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Career Planning

How to tell a hippy from a Brucie

Robert Craven has studied management trainers closely and identified several rare and not-so-rare species...
For the past few years I have worked with numerous trainers, teachers and lecturers of varying degrees and qualities. Prior to that I spent years on the other side of the overhead projector, in various classroom situations as student, delegate, manager, even on train-the-trainer events. In my time I have become aware of recurring training styles as I watched different characters try to persuade their subjects of the finer points of the latest management craze.

After years of discovering Covey's "Seven Habits of Effective Managers", McKinsey's "Seven S's" and Porter's "Five Forces", along with mnemonics such as Campari and ICE, Aida and Cleo, and numerous teaching and learning styles, we are proud to present Craven's Nine Trainer Roles. Like Belbin's Eight Team Roles, each trainer possesses elements of each style, although one or two styles seem to predominate in each trainer. The Counsellor The Counsellor has spent too many years on the psychotherapist's couch to believe that we do not have some deeper meaning than that presented in a simple question. For instance, in reply to your question, "I don't understand what you mean?" he might reply "How does that make you feel?" or "Why do you think you feel like that?" This trainer spends much time deep in thought, hand propping up his chin and nodding empathically (or is it empathetically, I never knew). Look out for passing references to NLP, TA, T-groups, sexism, racism, equal opportunities, triggers, stroking, mentoring and any references to vegetarianism in a former life!

The Slapper

"I'm going to slap them round and show them just what they need to know!" These are the words you might overhear when the trainers are comparing notes in the lavatory. The Slapper tends be pretty "macho" in approach. He believes that delegates need to be woken up to reality and it is his job to do it. He believes that you have to be cruel to be kind and that the only way to bring people around to his view is to beat it into them and let them know who is boss. Once the audience has been beaten into submission the Slapper can impose his views on the willing audience. Beware of Slappers, they are very prickly! Don't make small talk, be personal or attack them unless you want it used as evidence against you.

The Academic Expert

These creatures are simply unbearable unless you are one of them! You cannot argue with the expert who has a quote or a reference to dispute anything you ever say. These experts are pre-occupied with the numbers, statistics, models and theorems, and find the academic/intellectual part of the argument (or do I mean monologue?) their raison d'etre. They seem to lack balance in their lives but cannot believe that no one else is interested.

Bruce Forsyth

"Nice to see you, to see you nice! Our first game needs two teams, 100 sheets of paper and I want you to build an eight-foot-high tower in six minutes ... And then I want you to imagine you're on a desert island ..." These trainers joined the wrong profession; frustrated "academic luvvies" play games to entertain themselves and the delegates. A nice way to pass the day if you are, as they say, "Up for it", but I am not always sure of the value. Beware of the difference between cheap tricksters (sub species, It's a Knockout) and genuinely inspiring training styles (sub-species, Games People Play) - don't confuse the sizzle with the steak.

The Ageing Hippy

Tell-tell signs that you are with an Ageing Hippy are the following: any references to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, the Thatcher regime, and Bob Dylan. The Ageing Hippy will delight in reminiscing in how it used to be and how it could be but is not really rooted in the l990s. The other give-away to these social Christians is any kind of reference to writing epitaphs, attending your own funeral, or having only six months to live. A bit head-in-the-clouds for me, but they do make you stop and think about how you live your life. Ageing Hippies often combine with the Counsellor. Also look out for the quotes such as "Life is not a dress- rehearsal" (see Quoter).

The Quoter

The Quoter's skill is to have a quote for every occasion; it gets tedious eventually. Being a Quoter gives a clue to the background (and sub-species) of the trainer; try not to confuse the symptom with the cause. Either they went to Cambridge to read English and philosophy and know all of the Monty Python team and most MPs, (the don) and/or they have little real life experience and so learn pretty little witticisms to (apparently) demonstrate their wisdom (the shallow con). It's a bit like the joke about the economist who knows 365 ways to make love to a woman but does not actually have a girlfriend himself. Destroy a Quoter's ability to relate to you by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Don't quote other people's opinions, tell me what you know".

The "Been there, Done it"

This one can be a raging bore - they've done it all and they can prove it. There's nothing you can tell them. However, if they are of the sub- species Hugely Successful and Interesting, Been there, Done its, then they can be fascinating as they tell you numerous stories of living with aboriginal Indians, losing a million and sacking an entire work-force. The alternative is that they can be incredibly dull, in which case they are of the sub-species Tips and Wrinkles Windbags. Normally they were in Burma in 1942 or running the Hong Kong operations for ICI or Ford in 1952 and don't they let you know about it! Well-meaning souls if a bit high on the old ego-count.

The Slide Show

Another training style that has some sub-species. The primitive form, the overhead projector maniac, can show upwards of 200 slides an hour. They don't vary or drift from the words on the slides and use the OHP machine and any desks to hide behind. Often, sad, almost unreadable slides make up for either their nerves or a deficient personality. Disaster strikes when slides get dropped on the floor because they are often not numbered and the general level of nerves and tension sends the presenter over the edge! The second sub-species, the highly evolved form, is called PowerPoint Plus and uses the latest multi-media, high-resolution presentation graphics technology, which whooshes and sploshes to the audience who sit in the dark as the presentation unfolds with the presenter giving a commentary in the dark - an alternative to hiding behind the OHP - a high-risk strategy because if things go wrong then they really tend to screw up!

The Loveable Clown

The Loveable Clown hides his intellect by appearing slightly foppish. This silliness may well irritate the impatient but behind the clowning about is a wonderful trainer waiting to be unleashed. Typical Loveable Clown behaviour includes dropping or losing slides, arriving late and - the classic Loveable Clown trick - writing on the whiteboard with a permanent marker. Have patience with the clown (they come in two styles, extrovert and introvert) because they are often the true stars. Do not under-estimate them.

While this list is not exhaustive it covers the characteristics of the key training styles.

I make a total and utterly abject apology to anyone who might think that they recognise themselves in the above. If they do, it is evidence of just how vain the training fraternity are. - they would find it impossible to believe that people were not talking about them!

The writer is programme director of training at Warwick Business School's Centre for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises