So you’ve been asked to coach your trainers. What do you do? This is part 3 of a four part series that will spell it all out and give you what you need to create a world class training program.
- Part 1 – Hire the right training candidates
- Part 2 – Train the trainers
- Part 3 – [You Are Here] Coach the trainers one-on-one
- Part 4 – Optimize the trainers moving forward
This blog covers part 3: How do you coach your trainers with a world-class training program you can be proud of?
If your institution has a training program, then you know that learning professionals are almost always looking for professional development to better their skill set. But what I’m talking about today is different. I’m not talking about just the trainings that happen in classrooms. I want to focus on the coaching of trainers in and out of the classroom.
Let me give you two practical examples.
The Trainer Education Plan
About 12 years ago, I was hired as a trainer at Epic, one of the largest and most successful healthcare software firms in the world. Over the course of those 12 years, I spent 6,720 hours training over 15,000 Physicians & Healthcare Professionals.
As a former high school Math and English teacher myself, I transferred my teaching skills to a position of trainer of trainers. During those 12 years I spent 4,680 hours researching, observing & giving feedback to hundreds of trainers. I spent another 4,825 hours training trainers based on this research and observation.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. During all those hours, I refined (in the private industry) the plan my very first mentor, my father, a fellow Inspirer, used with his school staff. Thousands were trained using the refined teaching model he developed. I called it a Trainer Education Plan.
My father was an elementary principal for 30 years. His school was one of the first wave SAGE schools. Their success was documented with consistent state assessment scores in all areas above the district, state and national norms/standards. He developed and used a staff teaching/coaching and assessment tool prior to and during his SAGE years. This was a catalyst for significant teacher growth and instructional improvement and subsequent increased student achievement.
I built the Trainer Education Plan (TEP) at Epic using his plan as a foundation. I taught the “trainers of trainers” (coaches) how to observe a trainer for 2 hours, take 5000 words of notes, and then deliver (in a 1 hour post observation feedback session) 10-20 pages of feedback. I also taught those “coaches” how to administer three “1 on 1” sessions with their trainer– new and seasoned trainers alike. During those sessions, trainers were coached (like a tennis coach works with some of the best tennis players in the world) to be even more effective in the classroom. This coaching process was a true advocacy process.
You know what happened?
- The Evaluation Floor was raised for new and seasoned trainers alike.
- New trainers (that some weren’t sure would make it) exceled.
- Seasoned trainers honed their training skills and grew in other areas.
- Many trainers stopped burning out because they got to continually grow with a coach on a yearly (or in some cases bi-yearly basis).
This training program is still being used by Epic to this day to coach each of their trainers, even after I have left to start my own practice.
Now, I’m going to show you how to do it.
Here’s how to set up your own trainer coaching program.
Step 1 – Connect with the trainer
Connecting with the trainer can make or break a whole learning experience with the trainer. It serves as the foundation for all other tasks that a coach wishes to accomplish such as:
- Gain credibility
- Build buy-in
- Secure respect
- Be welcoming
- Show that you care
- Get them to like you
- Make sessions enjoyable
- Meet their needs
- Get them to thank you when it’s all done
It will allow you to set the stage to observe the trainer, give feedback to the trainer and especially teach the trainer.
Begin with a welcome email that lets the trainer know why the process exists, what it is, what’s in it for them and most importantly show and tell that this an advocacy process, not just a coaching process. Use the welcome email as a chance to learn about the trainer’s world. Ask the trainer to fill out three things:
- Learning style assessment
- Personality style assessment
- Goals assessment (their top three goals moving forward)
Next, set up a thirty minute kick-off meeting.
