CXO

Trainer's tale is full of frustration but has a happy ending

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the demands of an unreasonable training schedule? Is your supervisor in the dark about the pressures you face? Read this article about how TechRepublic member MichelleG refused to be beaten down and rose above the fray.


Do you feel like somebody else is getting rich on your blood, sweat, and tears? Can you count on one hand the number of days you haven’t had time to prep for a training class? Are you sick and tired of hearing about the bottom line? If you answered yes to these questions, you need to learn when to say when. If your company is sacrificing your health and well-being, not to mention the quality of their training, it’s time to find a new job.

You are not alone. TechRepublic member and IT trainer MichelleG tells a familiar tale of woe that I know you’ll appreciate. After reading Bruce Maples’ "Three traits of trainers who are just plain useless," Michelle wrote in to admit that she is a trainer “who has demonstrated all of those useless qualities.”

“I was aware of what I was doing, didn't like it, couldn't do much about it, and had to hide it from the students as much as I possibly could,” she wrote.

After telling Michelle’s story, we’ll give you some tips on how to get out of this situation.

How did she get into this mess?
In Michelle’s case, her company’s training department was cut by 80 percent in a mass layoff. There were three instructors left. One of them, “Guido,” was promoted to training manager. Management wanted more revenue. So, Guido increased the course load, added new technologies, and raised the prices.

“To boot, we also had to pick up the responsibility of learning and teaching new revisions and technologies, registering our own courses, preparing our own materials, and making our travel arrangements,” Michelle wrote.

Training nomad: When travel wears you down
Her situation was bad enough but got worse. Michelle had to fly to Cleveland and deliver a five-day course just after completing a week of training in London and another week in Michigan.

“When I arrived, the client had added five people to my already large 30-student class. The books were delivered to the wrong company and, after testing the software to prepare for class, I discovered that the installation was corrupt and had to be reinstalled (which takes about two hours). Midweek, the system crashed again. I was basically left to stand there and do finger puppets in front of the projector.”

Michelle came up with Plan B fast by dialing into her home office and performing demonstrations. She said she did the best she could and called it a day.

“I go to the airport for departure at the end of that dreadful week with so-so evaluations in hand. They oversold the flight, I checked in too late, and I couldn't get home until Saturday."

Enough! I have a life to live!
I don’t know her personally, but I know at this point Michelle was holding on to her sanity by a very thin thread. Yet, she faced another unbelievable week. On Monday she had to teach a three-day course. She had to attend a class on Thursday and was scheduled to teach a class on Friday about some CRM technology that she had learned the previous year but hadn’t had a chance to review.

“I was dreading Friday. I wanted the students to tell my manager what a rotten presentation I gave, how I didn't know my subject matter.… The complaints would have proved my point to my manager once and for all.”

Michelle said that she was at such a low point that she opened the refrigerator in the break room to see if there was any wine left over from a recent company party. She was so demoralized that being drunk during a class didn’t seem so terrible.

Before you start sending e-mails and posting about what a horrible instructor Michelle is, remember what she’d been through. What would drive you to the point that you didn’t care if you were standing in front of a group of students drunk? Yes, she would have been grossly out of line, but she didn’t do it.



Stand and deliver: The trainer’s code
Instead, she entered the classroom full of students who had no idea that she knows “as much about this CRM application as the user manual can provide in a quick glance.”

She took a deep breath, forced a smile, and said, ”Welcome to CRM class. This is going to be very informal. Unfortunately I don't have any handouts to give you, and I hope you don't mind that we don't believe in PowerPoint [presentations]... so I'm just going to tell you about it and demonstrate the product.”

Michelle wrote that her motto is “when the going gets tough, the trainer gets going.” And that’s exactly what she did. She plunged in and began wading through the task at hand.

“Let me ask you this. How would you feel if you knew beforehand that people were going to throw rocks at you when you walked out on stage?… And there's nothing you can do about it other than to quit or work late into the night every night.”

The only happy ending there could be
I was happy when I read the end of Michelle’s story and learned that she found a position with another training organization. And this time, her training manager “knows her stuff.”

“I've gone from Guido the ‘gotta-get-it-done-regardless’ manager to my ‘fairy godmother’ who always knows what I need to succeed.”

Making a change
Michelle didn’t say how she got her new job or how she found time to look for one. It’s not a fun or quick process. Here are a few ways to get started:
  • Professional organizations. Find a local group that meets close to your office. Go to meetings and talk to people. Find out more about the companies in your community and tell people you’re looking for a new job.
    If you travel frequently, you should consider joining a national group that has a Web site with job listings. Check out the forums on these sites for easy networking.
  • 60-minute resume update. Take an hour—even if it means losing an hour of sleep—and take the advice in Karen Cangero’s article ”Take 60 minutes to revise and revive your resume.” If this document is ready to go, you won’t have the “need to work on my resume” excuse to put off starting the search for a new job.
  • Web resources. There are lots of Web sites where you can browse job listings or post your resume. Another Karen Cangero article offers a variety of sites to explore and tips on how to use these services.
If you identified with MichelleG's plight, what sounded familiar? What skills do you think an instructor needs to succeed? If you knew you would suffer no repercussions, what would you like to say to your training manager? Write and let us know, or post your comments.

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