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....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning


  • David

Trainer-Participant Relationship

Updated: Mar 5, 2022

If you have read my previous posts about participants’ mis-behavior, you know that this issue is dear to me (and I think to all trainers / facilitators). Here is a story (let’s say a story) which made me think even more deeply about this issue. Here is how the story goes:

“One day, a trainer (He) was very unhappy that a participant (She) often left the training room to answer and make calls. It was particularly disturbing because she often missed to participate in the group discussion. So, he warned her but probably because of language barrier she did not get it very well and in fact took it as a kind of insult somehow. As the trainer did not see any improvement or more importantly the respect which he expected, he finally decided to ask her not to come back on Day 2. Somehow, instead of telling her directly, he asked the local administrator to tell her not to come back unless she apologized.

The local administrator however believed that both of them deserved a proper conversation before the training money was wasted. The administrator thus first delivered the trainer’s message (which the participant received with anger) but persuaded the participant to come back a bit earlier on Day 2. The administrator asked the trainer for 5 minutes to have a tri-party conversation.

He agreed and the conversation started in a small but quiet room. It however ended sadly – the trainer literally walked away from the other two with prejudice. Why? First, the trainer chose to communicate with strong opinion. He was more like an interrogator than someone who would like to teach. Second, the participant failed on her part as she did not complete the minimum the pre-work for Day 2.”

Like many trainers, whenever some mis-behaved in the class, I often had the question ‘what’s wrong with him / her?’ coming to my mind or simply just want him / her disappearing from the class. I did feel upset. And sometime I did want to let my anger show. But the above story did make me think again what I should do towards mis-behavior.

I think the participant in the story did show her willing to correct already. Think about it – she chose to come in front of the trainer even after the latter asked her to leave (such act to an adult is rather not ‘face-saving’). She was showing her sincerity already. With that, the trainer should at least listen with an open mind (irrespective whether she could or could not really behave in the class going forward). His ‘interrogating’ attitude will just shut the learner down or close out any possibility to include her.

Looking at this story, I asked myself a question – ‘what is the trainer’s core responsibility?’ My answer is – ‘a trainer facilitates the participants to learn.’ You do not do it just by lecturing in the class. You create the environment to learn, not just physically, but also mentally. You will be receptive and understanding. You should welcome anyone who shows a willingness to learn. There is a saying in Chinese by Confucian called 有教无类. In English, it means ‘everyone with a desire to learn should have the right to do so’

A great learning for me!!

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