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Self investment for trainers

April 17, 2008

Trainers never stand still. There are always different students even more difficult than before, new content or changes to the old and innovative theories, strategies and techniques to explore. This is actually part of the job and does not account for your own growth as a trainer. In essence it just being dragged forward (kicking and screaming in some cases) just for the sake of progress.

So how do you get ahead of the game and on to the leading edge of training in you profession?

Read, observe, discuss and get involved.

Read: Look for other resources. There are countless books on training, learning theory and facilitation. It doesn’t stop there. I listened to psychology lectures and learnt the four golden rules of behaviour modification (aka learning multipliers). I even experimented with students to see them in action (and invoked rule #2 for myself). An off sider of mine once remarked on the child-like behaviours of one of their students and that led me to some videos on child sociology.

What about business practices? This site was inspired by a management pod cast called ‘manager tools’. There are many similarities between the managerial environment and training environment. What about books on change management and politics? The resources are out there.

Observe: Observe other trainers. Watching other trainers can give you new ideas and suggestions for improving your own practices. Not only that, you can observe their student’s reactions to assess the effectiveness without having to experiment yourself. Where they open to it, did they give it a try and did it work? Also keep an eye on other students in normal circumstances. What are their ‘tells’ or behaviours when they become stressed, uncertain or overwhelmed? You may need to train them some day.

Discuss: Discuss your training strategies with other trainers and students. Other trainers may have a wealth of knowledge on tips or strategies that have proven successful (or unsuccessful – may as well make use of other peoples mistakes) in the past.

Invite feedback. If you openly display a willingness to accept suggestions, others will be more likely to offer some advice. Some people will not be able to help themselves and remember, you are under no obligation to implement it. Regardless, take it graciously and thank them sincerely – they may be right.

Students are an excellent source of information. In some cases you may actually find that they student has had more experience in learning than you have, despite never being a trainer themselves. This exposure helps regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on. They may be able to help you with what worked for them, found other resources or even previously been employed as trainers elsewhere.

Get involved: Another valuable resource is your training manager. Mine was always incredibly busy and I usually had to wait for the opportunity to arise before I could glean any information from him. The trick was to help him with his administrative tasks. This has two benefits; first you start to see training from management’s perspective and second, when they are absent you are in a better position to fulfil their role temporarily.

This works both ways. Also look down and across the chain to look for opportunities to broaden your experience. If you can get some training in different elements of the organisation you will learn more about the various roles, as well as see how training is conducted elsewhere. In air traffic control we looked at how pilots were trained as well as various support agencies such as aircraft loaders and fire fighters. We also paid close attention to how our civilian and international counterparts were doing their training to see if there was anything else we could learn.


Improving your ability as a trainer starts with the desire to do so. Without the motivation to move forward, any development will be accidental and may not be in areas that attention is most needed. Organisations need skilled trainers with the ability to keep up with the current learning demands and as such, it is in the best interests of the trainer to continue to develop their own skills and knowledge. Student have also come to expect more from their training and if your strategy is to wait until the need to improve arises, you may find yourself reacting just to keep your job.

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