6 Reasons Trainers need High Emotional Intelligence

I watched a trainer die once and it was horrible.  He spoke clearly and had great knowledge of his subject.   A probing question from a participant though landed badly and he responded with a defensive statement ‘you clearly weren’t listening to what I have just said.’

The participant slumped in his seat, the room tittered and the energy changed.

The real tragedy is that the trainer had no idea. 

He didn’t see the participants who were now on their phones and making faces to each other or just switched off. He didn’t notice that no-one was asking any more questions or engaged with his presentation.

He didn’t notice my dumbfounded expression when he asked what I thought and said that he thought it went ok.  The only time he did tune in to the situation was when I suggested he needn’t send me an invoice.  Now he was connecting!

This event came back to me earlier this week when we were discussing the importance of Emotional Intelligence for trainers, whether you are an in-house resource or external training provider.

We’ve put together our top 6 reasons why Emotional Intelligence is so vital for this role:

  1. To maintain an outward focus

    Our entire goal is to be participant focused.  If we have internal chatter, emotional junk, triggers for negative thoughts or reactions happening at any point during a training session (and it does happen regularly), we simply must be able to address it quickly and move it on. 

    When those things happen to us, we lose our ability to maintain an outward focus – and be present and sensitive to what is happening for our participants. 

    If Emotional Intelligence is low – we are likely to spend the majority of our focus, our attention and our energy inwardly.  To turn the focus to me instead of thee.  

    At best the participants will experience a sense of detachment, a lack of care, a distancing, a sense of push-back from the facilitator.  At worst, the participants could experience a complete disengagement – and close down to any potential learning’s and growth

  2. To identify with the feelings, emotions and experiences of others

    Low Emotional Intelligence means that we may lack the ability to spot small shifts in participants that, if not handled brilliantly, could cause a complete shut-down and a decision made to not participate fully. 

    This could be due to a lack of safety created by the trainer, or simply an insensitivity to reactions that could be brought forth to create a real learning space.

    The trainer needs to be able to deal with the multitude of emotions that arise in certain training and development situations.  People are faced with dramatic changes to their work place (and behavioural) practices and this can be tantamount to being pushed into developing or changing when someone is not ready, which can cause strong emotional and psychological reactions in some people. 

    It is all well and good to be able to identify one’s one emotions and then to be able to manage them (Daniel Goleman’s first and top two quadrants of the definition of Emotional Intelligence) but if we cannot identify with the feelings, emotions and experiences of others, we are ill-equipped to deal with those when they inevitably arise in training sessions, often without warning.

    Trainers need to be able to stand in the face of these reactions and hold their ground, the ground that is a safe space for people to express their feelings and to explore the situation while being supported and accepted for who and where they are at the moment.

  3. To hold all people as equal

    Some of the very best sessions will have both parties (trainer and trainees) learning equally from each other. 

    This process requires a high level of EQ on behalf of the trainer that allows him/her to step out of arrogance and positional power.   “I’m the teacher – you are the student. 

    Therefore, I am the expert and you are the novice. 

    I am greater and you are lesser or subordinate.”  

    High Emotional Intelligence gives the facilitator the mental and emotional ability to be open to new input, new ideas, new perspectives and points of view.

    It allows the facilitator to hold all people as equal – and to be a learner as well as a teacher.

  4. To invite engagement

    High Emotional Intelligence on behalf of the facilitator will help him/her to create a space that invites people to engage.  

    It often happens that participants arrive with a sense of fear and/or resentment, high resistance, or simply absolutely no expectations whatsoever.  

    The participants may well have been “forced” to attend a training for which they don’t understand the purpose.

    Perhaps the participant even perceives that he/she has been “sent here to be fixed” – because a leader sees him/her as being broken or a problem.  

    If the facilitator is not emotionally intelligent – there may be little or no way that a space can be created that invites the participant to look past the thoughts and perceptions and decide to take positive messages, skills and content away from the session – regardless of the intention behind why he/she was booked to attend in the first place.

  5. To set a positive and alluring example

    Experienced Facilitators and trainers are paid to achieve the aim of bringing about useful change to a team or an organisation.  This is the ultimate level of Emotional Intelligence – to lead others in the direction they wish to go by setting a positive and alluring example and by showing them the way. 

    This does not imply that Facilitators and trainers need to be better than others – no one can be exalted to that status (and be aware of anyone who boasts the ability to do so; we are all human being on a journey of self-discovery and development).

    In workshop, training and facilitation situations the leader of these is the Facilitator &/or trainer – the person in this role need to know how to lead and have the requisite capabilities and competencies to do so.

  6. To be fully open to feedback

    Finally, there are times when participants can simply behave badly and be mean.  

    The facilitator may perceive that he/she has given his/her very best – and been completely participant focused, delivered on every objective and been amazingly entertaining to boot ~ yet a participant may give harsh criticism and damming feedback.  

    This sometimes happens when one participant gives hyper-critical feedback amongst all of the other participants who gave positive or even glowing feedback.  

    If the facilitator obsesses and focuses only on the negative feedback, there could be damage to confidence for future sessions.  

    On the other side of feedback, facilitator’s need to be able to find the kernel of truth in negative feedback – and make discerning judgements as to the “truth” and “reasonableness” of the feedback – and set the negative response aside and take the learning to continue to grow.

Next we will be looking at the 5 qualities to look for when hiring a new trainer (or the 5 qualities to highlight in your CV!).  We’d love to hear your thoughts……contact us at info@aliveandkicking.com.au or find us on Facebook.

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