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Top 10 Qualities Every Trainer Should Have (Interview)

Kathy Schroeder is the Training Manager at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. She oversees all aspects of training and professional development for attorneys and staff. Her primary responsibilities include the design and implementation of technical training initiatives, as well as practice group specific programming. She oversees continuing legal education (CLE) activities for the firm. Kathy is also responsible for the implementation of the firm’s attorney 360° VOICES® Feedback program and serves as a feedback facilitator.

Kathy is a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the local and national chapters of American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). Kathy is a member of the Professional Development Consortium (PDC), where she served on the planning committee for the 2009 Winter Conference. In addition, she is an Adjunct Instructor at Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI, in their Master of Education program facilitating courses in instructional design and organizational development.

Q. What have you found to be the hardest part(s) of training? How have you overcome these difficulties?

I am very methodical in my approach to training. I am often asked to provide a training solution to a problem where training isn’t the solution. My challenge is to get people to the realization that training isn’t always the answer. I often say “no” to a training request at first and take the requester on a journey to discover the true underlying cause of the problem. Ask lots of questions: why, why, why? This ensures we are solving the right problem and helps with accountability later.

Once it is determined that training can be part of the solution, getting folks into the classroom for the “right” amount of time can be a problem. Even in one-on-one coaching situations, it can be difficult to have learners commit to a period of time where instruction and practice would make a difference. Everyone wants it quicker — a data dump without any additional effort on their part. In order for their learning to transfer back to the job, however, I need to ensure learners can not only demonstrate the behavior in the classroom, but back at their desk as well. Learners generally have the resources needed, but sometimes do not have support from their managers or supervisors. It takes time to build a skill and, without support, the old behaviors will resurface quickly. Practice, practice, practice.

Getting people to let down their guard and/or open up in group training situations continues to be a challenge, particularly in the legal industry. Fear of asking questions, fear of looking silly and a little peer pressure make this a tough crowd. Anyone will tell you that. How do I overcome this? Can’t say that I have, but I believe generationally it will get better simply because of how people are now learning in school. There is much more collaboration, team work, and discussion. People seem to be more open to the opinions of others.

In the college classroom, where people truly are more open to the opinions of others, I encourage students to challenge each other and to not take everything at face value. They say, “I respectfully agree to disagree” when they want others to look at things through a different lens. The phrase allows for a respectful discourse and gets students thinking about alternative views.

Q. Is there someone in your field that has had an impact on you?

Boy, that’s a tough one.

In the industry, I really admire Marshall Goldsmith. I like the way his mind works. I appreciate the soundness of his teachings. His book, MOJO, is a very worthwhile read. He also tells an old Buddhist parable about a farmer and a boat. Just wonderful. He openly and freely shares all his work. I always feel inspired after listening to him present.

As far as “influenced,” I’d have to point to a couple of teachers in my MA program as well as a consultant, who has become a friend over the years. The teachers are Sandra Graham and Patricia Jensen of Alverno College. Their knowledge and patience are extraordinary. The consultant is Karen Dorece, VP at Talent Genesis. Karen and I have worked together for more than 7 years, and she has been a helpful guide, resource, and friend as I continue to facilitate feedback sessions with our attorneys in the firm’s 360 feedback/development process.

Q. What are the top 10 qualities of every great trainer?

1. Patience 2. Ability to listen for the purpose of diagnosing a problem 3. Ability to see through the learner’s eyes – perspective 4. Flexible 5. Ability to think on one’s feet 6. Confident (or at least looks/acts confident!) 7. Knowledgeable about the topic 8. Ability to deal with a diverse audience 9. Empathy 10. Ability to help learners accept change

Bonus quality: Willingness to give up the stage and let the spotlight shine on someone else

Q. What advice would you give to present and future trainers?

  • Realize that training is a career path that’s not right for everyone. You will generally give more than you get.
  • Realize that the learners are your customers; their needs come first.
  • Put yourself in the place of the learner and reflect on your performance. Were you able to light a spark that will lead to change?
  • Stretch and grow. Learn all you can about your craft — learning styles, coaching styles, facilitation, and instructional design.
  • Share what you know.

Q. What is on your bookshelf that our readers would enjoy?

Hands down, my favorite work-related magazine is Harvard Business Review. It helps me stay current with management, training and development, and organizational issues (such as change). The executive summaries ensure whatever spare time I have to read is spent reading things that are interesting and relevant.

I also have a subscription to the ASTD T&D Magazine and think their website is a good resource. The articles in the magazine are usually brief and to the point.

Some of my favorite online resources are the American Management Association website; lots of articles and white papers on a variety of management topics. There are lots of interesting survey data as well. I like the Masie Center site and look forward to listening to Dan Pink’s PodCast covering the implications of “DRIVE” when I have some time. I like the 12Manage site and use it as a resource for organizational development and management tools and models.

I use information from the Linkage website. Great webinar and article resources. They hold an amazing OD Summit every year in Chicago with thought-provoking, industry gurus like Warren Benis, Marshall Goldsmith, and others.

I also belong to several LinkedIn Groups. While the dialog is interesting, I truly don’t spend as much time online participating as I would like.

I enjoy reading the white papers and research from Korn Ferry/Lominger. Having a good understanding of their work helps me when asked to explain our work with competencies at the firm.

I read for my work at the firm and for my teaching as an adjunct faculty member at Alverno College. I honestly cannot recall the last book I read for fun!

My favorite non-work magazine – Real Simple. Sooo pretty!

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