Training in a Challenging Environment

I am a training practitioner and that means I have studied and achieved qualifications in what I do.  I continue to keep up my continued professional development by increasing my knowledge and capability all the time.

As ever, we adults learn "informally" through experience.  All experiences in the training and development environment become an arena for learning.  No more especially so when the learners are challenging.

My work in recent months has been more frequently challenging and it would be easy to quote the age old explanations such as they were "told" to attend - they were, this has been mandatory for all; or that "you don't understand", "you can't teach me about this I know it already".  I have encountered all of this and also some extremes of difficult and aggressive behaviour, some sustained and demanding, even personalised.  

Taking a step back from using the usual well learned tactics and strategies - managing myself well, adopting conscious assertive behaviour, active listening, staying in the moment, being flexible, challenging inappropriate behaviour through a learning model of feedback - I have reflected more than usual on why there have been proportionally more than usual who have found this so difficult and what can I learn about myself and what I bring to the learning environment.

I don't have a single answer for the behaviours, but it lies within both individual, team and organisation. Individuals were not prepared or focused on understanding why the learning time was important when they were so hard pressed for time and feeling stressed by their work load and daily struggles.  No one had really explained it well.  Individuals felt they were already great in their skill set so why was someone coming in and training them?  

Team work seemed lacking and work was characterised by silo working, lack of appraisals and skilled manager support and constant fire fighting.  Organisationally I encountered a lack of strategic leadership, constant senior manager changes, an invisible HR. The programme was a priority in a landscape of strategic change yet it was not part of a strategic workforce learning plan.

What to salvage out of this was that I took what people brought into the training room and worked with it; I listened and adapted to each learning group and used energy, humour and empathy to stretch everyone beyond their current level of knowledge and skill.  I used a coaching approach and used the structure of the programme flexibly.  And I insisted on adult, professional behaviour.  It didn't work with everyone; some still blasted me; some refused to join in without coaxing and patience.  

This is where proof, if needed, exists however, that "learning to learn" is one of the most important skills a human being can acquire, and that it is essential for the training practitioner. Not in a long time have I spent so much time in the moment with people, but what a time of growth and continuous learning it has brought me and, of course, equipped me with yet more tactics of challenging behaviour!