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ASK, NOT TELL

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‘Deadly Practical’ and ‘Less is More’ for Line Trainers

Updated: Mar 6

I recently designed a one-day course with purpose to equip the line trainers with basic facilitation skills. I basically wrote the course during the Christmas and New Year holidays. And finally I ran it last Friday in Shanghai. It is quite an interesting experience which I learnt quite a few points from it myself.


(Note: Line Trainers are occasional trainers who teach on their own work domains. They are the subject matter experts of their domains. For example, he / she can be the senior credit officer but helps to teach relationship managers on how to make better credit proposal. See also my previous posts – Making the SME a better trainer and Turning line managers into trainers.)


First, I decided that the course needs to teach deadly practical tips. And here what I mean by deadly practical tips:

  1. It is very simple and straight-forward, to the extent that it may sound stupid

  2. One can use it with minimal preparation

  3. It can yield almost immediate effect

What so? Because the line trainers are normally busy people. They are line trainers because they are knowledgable at their domains. And knowledgeable people are always busy, at least in our organisation. They do not have time or sometimes unfortunately process theories into actions. For example, if you just tell them ‘preparation’ is important, they will agree but they may not really know to prepare for what. After all, there are so many things one can prepare for a training session.


This actually links to another criterion of this course. There must be only a few of such tips. Less is more. One problem of traditional presentation or Train-the-Trainer course for line trainers is that there are too many learning tips. Unless the potential trainers are really passionate and have time, they will not review and internalise those tips into actionable items.


Well, here is a learning point – thinking through this makes me realised that the same applies to other training courses. The difference between things you teach in class, and actions the participants really take after class. The question is how to close the gap. ‘Deadly practical’ and ‘Less is more’ are definitiely things we should consider. Of course, it depends on the participants. For example, if my course participants are professional trainers instead of line trainers, they will probably find my course boring and stupid.


Back to my story. At the end, I chose to go through only 8 tips. How ‘Deadly Practical’ are they? Here is an example - ‘Tip 4 – I should ask at least 2 questions every 5 minutes on average.’ This is simple and straight-forward. Loosely speaking, you do not have to prepare. Whenever you want to tell something, you ask first. (Of course, if you want to have better result, you should prepare some powerful questions.) The last criterion – immediate effect. Well, being a reader of this blog (hey, it is called ‘Ask, Not Tell’), you will agree with me, right?

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