Corporate Trainers and Training Programs

May 9, 2014 by Gene Jones

In a recent discussion on Linkedin, one of the group questions got my juices flowing.

The question was:

 What makes a training program great….is it the trainer, or the program itself?

Such a provocative question brings up visions of the eternal chicken or egg theory of evolution, only in this case, there is a clear winner. While both the chicken and the egg have strong arguments, neither has ever been able to establish a definitive claim on pre-dating the other. Not so in the debate between Trainer and Program.

After eating some scrambled eggs for breakfast, my overly dramatic imagination began to visualize a bout between the Trainer and the Program.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the marquis for the championship fight:

          Trainer vs. Program.

This conjured up the vision of a championship boxing ring surrounded by an arena full of ravenous fight fans thirsting for blood.  While intriguing, that image offered little insight into this particular debate, so I changed to visualizing the Program as an automobile, and the Trainer as a driver. There is no question that a good car is better than a bad car, and that a good driver is better than a bad driver….the validity of both those statements are quite obvious.

But what happens when a bad driver operates a good car?  – The car falls victim to its driver.

Reversing circumstances, what happens when an exceptional driver operates a mediocre car?

-A great driver can make a bad car work better.

Taking this analogy a bit farther, let’s race two cars around the Brickyard, which is home of the Indianapolis 500, in a winner-take-all race. This is a high speed, high-pressure situation. At the pole position is an inexperienced driver in a world-class racecar. The second car is a revved up Volkswagen Beetle driven by a highly ranked Nascar driver.  Who do you favor?  In actuality, the most likely scenario is that the inexperienced driver will end up hitting the wall and the skillfully guided Volkswagen will finish, thereby winning the race.

It’s the same scenario with training programs. As mentioned, the Program is a car and the Trainer is its driver. Good programs can be driven into the wall by ineffective trainers, and mediocre programs can be guided to greatness by a skillful trainer.  The key component to any program is its leader.

Leadership is more important than any other element of a training program. That is because a great trainer will change the program in midstream if it is not working. Great trainers do not allow failure. They adapt, as they can intuitively sense what their participants and clients need. Great trainers transcend their material while inspiring superior performance from those they work with. This is not to diminish the importance of a good program, but the content of a program is always secondary to its presentation. That is why so many wonderfully prepared programs fall flat when administered – because the presentation doesn’t match or exceed the material.

Just in case you are not yet convinced, please consider a second analogy:

In this scenario, the Trainer is a pilot, and the Program is an airplane. If you put an inexperienced pilot in the cockpit of a supersonic jet and have him race a commercial pilot in a single engine Piper, what do you think will happen?  Even if the inexperienced pilot is able to get the jet off the ground, a disastrous plane crash is most likely to occur. On the other hand, the single engine Piper will cruise along to its destination. The number of analogies to illustrate this point are extensive, ranging from racehorses & jockeys, sailboats & sailors to any human endeavor. As a result, the message is clear:

No matter how great their quality, without skillful drivers, vehicles are not stable and have little chance of succeeding.

Programs are business vehicles in need of skillful drivers.

The lesson to be gleaned for corporations is simple:  Put at least as much thought into choosing your trainers as you do for devising each program.

If you put each program in the hands of a masterful trainer, superior results will certainly follow.