Steve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.
You’re in a session doing your utmost to train some people up. You ask a question. A participant responds. He’s somewhat correct, but also somewhat wrong in his response. What would you do?
Would you. . .
A) Affirm the participant for responding, and fill in with the more accurate information.
B) Inform the participant he was inaccurate, and fill in with the more accurate information.
C) Ask another participant to respond.
D) Start answering your own questions to avoid future problems.
If you answered A or B, you’d be grouped in with the majority of the trainers I interact with. They use the “yes-and” approach (say something like, “yeah that’s right,” and proceed to correct the mistake) to address the gap. The problem here is that if you use this approach with a response that is inaccurate rather than incomplete, you send the participant away thinking he or she was correct, and set him or her up to experience difficulties later on during attempts to apply the flawed understanding.
And the correct answer is. . . E) none of the above. Drat that trick question!
During a recent meeting with one of my ultra-favorite, really-smart, rock-star heroes Dr. Ethna Reid (If you’d like to know more about Ethna, her research, and her results, click here), I found myself pondering the following comment: “The fewer errors students are allowed to make, the more discriminating they will be about correct usage.” The more I thought about it, the more it really resonated with me.
In many ways this flies in the face of what seems like the best response in the moment. A participant makes a flawed attempt to use a skill or makes a comment that falls short of the mark. You want to correct the point without making the participant look bad so you jump right in, bridge the inaccuracy with a “yes-and,” and transition to the next idea or concept. Old habits (and the bamboo plant gift in my office) die hard.
Instead of giving way to this urge, prepare your participants to be more effective by 1) pointing out the correct and incorrect portions of their responses, and 2) giving them an opportunity to correct it themselves. Do this and you’re sure to see your participants move beyond a surface understanding of training skills to discriminating usage.