If you have spent any time at all in L&D, you have heard someone say “Anyone can train!”. This statement is usually followed up by why the person doesn’t need any support from the L&D team.
Early in my career, I was frustrated with the idea that anyone could train, after all, I had invested in my education to achieve a master’s degree in a subject that apparently anyone could do. However, time tends to make people wiser and I have much better responses now!
Now, I respond by talking about what it takes to be a successful trainer. “I agree, <insert person’s name here>, could be an excellent trainer. Let’s talk about the skills that this requires, and you can tell me if you still think <insert person’s name> is a good fit.
Facilitation Skills Required!
First and foremost, I prefer the term facilitator over trainer. From an industry perspective, the more we refer to “trainers” as facilitators, which has a different professional connotation, I think fewer people will fall into the “anyone can train” trap. To be a successful facilitator, it takes skill and capability and these are the differentiators between someone who can “train” versus someone who can facilitate.
People who can facilitate can…
1. Read the room
Facilitators aren’t just standing in front of a group of people sharing information. They are leading their learners on a journey. They are part entertainment, part socialization expert, and part content expert. Not only does a facilitator have to read the room, but they also have to be able to react to what they are seeing in the correct manner.
Successful facilitators need to be able to read their audience, knowing when to interject something lively, when the learners need a break, and how the social interactions between learners are going.
2. Manage the content
Standing in front of a room and talking at people is not facilitation. Sharing the content message requires leading people through a learning journey. It involves introducing the topic, allowing learners to interact with the content in a meaningful way, and creating an avenue where the learning can be easily applied back on the job. Successful facilitators are master storytellers, who can help bridge theory to a learner’s everyday reality. Facilitators are also fantastic listeners and can be flexible, to help manage dynamic discussions that don’t feel forced, rigid, or antagonistic.
3. Create a safe space
Not everyone wants to attend training (I know – hard to believe!), but true. This can create tense discussions, and disengagement in group activities, which can pull down the overall “feel” of the training for all learners.
Facilitators need to ensure that their learning environments are a safe space, where learners can feel free to share their thoughts and feelings. They also have to help their learners realize that training is where mistakes SHOULD happen, which requires a safe learning environment.
4. Conduct classroom maintenance
In addition to everything we have already touched on, facilitators also have to manage the actual classroom. They need to utilize time management within the classroom. Facilitators always have a Plan B for activities or potential issues that the class may experience and can quickly react to forming situations. Throughout the training, facilitators are connecting with the group and holding the class accountable for what they need to achieve.
Umm… that’s a lot!
Usually, at this point in the conversation, the person I am talking to starts to realize that you can’t (and shouldn’t) throw someone into training. However, if their team member has a high level of emotional intelligence and a true interest in training, now is the time to open the door to next steps. Discuss a mentoring path, with an opportunity for that person to observe training, help facilitate training, and receive feedback from an L&D professional.