When I was young, I never imagined I’d be involved in any sort of teaching or training. I believed I simply did not have what it takes. However, when I started working I found that I loved teaching my juniors. Explaining things; coaching; all aspects of building a person up and improving their knowledge base.
Later when I joined Athwela, Sri Lanka’s first business magazine in Sinhala as its managing director and managing editor, I got into training in a big way. We were travelling around the country to promote the magazine and our key promotional tool were seminars to business startups and small and medium enterprises.
Then, as part of a natural progression, I moved on to personal development topics. Why? Because no one can win or do well with anything, including business, if they did not have the right attitude; towards learning, improving, mistakes and life. I truly believed that personal development training would solve lots of problems of local entrepreneurs. And it does. This is also true for anyone, including students, stay at home mothers, public and private sector employees and business startups.
After I developed a name as a trainer, one specializing in Sinhala training, other organizations, such as Unilever’s Fair and Lovely Foundation, Royal Dutch Shell’s ShellLiveWire, The Sri Lanka Australia Natural Resource Management Project and HSBC’s Public Affairs Division invited me to design and conduct various public programmes. All were so much fun and provided a lot of rich and varied experiences for me.
All of these were conducted in Sinhala. I’ve basically worked in all the districts other than the North and East (this was prior to the end of the civil war).
I was also happy to be invited to conduct a number of Supervisory Development and Management Development seminars for the JASTECA Institute of Management. That moved me into management training, which is something I really enjoy. Some of the management development sessions were conducted in English.
In addition to what’s mentioned above, I’ve conducted numerous workshops and training sessions for private and public sector participants as inhouse sessions.
What I love about training
I love the variety. I specialize in tailoring training content for my audiences. I train in Sinhala and English. And I work with kids, teens and adults from all walks of life.
Reading audience moods and pitching at the right level are huge challenges that I love taking on. Thankfully I’ve not put many people to sleep even in the after lunch sessions. There is too much going on.
Training keeps me on my toes. What I do best is learning. So I like to give that skill to others as well, in addition to delivery of content. I like to continuously improve what I do, and myself of course. Training work, especially serial training sessions which require the same content be delivered again and again would seem boring to some trainers. But it is important to remember this is a new audience in front of you each time. You have to be as enthusiastic about the 20th programme as you were about the 1st.
Then there is the huge opportunity to test out new methods of getting a message across. Of fine tuning exercises and interactions. Training is a dynamic field. You cannot rest upon your laurels and expect to do well. I generally get great feedback. But it is a personal challenge for me to see whether I can improve it even further. And no better way for this than with serial programmes.
Understanding audiences and pitching at the correct level is a joy for me. Training for one audience is different than training another. Even in Training in one firm is not the same as training in another firm. The company culture may be different and therefore the mood. It all depends.
This means getting to know specific issues and reading between lines and capturing the nuances and the vibes. Understanding the vibes is important because facilitating learning depends on this to a large extent.
For example, in some firms mixed audiences—blue and white collar—may provide great learning experiences while in others it can kill all spontaneity. If this happens—fortunately has not happened to me so far, it can make learning less fun and much less effective. It is a fine balance.
I get great feedback. That is great in itself, but I am not boasting, it is just a fact. And it does not come without a lot of effort and careful consideration.
For one thing, I think of my participants all the time. Can those in the back see? Can you hear? Is the light in your eyes? Are you comfortable? Can you understand?
One would imagine this is basic courtesy but I’ve personally sat in sessions where the trainer’s delivery goes way over the top of audience’s heads and little is learnt as a result. People cannot read the slides, the text is too small. The trainer mumbles despite the audio and makes little eye contact. The gestures and tone don’t match what they are saying leading to cognitive dissonance. And it is all boring lecture only format. Who would not fall asleep then?
Training and workshops are not lectures. Thankfully. I personally don’t like lectures. All trainers need to move around, ask questions, provoke thinking and interactions. All of this makes a difference to the participants and their learning process.
Training is not about delivery of content. It is about getting people to think, take things on board and actually using them in their lives the next day onwards.
And people don’t come to training sessions as they are going to a magic show. Its good to have fun and get laughs. But it is important to ensure that all action is related to learning. Not gimmicks for the sake of entertainment.
And I am happy to report that I don’t have an ongoing love affair, as I call it, with the screen. I don’t arrive with boring set of slides. I don’t take anything for granted. And this naturally pays off. In terms of great feedback.
I even prepare so that if power goes off—especially in village/remote areas without backup power—I can still continue. Only the slides will be missing, but the learning will continue. It has happened before; so it is not totally paranoia on my part.
The kind of feedback I get keeps me going
Here’s some feedback from a set of workshops on Managing Personal Finances I counducted for mostly blue collar workers of the MAS group (garments and accessories). The workshops were sponsored as a CSR project by HSBC.
A summary for evaluations from 10 workshops with over 750 participants:
- What I learnt at the workshop is: Very useful (87%); Useful (13%); Somewhat useful (0%); Useless (0%)
- The extent to which the things I learnt would help me succeed in life: Very useful (80%); Useful (20%); Somewhat useful (0%); Useless (0%)
- Would you recommend this workshop to others? Yes (100%); No (0%)
And here’s that in visual format:
I am a learner, so I love helping others learn. I studied organisational development and change management. And I have seen in practice, both in the UK and Sri Lanka, how this can go really wrong, making it disastrous for both employers and their employees. So I am very careful in all I do AND say.
I also keep reading books about learning, psychology and self development. So helping others learn is an intrinsically satisfying thing for me. In this world of ours, where the only certainties are death and constant change, teaching to learn is a valuable gift I can pass on to my audiences. This is especially important for adults.
Here’s my motto:
“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”—Eric Hoffer
If you are looking for a great trainer for your business, give me a call or send a message. I’d be delighted to talk about how best we can work together to solve your business issues.