Tuesday, 24 October 2017

#myfirsttimetraining

This is my own response to others’ blogs on this subject (for example Sukh Pabial) which have prompted my own recollections. 

As a trainer, I don’t do anything like the volume of delivery nowadays that I used to. In days of yore, I could perhaps be doing delivery several times a week, anything from short one hour workshops to 2-3 day courses. These days I may do something once a month, and sometimes less than that. 

I find I miss delivery. It’s something I get a lot of enjoyment from doing, and even though as an introvert it can often drain me of energy afterwards it’s accompanied by an inner feeling of satisfaction too. But as my career has progressed its been something I have done less and less of for various reasons. 

I started out as a secondary school teacher, way back when I had hair. Those of you who have or know teenage children know exactly why I don’t teach any more, and I didn’t last too long. I just didn’t enjoy teaching teenagers who didn’t want to be there, but I found I actually enjoyed teaching per se and was good at designing and delivering lessons, so my first corporate job was in L&D designing and delivering training to employees instead, who at least wanted to be there. 

So when I think back to my first time delivering training, it’s a moot point whether I hark back to my first experiences delivering a lesson to a class as a teacher, or my first experiences doing any corporate training. To be honest, the teaching experiences I genuinely can’t recall in any depth and they all tend to blur into one in my memory, so this memory is from my first real corporate training delivery instead. 

Bear in mind I was a qualified teacher by this point but hadn’t trained adults before. My entire training experience was with hormonal teenagers. 

And I was 23 years old. 

With hair. 

Raw doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

And here I was, helping to deliver a two day process improvement workshop to a group of middle managers in my new business. 

I say help - this was a long established workshop with a very experienced lead trainer, and I’d been involved in some of the scoping and tailoring for our business, but because of the numbers involved an additional facilitator was required, and I was it. Most of the time I was just supposed to play it by ear and help with keeping to time, but there was one slot where the lead trainer knew in advance he had to be elsewhere for an important meeting and I had been prepped (thoroughly) to lead, solo, a half hour slot. 

I knew my stuff. Inside out and back to front. 19 years later I can still remember the content and have recently  re used some of it. It was good stuff. 

And I was supremely confident. After all, I’d taken everything a group of 30 teenagers could throw at me (sometimes literally) for an entire academic year and come out smelling of roses, so how could a group of 15 adults be difficult for just half an hour?

And then she started to cry. 

One of the middle managers. About ten minutes into my slot when it was going bloody well, too. She started crying and left the room. 

My professional training kicked in. I got the rest of the group doing a task and said we would shortly take a break but I’d be back in a few minutes when I’d been to check on the recently departed manager. 

I found her at the water cooler getting a drink and still in floods of tears, physically shaking. 

I asked what was wrong and it turned out some personal problem had occurred and she had just found out about it about an hour previously, and she had become overwhelmed. Entirely unrelated to my delivery I should say, which was nigh on awesome. 

In my teacher training we had been taught how to deal with upset teenagers, and to be honest this happened more often than you’d think. With safeguarding at the core of what we do, we were given training on how to console those who were upset without breaching anything to do with intimacy or anything like that. 

For example hugs were out. I can’t remember much else nowadays but the one area of the body that it was considered OK to touch - at least in those days - was the elbow. In my teaching career I never did, I was too worried, but I figured with an adult this would be ok, so I decided to console her by touching her elbow. 

Except no one had shown me how to do this properly. And although that sounds odd now, in my panicked state I couldn’t think what to do or how to do this sensitively. 

So I just stood there vigorously patting her elbow, quite hard at times and in no way sympathetically. 

Silently. 

For quite some time too. 

Until she stopped crying. And started hitting me for being so damned weird. 

At that point the lead trainer returned and my brief solo stint ended, thankfully. 

Another mishap took place an hour or so later when, taking a break, I draped an arm over the flipchart. Without realising it was one of those flipcharts (which I’ve never seen since) that could rotate from portrait to landscape orientation and it was currently unlocked. The flipchart spun like a windmill and I ended up on the floor. 

Honestly, I’ve delivered better sessions. 

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, my youngest daughter Poppy turns 3 this week. That 3 years has gone SO quick…