Critical Thinking: Why Good Trainers Are a Lot Like Good Leaders

In-depth discussion of critical ideas deepens the learning process

We just enjoyed “Great Leaders and Great Trainers Have a Lot in Common,” a terrific blog post that Dale Ludwig published on the Training Industry Blog. Mr. Ludwig, the president and founder of Turpin Communication, shares some wise insights about why great trainers and great leaders have a lot in common.

Here are three reasons he cites . . .

  • Good leaders influence and guide people . . . and trainers should too.
  • Good leaders invest time and effort to earn trust . . . and trainers should too.
  • Good leaders invite and welcome critical thinking . . . and trainers should too.

Focusing on Critical Thinking in Training Sessions

Those are all excellent points, but let’s explore the third in a bit more depth. We have noticed, and you probably have too, that too few trainers – or training programs – invite trainees to think critically about topics they are learning. Instead, the emphasis tends to be on knowledge transfer, as in “We tell you what to do, and then you can do it.”

Training, Mr. Ludwig is telling us, can become a lot more effective when trainees engage in critical thinking about what they are learning to do.

We think that asking the right questions can make all the difference in stimulating critical thought. The following examples can work well in both general discussion and also when given too small break-out groups of 5-10 people. (Note that our editors here at Tortal Training, not Mr. Ludwig, wrote up the following questions.)

  • When training an outside salesforce, you can invite trainees to discuss questions like, “What makes our products different from what our competition is selling?” and, “Why do people decide to buy from us . . . or decide to not buy from us?”
  • When training hotel receptionists and other front-line employees, you can ask, “What do you think makes guests want to come back for a second visit?” and, “What experiences add up to a quality hotel stay for our guests?”
  • When training restaurant workers, you can ask, “Can you think of all the times when it is important for employees in restaurants to wash their hands?”
  • When training appliance delivery people, you can ask, “What do you think you can do to create a quality experience for our customers?” and, “Can you think of any problems that can arise when delivering appliances into customers’ homes?”
  • When training golf course employees, you can ask, “What are the most important things that golfers expect when arriving at our club?” or, “What problems can arise when golfers rent carts, and how can those problems can be avoided?”

The Benefits of Critical Discussions

Training is a lot more interesting when discussions are woven into it. Plus, concepts that are introduced during discussions are typically remembered longer than concepts that are introduced in training manuals, or even taught via videos. When a trainee comes up with a bright idea thanks to critical thinking, he or she will remember it. And when a room full of trainees get brainstorming for ideas and solutions, training sparks can fly.