Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes You Fail

It's impossible to be at your best every single moment of the day.  Being a great instructor for each and every class you give is just as unlikely.  Let's face it, life gets in the way sometimes and prevents us from giving our jobs the full attention it needs.  Life certainly got in my way this past month with the perfect storm of a sick daughter and eight separate training classes covering four different topics.  To say I was mildly prepared would have been an overstatement.  The truth is, I had to wing it and I'm not a big fan of that method because it leaves too much room for error.  So, when I decided to wing a few of the training sessions it should not come as a shock that I made a couple of mistakes.  In order to help you avoid making the same mistakes (or help you pick up the pieces once the mistake has already been made,) here are some tips for great instruction on your not-so-great days.

Rescheduling in my calendar means nothing will ever get done.  If you are not prepared by now, will the extra few days really make a difference?  Probably not.  It is even more likely that your participants will not be able to reschedule.  By planning your schedule better ahead of time, you can avoid much of the fallout that  comes with having to reschedule.  In my case, I should not have been so ambitious to teach eight classes in four weeks.  Had  I scheduled better, I could have given much more thought to my classes when my daughter became ill.

Under normal circumstances, a trainer should understand all the ins and outs of the course content before teaching it to others.  But when life gets in the way, we often make do with being half prepared.  If you find yourself in this position, you should not be surprised when you get a question where the answer is unknown.  Even worse than receiving a difficult question is trying to answer it - risking the possibility of giving out false information.  For a training on Google Sites that I had only half prepared, I began to lead my class in the wrong direction for accomplishing a specific task.  Suffice it to say, I quickly figured out what I was doing wrong and had to backpedal my instructions. Ouch! I would have been better off skipping the task altogether and covering it in the follow-up . . .

Following up with classroom participants is an integral part of training and information retention.  If you think you may have had a training failure, the follow-up may just be your savior. There are many ways to save face with a follow-up and the easiest is by sending an email to participants with a "homework" assignment.  In this email you can include additional information or attachments that may help them in the future.

If, on the other hand, you are unsure of a failure or want to prevent one in the future, asking participants to fill out a quality survey will force them to recall what they've learned and open up the lines of communication if clarification is needed.  It will also give you feedback on what works and what doesn't.

Failure has a bad reputation, but in it lies success.  We learn and grow from our mistakes and that is what makes failure so important.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and think "what can I do to make this a success?"

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