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From Good to Better

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In my last blog, I told the tale of the two trainee fitness instructors, who have noticeable developed in competence and confidence in the last few weeks. I also (sometimes) have the pleasure of seeing people who I train on Train the Trainer programmes in action a few month later. They too have always gone from OK/Good to Better. But (apart from getting experience), how do you make this huge step?

The answer is (of course) in many small steps! So here are my top 5 tips for improving your training skills once you’ve taken the plunge:

  1. Look for opportunities to practice, and practice a little at a time. Our trainee instructors have been taking parts of classes with the fully qualified instructor on hand. In the workplace, be willing to run PART of a session, or do a ‘double-hander’ with a colleague. That way you always have each others back if you do freeze up.
  2. Start Easy – One of the trainee instructors has been running ‘taster’ sessions…its easier to teach those who know nothing, than old-timers like me! Another is focussing on classes she enjoys the most. When you first start training, pick a topic that you feel confident in and/or enjoy, and make sure (as much as possible) that your audience will be friendly.
  3. Ask for feedback – Whether you pick people or specifically or just ask for general feedback, find out how your session went. The chances are, it wasn’t as bad as you think. Getting constructive, specific feedback about particular parts will help you to do something differently next time.
  4. Acknowledge your mistakes, but don’t highlight or dwell on them – When they first took a class, if our trainees made a mistake, they would lose the flow, apologize and start again. We hadn’t ALWAYS noticed that things had gone wrong, but they made it obvious. Now, they acknowledge the mistake, but keep control of the group by saying things like “I was just trying to catch you out”, or “I thought we’d mix it up a bit, but if you guys want to do the same as usual, that’s fine”. They then smile, and get the routine back on track without stopping…and we smile with them. In the training room it is easy to miss bits out when you are inexperienced. Don’t stop and say “Oh, I forgot to cover X”…Instead say something like “Earlier, I was going to cover X, but as we got sidetracked by Y, so we’ll cover it now” or “I’m surprised that no-one has asked me about X. I was waiting for someone to mention it, but as you haven’t, I’ll just go through it now”. This shows that you are AWARE of your ‘mistakes’, but also gives the group the confidence that you know what you are doing.
  5. Be Positive. Take two steps forward and one step back – A personal appraisal is always important. When you are part-way round the ‘conscious competence’ cycle, it is easy to focus on what you did badly rather than what you did well. My advice is to use the 2:1 ratio…Look back and find two things that you did well and congratulate yourself on them. Then, and only then, can you look back and find one thing that (with hindsight) you would have done differently. Before you know it, you are ‘nit-picking’ with yourself and THAT’S the point when you know you have reached (and maybe gone beyond) ‘Conscious Competence’


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