“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” Paul “Bear” Bryant
Trainers make seven mistakes that adversely affect their credibility and effectiveness. If you want participants to respect and trust you, follow these suggestions.
Mistake #1. Assuming you are supposed to have all the answers. Just because you are standing in front of the group does not mean that you need to be an expert on the subject. Even if you are an expert, you can still be stumped by a question. If a participant asks a question that you can’t answer, first ask the rest of the group if some has an answer. If no one does, be honest, admit that you don’t know the answer, and promise to find out and get back to them. They say that knowledge is knowing where to find the answers. As long as you follow through on your promise, you will retain your credibility.
Mistake #2. Being afraid to admit that you made a mistake. Trust is an essential element in any learning environment. The participants will be more likely to trust and like you if you are willing to admit when you are wrong. If you do it with humor rather than getting upset about it, the participants will laugh with you, not at you. Your credibility with them will actually increase.
Mistake #3. Not staying aware of what is happening during small group activities. There is the tendency to assume that groups have understood the assigned task and are working well together. Unless you move around the room to listen in on the conversations, you really won’t know if they need assistance, if the assignment needs additional clarification, or if one participant is dominating the discussion. Just be unobtrusive so the participants don’t know that they are being watched.
Mistake #4. Not waiting long enough for participants to answer a question. We are often uncomfortable with silence, so we tend to jump in to rephrase or answer a question much too soon. Participants need time to consider the question and frame their answers. Silently count to ten, or higher if your group is particularly thoughtful. Otherwise, participants will get the impression that you don’t really expect them to answer and are merely asking rhetorical questions. If that happens, you will leave your training session wondering why your participants stopped participating.
Mistake #5. Being afraid to correct incorrect answers to questions. It is a given that participants will sometimes provide the wrong information in response to a question that you ask. Don’t tell them “No, you’re wrong,” because that will embarrass them and they will not volunteer to answer any more questions. Instead, take responsibility for possibly being unclear when you originally posed the question. Clarify and rephrase the question to coach the participant for a correct response. Bottom line: Don’t ignore or gloss over an incorrect answer, because that will confuse everyone. Calmly and diplomatically get the information back on the right track.
Mistake #6. Not handling disruptive participants. You absolutely need to manage disruptive participants. You create even more problems for yourself if you don’t. Clearly, the learning experience for everyone else will be ruined. Equally important, the other participants will cease to respect you, become uncomfortable, and even feel unsafe because you have not established and maintained control over the classroom.
Mistake #7. Not handling disruptive participants with respect. It doesn’t matter how disruptive a participant may be. The minute you treat that person disrespectfully in front of the group, the entire group will turn against you. Why? They will suddenly feel very vulnerable. Instead, use humor, agree to disagree, ask the group if they agree with the individual, and/or refer to the training room rules of conduct. If none of these approaches are effective, assign a task to the group and ask the disruptive individual to meet with you outside of the classroom.
How you present and handle yourself, the learning process and the participants can positively or negatively impact your credibility and respect as a trainer.
May your learning be sweet.