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You so badly want people to get the stuff you’re teaching. You want them to get it in their bodies, not just intellectually. You can understand the stuff I teach and never apply it to your own situation. You can stand back and evaluate it.
You can measure and analyze it, or you can step out of your standard frame and try it. I saw that people were very hesitant to learn a new way to job-hunt. They had a lot of ideas about the way a job search is supposed to work. These ideas came from the nineteen-eighties, but that doesn’t matter. If they are strongly-held ideas, it’s going to take an emotional reaction to get a person to let the old ideas go.
I saw that imparting information and teaching job-search methodology was the smallest part of my job at the front of the classroom. The biggest part of the job was opening an aperture for learning – a break in the wall “I already know this stuff” or “This doesn’t apply to me.” How will I open that aperture? I wondered
I started to try things: music, games, and theatre. We told stories and played improv games. We made everything optional — no one has to play unless s/he feels like it. More and more people got interested. “Well, what’s the worst that can happen?” they asked, one after the other. “This is fun. Let me try something new in my job search or my life. That might be fun, too!”
HR people in our workshops reacted the same way. “I don’t even know if this is business training,” said one of our participants, Maria. “But who cares?” Maria and her fellow class members were learning to throw off the business mantle that sometimes made them feel like they couldn’t be human or spontaneous at work. Everyone got stronger as a result. “I feel more comfortable speaking with my own voice now,” they said.
Out of the years of shifting job-seekers’ and HR leaders’ lenses on their own work and careers we started to teach teachers how to train the way we do. We teach them that the energy in the room is a million times more important than the lessons and the exercises. People don’t learn against their will.
They learn when they are excited and curious.
How do you make people curious? You find out what they’re interested in. When they come to class, why are they there?
Dozens of trainers over the years have said to me “I’m lucky, because the courses I teach are mandatory.” That’s a horrifying idea. Teaching people sitting slack-jawed and bored is no one’s highest calling. One instructor in front of a room of 25 people or a virtual auditorium with thousands of listeners has only one way to shift the energy in the room. S/he can do it by starting every lesson with two presumptions:
- The first presumption is that the material I’m about to teach is the most boring and inconsequential information ever shared. My job is to figure out what might make a learner interested in what I have to say. I can’t assume any buy-in on the learner’s part except the buy-in that I create myself in class today.
- The second presumption is that my ability to make today’s material accessible, relevant and important to these learners is my value to my employer or clients and to the world — not my subject-matter expertise.