the process as it takes place. I also look for signs that the course is working. The wonderful thing about running a script is that the behavioral indicators are clear that learning has taken place.
If there is a word that describes it, my role is omniscient.
MENTOR, NOT TORMENTOR
I usually work with two assistant trainers. Through them, I deliver the course. JCI designed it this way so I can also promote an assistant trainer who wants to become head trainer for the course.
Three JCI official courses that I run are “pass-or-fail” courses. That means in the end, I and my team of trainers decide whether a participant passes the course.
My other duty is to certify whether my assistant trainer is also fit to move on and be a head trainer for the course that is currently running.
People passing the course is a general trend. Sometimes, though, this is not the case. There are times when someone stays behind. This situation tears me apart. To prevent it, I coach and inspire as best as I can. I call attention early whenever I see early signs that either the participant or the assistant trainer is falling behind.
THE STANDARD BEARER, NOT STANDARD BENDER.
Learning is a set of behaviors: doing, feeling, and thinking. In all JCI official courses, the training team works very hard to make sure that this happens. Passing someone means that he has meet the minimum requirements for the course. But in most cases, I observe that todayʼs JCI member is not happy with the minimum. He does his best and is proud of himself for clearing the bar by a wide margin.
I do not question the standard. I defend it. When I do this, the participant and the assistant trainers take the challenge head on and succeed. I am truly happy for them.
USELESS BUT USEFUL.
The head trainerʼs role is less thrilling. I work with the course organizers largely around logistics, accommodations, transportation, meals, certificates, photocopying, internet access, and other back end concerns.
While these concerns look like they are small stuff, they have been known to cause major upsets in the the learning experience. So someone has to also manage them and make sure that these factors become learning aids and not learning irritants.
There you go. You have a glimpse of what I do as head trainer. Decide for yourself if this is really where you want to take your training career.
I am the listener. I am the mentor. I defend the JCI standard and brand. I am the active observer. I am the course manager. These roles have taken me away from the thing I love so dearly: PUBLIC SPEAKING.
Over the years, I have gotten used to these roles. These restrictions have become most liberating for me. I realized that I can do MORE by talking LESS.