4 Steps to Becoming a Better Trainer
If I were doing a training session with you now, I would ask you to name the skills you think are essential to be a great trainer, and I probably would agree with you that whatever you suggest is truly important. We need superb communication skills; we need a sense of humor; we need to have “presence”; we need to be ultra-organized; we need a command of the subject matter; we need great facilitation skills; we must be flexible and be able to think on the spot.
But there is one skill that transcends them all. You simply cannot do without this skill: You must be a Noticer! I define “Noticing” as “mindfulness with a smile.” You must be in the moment; you must be alert to what’s going on with everyone; you must pick up on all kinds of clues… and you must be good-humored about it all. This is Noticing.
A while ago, the Harvard Business Review had an excellent article titled “Becoming a First-Class Noticer.” The article talked about how critical Noticing is for a CEO. In fact, Noticing is critical for everyone, and you certainly cannot be a successful trainer without Noticing. Imagine trying to conduct a training session and not Noticing how tuned in each person is (or not); not Noticing if they “get it” (or not); not Noticing if they have given up on you (or not).
Here are four steps to becoming a good Noticer and great trainer:
1. Mindfully Use All Five of Your Senses. How much can you really see? Look around your office or your home and list all the things you can see—patterns, colors, shapes, etc. Do the same with hearing. How many unique things can you hear? For example, you may hear the copier, the printer, footsteps, phones beeping, conversation, doors opening or closing. How about smells? Food on someone’s desk or the kitchen? Perfume? How about the sense of touch? How many different textures can you feel in your office? And practice tasting your food while you eat, not just scarfing it down while you talk or work. When you are good at using all your senses to Notice, then you can graduate to the next step and become an advanced Noticer.
2. Notice the “Zippers.” A zipper is a simple invention that works! Zip! You’re done! So Notice the “zippers” in the workplace. What is simple and gets the job done? Examples could be templates, consistent e-mail subject lines for a conversation, Dropbox. What are a trainer’s zippers? What do you do that is simple but gets the job done? Maybe it’s a way you keep track of where you are in the training. Maybe it’s the way you break up the group for exercises or the way you have them report back. Notice the zippers because you may be able to figure out other uses for them, or you may be able to invent a new zipper.
3. Notice Broccoli. Broccoli is a beautiful vegetable that is made up of smaller broccolis, and those are made up of even smaller broccolis. In other words, broccoli is a repeating pattern. Noticing the broccoli means Noticing the patterns. There are always patterns in the way work gets done and the way people behave. Notice the broccoli in your group. Do the same people always talk? Does someone all the way in the back always speak at the end with a great idea? Notice the broccoli, and if the broccoli is good—fresh and green—see if you can replicate it elsewhere. If it is not good—kind of yellowing and dry —figure out how to disrupt it!
4. Notice Human Idiosyn-Crazies. These are the endearingly dumb things we all do. You may have a client or manager who insists on an Outlook invitation for a 30-second yes or no question. This is a Human Idiosyn-Crazy. It’s important to Notice them in ourselves before we go pointing them out in others. Most importantly: Laugh. Laughing at ourselves builds up the fuel to be kinder to others. And as trainers, we surely need the fuel to be kind.
When you Notice using all five senses, and when you Notice the Zippers, Broccoli, and Human Idiosyn-Crazies, you will advance your training skills significantly.
Margery Leveen Sher is the founder and chief noticing officer of The Did Ya Notice? Project. Sher is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, and executive who has had a long consulting career working with corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and foundations. For more information, visit: