By Allen F. Weitzel
Once again I am jumping on the training bandwagon; reminding our readers of the importance of training their leaders. I want to explain the anatomy of a winning leadership class. The perfect formula eluded me until about eight years ago, when I started reporting to a VP with a training philosophy matching mine: give the leaders the information they need and make it enjoyable.
How did I know it was a winning formula? Rookie leads and supervisors began to stop me in the park and ask when the next class would be. I then knew we had connected. Using the formula, I trained 1,500 trainers, leads, supervisors and managers in five seasons with this system.
What Was The Problem Before?
Until I discovered the winning formula, there would always be restrictions on the classes. Previous management would impose a rigid timeline for class completion or would want information added to the syllabus that did not relate to the training topic.
What Makes A Class Successful?
The trick to finding the correct formula is to get inside the heads of the trainees. Recall training classes you have attended and what you liked or did not like about those sessions. Use the good elements and eliminate the bad. The one thing that trainees appreciate is having a trainer that is genuinely and enthusiastically interested in them and their success. Young trainees want to be treated with respect as people, not as rookies. In some classes, there were decades between our ages, but I ignored that difference and concentrated on presenting a great class.
Effective Class Procedures
- Employees conducting leadership training should enjoy teaching, be animated in their work and able to connect with others. To maintain consistency, limit the number of trainers in the company.
- Classes should be entertaining, yet thorough.
- Management must approve the syllabus. Only make syllabus changes for new procedures.
- Do not have attendees change seats during class. Once seated, trainees are comfortable and do not want to move. Having attendees move into groups just wastes class time and interrupts the flow of the class.
- Provide variety: Lecture, trainee interaction, video or computer created presentations, checklist work, testing, performance rewards, reasonable breaks, stories, review of key points, a chance to evaluate the class, Q & A (encouraging and answering the tough questions) and food/beverages.
- Use a room that is comfortable and free of distractions. However, prepare your syllabus so classes can be presented in any room and under any condition. It should not matter whether you have access to state of the art equipment or only pen, paper and flipcharts. Understand that training classes are often presented in storage rooms or restaurant dining rooms that lack state of the art equipment.
- Target the syllabus to the trainees’ education and maturity level. This is important to successful class participation. You may find that the employees sent to you for training might have limited learning skills. If you find trainees having trouble with the class, help them through it and then make adjustments to future presentations.
- Provide handouts so trainees leave with information they can later reference, including documents the employee will use on the job.
- Never embarrass trainees in class or in any stories you share. Use stories about your own experiences. If instructors can laugh at themselves, the audience will bond more quickly with the instructor.
- Never allow the glamour of advanced technology to outshine your training message.
Follow Up With Your Trainers
Track which trainers are teaching which groups of employees. Trainers must be experienced enough to understand the jobs of the employees in their class to keep the class relevant. A food trainer, though a skilled supervisor, should not present a class on ride operations. The trainer must have credibility.
- Video tape training classes every six months so trainers can see where they need to improve their performance.
- To encourage trainers to do a good job, their class evaluations should be shared with management, so leaders know how the trainees felt about the class/instructor.
The Goal of Your Training
In leadership classes, I pose the following:
“When you enter a retail operation, and you see a cashier behind the counter wearing a ‘Trainee’ nametag, how many of you switch to a different line?” “Your training goal is to make sure that your guests are never able to discern a rookie from a veteran.”
Filling In the Blanks
I have provided the concepts of a winning leadership training class. I did not present specifics. If you would like a sample training class checklist or have unanswered questions, please drop a note in our comments section or contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.