Whether you are Training the Trainer, coaching the coach, mentoring the mentor, or just simply trying to build a relationship with a friend, in the end, your success comes down to two things: your ability to communicate with them and their willingness to listen to you.
Aristotle, over 2 thousand years ago, identified 3 separate elements in the communication process: the Speaker, the Audience and the Speech.
In Training this can be easily mapped across to the Trainer, the Students and the Subject; or more simply: You, Them and It.
A successful outcome, whether in the training room, or in a friendly discussion, requires constant awareness of how those three elements relate to each other, and how they can shift.
Every new situation is slightly different and requires a different blend of those 3 elements.
This is why the greatest enemy to becoming an exceptional communicator is complacency - casually assuming what worked yesterday automatically works again today. Washing once does not make you clean forever - working with people has its own hygiene issues, which constantly require your ongoing attention. The day you think you have mastered communication is the day when you need to take a proper bath.
Our tendency is to overcomplicate matters and by simply recognising that each training session is made up of those 3 elements: You, Them and It should immediately cut through a mass of detail and make preparation a lot clearer and more straightforward. On every occasion, to fully engage your students from the opening of your training session, you probably need to refer to all three of these elements. However, on some days you realise that one of those three elements is probably more significant to winning the engagement of your students than the other two.
So for instance on some days, as you introduce the training programme, you realise you need to put an extra emphasis on You: the Trainer, so they fully understand: why they should listen to you; what relevant qualifications and you have and the amount of real-life experience you offer.
On other days the focus may need to be more on Them: the Students: how the training is relevant to them; the benefits from it and maybe even to help them understand why they are there in the first place. And on other days you realise that in order to gain their full attention you need to put more focus on It: The Subject: the depth of analysis and research that created the content; the sources and expert materials; the practical examples of proven success discussed.
A successful training outcome is when all three of those elements line up and the student walks out thinking: ‘I appreciate the significance of the training, I have learnt something that I can use, and I believe it’s come from a credible source.’
This means that your first job as a trainer is to answer 3 very basic and specific questions that will be at the back of every student’s mind at the beginning of the day:
‘Why am I here?’ (That will be about IT)
‘What’s in it for me?’ (That will be about THEM)
‘Why am I listening to you?’ (That will be about YOU)
Those of you who studied mythology will remember the story of Odysseus. After wandering for many years, he finally makes it home to his wife Penelope, who despite all the passing of time has waited patiently for his return. She is besieged every day by suitors vying for her hand in marriage, each of them trying to gradually wear her down with the insistence that Odysseus must be long dead.
However, when Odysseus returns in disguise, he still needs to prove who he really is by accomplishing a challenge that only he, the true Odysseus, would have the skill and strength to achieve.
A line of axe heads is set up so that the openings where the axe handles fit in are aligned. The test of skill and strength is to shoot an arrow with sufficient power and accuracy so that it can travel through each of the axe heads and pierce the target at the end of the room: a task which, of course, Odysseus achieves.
Why am I telling you that?
Only when the axe heads are perfectly aligned is there a clear pathway for the arrow to pass successfully through from one end to the other.
It is the same as You, Them and It.
Only when they are perfectly aligned can the speaker’s intended meaning pass through the medium of the message and be fully received at the other end by the listener:
If you lack credibility, it ruins the alignment and the message will not get through;
(I don’t believe in YOU)
Coming across too strongly ruins the alignment and the message will not get through;
(I don’t think I like YOU)
A poorly structured or unformulated message will ruin the alignment and the message will not get through; (I don’t see the point of IT)
Presenting a solution that lacks credibility ruins the alignment and the message will not get through (I don’t trust in IT)
Having content that seems irrelevant or impractical ruins the alignment and the message will not get through; (I don’t see how this is relevant to ME)
Having a hostile, inattentive, suspicious or reluctant student totally ruins the alignment and the message will not get through. (I don’t see the point of IT, I am not that impressed with YOU and I certainly don’t see how this is relevant to ME).
Until each and all of those objections are removed, there is little point in starting to deliver your training.
Our job is simple- we need to line up those 3 elements of You, Them and It (or trainer, student and subject) in such a way that we’re sure that not only is our message well-prepared and well-sent, but also, most importantly, it is capable of being well-received.
And to do that we need to focus on clearly answering those 3 questions.