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Article No.: 09-8

Article Title: How to Develop your EQ as a Trainer

Authors: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC & Sheri Caldwell, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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With emotions being an absolutely necessary component of one’s being, it is critical for the skilled trainer to be able to measure, learn and then develop emotional intelligence.  Using these emotional competencies in a classroom setting or work environment, for that matter, will allow the emotionally intelligent trainer to better listen and assess a situation, to dig deeper and decide accordingly, to take action and ultimately succeed.

While this is not an easy process, it can apply to almost every facet of your life and is worth developing.

The Build-A-Bear Concept

Think about your favorite Trainer.  Why does this person come to mind?  Did s/he make a considerable impression upon you?  Did s/he really know his/her material and leave you with something you can apply elsewhere?  If not, did this trainer at least leave you with an extra “spring in your step” after speaking?  Did s/he make you laugh, cry, smile, or just think?

The point is, each person will remember someone different and for a different reason.  There is not one best way to train.  It depends.  There isn’t one right way to train.  It depends.  Each trainer will have their own unique characteristics that will appeal to different participants, differently.  Just like the long line of kids waiting patiently to build their bear.  Each one will choose different components to make their bear special, and most likely, no two bears will ever be the same.

“Building” your Trainer

So, what components do you want your ideal trainer to have?  If you’re already a trainer, you might already have some of the competencies we’ve previously discussed.  Perhaps you already possess excellent listening skills, but you need to build your management skills.  Or, perhaps you’re a superb leader, but your emotional skills need refined.

You’ve come to the right place.  Acceptance is the first step, and you’ve recognized you need assistance or at least refinement.  After all, we can always improve.  So, you’re reading the right book.

Former football coach, motivational speaker and author, Lou Holtz, wrote a book entitled, Do the Right Thing. In this book, Coach Holtz discusses the fact that you don’t have to be the best or smartest at something in order to manage it. Often times the technical competence can be outweighed by “doing the right thing.” That’s the difference between a leader and a manager.  James Kouzes and Barry Posner, leadership gurus, write about five keys to success as a leader. These include:

  1. modeling how you want others to act on your values,
  2. inspiring a shared vision,
  3. challenging the usual processes for getting things done by searching for opportunities to innovate,
  4. enabling others to act by fostering collaboration and sharing power, and
  5. encouraging the heart, by which they mean recognizing the contributions of others and creating a spirit of community” (source).

You hear stories about teams who were the underdog and came from behind to win.  Almost always there is a story about a player or coach who led the team to victory.  Going back to Coach Holtz; he was in a position numerous times to play in the big game.  His teams were normally not the favorite.  Yet, when the players are asked how they did it, they say it was Coach Holtz’s inspiration.  He led by example and motivated the team by telling them that others didn’t feel they should be playing in the big game.  He challenged them to get beyond the naysayers and to make them believe in themselves.  You can’t accomplish things like this without emotional intelligence.

Just the Facts

Trainers will face a myriad of situations where emotional competencies will be required.  While it seems pretty black and white, and you just do what you’re told, the effective trainer will take into consideration others’ opinions and perspectives.  Now, that being said, the trainer must also realize that “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”  So, accepting that you can only do your best to please the majority will allow you to be open to feedback, yet cautious of the difference between the facts and the emotions.

Remember, the Trainer has to buy into why s/he is there and convince the participants that the session/message is worthwhile.

If you Build it, they will Come

Getting everyone’s buy-in and ensuring that they are on the same page is critical to having a successful training.  If the trainer doesn’t believe in being there, surely the participants won’t believe either.  If the President/CEO doesn’t participate, his/her managers won’t see why they need to attend, hence the ripple effect. 

Training is a misunderstood field, often viewed as a necessary evil. This attitude can permeate not only throughout a training session, but also through an entire organization.  

So, motivation is one of the key components to developing the emotionally intelligent trainer.  Understanding that everyone is motivated differently is the first step. Getting their buy in early on is one of the best ways to ensure their participation and acceptance. Then, when setbacks occur, which they usually do, the team is prepared to overcome any roadblocks along the way.

For example, not too long ago, Sheri was coordinating a training session for an employer.  It was in a union environment, so the participants were not motivated to attend.  It didn’t impact their pay, and even if the training were made mandatory, those not showing up would not be punished, as they could just grieve any disciplinary action.  So, instead of requiring all employees to attend, just the salaried employees were required to attend.  Now, the union employees thought the salaried employees were getting something extra, so they wanted it too.  They “bought” into the training topic and asked to attend.

Once built, you need to “advertise” or properly communicate the plan.  Without communication, people won’t know about your training.

In that same example from above, now that the union stewards wanted to attend, we needed to tell the other union employees more about the training, providing some examples from the class, sharing evaluation comments from those who attended, and offering multiple sessions in order to meet everyone’s schedule.  Since not everyone regularly checks their e-mail at this organization, we not only sent an e-mail for those that did check their accounts, but we also posted the notice of the upcoming training by their time clocks and in the lunch and break areas, as that was sure to get their attention.  Their anticipation grew, and they gladly attended the training that they normally would have avoided or at least complained about.

Just like with motivation, communication is also a very complex task.  Not everyone will receive and/or retain communication in the same way.  The key, just like w/ motivation, is to try different things.  You may want to verbally announce an upcoming training session, followed by an e-mail that is then posted in common areas (break room, lunch room, rest rooms, etc.)  Each method will be interpreted in a different manner.  One will be observed and interpreted differently, one will imply a tone, and another may leave it to the reader’s imagination.  Much of this perception depends on the trust of the “sender.”  People tend to read less into a message when they trust the person delivering the communication. 

