Your title: Trainer first, manager second

If you're a training manager, what's the best way to manager your trainers?

There’s a brilliant scene in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Graham Chapman is standing in a window with a multitude of people on the street below hanging on his every word. They mistakenly think he is the Messiah. He yells out, “You must learn to think for yourselves!” To which they reply, “Yes! Yes! Tell us more!” Some managers secretly pine for this type of scenario. (I personally know three.) Others take a more even approach.

When I speak with other training managers, I often see the managerial side take over, leaving the training side to flounder. Look at your title: training manager. Which word comes first?

Remember when you began as a trainer? How did you learn? Didn’t your students learn the content in a variety of ways? Remember, you adapted your teaching methods, conducting each particular class in the style of learning demonstrated by the majority of students.

Your trainers are like those students. Allow those trainers the freedom to learn it their way. Some may learn better by the book. Some catch on by example. Some may cram the way we did in college. They do need to know the material, but what is gained by forcing them to learn it your way? Trainers are generally more independent workers, and your management style should reflect their independence.

Keep their non-training hours as flexible as possible. Meetings should be brief and to the point. Discipline should be fast and fair. Here’s an example: You have five trainers. One is a visual learner, two cram, one prefers reading the software manual, and one needs a structured environment. This scenario dictates that a “training day” for the trainers may not be the best solution for training them.

A better solution may be to give the trainers who cram and the software manual reader an uninterrupted day together. Put the visual learner and the one preferring a structured environment in a class. While schedules often prohibit this scenario, attempts to accommodate the variety of learning styles should command a high priority.

Now the manager side. We all face deadlines, sick calls, paperwork, schedules, phone calls, paperwork, meetings, and more paperwork. This is often necessary, and I don’t mean to make light of this. (Yes, I do) We don’t realize it, but the business manager attitude is seeping into our subconscious. Initial warning signs might include a slight neglect of the bottom line—the customer.

Here’s an example: All of a sudden your meetings with the trainers become longer. Why? Ask yourself, “Do they really need this information now or can I e-mail them?” As soon as meetings become longer, trainers may believe you’re losing focus, and a loss of respect may not be far behind. Don’t try to increase respect by instituting more rules. This is business manager attitude’s number one answer to a problem. Instead, focus on keeping the trainers trained and happy. That is most of what’s required to keep the customer happy. Remember them? The customer? The bottom line? Maintain focus on the bottom line, and the manager part of your job will be fine.

When it all evens out, allowing trainers the freedom to learn their way also allows them to maintain their personality, a powerful, often underutilized tool. They respect the freedom they are given while learning and will be more willing to accept other policies they may feel are unnecessary. You will be rewarded by a more loyal, effective, lively group. And that’s a group that is a pleasure to manage. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a meeting.

Schoun Regan is the director of training at the Mac Group, a research and development, consulting, and training firm. To comment on this article, send us an e-mail .

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox