Three-year-old children understand the secret.  

They know the magic word.

What does that say about us? Do we know the secret?

Let me explain.


When someone seeks you out and asks you to deliver your service, training, what do they usually say? I bet it is probably, “Here’s what I want…” And many times that comes along with a list of topics and an entire outline. While that may sound like easy money, it may turn out to be a difficult situation to navigate.

Now a good consultant (and trainer) always delivers what the client wants. But what if that client doesn’t understand what they need?

Great ‘trainers’ will take a consultative approach to determine who the intended audience is and what they (and the organization) truly need.



There is a fine art in turning a request into a consultative approach. You need to understand what the drivers are behind the request for training and probe to find out what success looks like. I typically like to start with phrases like, “Let me understand a bit about what is behind this request…” or “I want to understand the situation as fully as I can so that you are absolutely delighted at the end of the training…”

Once you have a good understanding of the background, you can examine what outcomes the training should have and determine if they are reasonable. “Just so I understand you correctly… at the end of the session, a participant should be able to [fill in the blank]…”  “Are there any additional outcomes that are important?” These types of phrases will help confirm your understanding of the outcomes. You may be surprized at additional outcomes are important. This is where we are getting closer to the magic word…

When your client says, “… this is important.” You know you have to use the magic word.

What is the magic word? The magic word is “Why?”

Think about it! So many times trainers nod their head yes and deliver what they were asked for without understanding “Why”. Whereas, if they were to probe the request they’d uncover the ‘grey area’ and potentially redirect or supplement the training with material that could really impact the business.


Coming from a large company and moving into the small and medium business environment has really opened my eyes. The very defined, silo-like, job roles and responsibilities of larger companies allow employees to specialize and create quite a depth of expertise. In the small and medium business world the lines between roles (and responsibilities) are more fuzzy (or blurry) and it your breadth of skill and expertise becomes more important.

Why am I exploring this? Well understanding the job roles and the business process may be important when you develop your training. Examining the “blurry lines” (and even the set in concrete responsibility ‘lines’ in large companies) may uncover a weakness in a process or gap between job roles. Addressing that discovery may ultimately have the most impact on the effectiveness of the organization.

You may also find that you understand a certain ‘fuzzy area’ and it is there you can provide tremendous value. The ‘fuzzy area’ that I consider my sweet spot is the area between Marketing and Sales. Some organizations call this area ‘Sales Enablement’, while other organizations ignore the area (and it becomes a gap), while still other organizations bicker about who owns the responsibility to equip the Sales Reps with the information, tools and training they need. (I don’t care what you call it, this gap/overlap/’fuzzy area’ still needs to be addressed.)


In conclusion, you will be MORE successful if you,

  • Obey less and understand more. Go ahead, use that secret word!
  • Address the blurry lines (and gaps) between job roles and business processes. This will position you as a valuable consultant to the organization instead of just your average trainer.
  • Find your niche in one of those ‘fuzzy areas’.

Now wouldn’t you agree that your three-year-old would make a good consultant?  “Why?”  😉

Until next time…


Flickr Creative Commons Image by Jasleen Kaur