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An opinion piece by one of the most experienced intercultural trainers in the UK – Adrian Pilbeam of LTS in Bath
A recent SIETAR UK professional development event run by Cathy Wellings and me was on the theme of ‘Developing your career as an intercultural trainer’. About 30 trainers of varied experience attended. We started with a group activity organised around the responses to four questions. The first was ‘What knowledge, skills and experience do intercultural trainers need?’ The answers included knowledge and experience of other cultures, knowledge about the intercultural field, skills to be able to design and deliver intercultural training, and skills as a facilitator and trainer. A second question was ‘What practical steps can you take to improve your knowledge, skills and experience?’ In terms of knowledge and skills, attending training courses and workshops was one of the responses.
For trainers with only limited experience as intercultural trainers, often coming from fields such as foreign language or management communication training, attending a structured train the trainer course should equip them with the necessary tools to begin to be able to plan and deliver a range of intercultural courses, The alternative is attending talks and short workshop sessions spread over months and even years, picking up information and ideas in a rather piecemeal fashion.
Firstly there should be an overview and review of some of the key concepts about intercultural communication – what we understand by culture, the effects of perceptions and stereotypes, different cultural values and practices, and some of the key theories. But what is important is that these concepts should be introduced in an engaging and interactive way, using a variety of activities and exercises that the participants can later use themselves in their future courses.
A second important component is to become familiar with, try out and practise using a wide range of activities and exercises – simulations, role plays, critical incidents, case studies, group and pair work exercises, use of video/DVD/YouTube clips, and the use of artefacts and realia. They need to know when to use them, how to set them up and how to debrief them.
Finally, they need to know how to combine concepts and activities into a course, which means they need to know how to analyse a client’s needs, and then go on to design an appropriate course and deliver it in an an appropriate style.
When I started out as an intercultural trainer, it took me quite a few years picking up ideas and techniques in a very piecemeal fashion, which is why ten years ago I decided to offer a structured train the trainer course to shorten and compress the learning process. The result is a 5-day course called ‘Developing intercultural training skills’ that we have now run more than 60 times, as well as a more advanced, follow-up course called ‘Designing and delivering intercultural training’. For more details, see www.lts-training.com/ICTTcourse.htm or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrian Pilbeam, Author, Trainer and Trainer of Trainers
A light-hearted summer article (please choose not to be offended by any of the content. We have all behaved like this at least once at some stage in our training and coaching careers!)
Falling on Deaf Ears – we trainers are in a trusted position sat in the training room in front of sometimes vulnerable delegates. Our job is to gradually encourage them to open up like delicate flowers and tell us their thoughts fears and doubts.
Is it then bizarre for a coach or trainer to have successfully qualified in the training process and become a content expert as well BUT to be a chronically poor listener.
Instead of an impressive demonstration of fully empathic active listening, trainer competes for the prize of being right. He itches to insert his next personal story or opinion into the conversation, or, to survey the world from an ivory tower of knowing all things (The Demi-God.)
Death by presentation – a short blog post does not have the space to list all the trainer crimes committed in the name of presentation abuse.
There is the Monotonous trainer – droning on like a background radiation counter taking the participant into a soporific hell where they silently beg for lunchtime or at least the temporary release offered by a fire alarm going off.
Last year I heard of a trainer who sat at his desk and read out the wordy contents of his power point slides all day long to an increasingly frazzled audience. Luckily there were no sharp objects readily to hand and fatalities were kept to a minimum.
There are the Whisperers (the Ghost Train-ers), the Mumblers, and the Read Out the Whole Book trainers. The latter will remind you of those strange tour guides in foreign towns that are witty elegant and erudite as they bring a script to life but when challenged to deviate from the path they seem confused, annoyed or resentful.
For some, their strict upbringing has convinced them that education can never be enjoyable and the mantra “no pain no gain” is a valid teaching principle.
Finally, some groups have experienced initial delight that turns to horror as the Perennial Storyteller dips into their battered brown leather briefcase to extract another no-longer-relevant and stereotype filled family story.
Who owns the material? – There is a famous trainer who puts out content as a medina merchant promotes their carpets and rugs – the more square metres you give the customer, the happier they will be. I remember, many years ago in Paris, assisting somebody who seriously proposed starting the training day at 7 in the morning and finishing at 7 at night! As the young and enthusiastic assistant, I took my place standing to attention at the side of the training room – Like a soldier on parade – What a bad strategy. As the day went on I was surprised that no one claimed their human rights and sent off a quick appeal to Strasbourg.
Related to this is the Training Fundamentalist for whom there is only one truth. This teacher thinks they are the proprietor of the only story. Any challenger is dealt blows of withering fundamentalist insistence.
Unconscious Unconscious Bias – The children of dentists may have bad teeth. The shoemaker’s children are badly shod and Baggage Carrying trainers employed to promote international respect leak their many biases and prejudices into the classroom. A little of this last example can be endearingly human but as this ironic phenomenon accumulates the delegates soon realise that the training is smashing against the very principals aimed for on the course.
As you blush and relate to a few of the archetypes above or fill in the names of the anti-heroes you have witnessed committing training and coaching crimes let me leave you with a positive reframe told to me by one of my first and more colourful bosses;
“You can learn just as much from a bad person as from a good one.”
Wise words. We wish you a continued happy summer 😉