New Year’s resolutions—a tradition that endures, Y2K or not. In my final column, I offer a list of resolutions for trainers and training managers. (If you don’t want to think of them as New Year’s resolutions, consider them your career goals for 2000.)
If you are, print this out and save it for next December, when all the contrarians are having their own millennial celebration. Just keep in mind that all the technology references will be obsolete by then.
Resolutions for trainers

  • I will thoroughly review one product I teach every quarter. Have you been stumped by a question about a product you are supposed to know? I have. Many of the courses we teach skip the same features or functions, so it’s easy to forget certain parts of an application. Even if you use the application every day, you still will forget things you don’t use. The only solution is to sit down and work through every menu choice and every Help index topic, asking yourself “Do I really know what this is and how to use it?”
  • I will learn at least one new product this year. By this, I don’t mean a new version of something you already know, but a whole new product or technology. Perhaps you need to add routers to your knowledge base, or Visual C++. Do you really understand COM, DCOM, and COM+? How about Linux?
  • I will keep up with my certification updates. Lots of talk about Win2000 and Office2000 requiring updates, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Do you know which tests are being retired? Are there any tests you have to pass to stay certified? Do you check your transcripts regularly?
  • I will read one book on teaching or training this year. It’s not enough to keep up technologically; you also need to keep improving as a teacher. Do you know anything about learning styles? How about ten methods for keeping a class alert after lunch? When should you use small groups, and when should you lecture? Can you tell a good course design from a bad one?
  • I will begin working on, or will complete, one new certification this year. No time to rest on your laurels—if you don’t keep moving, you will get left behind. Even if your current employer won’t pay for it, and doesn’t see any need for it (“We’ll always have a need for Office trainers, so why do you want your MCSE?”), don’t hesitate, get more certs.
  • I will work harder at relationships when I travel. “Out of sight, out of mind” is more than a cliche—it’s the truth. You need to go the extra mile to keep your relationships vibrant when you are traveling, and I’m not talking about grabbing an over-priced teddy bear on your way to your car…Be creative! You’re a teacher, remember?
  • I will keep my resume up-to-date with all current and possible employers and brokers. No time like the Christmas break to freshen up the resume and broadcast it again. Not looking to leave? Super—broadcast your resume to your current employer to remind your company why you are worth so much to them. The first time you hear “I didn’t know you knew Cisco routers,” you will know it was worthwhile.

Resolutions for training managers

  • I will not be penny-wise and trainer-foolish. Be smart about perks and extras. If you save a few bucks on a flight, and the trainer is one who has been good for you, look into an upgrade to first class, especially if the flight is a red-eye. Go up a grade on the car rental, especially if the trainer has to drive an hour or three each day to the training site. If you want your people to go the extra mile for you, or to be willing to jump in and help in an emergency, you’ve got to start or keep the ball rolling on your end.
  • I will upgrade my projection equipment as often as money allows. My pet peeve: lousy projection equipment in otherwise well-equipped classrooms. We’re all going blind from computers as it is. There’s no reason to accelerate the deterioration by using cheap projectors and dirty screens. I once taught a programming class with 16 students in four rows and one 19” television as the screen. Reading code at twenty-plus feet on a television was a disaster; we might as well have used flip charts.
  • If I provide refreshments, I will be sure they are fresh. Another pet peeve: coffee made by people who don’t drink it, and then left to boil away for eight hours. Same with month-old vanilla wafers. You might as well post a sign in the classroom, “We’re cheap and have no class.”
  • I will not cancel a class at the last minute. Either make the gutsy call in time to let everyone find something else to do with their time that week, or eat the loss to keep everyone happy. Trainers and students both hate being stiffed at the last minute. So don’t do it.
  • And last but not least—I will always remember that trainers and students are persons, not just commodities. Simple statement: “Love people and use things, instead of the other way around.” Do you know your trainers? If one of your staff members has a family crisis, do you want to know, or care? I’m not saying you have to be a therapist, or even a buddy. But almost every human being can sense when another person really cares versus when the other person simply wants to get something out of the relationship. If you are the latter, then you need a therapist. And if you are the former, you’re probably already doing all the things in these resolutions, and are already called “blessed” by your training staff. Congrats!

Until next year
To all who have read my humble ramblings this year: As Bartles and Jaymes used to say, “Thank you for your support.” Keep those e-mails coming, and have a safe and fulfilling New Year’s!

Bruce Maples is a writer, trainer, and consultant living in Louisville, KY, where he is getting ready to go into his Y2K bunker filled with Jolt, frozen pizza, and ten year’s worth of Reader’s Digest and Byte.

If you’d like to share some of your New Year’s resolutions, please post your comments at the bottom of this page. We’d like to hear your goals for the Year 2000.