Research says that first impressions are made within the first ten minutes of an encounter. Even if you’ve already met this trainer in another context, this will be the first time the trainer has been introduced to you within the context of this process. Use this meeting to:
- Build credibility with the trainer
- Show value for the trainer
- Make the trainer feel safe
- Discuss the process for trainer growth
- Give the trainer an opportunity to express his/her goals and concerns
Step 2 – Observe and Give Feedback to the trainer
Feedback can also make or break a whole learning experience with the trainer, serving as the bridge into the all-important task of teaching the trainer new ideas. There are four things that are integrally connected that will help you create and deliver meaningful feedback to a trainer each and every time. If you do the following things effectively, you can ensure that each observation is a success for the trainer and that he/she is learning what needs to be learned. This will open up doors you never thought possible.
First, observe the trainer in the classroom. Here are some general rules of thumb:
- Be discrete – there are few things more nerve-racking for a trainer than a classroom observation where the observer is conspicuous and looking and writing about every move the trainer makes. Your job is to make the trainer feel as safe and secure as possible.
- Free write what you hear – just type everything you can that the trainer is saying, and just let your mind siphon through it and decide what is important and or able to be captured.
- Put the trainer’s words in quotes – this will help you later when you’re looking back and your notes distinguish between what the trainer said and what you wrote about what the trainer said.
- Get the examples right – write down EXACTLY what the trainer (or trainee) says or does related to the example. It will be crucial later on (when you write and deliver feedback to the trainer) that you supply the trainer with exact examples of what you observed.
- Write down positive and negative feelings- how is the observation making you feel? Imagine you are a trainee…Is it a positive or a negative experience? Watch the trainees… How is the observation making the trainees FEEL? The idea here is to document what you felt at the time of the observation itself (both positive and negative feelings) so that when you look back at your notes later, you’ll know exactly how you felt and what happened to make you feel that way.
- Write down suggestion reminders – if you find yourself wanting to give the trainer a suggestion about something he/she is doing in class, write it down now lest you forget it later.
Second, write a classroom observation summary – After taking notes during the classroom observation, you’ll want to transfer those notes to a useful format that you can give to the trainer. Many coaches, when they first start to read their classroom notes are a little overwhelmed with just how many notes they ended up taking in a one to two hour period. What’s more, those notes can “blow up” into even more documentation once you start to analyze them and write descriptions and explanations of each of them. To avoid this, I recommend the following steps:
- Read each bullet of notes you took – If you did this well, it will include the following things:
- The things the trainer says (in quotes)
- Specific examples
- Positive/negative feelings
- Suggestion reminders
- Identify and document strengths and areas for improvement
- Identify and document examples to support each strength and area for improvement.
- Write suggestions/explanations for each example.
Third, write feedback to give to the trainer – You may think that you are already done with this step…isn’t the classroom observation summary with all the strengths and areas for improvement that we spent so long writing enough?
Not quite… The trainer cannot ingest all of that material. In addition, it’s not written in a format conducive to the way human beings enjoy and need to receive feedback. You now need to create feedback that is applicable for the trainer’s style and personality…something the trainer will feel good about when finished reading it…something that can even elicit excitement and engagement for the remainder of the coaching process. Here’s a quick snapshot of what to capture:
- Document the main strength of the trainer – The main strength of the trainer will be the first thing the trainer reads in the post observation feedback session. It’s imperative that you get this right and that the trainer feels it’s worthy. The main strength is the thing that this trainer is the BEST at…something you may even covet about this trainer. Something that I call the crux: what the trainer is good at AND enjoys doing.
- Document ALL supplemental strengths of the trainer – The idea is that there are many tasks that a trainer will go through in a typical classroom observation. Your job is to figure out which of those tasks and subtasks have the most compelling strengths for this trainer.
- Document THREE goals to share – There are many goals a trainer may WANT to work on and there are also many goals you may feel the trainer NEEDS to work on based on the initial observation. Your job is to find the TOP 3 that ‘most’ fall under BOTH of those categories (wants & needs of the trainer).
