Tip #522: I Made a Rookie Trainer Mistake

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assisi

I made a rookie trainer mistake. Since I have been in training much too long to be considered a rookie, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I made a poor judgment call.

I have continually proselytized about the importance of limiting the amount of training content based on the available time. Until now, I have had no difficulty telling clients that they must pare down their list of content areas if they want to achieve the desired level of learning in a given time slot.

However, in a recent instance, I didn’t do that. My clients wanted to develop their trainers’ presentation skills. Based on my observation of their training videos and participation in hour-long coaching sessions, I felt that their lack of training design skills represented a larger issue.

I labored to combine the design and delivery content into one daylong program, even though I knew, based on extensive train-the-trainer experience, that each of these content areas really required its own dedicated day.

Why didn’t I simply drop the section on training design? My clients had not asked for it. They wouldn’t have missed it.

Why did I persist in cramming both the training design and delivery content into a one-day program?

In hindsight, there are a number of reasons that come to mind.

  • Maybe it was due to ego. I truly believed that I knew better than my clients what they needed, which took precedence (as far as I was concerned) over what they felt they needed.
  • Maybe it was due to a service mentality. I wanted to please my clients, but I also wanted to help them be more successful by enabling them to see how training design decisions affected their training delivery effectiveness.
  • Maybe it was due to stubbornness. I did not want to give up the training design content and I knew that my clients wanted the training delivery content, so I kept both.
  • Maybe it was due to over confidence. I talked myself into believing that, as an experienced curriculum designer, I could fit both content areas into a daylong session.
  • Maybe it was due to cockeyed optimism. I assumed (or hoped) that the trainers would quickly absorb the new content, so I shaved minutes off of each learning activity to make the content “fit” the available time.
  • Maybe it was due to pride. I was unwilling to acknowledge (to myself or to my clients) that I could not create an effective learning program that incorporated both content areas in the span of one day.

After all, I was supposed to be the “training expert.” Ouch!

It is only now, as I assess my decisions and actions, that I have come to the following realization:

An “expert, ” who is defined as someone who is very skillful and well informed, can only reasonably be expected to identify what is possible, not perform what is impossible.

Unfortunately, at the time I operated under the belief that: “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.”

I made a rookie trainer mistake, a poor judgment call. Some of my reasons were valid, and some were questionable. Regardless of my reasons, there was too much content and too little time.

I hope that I’ve learned my lesson. However, it is possible that I might be tempted to make that same mistake in the future, for some of the very same reasons. After all, I’m only human.

But please don’t tell my trainees, because I am going to continue to advocate for limiting training content based on the time available. It is still a good training design rule of thumb.

May your learning be sweet.


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