What if you get asked to train, but never done it before

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What if you get asked to train, but have never done it before?

Question: “Someone asked me to do a training on diversity, but I’ve never done one before. I just happen to be a person of color, so of course they thought I could do a diversity workshop. I don’t know where to start.”

Answer: I would start by going back to talk to the person that asked you to do it and ask them some basic questions like, “Where do you think the organization wants all employees to be? What kinds of skills, knowledge, capacities do we want them all to be able to do? And Where do you think they are now?”

And then ask if they can break that down maybe by level: leaders, middle managers, entry level folks, folks that have maybe one-year, five-year, ten-year experience in the organization. You don’t have to do all of these, but you really want the person that asked you to outline where they think our folks are, the vision they have, their strategic plan, and what they want people to gain in the time frame of the session.

Then you can negotiate what you can do in the time frame they have asked for. If they really say we only have an hour, you may want to see if you can do a series. I hope that most organizations will realize that these skills are just like budgeting and supervision – they are long-term investments in people that happen over time. People come to equity, inclusion & diversity with all sorts of pre-determined ideas, feelings, and life experiences.

These workshops are different than learning how to budget, though people come in with triggers around budgeting, but there’s even more when you start talking about diversity and inclusion. So, what you can do is highlight the leadership case and why it’s important. You may also include some “what could you do if” scenarios.

When I think about the design, there’s act one, where you warm people up and think about why are we here? This may include a leader introducing and framing the day – here’s why we’re here, here’s how it relates to the strategic plan, here’s our expectations of you, so when you go back we want you to meet with your supervisor and talk about what you’ve learned.

Then you will introduce yourself. You can tell some stories about how you used to be less aware/less skilled, what happened, and maybe a little more about your capacity. But I think it’s great as facilitators and trainers if we include a story in the design, that shows how recently we were not very effective, how quickly we learned, and how we’re now more effective. The goal is not to try and be the expert, but to highlight how I’m just like you; I’m on a learning journey and we’re on this learning journey together.

Early in the design workshop you want to get people moving and reflecting on the current state. I like to do things like talk about a time you really felt you mattered in organization and what was it that helped you feel valued and respected. Talk about a time you felt marginalized and what was that like. Not using any names. Have people tell those stories in maybe groups of three and then share them. What you’re doing is creating a container for authentic conversation, engagement, telling stories. That’s what I think is creative about designs.

When I started out thirty-five years ago, I would find a really fun activity and think I could just do it. I didn’t strategically think about where the participants were, how ready or willing they were to engage in a level of work they need to do. I didn’t think about their current capacity. But I’ve learned that you can be willing and want to learn, but if you’re very early – say skill set is zero to ten. Zero being nothing, and mis-respond to every kind of diversity dynamic and Ten is knowing everything and being very effective. Many people in the workshops that I do will say that they’re six, seven, eight, but once I start working, they’re maybe to two, three, four. And I think that’s a pretty good guess of where people are.

When you’re designing, get to know who they are, what the leaders want and then explore what kind of activities might help achieve the learning goals. Mostly, it’s about scaffolding the learning in ways that keep people engaged. Pretty early I might give them a list of ten critical difficult situations/microaggressions that happen in the organization. You can collect those from your colleagues, from employee resource groups, from customers and just take all the names and indicators out.

An early ice breaker, after they warm up a bit, could put them into small groups and ask them to pick a scenario. Ask them how confident and competent they feel that they could respond effectively in the situation. Have them write down what they might do.

Some of them may be surprised or feeling unsure what to do, but they don’t have to stand up and tell you how they would do it, it’s just about helping them recognize that these are the kinds of situations we’re going to talk about today so that we can create an inclusive work environment and serve our increasingly diverse customers, and help them be much more effective in serving our customers.

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