Want to Train Me? Involve Me.

(A brief recap for my newer followers... I'm currently living in Honduras, running a small hotel as training center and teaching hospitality management to high school students in a bi-lingual program.)

involve me

Chances are you've heard the old adage (attributed as -to name a few - a Chinese proverb, a Native American proverb, and a Ben Franklin proverb...)

Tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I'll remember. Involve me, and I'll understand. Click To Tweet

It's so simple, it's easy to forget the powerful truth behind it. With my huge handicap of not understanding 80% of what is spoken around me and to me at the hotel, I have become a case study for why this works.

A small example. Last week there was a change in the way our credit card transactions were processed. It was a small change having to do with entering the tax amount. Unfortunately, my co-worker decided to share this news with me just as I was about to process a transaction for an organization that is normally tax-exempt, although this transaction was not. He told me about the change, but with my limited Spanish, I thought he was reminding me to remove the tax for the group. Cue the painful exchange of me insisting this transaction was supposed to have tax (con impuesto! con impuesto!) and him telling me how to process it using a new procedure I didn't know existed.


Imagine how differently that would have turned out had he just asked if he could demonstrate the new procedure instead of telling me how to do it. Imagine again how much better off I would have been had he taken the time to involve me by explaining the change during a slow period, instead of when I was trying to get our client taken care of and on her way.

When the "telling" for all intents and purposes does not exist, the "showing" and the "involving" become vital.

Stop and think about your training method. Do you perform "informational hit-and-runs?" Do you think because told someone how to do something, you've trained them? I think back to the hundreds of conversations I've had with frustrated General Managers who don't understand why their line employees and leaders don't do what they're told. My questions were always, "Have you shown them? Have you involved them? Have you explained the 'why' behind the 'what'?"

A few weeks ago I taught night audit procedures to our 11th grade. It's a dry topic and after reviewing some critical terms, we went straight to case studies. The relief in the room was palpable. By doing, they were understanding far more quickly than had stopped after telling them the process or after demonstrating it on the white board.

This reminds me of a favorite acronym from Anne Lamott: WAIT - Why Am I Talking? If you find yourself doing most of the talking during a training session, you're doing it wrong. Telling ain’t training. We are visual beings, so much of our communication is absorbed through our eyes. But it's the involvement that really makes it stick. How many times has someone driven you to a location but you can’t recall how to get there — but if you drove there yourself you could?

Coach your students and employees as they try it themselves. Develop good questions that help them make connections on their own. Revisit after they've had some time to put the skill or knowledge into practice.

At the end of the school year I asked each of my classes what parts they enjoyed the most. No surprise is that it was the practical work at the hotel. They understood why diplomatic communication was so important when they had a cranky guest. They understood why safety was so important after they dropped a tray of glasses. They understood why room cleanliness was so important after they read their first TripAdvisor reviews from guests they assisted.

Involve your students and they will understand.

Comments are closed.