What are words worth?

Aside of now finding it impossible to get the Tom Tom Club song out of my head, words are a learning providers most valuable and destructive tool.

I recently happened upon a tweet by some guy called David D’Souza, whoever the heck he is (only kidding, great guy, funny and cuts through the bull). David was commenting on the short-comings of resilience training. Specifically, whether training people to be more resilient will resolve the underlying organisational issues. He makes some interesting remarks about organisations looking closer to home, rather than assuming that the challenges they are facing are due to their people lacking resilience. I agree with each of them.

His comments also got me thinking about the language that we use when we introduce content to learners. As suppliers, we like to package our services under nice, impactful titles. Who doesn’t? You won’t have a terribly successful business if you didn’t maximise the USPs of your services. Yet, occasionally, the language and terminology adopted through the sales cycle creeps into the delivery with the end-users. Most of the time, this is unlikely to have a negative impact on the delegates, the delivery or the outcomes of the intervention. Occasionally though, it might.

The content of programmes such as resilience training, tends to focus on the individual, encouraging them to reflect on their current levels of resilience and providing pathways to support them in them in developing techniques and approaches to build resilience moving forwards. But, resilience in what context? What about the organisation’s responsibility in creating a culture that doesn’t need high resilience levels? Any suggestion that there isn’t any correlation between the organisation’s culture and working practices, and their people’s perceived resilience levels, is utter tosh. Frequently, these things are bedfellows.

A lot of this issue derives from how such programmes are initially presented to the contracting organisation. Suppliers often latch on to ‘current’ buzzwords and industry ‘train of thoughts’, eagerly pushing them to willing recipients, without stopping to think of the impact of what they are delivering on the end-consumer. By adopting language that solely focuses on the individual, it creates a sense of blame, insinuating that everyone that receives such training has a problem with their resilience levels – that they are weak. Perhaps more damagingly, it increases people’s self-limiting beliefs. You wouldn’t run even the most basic leadership development without some positioning/analysis of the company culture, so why is resilience training any different?

The point I am struggling to make is that as learning providers, we need to ALWAYS keep the end-user in mind – they are the reason we have a job. Think about the impact of the training you are providing – what are you reaffirming in the language and messages you apply? Reviewing this may mean facing into some difficult conversations with your clients, but no doubt you probably have a workshop full of content you can read to upskill you enough to face into such conversations.