Say what you mean, and mean what you say…

When my elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Weber, would get frustrated with our class, she would stand up from her piano bench, put her hands on her hips, and sternly say, “I said what I meant, and I meant what I said!!” (what she “said” usually involved telling us to sit down and shut up…ah, the good old days of public education!)  Now, while she wasn’t exactly going for the Sweet Old Lady Music Teacher image, the woman, rest her soul, makes a good point:

Say what you mean.  Mean what you say.

Today, I was reminded of this when I sent an email to various people in our organization regarding some upcoming training.  I left out a simple sentence that would have made a world of difference in whether the recipients of this email would have understood it.  One. Tiny. Sentence.  I hit the send button, and within minutes there was a dizzying array of emails from confused people flooding my inbox.  Just what you want on a Friday afternoon, eh?  At first, I was taken aback at how these folks OBVIOUSLY didn’t read the painstakingly crafted email they just received.  It couldn’t have been MY fault.  Moi?  Well, in a word…oui.  It was “moi’s” fault.  I re-read the email and wanted to smack myself.  The tiniest, most careless omission made a world of difference, and now my job is more difficult as a result of it.

What can we take away from this as learning professionals?  A few things:

1. When you develop your content, it must MAKE SENSE…not only to you, but to your intended audience.  Try pilot groups, focus groups, running it past a co-worker or two even…whatever it takes to make sure that what is in your head as a learning designer, and however you translated a subject matter expert’s explanation of the content, makes sense to the end user.

2. Proofread. Relying on spell-check alone won’t always cut it.  Take the time to read through your work before submitting it, before training it, before presenting it…etc.

3. In instructor-led classes, always, always, always provide plenty of time for application and questions.  You need to make sure that it clicks.  If it doesn’t, be available to answer questions, provide guidance, and help them through it.

Now, all training situations aren’t exactly like today’s email blunder, but I think it served as a great reminder of a few things that are easy to forget sometimes.

And Mrs. Weber…wherever you are, I’m just going to sit down and shut up now.  I know that’s what you’d want.

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