In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of establishing context before beginning training. Adults aren’t necessarily open to learning, so when training them, you must first address their concerns and questions regarding the training and prove to them it’s worthwhile.

Once that’s done, you can finally begin your training … almost.

Your first step of actual training isn’t an exhibition of the “right way” or a discussion of best practices. The first step of training is all wrong – on purpose. For most corporate leaders in trainings, that valuable “aha” moment comes on the coattails of negative simulation. Sometimes, the negative action has a quick, permanent reaction – for example, putting your hand on a hot stove. The physical pain corrects the behavior, and it is changed immediately and permanently.

The same is true of learning a new skill, whether that be a sport, language or corporate leadership skill. In sports or language, you can be self-taught, because your errors – your negative simulations – are obvious. Leadership training, on the other hand, necessitates a mentor. When you’re training on skills such as sales, coaching, listening, conflict resolution and influence tactics (this list is endless), the mistakes are more subtle and simultaneously more stubbornly ingrained. It requires the intentional implementation of a negative simulation to display and amend those mistakes.

It’s a delicate balance, because although they can’t train themselves, adult trainees have to come to their own conclusions. We have to create situations that allow our trainees to experience the behavior that prevents them from reaching their greatest potential as a leader.

Let’s say we are teaching a sales training class, and our focus today is how to answer the phones effectively. Most members of this class have been in their role for 15 or more years. They know how to answer the phones, yet their scores are below the industry average. These students have to first identify what they’re doing wrong in order to acknowledge it and amend it, and the only way to go through those steps effectively is through negative simulation. Once they see someone else making their mistakes – even in dramatic renditions – they can have an “aha” moment, and those moments are critical to the success of the rest of the training. They have to see their own bad phone practices in action in order to identify them as problematic and open themselves to the new training and lessons.

All adult students need to try it out for themselves. Demonstrating a negative simulation allows the student to see and experience the wrong behavior and recognize why the behavior is wrong.

One concept that we teach in sales training is the need for a salesperson to be an effective listener. When it is time for negative simulation of this concept, we create a simulation in which I’m the salesperson, and the trainee is the person I’m selling to. Rather than engaging in a two-way dialogue in my simulation, I do all the talking. The learner is in the position to identify the mistake – and they’ll probably feel pretty good about themselves when they do it.

When you can create this negative situation effectively, you allow your trainees to see, feel, hear and experience the negative behavior. Because they recognize the error in the situation and experience and identify it themselves, you establish them as the experts and gain more buy-in. They’re feeling accomplished – after all, they’ve identified your errors (which are actually their own), and they’re ready to make the change. You’ve gained the all-important agreement, and now you can move on to your actual training.

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