Stan returned from a training, saying, “Wow, that trainer rocked. He told the best jokes!” Stan’s co-worker Jackie asked, “Did you learn a lot?” “Sure!” Stan replied. Two weeks later, the training materials were housed safely on the shelf, likely never to be looked at again. Business-as-usual continued.

Humanergy does a fair amount of training, and we pride ourselves on being not only entertaining but able to impact the way people do their jobs. What about you? While you may not be a professional trainer, it’s likely that you have to teach people to do something from time to time. Do you need to be a suave, joke-telling entertainer to do that well?

Humor certainly has a place in training – relieving stress and creating a general sense of goodwill. Entertaining stories can help people remember key concepts. However, much of the focus on what the trainer says and does is misplaced.

Teaching people to think and behave in new ways is not about the trainer. It is about the people who need and want to change. We owe it to them to act more like drill sergeants and less like stand-up comics.

Humanergy co-founder David Wheatley’s son Josh does just that. Josh trains Air Force recruits who are incredibly grateful for his high expectations and uncompromising discipline – once they have completed basic training. During the process, the reviews are more mixed.

To make learning stick, people must work hard, wrestle with the content and then drill on the skill by applying it to the real issues they face. Application is the key, and this makes teaching harder, because every participant comes with a different situation. At its best, training is like coaching, with high expectations being a requirement for superior results.

Yes, you can have fun when you’re teaching people something new. Just make sure that you devote every minute of your time together to the goal that matters – helping participants change on-the-job behaviors and more effectively deal with the issues that keep them up at night.


You can be a better trainer or coach, and we’d love to help! Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.