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Strengths, Innovation and Training

September 23, 2011

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with training teams across the country and have seen many successful training programs. The one absolute truth that I walk away with each time is that while no two trainers or successful programs are identical, like the human body, the skeletal structure is the same but the finished product is unique. It is this uniqueness that brings the greatest impact to a program.

On the cover of this month’s issue of T+D Magazine is strengths-based guru and my favorite author, Marcus Buckingham, promoting his latest book StandOut: Find Your Edge, Win at Work. ASTD’s website included an excerpt from his book, in which one particular paragraph leaped off the page at me:

“An innovation is transferable only if the person you are delivering the innovation to has the same strengths as the person who created it in the first place. What is effective and authentic in the hands of one person looks forced, fake and foolish in the hands of another.”

See for full excerpt.

At Traveling Coaches, our innovative User Adoption Methodology is at the skeletal or framework level of a training program. I interpret Marcus Buckingham’s use of the word “innovation” to be how we choose to execute and operate within that framework. For instance, if I’m conducting a project kick-off session to promote user buy-in, marching in with pom-poms would look fake coming from me, yet believable and effective coming from someone else. If I have great training materials, but teach features that are obsolete to my users, user adoption simply cannot exist. How I generate enthusiasm or go about selecting training topics is the point where innovation meets methodology. We know we need to do it, but it’s how we do it that transforms a program and sets it apart.

Honing our individual training styles is essential to building a strong training program. When working in a team situation with multiple trainers across multiple offices, the goal is always to provide the same quality of training. That doesn’t mean each trainer teaches the same way. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it won’t be authentic if what you’re trying to do doesn’t come natural to you. I knew a fabulous trainer who couldn’t deliver the punch line to a joke. Her strength was patience and understanding. Her co-trainer on the other hand put people in stitches, which in turn put them at ease. Their only similarity:  they were both passionate about their work. While she admired and wanted to emulate his ability to make people laugh, she never felt at ease when she tried bringing humor into the classroom. So, although they exhibited different strengths, they were both successful and able to provide the same quality of training in the end.

Training programs are much the same. What works in one firm may not work in another. Why? Because individuals make a difference. There are three areas of focus I like to recommend to help training teams build a better program:

Know your training team. Identify what each individual’s strength are and identify how they could be leveraged in the program. If you need a little assistance in this area, Gallup’s Strengths Finder 2.0 can get you started. Maybe you’re good at coming up with new ideas, relating to people, learning new applications or knowing the best path to take to solve a problem. There are many ways in which each person’s unique combination of strengths can impact and enhance a training program.

Know your users. Visit them. Talk to them. Understand how they like to learn and what their needs are. If multiple offices exist, understand the cultural differences of the offices too. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, personal interviews and shadowing.

Know your training methodologies. Along with using our User Adoption Methodology, join industry associations such as ILTA and local legal technology groups and connect with other trainers through social networking sites to learn what they’re doing and educate yourself about Next Generation Learning.

By leveraging the strengths of each member of your training team, understanding your users and utilizing proven methodologies, you will be able to innovate and design a successful program that promotes the user adoption of new technologies.

Are you already leveraging the strengths of your training team? Share your innovative learning solutions with us at

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