Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Squeaky Wheel

We've all heard the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" alluding to those who speak up are more likely to get what they want.  In general, the squeaky wheel tends to get more attention but when it comes to a classroom setting, that darn wheel can certainly upset the apple cart.  In the course of training, you may begin to identify two squeaky wheels - the Nerd and the Insecure.

You may question why your training nerd is even taking the class.  After all, they seem to already know everything the course covers.  This trainee can often become a squeaky wheel in a negative way if you find them correcting you or leading the class off-topic by bringing up out-of-scope questions.  The first step to mitigating the squeakiness of the Nerd is to understand why he is there.  Perhaps he is there for a refresher - to make sure he is still current - or maybe the class was mandatory.  Whatever the reason may be, knowing it is your best defense.

The second step is to lead questions or comments back to the main focus of the class.  If a question is asked that is out of scope, you may want to answer like this: "That's a good question but it is more advanced than the content of this class will cover. I'd be happy to stay and go over that with you and anyone else that is interested after this class."  This response acknowledges the question and promises an answer without taking up valuable class time.  Variations of this response will depend on the question asked and the material covered in the training.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a squeaky wheel who asks questions because help is truly needed.  The insecure trainee has most likely come to class without the proper foundation and, as a result, asks basic questions which slow down the rhythm of class.  It can be frustrating having to take time to answer these questions but, just like the Nerd, understanding why the Insecure is there is the first step to resolving the problem.  The good news is that the training topic must have appealed to your squeaky wheel, the bad news is now you are stuck with them.  But that's not so bad - the more the merrier, right?

The second step is to take note of what questions are being asked and determine what other training this person may benefit from.  If you have the ability to schedule one-on-one time with your squeaky wheel, you can prepare her for future trainings that will require the same basic skills.  Neither of these steps help you during the course of you class, though.  For that, we need a step three.

For both the Insecure and the Nerd, step three requires pairing these two squeaky wheels together.  Doing this may mean having to go off script of your training, but the benefits will be great.  As a result, the Insecure will begin directing most questions to their more experienced partner and the Nerd will most likely feel validated through helping their coworker. Putting the two squeaky wheels together may not solve all your training problems but it certainly will alleviate some of the stress.  

For the most part, I've seen great results by following this three step process. But what about you? How would you handle a squeaky wheel?

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