Training and developing employees is not easy. It takes time, energy, commitment, and a skill set that includes facilitation ability, subject matter knowledge, presentation proficiency, and passion to see people succeed.
But there is another aspect of training and development that is perhaps more critical than all those attributes combined, and that is practicing what we ask others to practice.
This means ethics trainers practice ethical behaviors. Those who teach leadership skills have tangible, validated leadership experience. Supervisory skills trainers do not live by the mantra, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Instead, they consistently model exemplary supervisory skills.
A good presenter can read about what someone else has done and share that information with others. A good academician can study theory and hypothesize predictable outcomes. A good senior executive can endorse a development program or initiative. But practicing what we preach takes more than translating from one context or perspective to another. Practicing what we preach legitimizes our instructor credentials. When employees see what they are learning being modeled by those who teach or endorse what is being taught, the likelihood of buy-in and practice increases exponentially.
The basis for buy-in is quite simple: “If I trust you, I am much more likely to follow you”. Practicing what we preach increases trust. Even if a mistake is made, part of practicing what we preach is owning the mistake, apologizing to affected stakeholders, learning and growing from it, then moving on.
Effective trainers do not model finger-pointing. External blame bias is not in their repertoire. Coasting, slacking off, wasting time, absenteeism, tardiness, taking credit for someone else’s work, etc., are never used descriptively of an effective trainer because his or her number one priority is to model what he or she asks others to model.
When evaluating training needs, an organization’s first question should not be, “Who’s available to instruct on this topic?” Rather, the first question should be, “Who is currently practicing what we want our folks to practice?”
If that person is internal and he or she happens to not be a great presenter, think creatively. Ask your facilitator to video tape a conversation with them prior to, or interview them live within an instructional context. Invite them to write a case study. Ask them to pose several creative questions. Ask them to serve on a discussion panel.
In essence – put stock in people who practice what they preach. By doing so, you will contribute to a culture of consistency and integrity.
Happy training and development!