Farewell dear trainers
Written byon 19 March 2014
I am not sure exactly when I started writing for TJ – probably in 1998 when Training Officer was acquired by Fenman – but by then I had already been writing monthly pieces for Training Officer for some time before that. So, perhaps it comes to 20 years which, at the rate of one a month, totals something like 240 articles/blogs.
When first I started writing for trainers I had a long list of topics which kept me going for about ten years. Inevitablt, the day came when my list ran out and I was on my own. At first this was a bit scary, but as the deadline for submitting a piece loomed up, I used to reflect on my recent experiences as a trainer and, lo and behold, a piece emerged.
Now I have reached another era called, unfortunately, retirement. This means that I am busy doing things other than being a trainer and less and less of my experiences remain relevant to TJ (with the obvious caveat that they all involve learning!). So, sadly for me, if not for you, this will be my last piece for TJ.
It would be nice to finish with a flourish, with something new or profound. But of course I can’t think of anything new (is there anything actually new, or just things recycled?) and that’s why I must throw in the towel. I’m hopelessly out of touch having been a trainer in the heyday of weeklong residential courses, flip charts and overhead projectors. The colleagues who influenced me most are either dead or also retired/nearing retirement. In the former category are people like Ralph Coverdale, Reg Revans, W Edwards Deming, and Albert Ellis. In the latter category are people like Neil Rackham, Alan Mumford, Sir Christopher Ball, Sir Antony Jay and the colleagues I worked with to produce A Declaration on Learning - people like Bob Garratt, Ian Cunningham, John Burgoyne and Mike Pedler. By the way, I will happily forward you an electronic copy of the declaration if you email me. Even after all these years, I stand by every word.
If my career as a trainer was a stick of rock, it would have two words running all the way through the middle; learning and behaviour. As you must have noticed, these have been my two abiding themes in all my writing. I have been stubborn about them (a) because they do not have a sell-by date (unlike me!) and (b) because they are so damned important. Learning is quite simply the gateway to everything you might want to develop – knowledge, skills, beliefs and attitudes, the lot. Behaviour is everything you say and do and the only way you can influence anyone else. I find it impossible to imagine that human beings will ever be able to say, ‘Learning and behaviour; been there, done that. What’s next?’ Whatever technological advances there may be in the future, learning and behaviour will surely never become obsolete? Perhaps I am wrong – it will be fascinating to see.
So, if I have nothing new to offer, can I manage something profound? Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that. I think that it is easy for busy trainers (I can remember what that was like!) to lose sight of the fact that, whatever your subject matter, your primary role is to help people to learn. The trainer is responsible for creating the conditions where the likelihood that people will learn what they are supposed to learn is high. However, no matter what you do as the trainer, there are no guarantees. The responsibility for what is actually learnt belongs to the learner. Everyone has to do their own learning and most people, left to their own devises, do not do this as effectively as they might. That’s where the trainer comes in; to facilitate effective learning where what is learnt is relevant, sticks for as long as it has to and is used appropriately i.e. to make a difference for the better. How best to bring this about is endlessly intriguing – and that’s why being a trainer is such a great privilege. There is nothing more important than helping people to become effective learners.
My apologies if you don’t find this profound, but I did tell you that it was time for me to go! You can keep in touch by reading the blogs and anecdotes I put on my website www.peterhoney.org but they are about my life as a has-been, not as a trainer. Cheerio.