Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Recently, I came across a copy of Robert Fulghum’s inspirational collection of essays and remembered a high school teacher had a poster with excerpts from this book in her classroom. While I recall looking at the poster, and even reading the simplistic statements…I was a teenager, desperately trying to be seen as a young adult, so any suggestion that I should revert to things I learned as a 5-year old didn’t interest me at the time.
But now, looking back at this idyllic book with a grown-up pair of eyes and perspective, I see how much truth lies in its simplicity. It reminds me of how unnecessarily complicated we tend to make things. Yes, in life. But also in career.
I flipped through the book, first in a general sense, but again as a learning professional. How could we revolutionize our interactions with training participants, with organizational stakeholders, with clients or our own teams if we followed Fulghum’s advice?
Thinking as a facilitator for the purposes of this post, here are 10 lessons we learned in Kindergarten, based on Fulghum’s book, that could make us more effective:
1. Share everything.
Transparency is key. Use your platform as a facilitator to encourage a collaborative environment. Share best practices. Discuss real-world scenarios and struggles. Celebrate wins. Be all in with your participants.
2. Play fair.
Maintain a level playing field throughout your sessions. Ensure that your content is relevant. Set learners up for success, not defeat or frustration.
3. Clean up your own mess.
Both literally and figuratively. Set house rules that allow for exploration, but also for accountability.
4. Take a nap every afternoon.
Never underestimate the importance of taking a break. Your participants – and YOU – need time to recharge your batteries, get some fresh air, or take care of work issues that may arise. Building breaks into your agenda will also help ensure that your participants stick with you during the content.
5. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Okay, this book was first written in 1988, long before things like “lactose intolerance” and “gluten-free” entered our mainstream vocabulary. But the lesson I take from this statement is that little details make a big difference. Go above and beyond to create a positive environment and make your participants feel special. Warm cookies and cold milk are certainly a nice touch…even if you have to provide a healthy alternative.
6. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Provide support opportunities after the session – whether through online resources, discussion forums, social media or other channels that work for your organization. Encourage participants to network and share with one another to continue the learning long after the lights go out in the training room.
7. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
As a facilitator, I interpret this as accommodating a variety of methods and learning styles into your session. Balance heavier content with lighter, interactive methods. Don’t rely on stale, wordy PowerPoint. Avoid lecturing for hours on end. Leverage group discussions and other engaging exercises to keep your participants moving throughout the day.
8. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Less talk, more walk.” That’s really what it’s all about. Live and facilitate with conviction, friends. Be an advocate for learning in your organization not only by what you say in meetings, but how you interact with peers, subordinates, stakeholders and bosses.
9. It wasn’t in books. It wasn’t in church. What I needed to know was out there in the world.
Amen to that. The most effective learning takes place through practical means – on the job, in the real world. Recognize that, and design your formal instructional time in a way that sets learners up for real-world application.
10. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.
A self-aware facilitator understands that it truly is all about the participant, not about the facilitator. Yes, even those of us who have a flair for the dramatic and like to dazzle the crowd. But friends, please remember what a privilege it is to bring learning experiences to the workplace. You are in a unique position to add value to your organization – even though sometimes, on days when “everything is a training issue,” it can feel like a thankless, after-thought of a job. And my goodness, how rewarding does it feel to see the proverbial light bulbs switch on during a session, or to see tangible business results after a big learning project was implemented?
So, in a way, it can be **a little bit** about us once in awhile…
Your turn: What childhood lessons do you follow, when designing, delivering or managing the learning function in your organization? How have those lessons helped you throughout your career? I’d love to see your insights in the comments!
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