The Art of Training

Art of Training motivation

Shannon Tipton, Learning Rebels LLC

Have you ever been in front of a group who are training “captives”?  Either people told to be there by the boss, or perhaps the training is part of some punitive action (You turned left instead of right…now you MUST go to training!)? If you’ve been in training longer than a day, then you’ve been there – done that. The question at hand is how to turn those frowns upside down? To answer this we must first talk a bit about motivation in general.

First, know you cannot “motivate people.” People motivate themselves. We get confused between making people do things and getting results, and people who are motivated and getting results. There is a big difference! If I have to force someone, this means that I have to constantly follow-up, push, remind, and a variety of other micro-managing techniques. This does not create motivation, this creates people who are on CareerBuilder.

Second, motivation is internally driven by personal reasons. People have reasons behind the decisions they make. Let’s say the participant doesn’t complete the pre-work. In other words, they are not motivated to complete the pre-work. The lack of motivation manifests because they are more motivated not to do it, than to do it. The reasoning may be because they have decided the input of time won’t be worth the effort. The motivation then, is to save time and effort for something they believe will not have a payoff. People make decisions because of what they want, not because of what you want. Another big difference.

How do we get there? It starts with a basic paradigm shift. Many times we think, “How can I ensure the exchange of knowledge in this workshop”? Let’s think of this as less about “I” and more about “them”. Flip the script. “What does the participant need from me in order to ensure the exchange of knowledge?” A small but powerful change in wording. Now it’s time to build motivating techniques into lesson plans.

Three factors to consider when planning to build motivation

Why consider motivation?

The common refrain is that the training hasn’t clearly articulated the “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) factor. While, I believe this to be true – I would also state that it’s because we haven’t clearly answered the “So, what?” question. As in: “Okay, I’m here…now, so what? So, what am I supposed to do now? So, what? What am I supposed to do with this information back on the job?” Answering the, “So, what?” question becomes even more important that the WIIFM question.

Being able to answer the “So, what?” question, helps the participant connect the dots contextually and helps them to understand the long-term goal of program. People what to know how the information they are receiving will fit into the big picture. Addressing “So, what?” helps. This gets us back to the first point of not being able to motivate others. Trainers often times tell me, “We can lead a horse to water…but we can’t make him drink.” True enough. My response, however, is…We can’t make him drink, but we can add sugar to the water to make it more tasty. In other words, we can enhance the learning environment so people care and become motivated. It starts with answering the “So, what?” question.

It’s about choice.

People want choice. Remember this scene from the Matrix? Where Neo is first meeting the “The Architect” and a bazillion TV’s are everywhere. The Architect says, (regarding people hooked into the Matrix), “99% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice…” He’s correct. People want to have a choice in how they receive and process information. Your participants want to feel like they have some kind of control. If you are up there controlling the stage, people feel they have no choice in the outcome. If I have no choice, why be motivated to listen and learn?

The smart trainer figures out how to turn the learning experience over to the participants and create an environment where everyone is involved.  Example: In a recent workshop, when explaining job task analysis, I asked groups to pick their own job from a pool of options, make the job their own, then use group think to analyze it. One group chose to analyze “Prison Baker” (I am not kidding). Sure, I could’ve redirected them to choose something more realistic, but it was their choice and you know what? They completed the group think exercise perfectly, had fun, and learned something. Choice.

It not about attention, it’s about interest.

There is a research paper out there, about how people surf the internet, which has been widely and wildly misinterpreted about how adults have shorter attention spans due to technology. Because of this, trainers focus on having people hop around on one foot, and playing musical chairs to help gain participants attention span. When really, it is less about gaining attention than keeping interest. Yes, we have many options and there are plenty of shiny things capturing people’s attention. Distracting them away from your important messages. However, let’s be a bit honest with ourselves…perhaps our message is boring, dull and yawn-inducing. Perhaps the workshop wasn’t designed to keep interest peaked? Telling people to put away their mobile devices isn’t going to help. It will actually hinder your goal, as the group will be anxious for the next break and daydreaming about happy hour.

Here are some things you can do: Build interest through activities that include gallery walks; this creates opportunities for storytelling and experience sharing. Create activities that connect directly with the lesson of the moment, have participant’s debate issues or have a quiz bowl. Creating opportunities that promote thought and action, will in turn build interest. If you build interest, the participants will be motivated to stay with you.

Hearts and Minds

When we reach the hearts and minds of people, we are adding sugar to the water. These three factors will help to build learning motivation in your workshops, courses or classes. Can these same techniques be used in eLearning? Absolutely. Logic scenarios, having participants choose their own path, not locking down screens, giving options that actually make them think – hearts and minds. When we create a learning environment that allows for these three components, we have a win-win. Motivated participants, and subsequently better results make for a good day indeed!

Now, there are more than three ways to build motivation. I’m sure you have many ideas and proven practices that help out those participants who are “captives” and I’d love to hear more about them in the comment section. Let’s share and set our training captives free![: