They made me come…learners, tourists and prisoners

To my mind, training course delegates fall into three broad categories: learners, tourists and prisoners.

Learners attend training because they have a real desire to learn something new.

Tourists come with the idea that there may be something of interested to be gleaned from the day, so they may as well stay and see what happens.

Prisoners arrive with the attitude “They made me come.”

Learners are a delight – they will join in activities and discussions, volunteer to present back, gee up the others (as long as the prisoners are not “mood Hoovers”, sucking all the positive energy out of the group.  Tourists can be fun, and it takes little to convert them to learners if you can engage them sufficiently early in the day in something they see as relevant.  Prisoners are harder work because, even if they find themselves enjoying the course and getting something from it, they remain reluctant to admit that they are benefiting from the day.

The trick, then, is ‘inoculation’ at the outset.  Instead of expending energy trying to win over the prisoners, which is often to the detriment of the learning experience for the genuine learners, tell the delegates about the three categories at the outset and ask them to name the category which best describes them.  The fact that you have acknowledged the possibility that some are prisoners amuses them and takes the wind out of their sails.  In a strange sort of way, because you have declared that it’s possible to be a prisoner on a course lets you into their world, and they find it difficult to display the huffing, puffing, “I don’t want to be here” behaviours that you might otherwise encounter.

So, if you have any suspicion that you have prisoners on the course, let them know and you (and they) will have a better, easier day.

Call me on +44(0)161 929 4145 or email David Cotton.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Meanwhile, happy new year!

David Cotton is an independent trainer,management consultant, facilitator and speaker with vast international experience.

About davidcottonuk
I'm an international trainer, speaker and facilitator. I've worked in 4 continents and 40 countries, delivering all aspects of leadership, management and behavioural skills training to local and national government and nearly every industry sector. I've written a dozen books, and scores of journal articles.

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