Coach Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to Understand Their Dual Role in the Training Room

August 17, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why Subject Matter Experts need guidance when asked to step into a training role.

 

“I think the biggest challenge working with subject matter experts in the training room is that they simply don’t understand their dual role. That is, of course, that of Subject Matter Expert, but also that of trainer. And once they understand that there’s a very big difference between the two, and that by wearing the trainer hat they need to provide relevance, context, and on the job application, they’re more likely to succeed. And, ultimately, they need to understand that it’s not enough just to say the words. Those words need to be heard and understood.”

Dual Role: SMEs as Trainers in the Classroom

April 4, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Association for Talent Development - TD Cover Article by Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-BogerCongratulations to Turpin Communication’s Founder, Dale Ludwig, and VP, Greg Owen-Boger, on their cover article for TD Magazine, which is published by the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Read the full article, published April 1, 2016 at TD.org.

The article is also available as a podcast.

 



Update May 2, 2016

View a webcast about this article. TD Magazine: 5 Ways to Help SMEs Facilitate Learning

 

Also… Read what Paula Ketter, Publisher, says in her editor’s note.

The cover article in this month’s issue stirs up some great debate in the world of workplace training: Subject matter experts as trainers or talent development professionals as trainers? There is no right or wrong answer, but there are some critical best practices that should be followed if you’re thinking about using SMEs to bring your content to life.

According to authors Greg Owen-Boger and Dale Ludwig, reliance on SMEs to be facilitators in the classroom “brings risk. Although they want to do well in the classroom, it is an environment outside their expertise. SMEs often do not understand that the delivery of information does not equal learning transfer.”

 

 

3 Ways to Help SMEs Succeed in the Training Room

March 7, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published by Training Industry’s blog Feb. 29, 2016

Subject matter experts should be a welcome sight in the training room. Their real-world knowledge and perspective brings depth and practicality to the learning process. The challenge, though, is that SMEs can’t do it alone. They need the support and guidance of learning leaders to succeed as trainers.

Here are three ideas to keep in mind.

  • TrainingIndustrySMEsHelp SMEs understand that when they’re in the training room, they wear two hats, “SME” and “trainer.”
  • Encourage SMEs to draw their enthusiasm from their learners and the learning process.
  • When learning designs include exercises or activities, be sure to set the SME up for successful execution.

Read the full article here.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Melt the Icebreakers Already

June 18, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300I have had the pleasure to present a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” for several ASTD chapters this year. It’s designed for an audience of trainers and those who coach trainers and SMEs.

A common discussion that comes up during this session is around the use of icebreakers and energizers that our industry has become so fond of. (Just google “ASTD icebreakers” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Some people in our industry love them. Some don’t.

During the session I make the case that if we, as Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, want to be respected, we need to value learners’ time. One way we can do that is to not waste it with silly and irrelevant icebreakers.

There’s one particularly awful icebreaker that I’ve suffered several times at conferences. People are to pair up and spend 10 seconds looking at each other. They are then told to turn away from each other and change 5 things about them. For example, move a ring to another finger, take off a jacket, and so on. Then they are instructed to turn back to each other and discover what has changed about their partner.

The point? Change is hard. And here’s the thing: we’re adults, we know change is hard. So how might we make that point quicker? I’d say something like “I think we can all agree that change is hard.”

I suppose I could agree that we need to lighten the mood once in a while. I could also agree that we need to energize learners from time to time. But, as a learner, if you ask me to do irrelevant and/or embarrassing things such as laughing yoga, sharing my favorite Christmas gift as a kid, tell you something unusual about myself, do jumping jacks while yelling “ha,” or recite a nursery rhyme multiple times using different voices and inflection, I may do what I’ve seen others do in these very common situations:

  • Sit there with my arms crossed
  • Roll my eyes
  • Check my phone
  • Walk out

I might also:

  • Question your judgment
  • Think twice before attending another session with you

So, what are better ways to lighten the mood, energize learners, and earn their respect?

