By Bob Pike
A while back, “Julie,” a graduate of one of my creative training boot camps and a contract trainer with 10 years’ experience, was just starting a five-day class for 25 seasoned male supervisors. As she started, they all sat with arms crossed as if to say, “Go ahead—try to teach me something!” If you were in her shoes, what would you do? Think about it for a second—really—what would you do?
Julie began with one of the techniques I taught during class. “I’d like you to get in groups of four and brainstorm 18 reasons you shouldn’t be here,” she began. Now, what usually happens is people go to work right away venting their negative emotions and making long lists, many of them filled with silly reasons, along with some valid reasons. But not that day. Instead, one guy in the back of the room said, “Why? There’s only one.” And then dead silence. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work.
Julie remembered something else I’d said, something I learned in a counseling class long ago. “Name the secret, and you release the energy.” So she said, “And what would that be?”
The response was, “You don’t know?”
She said, “I’m sorry, but, no, I don’t.”
“So no one told you we’ve all been laid off as of this coming Friday?” was the reply.
So what would you do with five days looming and a very tough audience?
Create a C-I-O Environment
A difficult participant is anyone who in some way negatively impacts the learning environment— either for others or for themselves. In the research we did for our book, “Dealing with Difficult Participants,” Dave Arch and I identified 15 different types of difficult participants—and 127 strategies for dealing with them. Some of the most common are: The Know-It-All, the Latecomer, the Elder, the Preoccupied, the Skeptic, the Prisoner, and the Socializer.
As trainers, we have two goals in dealing with any “resistor” to training: to either get them on board or minimize their disruption to the learning process for everyone else. People entering any social environment (including training) want C-I-O, according to Will Schutz:
Knowing this enabled Julie to create an on-the-fly solution. She said, “By contract I have to teach the content of this course, which I understand, at the moment, does not have a whole lot of value for you. But I do have flexibility in how I teach. So what if we cover each module, and, at the end, we spend time focusing on how to use what we’ve learned to better position ourselves for job search, improve resumes, etc.? That way you spend this week equipping yourselves for what’s next. Wouldn’t that be a better use of your time than working your regular job for the next five days?”
It worked, and so did the class. The easiest way to deal with difficult participants is to set yourself up for success—to create a room environment that encourages participation, to have the group set standards and norms they own that will guide behavior. This will eliminate 90 percent of difficult behaviors. Nine percent of the other 10 percent usually can be handled unobtrusively. You’ve dealt with the behavior and no one even notices—even the resistor. The last 1 percent needs “in-the-face” intervention, but my experience is that when you handle the 99 percent, even the 1 percent disappears. Until next time—add value and make a difference!
Do you have a question you’d like Bob to answer in a future Trainer Talk column or a trend you’d like him to discuss? Just drop him an e-mail at BPike@BobPikeGroup.com.
Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “Trainer’s Trainer.” He is author of the best-selling train-the-trainer book, “The Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” He’s also the founder/editor of the Creative Training Techniques newsletter.