The Training Environment

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My path to being a trainer was never intentional. Through a curious set of events, I got an opportunity in college to interview a trainer. During our time together, she mentioned that she had been looking for someone to work with her and asked if I would be interested. I was humbled and excited to have the opportunity, only expecting to assist from the sidelines. After a brief bit of time, she asked if I wanted to teach a part of an upcoming lesson and as they say, the rest is history.

This story is skimpy on details because it’s only meant to move us forward to the real heart of the message. (If you have any interest in the unabridged version, hit me up and expect me to wax rhapsodic for 15 minutes or so). I love training (and coaching) because it is a chance to meet someone in a place of confusion, frustration, or even expectation, and help them see, realize, know, or learn something that will allow them to act with greater efficacy.

But for the experience of learning to be all it can and should be, we must create the right environment. So today, I want to share three things that training should be like and two that it shouldn’t.

  1. Training should be like a gymnasium. In a gym, you work out to increase strength. In training, we learn skills and practice them to become more confident and able to handle anything from daily to difficult situations. We work out our vulnerabilities, so they are less likely to interfere when strength is needed.
  2. Training should be like a hospital. People go to the hospital when they need help and healing. It’s the same for training. We don’t judge someone’s current state; our job is to help them get better, whatever the issue.
  3. Training should be like a skilled rehab center. When someone needs to get back, enhance, or improve abilities needed for daily life, they go to a skilled rehab center. It’s often a transitional step after a hospital stay, to insure they have the best chance of being successful when they return to their usual environment. Training functions much the same way. It’s often that people attend training to relearn skills they had previously been exposed to, enhance a particular skill, or improve in a specific area.

But training shouldn’t be…

  1. A memorial. Although these places provide an opportunity for reflection and memory, they are static, so nothing really ever changes. When someone attends training, they should be confident that what they are getting represents the most current thinking on a topic.
  2. A museum. The priority of preservation means no touching the artwork and no possibility of closer investigation as items may even be roped off or behind glass. Training (both the content and the delivery) should be open to inspection, welcoming of questions and as hands on as it can be.

While both memorials and museums are wonderful points of human focus, they aren’t meant to be places where hard conversations happen, or things get loud from time to time. They certainly don’t have icebreakers or snacks on the table or anything else that invites people to really stay and engage. They are places where we gaze and move through, often alone, often quietly, and usually with only our own thoughts as companions.

When done well, the training environment is a bit of a beautiful mess. It’s a time for confusion to give way to clarity, self-reflection to be pursued and insight to be gained. Like gyms, hospitals, and skilled rehab centers, it might be hard, stressful and even result in the all-out failure of your deodorant. If that happens, take comfort in the words of the English poet, Francis Quarles, who said, “There is no virtue, where there is no sweat.”