What’s The Story?

What are the behaviors we experience relating to training and performance in the workplace—and what are the stories we make up to explain those experiences?

Part of my pastoral training was in counseling, where I learned a technique that has been useful in all of my training and performance work. I challenge you to put it to work for yourself.

As counselors, we sometimes ask clients, “What’s the story you’re making up about what happened?” Most clients don’t like hearing this because they are reminded that there are certain facts and behaviors surrounding what happened—and there is also a story that was made up to explain those facts and behaviors.

Say, for instance, someone is late. The lateness is a fact. It’s also a behavior. What is made up to explain the behavior or fact is the story. For example, someone is late because “he doesn’t respect my time” or because “she doesn’t care enough about me to be on time.” Unfortunately, people often act on such stories as if they were true—and that is where problems begin.

What are the behaviors we experience relating to training and performance in the workplace— and what are the stories we make up to explain those experiences?


“Our training budget was cut because management thinks training is just a nice thing to do, but not critical or necessary.”

The fact is that the training budget was cut. The story is: The budget was cut because management thinks training is nice to do, but not critical or necessary. Is that really why the budget was cut? Maybe…or maybe not. Perhaps the budget was cut because management can’t see how training is helping the organization. Or perhaps it was cut because management never gets any feedback about what training and performance solutions really accomplish. So in the absence of evidence, they begin making up stories about the value these solutions provide.


“We don’t have time to design and deliver training the right way because management doesn’t want people to be away from their jobs.”

The fact is this: “We don’t have enough time to design and deliver training to meet the objectives of the program.” The story is that management doesn’t want people away from their jobs for as long as it takes to deliver training properly.

Is this true? Maybe…or maybe not. What drove the decision to provide the training in the first place? Does it solve a problem? If so, is not solving the problem (or living with the problem) costing the company right now? If we are not asking that question as part of the assessment process, it is difficult for management to feel any pain. And if they don’t feel pain, it becomes difficult to value something that, to them, is only taking time away from meeting organizational goals.


What’s the point behind these examples? When managers feel pain, they will find ways to alleviate it. If they think training and performance experts can help, they’ll use us. If they don’t, they’ll go somewhere else. So it is up to us to educate, inform, persuade, sell, and communicate our message. Our clients have learned that they always have a choice—and we are only one of them. So are you having “pain” conversations?

What stories have you been telling yourself about your managers? What stories have they been telling about you and your efforts? Most importantly, what are you going to do to make those stories the kind of stories you want to hear?

And I’d like to hear from you—what is one question, issue, or concern you’d like to see me answer in an upcoming column? Just send an e-mail to me at: Bob@CTTNewsletters.com with “Trainer Talk” in the subject line, and I’ll see what I can do.

Until next issue, continue to add value and make a difference.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Master Trainer’s Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.