Time and time again the question comes up: why do we need personal development training on the path of becoming trainers? To be entirely frank, not all train the trainer programmes include this element, and in my humble opinion that is a mistake.
Training is a unique profession. Today, anybody can be a trainer. There are thousands of people out there calling themselves trainers after leading a few workshops, or finishing a 5-7 day TfT, or finishing a coaching certificate or a psychology degree. The training profession has not yet been officially certified, there are so many different paths leading to becoming a trainer. In fact, each and every path is unique.
This is certainly somewhat of a trend in the era of the self-made man, where people evaluate their own competences and sell their experiences instead of certification, yet there are still many fields where certification is required. In order to practice law, you need to pass the bar, in order to practice medicine you need a degree and 10+ years of studying and tons of internships. In order to drive a car you need a licence. But to move closer to our reality: in order to teach in a school or have a psychology practice you need a degree in the field. And in some professions, alliances are offering quality assurance: yoga teachers need to register in the Yoga Alliance to be recognised, and coaches need to register in the International Coach Federation. Yet there’s nothing universal for trainers. There’s no quality assurance whatsoever. Today anyone can be a trainer, for good or for bad.
No matter what path leads you there, being a trainer comes with great responsibility. You are a teacher, an expert, a coach, a psychologist, an ally, a leader and so much more. To not take this responsibility seriously would be foolish.
In ESN, we have our own quality assured path to becoming a trainer. We must acknowledge that ESNers are often very young, in their early twenties, embarking on a path to become a trainer. There’s nothing wrong with that, I myself started my journey as a 20-year-old. But often at this age we are still searching who we are and why we were put on this planet. We are still exploring ourselves, our own path, and are focused a lot on the inside. We are preoccupied with developing our own competences and that is how it’s supposed to be. And like many have experienced, at the beginning of our training career we have a tendency to enjoy the stage light. This is part of our own exploration, pushing our boundaries and developing our public speaking skills, extending our comfort zones and realising our potential of facilitating groups. And again, this is all fine.
But being a trainer is more than successfully briefing and debriefing activities, cracking a few jokes to make a group laugh and having a jolly good time. If you are looking for a place to shine, try public speaking, teaching or even stand up comedy. As a trainer, you are not there to shine. Being a trainer is about leading people to change. Change of perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, while improving their skills and knowledge. And change isn’t easy. Being a trainer is not about you, it’s about them. It’s all about your participants. It’s about their needs, their path, their process.
When you are a trainer, you need to be able to withdraw from your own personal desire to shine, to talk, to tell, to decide. When you are a trainer, you need to give space and hold that space for your group, you need to listen, you need to question and you need to adapt to the needs of the group. And this is ain’t easy! What you need in order to succeed?
Being comfortable with who you are. As a trainer, you will need to embrace fully who you are to find your most authentic self. Your story defines you. Your experiences will only give depth to your teachings. If you learn to embrace them, build on them, and use the power from within, your results will be much stronger than ever before.
Confidence in your abilities. Training processes are often challenging participants, and they might challenge you back as a response. You need to know what you are doing and not question your abilities when somebody challenges you. You need to be able to take feedback, no matter how harsh or hurtful. You need to separate the growing feedback which can help you improve and the ones that are doing nothing but harm and leave those behind.
Embracing failure. We all fail at times. Society keeps on telling us that failing is bad and should be avoided. But failure is a path towards learning. In training, we love failures and seek them even. As a trainer, one needs to accept that not all trainings or workshops will be fantastic, and at times you will make a mistake. And that’s ok. This is how you learn and next time you’ll do better. But failure is not the only path towards learning and development - and as a trainer, you need to manage your own continuous self-directed learning process.
Ability to deal with emotions. During training processes, emotions can rise. As a trainer you need to know how to handle emotions without affecting you too much. You need to be able to stay calm and find the best ways to bring the group and the individuals most affected to a different emotional state.
Being comfortable with awkward. Be it silence, an awkward comment or joke, a misunderstanding or a silly energiser.. In this role, sometimes you need to be an actor, play stupid, encourage stupid. And it’s ok. It will only be awkward if you let it be. If you are confident in your abilities, you’ll be able to handle any situation, no matter the emotions or awkwardness.
Withdrawing from your needs. While you are training, you are primarily focused on the needs of your participants. You adapt the programme according to their needs. Your needs become secondary during this time. It’s hard to find balance and sometimes your needs will be neglected. And you need to be able to not only function, but lead by example.
Managing your energy level. It’s easy to reach burnout after an intensive week of training, constantly giving your all, neglecting your own needs, holding space for others, training 10 hours a day, leading social programme, having a trainers meeting, preparing for the coming day and getting very little sleep in between. Yet the energy of the room will be most affected by your energy levels, and therefore you need to absolutely master how to switch from sloth mode to tiger or swan modes.
Embracing all of your participants. As human beings, we have people we like more than others: we are drawn to some people while some others really make us tick! As a trainer, you need to treat your participants equally and give them the same attention, love and care. No matter how disconnected or even annoyed you might find a person, you’ll need to be able to open towards them with love and appreciation. You’ll need to realise that everyone around us are mirrors and they all project information about us. If someone is challenging for you, what does that say about you?
Not abusing your power. Being a trainer is a powerful position. Your participants look up to you. Want to learn from you. Want to be you. You need to lead by example. Stay humble. Take the power with responsibility.
Knowing your limitations and flaws. And not only knowing them but openly confronting them, recognizing in which situations they can become hurtful to your practice and developing coping mechanisms to embrace them (not just avoiding them).
The Forward gives YOU space to develop all this and more. It focuses 70% on personal development and only 30% on advanced training for trainers content. Why? Because we believe that you can learn a new method, a new process, and improve your knowledge by reading books or watching videos at home or attending other training events, but you cannot develop these at home. The Forward is a challenging, unique journey that will push you to the edge of your panic zone at times before pulling you back to comfort. It will make you stronger, wiser, and more humble. You likely will leave thinking you are less of a trainer than before, and that’s the right process: it will make you truly realise the potential of being a trainer and the responsibility that comes with it.
It’s that time of the year, the open call for participants is out. If you don’t just want to lead workshops but want to see what trainings can really do, this is your path Forward.