Since emotions are a part of every interaction, your relationship with the receiver will be a key factor in how the message is interpreted.  If this is someone you just met, the connection may or may not exist and instead may be impacted by hearsay.  Just like the Kindergarten teacher who were told half the classroom was bright and the other half needed attention.  The self-fulfilling prophecy was indeed in full force.  The teacher treated her students differently depending on what she was told without having actually experiencing it herself. 

The same is true with trust. As you grow to know the person, a relationship develops as will your allotment of trust. So, in order to instill trust, you will have to learn the person’s “hot buttons.” Knowing when to stay away or when to dig deeper will allow you to become more aware of the situation. Timing is everything. The same holds true with accepting responsibility. Instead of pointing the finger at others, your willingness to acknowledge that you could have responded differently, accepting blame or perhaps even the fact that you may be misinterpreting the situation will show the other person that you’re not trying to be threatening and that you want to address the emotional involvement and be on the same page.

Walk the Talk

Okay, so you’re modeling how you want others to act, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the status quo, fostering collaboration and sharing power, and recognizing others’ accomplishments, basically “doing right.”   So now what?

Knowing what to do isn’t enough.  Becoming a change agent is the next step.  You may recognize all the important characteristics of emotional intelligence and may be fully developed as a trainer, but until action is taken, you’re still “out in left field.” 

This mindset is a risky one.  There’s always danger involved with risk.  From the trainer’s perspective, identifying the need for change is critical and realizing what the obstacles to the required change are essential.  Sensing a problem calls for action.  Finding a resolution is where you become a hero and show how you can effectively tap into your emotional intelligence.

Think about the company who has a poor performer.  The manager wants to save the person, as it’s time-consuming enough to have to find a replacement.  Plus, the cost of turnover is already high, so it’s in the best interest of the company to put together an action plan to “save” or turn around the poor performance.  Same holds true for the trainer.  Use your emotional skills to assess the situation and determine alternatives.  What needs to be done?  What are the consequences if something isn’t done?  Anticipating the reactions of those involved, as well as those not involved is also required.

Put the plan together, present it, and make it happen by living it and “walking the talk.” 

Do Your Best

Once you understand your role as trainer and the importance of being a change agent in making things happen whether in the classroom or for your organization, you will have come to grips with accepting who you are, what you’re capable of and what in turn you’re going to act upon.

To become more personally competent, you need to become more aware of your own feelings, not only recognizing them, but naming them.  Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Shame are the five core emotions.  One can name the emotion by paying better attention to the physical signs that accompany a feeling.  Because you’re developing your emotional competencies, it’s okay to make a mistake.  As with any skill, practice makes perfect, and mistakes are allowed.  In fact, we learn from mistakes.  Practicing allows us to better identify and utilize emotions to our advantage.

Use your friends and family and even close colleagues.  Ask them to help you identify your “hot buttons.”  Accept their feedback and look for it in upcoming interactions.  For example, Sheri had a professor once tell her that she didn’t accept compliments.  He said it’s okay to say thank you vs. telling him that he was wrong for giving the compliment.  I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about, but instead of telling him that I didn’t do that, I started to pay attention to when I received compliments.  Sure enough, I would tend to say, “Oh, not really” or “It wasn’t me, " or something other than thank you.  From that day on, she learned how to accept a compliment. 

The reverse is also true.  Think about the popular television show, American Idol.  Simon Cowell is known for being rude and obnoxious.  Often times what he’s saying is true, but it’s how he says it.  The emotionally intelligent contestant accepts his criticism and also says thank you, acknowledging that he’s entitled to his opinion.  Again, everyone is different, and that’s what makes the world go around.

So, to fully develop your emotional intelligence, write down those behaviors that allow your emotions to get the best of you and then confront them.  If it’s allowing someone to leave a nasty phone message, instead of respond via the phone, confront the person face to face.  Tell them how upsetting the phone message was, and how important it is to you to get the issue resolved.  Often times the person leaving the message is more a coward than you, which is why s/he left the message in the first place.  (Hint:  check the time of the message.  If it was after hours or at a time the caller knew you wouldn’t be there, you will have the upper hand if you address the situation in person).

Now, practicing such scenarios will not mirror reality in that you will not have time to practice when confronted in real life.  You will need to respond in the spur of the moment.  However, your practice will enable you to think more quickly on your feet and with time, your responses will become natural.

You can also clarify what you think the person is feeling.  In the phone message example, you could ask, “So what you’re saying is that you’re upset the order is late?”  The person may come out and tell you that it wasn’t the timing as much as the price.  Now you’re getting somewhere.  Not only does it help you avoid misinterpreting their emotion, it also shows them that you’re paying attention and that you want to help resolve the issue.  That, in and of itself, can go a long way.

As Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, remember that you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” 

Think about these numbers:  “people experience an average of 27 emotions each waking hour.  With nearly 17 waking hours each day, you have about 456 emotional experiences from the time you get up until the time you go to bed.  This means that more than 3,000 emotional reactions guide you through each week and more than 150,000 each year!  Of all the emotions you will experience in your lifetime, nearly two million of them will happen during working hours.  It’s no wonder that people who manage emotions well are easier to work with and more likely to achieve what they set out to do (Bradbery & Greaves, 2005).

If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Dr. Gravett by telephone at 513-753-8870.

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