You can’t always blame others for the bad training that you have to fix. When you work with technology, your skills develop over time, and sometimes you change your mind about the best way of doing something. The question is, how do you update the old, insufficient methods you’ve passed on to your students?

One TechRepublic member was brave enough to write in and describe his personal experience with fixing bad training. The cold, hard truth was that he was the culprit. Jim M. described the situation and how he and his relationship with the user in question benefited in the long run.

“There is another aspect of this issue that can be decidedly uncomfortable to deal with; how do you approach this problem if you were the ‘predecessor’ who passed on the bad/inefficient technique? As my training and technical skills have increased, I’ve run into several situations where I discovered a user employing a poor/inefficienttechnique I had shown him very early in my learning curve.

“I’ve used some of the tips mentioned in the article, but have also had to use a ‘true confession’ method to correct situations I created. Granted, it’s nice to be able to clean up your own mess, but this can be a humbling experience!

“It can work out well, because it is much better for your credibility in the long run to ‘fess up’ and move on than to try to evade responsibility for the situation.”

This is a key point and another way to turn disaster into opportunity. When a user knows that an expert (you, the trainer) was once a beginner also, this increases the user’s confidence in his or her own abilities. And besides, humility is a good thing. We all need a little ego check from time to time.
What true confessions have you made to students or coworkers? Did it help or hurt? Would you do it again? Send us an e-mail!
Where to begin?
Sometimes the instigator of bad training is easy to find and “re-educate,” but other times you just have to stop thinking about the past and forge ahead as best you can. TechRepublic member Karen is facing a similar situation and knows firsthand about cleaning up after others.

“I have just accepted a position with a new company to ‘pick up’ where the previous trainer/analyst left off. Poor training and lack of knowledge is a huge factor in the current system. I have found, however, that worse than that is the lack of security throughout the software system by the previous controller.”

Tact, tact, and more tact
Cheryl W. said that repairing faulty training is a difficult task at best, as students can be fiercely loyal to a former instructor (being right or wrong does not matter). She said that diplomacy is usually the best tactic to use.

“I have found that demonstration by comparison and some very delicate persuasion works every time. I have also found that if you have the student perform the task the way they were taught by someone else (paying special attention to the steps involved in the procedure), and then have them complete the same procedure using your method, it usually works very successfully.

“While doing this, you must stress to the student that what you are showing him or her is an alternative method and that, out of courtesy, you would prefer that the student use your method during your class.

“Beware, however, that you, as a trainer, had better know your stuff ahead of time and be able to quickly and summarily verify your procedure to the student’s satisfaction or you could end up in a psychologically reversed situation and be hoisted by your own petard!”

Cheryl also recommends never telling a student that the other instructor is wrong. Instead, explain the situation by saying, “There are many ways to accomplish a task, and this method is an alternative to what you are currently doing.”

Honey attracts more flies …
Scott L. recommends winning students over with enthusiasm. He teaches project management and MS Project, and finds that sometimes sounding like a salesman of the feature he’s teaching really works.

“I believe that positive enthusiasm for your subject is more important than ‘I’m right’ or ‘Just do it.’”