This week, I am seeking your help, fellow trainers: I have no answers – only questions.
One of the world’s premiere communications and leadership training organisations is Toastmasters – and it’s no secret that I am a member of (and often a cheerleader for) that organisation.
It was, for many years, primarily about making better public speakers – with its slogan of ‘Better Listening, Better Thinking, Better Speaking’
These days, the focus is on leadership training (‘Where leaders are made’) – although public speaking remains a key element of the Toastmasters experience.
But what happens where those two things are apparently at odds? Can being a better speaker actually make you less effective as a trainer?
Recently, I was at a meeting of an online Toastmasters club (yes, some clubs are conducted entirely in cyberspace) which has a focus on developing and educating trainers.
And the issue of internal training came up – that is, training of club officers.
At that meeting there were Toastmasters who are members of clubs in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and more.
And when the issue of training club officers came up, there was a remarkable consistency of views – that for a communications training organisation with a focus on leadership, the training on offer for leaders was, well, patchy at best.
In fact, one district Program Quality Director (a very senior position in Toastmasters) indicated that his district was so disturbed at the standard of training being offered to club leaders that it has taken control of that training away from Divisions (an administrative grouping of dozens of clubs) and will organise the training itself.
But why should that be necessary?
Partly, its because an ability as a public speaker does not necessarily mean ability as a trainer.
In fact, Toastmasters offers a very good ‘From Speaker to Trainer’ module to help develop training skills amongst its experienced speakers – but that’s not enough.
The other thing that a trainer needs is practice.
Knowing what’s required to design a training module is one thing – but experience in doing so is another.
That’s why trainers need to be constantly training, constantly honing their skills – and constantly surrounding themselves with other trainers.
I’ve joined three training-specific groups to do just that – and plan to undertake a formal course in Training and Assessment to refine my skills (what’s known in Australia as a Cert IV)
But most volunteer trainers have neither the time nor the inclination to do that.
So what can organisations do the improve internal training programs?
Obviously, hire outside expertise would be one way – but professional trainers would say that, wouldn’t they? 🙂
What other suggestions could you make, though?
Those who have performed a role in the past should be able to train their successors – but we have all seen disasters where that occurs.
So, dear trainers on the Interwebs, what suggestions can you make? Please leave a reply at the bottom of the page!