Seek First to Understand Then Kick Some Butt

Seek First to Understand Then Kick Some Butt is an article that focuses on trying to get trainers to understand their trainees.

In these days of extreme political correctness, it is hard for us trainers to define where the line is drawn between accommodating and offending. I can still recall a perfectly wonderful train the trainer program I was delivering in Kansas City MO., and completely ruining it by letting slip a reference to that place of fire and brimstone where the Prince of Darkness dwells.

It was business guru Stephen R. Covey who coined the phrase “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; a philosophy by which I try to live my life by not to mention deliver training programs by.

I have learned that in most cases, if you take the time to find out why a particular trainee is behaving poorly you can learn a great deal about what is motivating the said behavior and in so doing, diffuse the problem. I have also learned that some people are simply rude, boorish buffoons who simply relish attention regardless of how they go about getting it.

By and large, trainers are typically taught to make every effort to accommodate their trainees regardless of what the motivation for their behavior is. A sound and proper practice but there are only so many hours in the training day. Once you determined that the only issues that seem to be motivating poor behavior is a bad attitude or abrasive personality, and that there is no indication that the behavior will end, your going to have to get rid them.

Of course, we must always attend to trainees with all due respect. By keeping our voices down, discussing things in private and observing Mr. Covey’s aforementioned mantra we can ensure that everyone’s dignity is kept in tact and sometimes just that show of respect alone can bring an otherwise wayward trainee around. However, at the end of the day, trainees must be made to understand that disruptive behavior will not be tolerated, for any reason. If the motivation for the behavior is due to any number of unfortunate circumstances (ie. death, illness, family issues, etc.) then it may be wise to reschedule the training for the affected trainee. If, on the other hand, the reasons are due to less significant circumstances trainees should be given the choice between staying under your terms, and leaving under theirs. Of course, there is one other choice, but it involves too much fire and brimstone.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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