My weekend domestic project reminded me a lot about good training principles and practices. Only SOME lessons we have to re-learn: time and time again.

First, let me set the stage. Our house is over ten years old and the laundry/mud/ski boot room had never been painted (other than that quick coat of watered down paint that the builders put on top of drywall). Now this room takes a lot of abuse from my active outdoorsy boys: sand, mud, snow, lots of gear… I’m sure you get the picture.

The walls were worse from wear with dents and divots and to make matters worse the paint wasn’t scrubbable… Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration: it was scrubbable… actually scrub-off-able. (I am still trying to figure out how the heal scuff marks ended up on the wall instead of on the floor!!)

As I cursed my ‘great idea’ to brighten up the dingy room with paint, my thoughts turned to how ‘painting’ is so very similar to the training/teaching world.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM!

BUT I HATE preparing to paint. I know ‘hate’ is a harsh word, but it is the only word that will do. I HATE cleaning out the room, washing the walls, caulking around the woodwork, polyfilla-ing the holes, taping, sanding…  And that is just getting the room ready.

Then you need to take stock of the material and tools you have and what you need. Yes, the only thing that I hate more than prepping  is having to go to the paint store ‘mid-flight’ for another roller or an extra quart of paint that I was SURE I had.

Why do I hate these things? Because I just want to ‘get on with it’.

I know if I don’t do these things in the beginning I’ll regret it. (But it is so tempting to start on the end product so you can ‘see’ something tangible…)

Just like when you are preparing and delivering training, you need to:

  • Spruce up your material as appropriate. Charts, examples, exercises, questions and quotes should be current.
  • Organize your material and tools (and plan your timing).
  • Customize as much as possible (based on what you know about your audience).
  • Prepare and prevent all the things that can go wrong (or at least be prepared to gracefully handle them). (Just like the wet rag I now keep on hand when I am painting…)

If you do the upfront preparation, your time management will be better, your delivery smoother and your product will be much better.

HIT THE CEILING? TAKE A BREAK!

Most people are probably guilty of this: you are fatigued but almost finished… So, what do you do? You press on. AND what happens?

You spill the paint on the carpet. (Seriously, I’ve done this!) OR you ‘paint outside the lines’ and end up putting a streak of a bright paint colour on your white ceiling.

Isn’t this similar to training? You are running late, and there is about 60 minutes worth of material left. What do you do? You press on!

What you SHOULD DO is to take that break. Remember students need a break too. A former colleague, Dr. Alan Adamson, agrees with this quote:

Professor Julius Sumner Miller was one time asked how long he wanted to speak to a group. He would reply, “about a micro-century.” A micro-century is about 52.5 min, close to a “standard” lecture period of 50 minutes.

So, what were we thinking to force a student to sit and listen to us for more than two hours at a time (especially at the end of a session)??

Remember that your students will have better recollection of the first and the last parts of your session. So, it is important to have a both a  strong opening (introduction) and finish (summary). If done properly a strong summary will bring more context (hence understanding) and should include discussion on where to go next, including a compelling call-to-action.

To me, the potential ‘clean-up work’ is just not worth the risk of something going wrong. Don’t rush your finish, take a break and do a great job finishing: by summarizing and emphasizing the most important points.

DOWNSIZING MAY COMPLICATE

I think painting my much bigger bedroom was quicker and simpler than my 12 X 6 Laundry room. Why? Because the laundry came with obstacles: appliances to move/avoid, cupboards to paint around, coat pegs to avoid (and then paint in another colour)… and there was no room to manoeuvre. You couldn’t even use a ladder to get in one of the corners.

Isn’t that just like training? When someone narrows your scope and asks you to give an Overview, Best-of, Summary session or lecture?? Sometimes that task is more difficult than an in-depth session. And even though you have all the material, it is the editing and paring down that become so difficult.

As a reminder if you catch yourself in this situation, remember to be audience driven and start with the purpose and objectives. The following blog posts are a good reminder:

SO… JUST REMIND ME:

Here are the lessons I’ve had to RE-LEARN:

  1. Preparing is painful, but not as painful as having to stop mid-flight because you don’t have the right tools. (How embarrassing!)
  2. Everyone needs a break. When faced with the temptation of just getting it over with: don’t do it! Take a break and your end product will be much better.
  3. Smaller is sometimes much more complicated: don’t underestimate something that ‘should be easy’… Your job is to make it look easy, it doesn’t mean that it was.

WHAT ABOUT YOU??

What are the lessons YOU’VE  had to re-learn, either from painting or teaching/training?

Until next time…

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Flickr Creative Commons Image: Meir Jacob

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