Q& A Session with Jason Teteak (Founder/CEO of Rule the Room)
Q: How does the white belt mentality apply to training?
Years ago I decided I was going to start a Trainer Education Program at one of the largest healthcare software corporation in the world with 150 trainers on staff. I met with the Head of Training to propose an innovative program to improve learning transfer, trainee experience and reduce trainer burnout/turnover. He said “I see the need to provide this program for all new trainers, but why would we want to extend the offer to seasoned trainers–they are getting great evals, their trainees love them, they are learning a ton from them and they’re happy?” I introduced him to the concept of “The White Belt Mentality”– also known as beginners mind.
So, what is “The White Belt Mentality”?
I will read and excerpt from my book to answer this:
When I taught high school I came across the notion of the best of the best teachers always getting better. I was awestruck by this and had to figure out why. I learned that the best of the best get (and stay) that way because they are constantly working to become better and humble themselves to the process—“White Belt Mentality”.
Look at the best tennis players in the world, they have coaches. Now, can their coaches beat them on the court? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The question is can these coaches help these top athletes get better? Absolutely! And no one questions this.
In my experience with thousands of trainers, the best trainers want to be coaches; they seek feedback, learning and challenges. There are so many benefits to them getting coaching but I have found the trainers with this “White Belt Mentality” to be the exception, not the rule. That is not to say that a “White Belt mentality” cannot be cultivated. I have actually found a way to train coaches to inspire others to as I call it “climbs an even higher mountain”.
Without giving away all of your secrets can you explain how to create a “White Belt” trainer environment?
First create and offer a class that will be offered to seasoned trainers who want to get better to be held just once a year for these top trainers to collaborate and learn from each other. Your “White Belt” leaders will immerge here. Assign them to be what I call a “Yoda”. These “Yoda’s” embody the “White Belt Mentality”. Offer them learning and training opportunities from a Master Yoda. They then will observe the trainers and gather specific positive feedback based on what they see, hear and feel while observing the trainer in the classroom to build awareness for the trainer about their strengths. A great trainer is aware of their strengths and uses them to further the learning of their audience every time. This is very powerful knowledge that gets overlooked and sometimes, when there is not awareness about strengths, there are many missed learning opportunities and atrophy can occur.
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How do trainers feel about the “White Belt” approach?
Most trainers I have worked with have a lifelong passion for learning. This love of learning is actually the key to cultivating and maintaining an appreciation for “White Belt Mentality” vs. a black belt mentality. The “Black Belt Mentality” focuses on a finite “mastery” point, or a finish line. It has an air of “Ok, now that I have mastered this subject, I can train on this subject”. And herein lies a big problem, most trainers love to learn. With this “Black Belt Mentality”, learning ends and this is where what I call “trainer-drain” begins. Boredom can set it. Learning decreases. With the White Belt mentality, the learning is always going to be a part of the process and I see trainers with amazing energy, focus and motivation spring forward. It prevents anyone from getting stuck in a rut. Staying with what you know is comfortable but you do not grow.
What does a “White Belt ”trainer embody?
An excitement for learning. There’s a strong appreciation for always having “A new mountain to climb”. It’s seeking out the best techniques, coaches, and mentors. They thrive being the learners too. You allow them to learn how to fly higher in ways authentic to who they are as individuals by implementing a program that embraces and rewards the white belt. The best only get better because of habits like getting a coach. At the end of the day, seeking the “White Belt” mentality is a personal choice and depends on internal motivations based on WHY a person is a trainer, WHAT their goals are for themselves and the people they teach and WHO they want to be as a trainer.
3 Ways to Encourage White Belt Mentality:
1) Find strengths and ensure that strengths are being utilized so they stay powerful.
2) Identify the next mountain to climb.
3) Look for authentic ways to soar above where you have been.
I’ll add that I love coaching and working with-in groups of advanced “white-belts”. It’s amazing when “white-belts” get together to problem solve. They can amaze themselves and have new found love for training. Enjoy training more; cure trainer burnout!
So what are your thoughts about cultivating a “White Belt Mentality”?
How do you keep you white belt mentality for yourself, encourage it or recognize it in others at your organization?
Let us know and post your comments on our Facebook page.