Whew! It’s been weeks of delivery and more recently design! I have been mindmapping ideas for the blog-but between travel, training and blog... I should take my own advice-and never train more than half the days of a month!
So let’s chat about that “elephant in the room”-the subject matter expert (SME) as trainer. Now don’t get me wrong, SME’s can be great trainers-but only after they take off the SME “hat.” And, quite honestly, we have to look at the circumstances that put SME’s into the position of trainer; typically, someone is GREAT in a position (or an aspect of the position) and others then assume s/he will be a great trainer. Haven’t you heard it before? “She does her work so well, so easily, she would be a natural as a trainer.” Now there’s a false assumption! Being a trainer is a completely different skill set (though I prefer to think of it as an art and a science) than subject matter expertise in a field other than training.
When someone completes work with expertise, it’s most likely that s/he has extensive knowledge and does the work without great effort or consciously thinking about the task-the work has become “second nature.” SME's tend to be “unconsciously competent”-they do their work without thinking about how they do it; talking and working at a sophisticated level, using jargon, shortcuts, acronyms, and taking delight in getting into the minutiae of the topic.
Conversely, training is all about focusing on the task, delivering the “need to know” information and ensuring that learners understand all that they are learning. (So it’s not okay to say, “This may be a little overwhelming” or “You may not understand this now but you will in the future...”) Because SME’s love their topics (don’t we all love to talk about what we do exceptionally well?) they tend to put themselves at center stage and lecture to the session’s participants... and we know that lecture and/or death by powerpoint followed by large group Q & A is NOT training. Training is distinguished from presentations and seminars by these two components: the active involvement of learners and the incorporation of constructive feedback into the learning experience.
So what can we, as SME’s, do? When we want/need to share our expertise, to reach learners at different levels, we need to:
* Focus on the task to be accomplished and the “need to know” information (rather than all the details that we find so fascinating)
* Ensure that the training program design is developmental so that learners will complete the program confident and competent in the their new knowledge, skills, and attitudes
* Work from the premise that the learners are the most important people in the process-and we exist to facilitate their learning
* Be authoritative and not authoritarian, recognizing the expertise of our participants, and giving them opportunities to share their knowledge of the subject with their colleagues.
SME’s can be great trainers -it’s a process of making a shift: we need to move from the context of our everyday work and ways of being to becoming a trainer who creates the learning experiences participants require.