The Transparent Trainer


At the onset of my “Leadership Challenge” workshops, I usually ask my group this question: tell me about someone you met who has had a lot of influence in your life? The delegates immediately remember particular people they have lived with, worked with or learned from. According to a survey by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of “The Leadership Challenge”, the vast majority of answers falls in three categories: family members, teachers or trainers, and community members. Other categories include: business leaders, political leaders, athletes, entertainers and others.

But note that the second highest category is: teachers and trainers. Each one of us vividly recalls a specific teacher or trainer that significantly and deeply impacted our growth. That teacher or trainer, no matter how old we become, not only stands out from the rest, but rests in our minds and hearts for as long as we live. Why is that?

Long story short, teachers and trainers who have their students at the center of their focus and concern are far more unforgettable than those whose dominating drive is to more memorable.

Just like power, the more you give, the more you gain. And the more power you keep, the more you lose.

Likewise, the more you as a trainer, lose yourself and become invisible in favor of helping your trainees see and find themselves, the longer you’ll be present in their memory. And the more you’re obsessed with being desirable and visible, the quicker you fade away from their memory.

Think about it: since invisible trainers are less common – unfortunately – than visible trainers, it is no wonder the invisible trainers clearly and quickly stand out from the rest every time you recall an individual who has uniquely influenced your life.

Now I’m not talking about the “learner-centered” principle, which most “Train-The-Trainer” programs address. Although following these standards will secure effective learning, what I’m more concerned about here, more than what the trainer does, is what the trainer is. Because who the trainer is, how he/she thinks, what her deeper motives are, and what paradigms she holds form the roots for shaping the way she behaves and treats her students, and ultimately the quality of the training outcomes.

There’s much to be said about how strongly and significantly the unseen side of a trainer affects the seen personality and behavior, and not the other way around. In this article, I’ll just highlight – lightly – the characteristics and traits that separate an invisible trainer from a visible trainer:

  1. Intention: a visible trainer wants to impress trainees. An invisible trainer wants to influence them.
  2. Perception: a visible trainer views the students as the less-knowledgeable, less-smart people in the room, who need his help. An invisible trainer looks at them as fellow humans, who have their highs and lows, just like him, and this is the opportunity to help each other.
  3. Goal: a visible trainer regards his students as the bridge to reach more profit and prominence. An invisible trainer regards money and fame as the bridge to reach out to more people he can help.
  4. Relation: a visible trainer rushes to rescue his trainees. An invisible trainer turns them into rescuers, problem solvers and self-reliant individuals.
  5. Reward: a visible trainer’s biggest reward is more endorsements and more testimonials that make him more visible. An invisible trainer’s best accolade is transformed trainees who will become his lifetime advocates.
  6. Credit: A visible trainer takes the credit for trainees’ success, and blames them for their failure. An invisible trainer will take the blame for their failure and give the credit of success to them and their hard work.
  7. Risk: A visible trainer will subject the trainees to minimum risk, and give them maximum “help” so that training “success” is secured. An invisible trainer will allow trainees to take risks, make mistakes and even “fail” in the process so that ultimately true “learning” is secured.
  8. Coverage: a visible trainer is concerned about how much he covers. An invisible trainer is concerned about how much he uncovers.
  9. Think and do: a visible trainer is concerned about what the trainees think of him. An invisible trainer is concerned about what the trainees will do because of him.
  10. Method: a visible trainer wants his session, and himself, to stay longer in the trainees’ heads by having endless, and sometimes pointless, fun. An invisible trainer wants trainees to have fun that makes way for boundless learning.
  11. Mirror: trainees of a visible trainer look at him and say “wow, he’s awesome. No way I can be like him.” Trainees of an invisible trainer say “wow, I am awesome.”
  12. Existence: A visible trainer captures your eyes, but soon you stare away from him. An invisible trainer masters your heart, and stays in it.

There are many signs and symptoms that can go in the list. But the pattern here is, intangible elements are making the most tangible impact. Invisible trainers are the most visible and immortal. Transparent trainers are those who help us look at ourselves through them, and not just look at them.

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