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3 tips for transformational training

| by Phil Wood

When asked how Marriott trains their employees to be so friendly, the immediate response was, “We don't train our people to be friendly; we just hire friendly people.”

Training can often reinforce, but it is a hard tool for transforming people. Even when it begins to bend people in new directions, they will often eventually revert to their default mode, especially during times of stress.

Unfortunately, even the best of training has its shortcomings. Two of the obvious ongoing issues are timing and effectiveness.

Consider the flight attendant who trains passengers on the proper use of the oxygen mask. Most frequent flyers can recite the training by heart, though few have ever paid attention or even had to put a mask on.

The teachable moment does not occur as the family of five hurriedly get situated in their coach seats for their flight to Orlando. Change the scenario to a trans-Atlantic flight where the crew was just informed of an engine failure, and all of a sudden the passengers are all ears.

There is also the matter of limitations. Management guru Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Ideal Team Player,contend that team players need to be smart

How much training, however, would be necessary to raise a staff member’s IQ even one point? 

Training has clear limitations and if the timing is off, it becomes nearly ineffectual. 

Yet there is a time and place for training and the following principles can make it more effective:

1. Repeat, repeat, repeat.Keep the main thing the main thing and pound it home every chance you get. James Lukose, Executive Director of Wayside Cross Ministries outside Chicago, reads to the staff the organization’s core values at every staff gathering. While it may have turned into a joke for longtime employees, they also admit that they have it memorized.

2. Focus like an arrow. As a counselor, I often attend Continuing Education Seminars. It is easy to get into a pattern of attending a seminar, learning and trying the newest approach, and then gradually reverting back to SOPs. This is also true of the pastor’s conferences, sales seminars or management training. Training should build on a firmly established philosophical foundation, leading down a straight path, not a zigzag. Keep the training within the narrow boundaries of what is important to you or your organization.

3. Be realistic. On one occasion we asked a Master’s level clinician to teach a group of church volunteers how to lead a small group . . . on one evening . . . in a one-hour session. She laughed and explained her training came from several graduate-level courses and years of experience. People properly trained learn their limitations.

While training is limited for bringing about true transformation, we can still learn from observing the One who does transform hearts.

Jesus is the perfect example in His training of the Twelve. First they watched Him, then they worked together, then He watched them. 

Over and over you see Jesus repeating this pattern with real-time instruction, correction, and encouragement sprinkled in.

Being invited to closely watch your life, or the reproducible and exemplary life of those who are skilled at living, is what will bring genuine transformation and the ultimate effectiveness in transformational training.

Photo source: istock

Phil Wood

Phil Wood pastors Fellowship Church in Carol Stream, Illinois and is director of The Wayside Center, a homeless outreach in the Chicago area.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
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