You watch your group enter the room ready for your training session with them. As usual, the seats at the back of the room fill up first and some lonely individual or the latecomers reluctantly take the front row ...
Oh no, it's going to be one of those sessions. You've got some Bosom Rustlers. If you've been in management or training for any length of time you know exactly who I mean.
It was a term I learnt from a senior nursing colleague when together we were faced with a truculent group of ward sisters in the NHS who had been sent on a cost improvement seminar. There they were, sitting together on the back row, arms folded under their ample bosoms with lips set firmly in a straight line defying us to teach them anything.
OK, that's an awful stereotype, but if you've been a manager or a trainer, I'm sure you've experienced the equivalent. Maybe it's one individual or a whole group who from their body language is making it crystal clear to you that they don't want to be there
If you're experienced in leading such sessions you will already have prepared for this eventuality and have your tactics ready. If not then I thought I'd share with you what I learnt from my senior colleague that day.
- Be prepared
Make sure you're well briefed on who your audience is. Did they choose to be here or was it mandatory? What other agendas are they likely to have that could hijack your session. Which could you accommodate in your session and which are off-limits? Your objective is to have no surprises.
- Demonstrate your empathy
After briefly introducing yourself, but before sharing your agenda find out what every individual wants to get out of attending the session. This can seem like a waste of time especially if you're only together for a couple of hours and there's a lot to cover. However, time spent really listening will always pay dividends. My rule of thumb is a short two-hour session spend 10 minutes on this whilst a full day I may spend ½ hour.
Your primary objective is to have a list of their common issues and be able to match these against your content and reassure them (and you) that the time will be well spent. Your other agenda is to flush out and acknowledge other topics you will not be able to cover. If this is only an issue for an individual or small group of participants then offer to address that in the break or after the meeting. Otherwise, give them a solution on how that item can be addressed in the future. If sceptical or aggressive participants do not feel listened to or taken seriously then they will not be able to move on and focus on the primary reason for the session.
- Get everyone talking
Your bosom rustlers may be a minority and it is important for them to hear that others have a different opinion. If they are very disruptive it is easy for the quieter voices not to be heard. The best way to do this is to split the participants into pairs to discuss what they want to get out of the session. Make it clear that you want feedback from everyone. Just two minutes spent on this exercise means everyone has a say and everyone has heard the alternative views of their peers which is a much stronger influence than anything you may say. You now have an explicitly shared contract of what you will work towards from all parties.
- Get feedback from the whole room
It is important to make sure you actually do deliver what they want to receive as well as meet your primary objective for the training.
For longer sessions such as a whole day even,t check-in at the end of every section that people are getting their needs met. Then at the end, do a summary of these to ensure you have addressed everything you promised in setting this learning contract. Lastly, remind people of the agenda items you were not able to address and reinforce your willingness to talk to those affected after the session closes.
Two other points on meeting management to demonstrate your commitment to the group. Do make sure that what you are offering is interesting and well presented and pertinent to the group. And lastly, finish on time. It is the last thing people will remember about the session.
These simple steps may seem either obvious or not relevant, but will save you from having to manage disruptive behaviour during your session and prevent you from coming back another time to face yet more bosom rustlers next time.
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.