How many times have you given or participated in a training that gets derailed partway through because of a sudden debate among the class regarding definitions? “To me that’s not what a leader is.” “I don’t really look at customer service in that way.” If you’re the trainer or a passive trainee, you undoubtedly look at your watch and think, “Oh man, we’re never gonna get of here on time now! And I’ve got those Blackhawks tickets for tonight!”
Whenever I start a new training, the material opens with an exercise that initiates a discussion of terms intrinsic to the course. We use this discussion to introduce the definitions we’ll be using in the course for these terms; ergo, the training never gets derailed over definitions.
As a trainer or instructional designer, you must control training at all times. Setting expectations regarding definitions is a must; however, it’s best for you to use an exercise to help the trainees self-discover rather than simply tell them the definitions. If the instructional designer fails to provide definitions, the trainer should. Be certain your definitions are both simple and airtight–applicable in every scenario.
Following, are some examples:
Leader. It’s astounding how many leadership training and development programs never bother to define leader, especially considering that even the experts differ on its meaning. Peter Drucker defined a leader as “Someone who has followers,” while John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence — nothing more — nothing less.” The Free Dictionary defines leader as “One who is in charge or command of others.” Man, it’s easy to have a debate over “leader” with all these definitions flying around! I begin all leadership training or coaching by having the participants name people they deem leaders and list the traits they believe make these people leaders in a table. We land on the definition of leader as “Someone who gets others to do what’s best for their team.”
Here are some other key definitions I coined that you can use (I ask that you please credit properly, of course). I leave it to you to create your own exercises; however, feel to reach out to me for the ones I created and use, should you wish.
Manager – Someone responsible for a team’s productivity.
Good Employee – An employee who does what’s best for his or her team.
Customer Service – Doing what’s best for the customer (unless you work in government, in which case I’m not sure what it is…).
Remember to ALWAYS define key terms at the onset of your trainings and materials–it goes a long way to maintaining control, as well as clarifying the goals of the training. Keep your definitions SIMPLE and AIRTIGHT–they must be applicable in any scenario. Happy creating!