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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mistake-free trainees

During my years in International Export with Dell I was a one-man team in my operation. It's not rocket science and, yes, a caveman could do it. However, the exportation of product involves government, customs and international industry standards with serious consequences for the exporter, and, in some instances the individual employee too should a product be shipped without the required documentation. Although management had me train various associates to fill-in in my absence management never allowed those associates to do the job in my absence presumably for fear they would make a mistake.

I determined I wanted to do everything I could do in my training of associates. I developed a training philosophy around these three points to set them at ease in the training process.

1) There is no mistake you can make I have not already made.
2) There is no mistake you can make which can not be rectified.
3) You do not make mistakes.

The first two are pretty clear. It was the third point which had the desired effect on my trainee. I waited for their question: "What do you mean, 'You do not make mistakes?'"

Those of you who have been trained as the new employee know there are varieties of trainers; those who love/enjoy training and are competent, those who love/enjoy training but have little clue about the task, those who hate training despite their vast knowledge and experience, and, those who hate training and lack the knowledge, experience or aptitude to train others.

My point, by way of setting my trainee at ease, is that I take responsibility for any errors which might slip through my supervision. Too many people train from the perspective of fear: Don't mess up because I don't want to get yelled at or get fired.

I stand by and am accountable for the day's work. I can take the hit. I am confident about my tract record and my ability to give an account of myself and to implement the measures necessary to rectify the error. It is for this reason I see no need/have no need to, or in the language of the world, cover my ass. Fear produces lack of confidence which results in self-preservation and self-defense tactics. Mistakes are my responsibility and are not to be passed off on my trainee. It pleased me to know and to see trainees at ease in a learning environment free of fear. They knew there really were no dumb questions or dumb mistakes to be made only teachable moments to be captured by their trainer.

What was your experience as a learner of the fundamentals of the scriptures? I cringe when I hear of people's training experiences and what is passed off on them by those who profess themselves teachers. I love it when an unwitting visitor raises a tough question in a Bible study. The tension in the group becomes palpable, but I love it because it is the teachable moment for me to capture both for the visitor, for the regular class members and teacher trainees especially.

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. (Epistle of James 3:1)


The passage speaks to those who would be teachers. If your view and approach of the task of teaching or training is with a fear of judgment for making a mistake you may be wise to wait a while before taking on that responsibility. In the meantime, challenge those who teach not as to oppose them but in the interest of a fuller, richer understanding of the scriptures for the benefit of all without fear of mistakes.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

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