Early reflections on establishing my chosen early career as a Trainer – which evolved into my now established career as a writer of training materials
My usual behaviour after presenting or facilitating a training course (back then) had been to accuse myself of a poor performance. I would then reinforce this severe self-judgement by mulling over the ‘happy sheets’ – the so-called evaluation forms that participants completed at the end of a course. They were called ‘happy sheets’ because they could only record the level of happiness felt by each participant with the course itself, the room, the food and the trainer. Participants would have had neither the time nor the opportunity to trial the use or effectiveness of the material or methods offered or developed at the course before completing this so-called evaluation.
As I grew in confidence, I replaced my focus on these happy sheets with a focus on the experience of each course, so that I could then capitalise on that experience in perfecting my further writing on the course topic.
The art and importance of adaptation
This change of focus led me to continue presenting my courses as I had initially designed, trialed and refined them – instead of trying to constantly change the content, format or style in response to the happy sheet evaluations. I saw that the basic course didn’t need improving or changing: it just needed adapting to each separate audience.
It was the adaptation that became my challenge, not the course content or format.
Adaptation meant acknowledging and responding to the level of consciousness within the group, within the room. It meant dealing with the sum of energy brought into the room by the individuals in each separate group.
I clearly saw that adaptation had nothing to do with the course: it had everything to do with where each person in the group was ‘at’ when they entered the room, and what they would chose to do with their thoughts and personal energy throughout the course.
Participant entry and exit maturity levels in training courses
This led me to understand and acknowledge what I’ve called ‘entry maturity’ – the level of maturity with the course topic or theme brought by each course participant as they entered the training room at commencement of the course.
‘Maturity’ is a combination of confidence, competence and comfort with the course topic or theme.
Participants whose entry maturity was low would drain the group energy; participants whose entry maturity was high would contribute to the group energy; and participants whose entry maturity was uncertain would challenge the group energy.
Together, these three levels of entry maturity would create the group’s collective consciousness. And I could rely on the collective consciousness being an amalgam of the entry maturity level of all participants – at least for the first hour of each course.
Most importantly, I recognised that each separate group‘s collective consciousness needed to be monitored throughout the course. It was capable of encompassing a wide range of entry maturity levels – speaking with one voice, with authority, with compassion and with direction.
One of my early lessons as a Trainer
My tools and methods for adaptation needed to respond to the group’s collective consciousness in each training course. (Trainers often refer to their own connection with a group’s collective consciousness as ‘having their antennae tuned into the group’ or ‘using their intuition’ to check the response level of a group throughout a course.)
The course topic or theme would have brought the participants to the room and given them the context, the purpose, the framework for attendance. My responsibility was to ensure that my notes and the course format were adequate to satisfy their immediate need for confidence or competency or comfort – or all three – in relation to the topic or theme. The collective consciousness in the room was an energy that I had firstly to acknowledge, and then confidently respond. My tools and methods included:
- identifying with individual participants by acknowledging each as a valuable and valued contributor to the course,
- using terms, concepts and language that were familiar,
- balancing anecdotes with factual details, encouraging small group discussions, and validating participant experiences or concerns as they surfaced, and
- closely monitoring and responding to the three major components of effective communication throughout the course – the words used by participants, their tone of voice, and, most importantly, their body language.
At the end of a course, individual participants would have achieved or acquired an ‘exit maturity’ – desirably a higher level of maturity (ie competence, confidence and/or comfort) with the course topic or theme that they would take back to their workplace or private life for use, application or reference. And always offering my availability by phone or email for any queries or requests for follow-up information.
‘Flow-on’ choices for me
With this enlightenment, I made the following ‘flow-on’ choices:
- to strengthen the course content and notes with examples, anecdotes or scenarios appropriate to each separate group of participants,
- to allow each participant to be responsible for his/her own actions and behaviours during the course,
- to allow our collective consciousness to work with and through the group, and with and through the individuals in the group, and
- to draw my own energy from the collective consciousness, and thus to deflect any energy in the group that was not contributing positively to the collective consciousness.
Further ‘flow-on’ choices for me were to relax; accept the differences in ‘entry maturity’; work toward an achievable ‘exit maturity’, and understand that each participant would take their particular aspect of the collective consciousness with them from the training room into their workplace or private lives.
This article is an extract from my e-book, My Spiritual Journey as an Independent Consultant