Trainers, self awareness, empathy and feedback

Trainers are a precious lot (I know I used to be one).

I  don’t mean this to be a disparaging comment in anyway, but most trainers and facilitators I know and have worked with are relatively big personalities, or at least a bit extroverted, who love being up in front of people.  They are acutely self aware and constantly pay attention to the feedback loops with their audience.  They worry about their mistakes, even if no one else noticed, they worry about the rating their audience give them on their satisfaction sheets and are legitimately concerned if someone rates them below average, even if it is only one person in a group.

I have had an interesting experience recently however, where I have encountered a trainer who really lacks that self awareness and empathy that allows them to respond to groups well and to notice and take an objective view of their own performance.  This is not necessarily to say that they are a bad trainer, they are functional and adequate particularly in the more technical areas in which they train.  However, they are simply not aware of when they are not doing a good job, when they are not engaging the audience as much as they could or when they are getting the group offside, shall we say.  They seem to have a completely internally based validation process for when they are doing a good job.  Thankfully, it seems that at least most of the time this check seems to be relatively right, but it is quite interesting to what someone with such an internal focus train people.

This is not to say that there are not other issues here, that relate to this internal checking idea, this lack of self awareness makes it quite difficult to provide feedback as I can see that the there is a distinct lack of understanding that there is anything wrong and it does tend to make the training sessions quite functional and by the numbers.

As I said the real problem is that this doesn’t by necessity make them a bad trainer,  though it does mean that the learning experience of the participants and the group, hinges almost entirely on whether or not they are comfortable with this trainers style.

I know every trainer is different, but I haven’t encountered a trainer which such an internalised process for checking their own success before and the more I think about it the more I am sure that it is this externalisation of success criteria and ability to respond effectively and efficiently to feedback from groups that are the key to being a great trainer.


About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

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