Fourth – Deliver feedback to the trainer – It’s time for the Post-Observation Conference where you actually deliver both the written and verbal feedback from the previous classroom observation to the trainer. Without going into too much detail, here are the main things to cover in this conference:
- Elicit verbal feedback from the trainer
- Give the written feedback to the trainer
- Recognize the trainer
- Reinforce the need for improvement
- Create a safe environment for goal feedback
- Address what’s important to the trainer
- Show you met what’s important to the trainer
- Reiterate the trainer’s talents
- Make the trainer feel safe to learn new things
- Give trainer an opportunity to express goals/concerns
Step 3 – Teach New Ideas to the Trainer
After giving the trainer feedback, the last step is to teach the trainer new ideas. This is done through three 2 hour “1 on 1’s” with the trainer and the coach. Each 1 on 1 corresponds to each of the three goals of that were documented in the feedback for this trainer.
How do you have a great “1 on 1” session?
If you read my blog on how to train trainers, then you know that it took me 3 YEARS of research with 150 corporate trainers to answer this question. I also mentioned that once training managers, Chief Learning Officers and Instructional Designers recognize this, it changes EVERYTHING. That’s because the tasks below are not only what every trainer needs to be able to do in the classroom to be successful, they are also the candidates for the trainer’s goals and for the 1 on 1’s to help them improve.
Each trainer you coach will have 3 (or more) of the following things to work on with you in the 1 on 1’s:
Show Credibility by:
- Overcome nervousness
- Show confidence
- Speak well
- Show trainees that I am a content expert
- Show trainees that I am an expert educator
Build Rapport by:
- Be welcoming
- Meet trainee needs
- Show that I care
- Get trainees to like me
- Make class enjoyable for trainees
- Make trainees feel comfortable asking me for help
Engage Trainees by:
- Hook trainees
- Get trainees to interact
- Keep trainees attention
Teach all learners by:
- Manage the pace of the class
- Make things easy to follow along with
- Make things easy to understand
- Determine whether the trainees got it
Answer Questions by:
- Set Expectations
- Listen to trainee questions to determine whether/how to answer
- Answer in-scope questions
- Punt out of scope questions
Handle Challenging Trainees by:
- Control negative trainees
- Control lots of questions
- Control apathetic trainees
Step 4 – Encourage the trainer to incorporate these new ideas
Trainers can be excited by all the new ideas presented to them. They can also be overwhelmed. It’s not enough for the trainer to be observed or given feedback. It’s not even enough for the trainer to attend a 1-on-1, get really excited about all the cool ideas, and even understand what you are talking about as the coach.
What REALLY needs to happen is that the trainer assimilates all these ideas into his repertoire. The trainer needs to get to stage 4 of learning where he can do it on his own and you can observe that in a classroom. THAT is going to take some time and work on the trainer’s part. Much of that work will happen individually on the trainer’s own time. Your job is to encourage the trainer to make sure that happens.
How to get started and coach world class trainers?
Your goal as a coach is to teach meaningful ideas to the trainer in a way that feeds his/her learning and personality style. Trainers don’t fully realize their potential in the classroom unless someone observes them, gives them feedback, and is an advocate for them as a coach, helping that trainers continue to fly (upward) regardless of how seasoned they are. An advocacy coaching process makes happier trainers, happier trainees, and most importantly, ensures a kind of quality that most training programs have yet to see.
To help you create that process, I have created a 3-day program called Coaching Trainers Mastery where you will learn everything you need to coach world class trainers . I help you develop and implement an appropriate mentoring process so you can provide coaching exactly the way we do it. If you want to be able to build and scale a world-class coaching program for your trainers without having to outsource, then this is the program you’ve been looking for.
If you are a training manager, instructional designer or in any way responsible for the growth of your training staff, then it’s your responsibility to be that advocate…even after the trainers are seasoned, even after the trainers get back from the annual training conferences, and even after the trainers are getting 5 out of 5 evaluations from their trainees. You don’t have to be the BEST trainer to be a great coach, but if you want to take your training program to that next level, then you do need to have a great coaching program in place.