  • Explain why they’re there, what they’ll learn, and how to apply it to their jobs. Do this first thing.
  • Acknowledge their knowledge and expertise. Remember: they are not blank slates.
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for not wasting their time.
  • Send them on a break.
  • Listen fearlessly to their ideas.
  • Connect dots.
  • Respect their differing points of view.
  • End early.

There’s always at least one person in each session who will defend their use of icebreakers by saying that they only choose ones that are relevant to the training content. OK, I’ll go along with that as long as the activity doesn’t waste time or make people feel awkward in front of their peers. Unfortunately, most of the ones I’ve seen don’t meet those criteria.

So, what are your thoughts? Are icebreakers ever OK with you? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Setting Up Training Exercises: Be Clear and Specific

May 7, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

Last week, Greg and I were teaching a workshop for a group of Subject Matter Experts getting ready to deliver training to people new in their roles. It’s one of my favorite types of classes to teach because the challenges for an SME/trainer are so clear.

During the last segment of the workshop we were practicing how to set up the exercises that are part of the training the SMEs are delivering. These exercises were relatively simple things: round table discussions about a particular topic or maybe practice applying new information in a real-world situation. Pretty typical stuff.

One of the main points that Greg and I were trying to get across is that trainers have to be very clear and specific when telling learners what to do during an exercise. Something as simple as “Group 2 should work with Group 1 on this exercise” can cause a major disruption when people stand up and struggle to figure out where they should go, what they should take with them, how long they should work and what their goal should be.

Then Greg said something that I thought was really insightful. He said,

When I was fresh out of school, I directed children’s theatre. The type of theatre where the kids are the actors. When I was giving directions I was taught to say, “All right now, everyone look at me. (pause and wait until they do) Now, when I say ‘go’ and not before, I want all the boys to go over by the piano and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in.) All of the girls should go over to the table and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in) OK… go.”

Greg acknowledged that the SMEs weren’t teaching children, of course, but the same level of clarity about what people should do and when they should do it can be applied in every training situation.

The take away was the SMEs should always anticipate confusion and do their best to avoid it by:

  • Standing still when delivering directions because it’s easier to get and keep every person’s attention that way.
  • Delivering directions before asking learners to do anything. If you’re asking people to move across the room, don’t get them on their feet and expect them to stay focused on what you’re saying.
  • Keeping in mind that adults are out of practice when following very simple directions, especially when they’re in groups. Kids, because they do it every day in school, are much better at it. Adults require more patience.

So the next time you’re setting up an exercise or asking a group of people to carry out a simple task, borrow some of the techniques that people working with children use all the time.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Which Hat to Wear? SME or Trainer?

March 2, 2010 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

This post was inspired by a train-the-trainer session Dale Ludwig and I led two weeks ago.  We were working with a group of SMEs (subject matter experts) in the insurance industry as they prepared to deliver enterprise-wide training sessions.

Of course the SMEs knew a lot about their topics.  The problem was they wanted to share most of it with their trainees.  This desire is typical not only when training, but when delivering every-day presentations as well.  So, during the training session, we helped the SMEs switch hats.  They needed to take off their favorite, most comfortable hat (the SME Hat), and put on a slightly less comfortable one (the Trainer Hat).

When you switch hats like this you’ll realize that trainees and every-day audiences don’t want or need to know everything you know.  (Nor do they have time for it.)  What they need is to be engaged in a well-developed, listener-focused, concise conversation.

So, put on your Trainer Hat the next time you develop a training session or presentation.  Get clear on your objectives.  Think about what your listeners need to learn from you in order to take the action you want them to take.  From there, create an agenda that includes only the information that will help you reach your goals.

One thing that happens when you take off your SME Hat is that you feel like you’re not demonstrating your expertise.  Don’t worry.  When you zero in on what your listeners need and want to know about your topic, they’ll feel like you really care about their perspective and understanding.  And that’s a good thing.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication


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