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I had a lot of goals when I worked in my family’s plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical business, but I guarantee you, becoming a great trainer was not one of them.
Until one day, I’d had enough. I was so tired of feeling like a hostage to our employees who were doing things in whatever way was convenient for them. I wanted to be able to take willing apprentices with no skills and turn them into willing techs with great skills who would do things our way.
How I would get us there was a little hazy, but I was determined to figure it out. How determined a person am I?
Something to know about me, I was painfully shy. However, if you have seen me on stage these days or on a podcast or webinar, you’d never guess how incredibly bad I was at first. My real first paying job at my company was doing door-to-door selling. Talk about a learning curve! I did everything wrong. I stared at my shoes and stumbled over my words.
However, as I said, I’ve always been determined to get better, so I took a lot of classes, such as the great Dale Carnegie training. Finally, I got good at sales. In the 1990s, I was selling a million dollars a year in installs, and that was a part-time job to all the other boxes I was filling on the company organizational chart.
What does this have to do with “Why You Should Become a Better Trainer?” Everything!
I started by training apprentices and technicians in the basement of my shop on our equipment. No course curriculum and no idea what I was going to say or do until the class started. What a mess!
Little by little, I kept notes about what went right, what went wrong and what I’d do better next time.
A big turning point was the first time I videotaped myself doing training. I watched in horror as I turned my back to the class and wrote on the whiteboard for 15 minutes. Luckily, I was the one who signed their paychecks, so they refrained from throwing stuff at me.
I also struggled to stay awake watching the video of me because of my droning on and on as I presented the material. Add some minor stuttering, a couple of deer-in-headlights moments, and me hanging onto the podium like a ship’s wheel in a raging storm — yikes! I was so bad.
Tips to Improve your Training Style
Here’s the good news: even as bad as I was at first, I still produced good employees! So don’t worry about that. You will still transmit information about what you want and how you want it done.
Focus on improving; shooting and watching videos of yourself is vital to that improvement. Otherwise, you will have no idea how you are coming across. If you’re willing to do the videotaping and watch it, your training will only get better.
Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1. Have your opening remarks or story ready to begin every training session because your opening remarks and statements unlock their interest to learn.
2. Be very positive and enthusiastic in your attitude; never be sarcastic. Yes, there are no dumb questions. Breathe and answer them with a smile.
3. Act like you’ve earned the right to be at the front of the class. Practice by visualizing yourself in the training room (aka classroom), feeling confident and getting very positive feedback from the trainees.
4. Use a pre-class checklist and make sure all your technology is set to go and working reliably.
5. Select the three to four main points you want to make in each class and have very strong benefits for “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) for knowing this material.
6. Give out only the training materials that they’ll need as they need them so they stay in synch with you (otherwise, they’ll be reading it while you are talking.)
7. Close every training session with a summary of what was covered and, whenever possible, get them to sign off on the training done.
8. Augment your speaking with different types of media such as videos, photos and, most importantly, hands-on work in the training center. No training center? Use your building and your home.
9. Know the media resources by heart and keep it short. Don’t go more than five to 10 minutes at a time without your interacting with the trainees.
10. Move around as you speak. You want a natural balance between being stiff like a statue and moving around so much you’re like the ball in a pinball machine. As hard as it may be to watch the first few, the awareness a video creates when you watch it will help you get better fast.
Top Management Must be Involved
Wait, you may say, “Do I, the owner, really need to be the one to do this training?”
It depends. In what boxes is your name on the organizational chart? If your name is still in the service field supervisor and service manager boxes (which will be the case in smaller companies), the answer is yes.
In this case, you should be buying into operating and trade manuals and building your training facilities (training room, training center, etc.). You don’t need to be the one swinging the hammer, but you must see the plan and sign off on it. And then you need to be involved enough to know what is going to happen or going on. Otherwise, you won’t like the results and you’ll probably end up redoing it.
If you’re a bigger company, in your service wing, your service manager and service field supervisors can help. Their responsibility for sales-operations-technical requires them to become great trainers and run great meetings — same skillset.
For your install wing, it would be your install manager and install field supervisor. They would be doing communications-operations-technical.
However, you will still want to sit in some of those trainings so that those you’ve delegated this task know you’re going to hold them accountable.
If you disappear from the picture, management will make doing this super-complicated because it will become all about their job security. So, you must be involved enough so that it’s clear to everyone that all things training are your top priority.
Do what is right for you based on where your business is today. And know that the skills you acquire in your quest to become a great trainer will benefit many other parts of your business and your life.
Best of all, becoming a great trainer will allow you to contribute to helping young, willing people rise up and realize their potential while growing your business as much as you want. And I can’t think of a better reward than that.