Mindfulness when training

Today I taught a course to 18 adults. This is a course that I can sometimes be bored by – I have taught it many, many times and the topic is one that is very familiar to me. In fact, the last time I taught this course several students gave me low evaluations. This was a shock to my system. I grew up a straight A student and I don’t like to fail (Best or Bust has been my motto). So, I was not actually looking forward to this program or this day. But it was a commitment.

I did what any good professional trainer/facilitator would do – I re-designed the program to run more smoothly, to appeal to many types of learners and to overcome the faults pointed out by the previous group.

But then, last night, I did something else. As I was contemplating my navel (literally, I was in the midst of a soaking wet 90 minute hot yoga session) it occurred to me that I needed to add something else to this program.

Me – my energy, my passion and a desire to serve the students. Instead of folding into myself, and shutting down because of my boredom and disinterest, I needed to get re-interested. Instead of dreading the next day on my calendar, I needed to jump into it fully – wide awake and with both feet. If not in the topic itself, then in the fact that these students were new to it, and they were giving up a full day of their time to learn. Just thinking about it made me shift. I felt my chest open and expand. I started to imagine 18 new people in my life. How could I change my demeanor and my facilitation for this cohort?

First, I added something brand-new to the program – at the last minute. So last minute it wasn’t in the printed booklets or on the slides. I would have to share it verbally and write it on the flipchart. But it was a brand-new book I had just cracked open the day before, and it was relevant and I was excited about it. It was a gift that I was looking forward to sharing with my new friends. Change one.

Change two: I vowed to practice what I preach. To stay fully present, in the classroom, and to really connect with the participants. I decided to be present to all of them. To look them in the face. To look them in the eyes. To listen with an open heart. To care about them and their issues. To ask more questions. To offer more service. To let their agendas and their issues take precedence over my puny design and my pre-conceived slides. To honour their time and respect the shared space that the universe (God) had opened up to us. I determined to practice “mindfulness” the whole day long.

What happened?  What you would expect I guess. I had to fly by certain segments in the interest of time, and actually dropped something. We had an awesome problem-solving conversation when someone in the group brought their issue to the table. I was able to connect certain segments to real-life examples for people because I was listening – and remembering – what people said. I told a story I didn’t know I had in me that was relevant.

What I didn’t expect? I wasn’t bored. The time flew. I learned something new about the topic. I liked some participants more than I liked others, but there was lots of space for diversity. My annoyance was low. I was more accommodating to people’s needs – for learning,  for physical space. I had fun.

And the evaluations – all top-boxed at Good or Excellent.  The comments showed that they got it – they knew I was there for them. They felt it and they appreciated it. So did I.

2 thoughts on “Mindfulness when training

  1. How true it is! Engaging training happens when the trainer is engaged in the audience rather than in a prepared script. Spontaniety can be very scary for the person standing at the front of the room. Ironically, it will win you points with your audience every time.
    I am often faced with an angry mob when I arrive to facilitate a training session. Because I teach about workplace human rights law, most employees start off the session with a ho-hum kind of attitude. However, when I ask them to talk about their own opinions–good, bad or indifferent–they usually get involved. Then my skills as a facilitator come into play, weaving the emerging energy of the group into, and around, the subject matter of the course.

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