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Who Has Really Influenced Your Career?

Have you ever really thought about who has influenced your career?  I can almost guarantee there is always a teacher or trainer who is one of the major influences in your life. They may also be a relative or loved one, but in most cases they were fulfilling the role of teacher. Training or teaching is one of the most influential careers that has ever been created. However the immediate returns of the teachers efforts is usually long time away. In emergency response that has been most of my career has been spent there have been several great fire trainers that have influenced my career. They showed me many things and let me learn along the way. That is a great lesson in itself, teachers donít teach students learn. Many times when I am complimented on my teaching techniques, I always let people know that my skills are a composite of many before me.

What Makes a Great Trainer?

Unfortunately there are many teachers and only a few of them become great. Many believe that a great instructor needs to possess all three key elements -- Knowledge, practical Skills and Attitude. This notion infers that they must have extensive knowledge, great hands on skills and a strong, healthy attitude. I submit that a great trainer does not possess these skills, but they just know how to use them all effectively. The three areas are usually referred to as Learning Domains. Managing all three well will make great teacher.

When you look at an average teacher they basically teach knowledge. Lecture, facts, points and information. In fact many very smart or knowledgeable teachers are not great trainers because all they teach have is knowledge. A better trainer can teach both skills and knowledge. Those who know and can do are certainly a better combination. But in emergency response it simply means they been there and done it. Great instructors blend all three domains. They know information is important, skills are necessary to perform well but they also know the most crucial element of making a great education experience is a correct attitude. Most lessons do not include an attitude segment because it is difficult to teach emotional issues. Great teachers know the value of attitude and teach it because they can make the emotional connection. Poor Trainers never make this emotional connection and without the emotional bond of student/teacher you will never make many lasting changes in individuals.

How do mediocre trainers differ from great trainers? Poor trainers misunderstand the emotional connection. They try to be your buddy, and pal around. Sometimes it takes a strong trainer to change a student. A good teacher knows that change although necessary, may not always be liked. Another mistaken "attitude impaired" or emotionally weak trainer is the reader. I sometimes think of them as pure lecturers. They read the knowledge and because they are smart you should become smart by osmosis. We all have had these and they are not on the top of the list in motivators. The last of the trainers who miss the emotional boat is the screamer. Screamers think some training is a rite of passage and by making it tough it makes it worthwhile. Anyone who has experience basic training or recruit training are some examples. People did learn, but many of us do look at our drill sergeants as the most influential teacher in our life. Making the emotional connection is simple. Always look for the good point in a student. When evaluating a student great trainers always can find a good point or two unfortunately bad trainers never do.

To Make a Change Know that Learning Speeds Differ

Another important fact is that great trainers know that each student learns at a different speed or rate. Using these differing speeds successfully is an art of orchestration few trainers or teachers have. He knows that fast learners may Ask Too Many Questions, because they are bored, and many times he must also knows that slow Learners never ask enough questions because theyíre timid or embarrassed. A powerful instructor anticipates, expects and coddles. The great trainer who really makes change assures the students that the are successful. They constantly inspect the students work to keep apprised of success or possible slipping of the in effort. This close attention breeds success. It is said learning is an observable change of behavior, the great instructor must always be constantly observing. If you come home tired every night after teaching, you are on the way to becoming great. Good teaching is hard work.

Great Trainers Exude Credibility

Credibility is a by product of great training. But to develop the credibility necessary we all have to "been there... Done that ..." . You donít become a great trainer simply from reading the books. If you want to make changes that stick you must have credibility. Change Agents are believable. They are trusted. One of most guarded things an instructor can have is credibility. Lose it and the chance of changing anyone is greatly reduced. Never lie, never orally assault (physical assault no matter how much provoked is a definite no), ridicule, or attack based on race, creed or color. I laugh at the current issue of political correctness. Great trainers have practiced political correctness all their lives, not because it is was ever politically correct, but because itís simply the right thing to do! Students never respect someone who attacks a student, they know today him maybe tomorrow me.

Trainers have the greatest chance for making changes. They have always been the change agent, because they do it so subtly. Fire fighters or subordinates trying to change lack the credibility of leadership. This is not to say great trainers are not found in the rank and file. But even a fire fighter knows that the great change comes from leadership positions. Managers who are trainers or know change comes from training will impact any organization more than a totalitarian who thinks power is the answer. Simply put, managers make the opportunity for change with good policy, the trainer makes change happen.

Good Trainers are people who are respected. They rise above the rest and are looked up to. The real reason for a trainer's success lies in the fact they genuinely care about the student. My line has always been, "I never met a student I didnít like, I just like some more than others. Remember careers are molded by experience, education, influences such as people, literature and events. Trainers embody all these influential issues.

Six Key Elements to Great Trainers

In closing I choose a literary model about the proverbial six friends or as I like to think six tools to becoming a great trainer. If you strive to succeed remember these six points or tools. Great Trainers Have Six tools ...


Who - As a teacher recognize the power you have a respect it. You could be someone who will impact this student with the same power as relatives, friends, supervisors and others. Training officers can make a substantial change in individuals. They are the difference between a Captain or a couch potato

What - A great trainer knows simply that his job is three fold - do the right thing, the right way, with the right attitude every time.

Why - Because you care. If you donít care do something else. If a student knows you care about their Safety, they feel you believe in your ability they will succeed. A great trainer knows one thing intrinsically, Good training always results in good learning experience.

When - The sooner the better. The strongest changes occur early in your career when you are young, Impressionable. Anytime they are eager for information, ready to learn. It no wonder that the negative result of this concept are cults and societies intended for violence, they manipulate this eagerness to learn for their own ends. Training and education are a powerful force.

How - Teaching is not hard when you care. This motivation for you is translated to the students. The same caring that makes the "when" right makes the effort simple. Empathy, enthusiasm, sympathy are emotions that cement the educational experience. Credibility and sincerity are what validates the learning.

Where - Is the simplest issue for a good instructor - Any time, Anyone, Anyplace. Always be ready to teach. Many of my colleagues I consider great instructors carry extra programs to conferences with them in case someone needs a session. Great trainers Never Pass Up a Chance to Teach.


I have been fortunate to have been a teacher, trainer, instructor, professor, mentor or any of the thousand words used to describe someone who willing imparts knowledge to others. I went to college to teach elementary school, joined the fire service and have taught now for over twenty years. Thatís a drop in the bucket for the family of teachers. Humanity has had teachers and trainers all their evolutionary lives. Had the young cave children been taught to hunt incorrectly, we would have died out as a species. Even as the new age of information dawns some say the teacher will be extinct or at least will make drastic changes. Thatís foolish. Teachers and trainers been changing all throughout history, they have to keep making changes in their students, one day at a time.

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All information © Mike Callan, 2001, unless otherwise indicated