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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Handling difficult training situations: When you need to deviate from your prepared outline

Let me share with you a real experience that I once had when I was teaching a course on problem solving.

In my class I had a diverse group of trainees from various disciplines like Finance, HR, logistics, engineering, etc. According to the instructor’s guide for the course, I needed to walk the trainees through a case study involving an engineering problem. This case study would form the backbone of the course. But many of the trainees were non-technical and I quickly realized that if I continued with the engineering problem as a case study, I would completely lose the attention of most of my class. The class would end up a complete waste of time.

I knew I had to deviate from the canned script. So I told the trainees to individually identify a problem in their own work to use as a case study. I told them this class would be an opportunity for them to brainstorm and solve a problem bothering them at work. This immediately got the attention of the trainees. Some of the problems they identified were very interesting and relevant. For example, one of them told me that he had to attend conference calls at 4 AM on several days of the week to liaise with our headquarters in another country. As we proceeded through the class, he was able to come up with several thoughts on how to solve/manage the problem. He told me he had never had the time or opportunity to think about this problem in a calm and structured manner. Personally I felt very satisfied that I was able to create some value and make life better for trainees through the class.

What did I learn from this experience?  As a trainer you must have the mental flexibility to deviate from your prepared outline and improvise in order to keep the energy levels in the class high. 

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