I ask my adult learners what they hope to get from my training. This can be scary because what if you're not prepared to deliver what they want. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't. This lets you clarify whether their expectations are beyond the scope of your training. I've always had my learners come up with plenty of objectives for the training we could agree on.
Then I ask my learners what they see as MY responsibility to ensure we achieve these objectives. This was even scarier because I worried about whether I could meet these responsibilities. But I've never had one thing mentioned that I didn't agree with. The lists have included things like:
- Have necessary and meaningful content.
- Be prepared and organized in my delivery.
- Listen and respond to questions.
- Don't bore them.
- Don't be condescending or patronizing.
Then comes the clincher. I ask them what they see as THEIR responsibility. You'll see the light bulbs turning on in their faces as they list things like:
- Keep an open mind.
- Ask questions.
From wedding vows to Weight Watchers, public promises carry weight with most of us. Publicly taking on your responsibilities to ensure your training creates something of value means you can ask your recruits and officers to commit to their responsibilities as learners.
Put yourself on the line in evaluations.
Subject yourself to evaluations. I have a knot in my stomach every time I am about to read through a stack of evaluations. I'm still working on balancing my excessive need for approval with an understanding that there are people who belong to The Society of the Perpetually Offended.
If you're going to gird your loins and face evaluations, make sure they're useful. Frankly, any numerical or quantitative ratings - such as whether the learner was:
- Very satisfied
- Somewhat satisfied
- Somewhat dissatisfied
- Very dissatisfied
Here are some much more beneficial questions:
- What one change would have most improved my training?
- What questions did you expect me to answer that went unanswered?
- Was this a good use of your time?
- Would you recommend this training to other officers/recruits?
- Are you considering doing anything different as a result of this training?
- Do you know what to do next to continue learning?
- Were you inspired or motivated?
- How likeable did you find the speaker?
- How substantive did you find the speaker's material?
THE WGAD principle.
One of the bravest things I've ever heard of a teacher doing is in What the Best College Teachers Do. Author Bain notes that Donald Saari, a mathematician from the University of California, invokes a principle he calls "WGAD" - "Who Gives a Damn?" Saari tells his students at the beginning of his courses that they're free to ask him this question any time and he will stop and answer it.
I'm working up the courage to give every learner in my trainings an index card with WGAD on it that they can flash at me at any time.
Letting go of some of the control and empowering your recruits and officers to help chart the course of your training takes courage. But in the words of Anais Nin, French-born American author,
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
The same might be said of training.