Ground Rules in Our Training

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash
  • Step up, step back. I model vulnerability by “outing” myself as someone who’s always stepping up with the answer and, in common cause with everyone who is likewise compelled to shoot their hand up with the answer, ask those folks to take a pause and create space for those who might need a little more time to engage. I then encourage those who don’t usually step up, to challenge themselves to do so in order to have more even engagement among everyone in the class.
  • One mic. Talking over someone is not only rude, it’s dismissive of their ideas and contributions to the class. Even if it’s a side-bar conversation, ignoring a speaker undermines their courage in being open and vulnerable to their peers.
  • Be curious and ask questions. If listening to lectures alone made us smart, we could just sit back and have a constant track of great lectures playing in our ear, but learning doesn’t work that way. We learn when we are engaged with the material being presented, which means integrating information into our existing understanding of the world. We have to think, question, process, and then combine what is presented with what we already know in order for it to stick.
  • Assume noble regard and positive intent. I’ve found it impossible to be open and vulnerable in a situation where I’ve felt people were acting out of some personal grudge or vengeful pettiness. It’s easy to see such grudges or pettiness in thoughtless comments or careless attitudes when there is in fact no such thing in the mind of others. Reminding people that we’re all here to learn and engage the material helps each of us give the other the benefit of the doubt. Teaching with city employees, I remind them that we’re not in this for the money, but to make our city a better place to live. I want them to remember this isn’t personal and never should be, but a professional desire to do good in our communities.
  • Respect multiple perspectives. Teaching diverse classes with people from all kinds of regional, ethnic, gender, and other backgrounds has taught me the value of diversity. The richest discussions are those with people who don’t share common experiences but find a common respect to share those experiences. Without that respect, each person keeps their thoughts and experiences to themselves and the class suffers for it.
  • Listen to comprehend, not to respond. When discussing this with participants, I make the observation that for some people, a conversation is really just each person waiting to deliver a monologue rather than have a discussion. The foundation of true dialogue is listening. To truly listen, we don’t just hear the words of the other person, we let the words come into us. At our best and most open, we will be changed by a truly good and meaningful conversation because we allow the words to enter and change us in ways we could never have expected.
  • Be present (phone, email, social media, etc.). I often make the observation that everyone in the room is an important person doing an important job and it can be hard to let that go for training, but they will only get out of the class what they are able to put into it. I encourage them to stay out of whatever things may draw their attention away in order to get as much as possible from the experience of being in class.



A guide for providing learning experiences that engage, create, and inspire.

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