I Feel Like I’m Cheating

When I was a kid in grade school, teachers stood in the front of the classroom and tried to fill our heads with volumes of the important facts, figures, and concepts that we would need to be successful in the world. Mathematical formulas, grammar rules, and specific dates of ancient battles between world powers were poured over us, and we were expected to memorize, repeat and regurgitate that “knowledge” on endless tests.

I learned that a classroom was a place where you were expected to sit quietly and focus, while an expert filled your empty head with things that mattered that you did not yet know.

Spoiler alert--this is not the way of the Amazing Trainer! (And thank goodness it is no longer the way of most teachers!)

Your trainees are NOT empty vessels awaiting your wisdom and knowledge. They are whole, complete, and resourceful people with wide ranges of experience that you should be leveraging as you assist them in their learning.

The way of the Amazing Trainer is to be a catalyst and a facilitator. You simply create the parameters and conditions for learning, and your trainees bring their own knowledge and experience to the table. This powerful blend creates real transformation!

But as a trainer, I still sometimes fall prey to the notion that I have to provide everything. Just the other day I was building a class for an intact work team. They want to improve their communication skills so they can achieve better outcomes as a team. I spent quite a bit of time trying to land on JUST THE RIGHT SET of communication skills that I could “hand-over” to them in the training. “If they just practice these 5 things…” I thought.

Then, luckily, I caught myself!

There I was, assuming the traditional role of “sage on the stage,” and thinking that I should be the one to provide them a list of communication practices. After all, I am a communication expert, right?


Wrong! THEY need to select their own set of communication practices!


My theoretical skills are FAR LESS IMPORTANT than the set of guidelines that they will develop, in real-time, TOGETHER, during the workshop.

Not only will they draw upon their own wisdom while developing their set of shared guidelines, the experience itself of negotiating with each other as they develop their list will aid in their ability to remember the guidelines long after the training is over.

If they do it, it will be transformative. If I do it, it can be easily forgettable.


Silly me. I almost got caught in the snare of “being the expert.”


But here’s the thing. Sometimes, I am in class, and the trainees are doing all this wonderful work, having breakthroughs, and getting excited about making meaningful change, and I am literally just sitting and watching.


I feel a little bit like I am cheating.


After all, I was raised in a classroom where the teacher was the center of the universe. If now, as a trainer, I am just a lonely little planet orbiting around the outside of the group while they are doing the heavy lifting of learning, doesn’t that mean I am cheating a little bit? Or worse, might I be irrelevant?

Pulling yourself out of the center and becoming that facilitator of dynamic learning will only happen if you’ve done a lot of hard work behind the scenes. It’s not easy to be the catalyst. It takes a lot of planning, practice, and preparation to create exercises that will allow your trainees to put their wisdom to work in service of the greater learning good.

Bottom line: as An Amazing Trainer, you will do a lot of work behind the scenes so that your trainees will be able to have meaningful and transformational experiences during your class. You won’t be at center stage, and you might sometimes feel like you are cheating by having your trainees do the heavy lifting of real learning, but you’ll have a far greater impact if you get out of the way and focus on creating the conditions for the magic of transformation to happen.



About the author:

Claire Laughlin is a communication consultant and trainer, ruthlessly dedicated to creating happy, high-energy workplaces! With 25 years of diverse workplace consulting and training experience, she brings energy, enthusiasm, and a positive perspective to every client and project. Count on Claire to help each and every person develop their leadership ability and to unleash the potential in your workplace through powerful meeting design and training programs.

Contact Claire: [email protected]


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