What Separates the Good From the Great?

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When the economy is booming, the difference between a good and great trainer may be inconsequential, but during a recession, that edge may be what gets you the job.

“Let me share a real-life example,” said Dux Raymond Sy, who does management and technology training for Learning Tree International and is managing partner at Innovative-e. “I have a good reputation around people I’ve interacted with, so [they say], ‘OK, we have tighter budgets now [and] we can’t get more training in place, but if we do get training, let’s get Dux. Insteadof gambling our budget on what’s not proven, let’s go with somebody who’s proven.’

“That’s where the great trainers can set themselves apart,” he continued. “Yes, the budget is cut, but [training] will still happen. If you’re great, I don’t think you have to worry about getting enough work.”

So what makes a great trainer? Sy believes they’re the ones who can connect the concepts, techniques and processes to their trainees’ jobs.

“That’s what I always tell my audiences: [If] you walk away and you can’t figure out how it relates to your world, your work [or] your environment, then I didn’t do my job,” he said. “[Being great] is being able to have the person learning from you put [that concept] to use right away.”

Further, when you’re training a group of IT professionals who are from different companies or who have different roles or needs, make sure to use universal examples to make your teaching relevant to each individual.

“I just came out of a meeting where I was explaining the relevance of proper planning,” Sy said. “The example I [used] is: ‘Who’s bought a house?’ I would ask them, ‘Did you just go to Home Depot and buy all the tools and the wood and start building?’ They go, ‘Of course not. We have to talk to an architect [and] draw up the plans before we even do [that].’ And that’s exactly what project management is. That how I bring concepts [in] and make it relevant to my audience.”

Another critical part of being a great trainer is being able to deal with curve balls because nothing ever goes as planned.

“Sometimes you walk into an audience having prepared to speak on a certain example or a certain topic, and then you have a different group of people with different needs,” Sy said. “[Great trainers] should be able to think on their feet [and] adapt [to] the audience.”

No matter what, there is always room for improvement, even if you are a great trainer. Sy suggested getting feedback from people you’re comfortable with. They may have a tendency to be “brutally frank,” but that honesty can help you improve. Additionally, always get feedback from your audience.

“Every time I do a presentation, I tell my audience to please provide feedback around what [they] thought about the presentation, the content and the way I’m presenting,” Sy said. “I’m never going to perfect this skill, but I always want continuous improvement.”

– Lindsay Edmonds Wickman, lwickman@certmag.com

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