Can an old dog learn new tricks? – Yes I can!

I have recently been working on material to build a training programme for increasing self confidence (check out my earlier blogs) and linked to this, I have just delivered a programme on “Empathy and Expectations” for a client to help increase their staff’s awareness about customer service, and to look at ways of dealing with challenging behaviours.

Early in the material I prepared for presenting for the client at their Summer conference, I included this picture “Awakening Conscience” by Holman Hunt, which I found thanks to on Google Images, which was chosen to demonstrate different perspectives.

When shown to the delegates, they were asked to write down what they saw, and there was a wide variety of responses: some saw and listed just objects, some read the emotions in the subject’s faces, and others saw and read into the picture a back story.

[Have a go for yourself and note what you see, and then look up the painting on Wikipedia to see how much detail and how many metaphors are hidden in the picture.]

What this exemplifies simply is how and why different people see and respond differently to similar events in their lives.

I won’t go into the actual content of my presentation on empathy and expectations, but suffice to say it went down well to an audience ranging from back and front office support staff, and a range of different lecturers at an adult community college. If you want to find out more about the programme just contact me.

But the point of this blog was what I learned from the experienced college principal who commissioned the presentation, and who worked closely with me to develop the content throughout the day. So I am the old dog that learned new tricks!

Previously in preparing a presentation I subscribed to the view that:

  • you tell your audience what you are going to tell them
  • then you tell them
  • then you tell them what you told them

That way everybody knows what they are going to learn and what they have learned.

The revelation I learned in preparing this presentation was about a better way of teaching and a better way of learning.

If you let your delegates explore and discover through an activity, they discover through their own learning. So instead of telling someone about a theory, and then enabling them to do an exercise practising it, you let them explore and discover through an activity, the point you want them to learn, and then you tell them the theory of what they have just learned.

Instead of disclosing too soon the information the delegate can use to gain the knowledge you want to impart, you enable them to discover it for themselves.

And that is the difference between a teacher’s approach and the approach of someone who presents information.

There is a tremendous resource in the room when delegates attend a presentation, delegates can learn as much or more from each other as they can from the “expert” at the front, if the environment is conducive to sharing the knowledge in the room! A colleague of mine calls it “infinite utilisation“.

It’s obvious when it’s set out like that, isn’t it?

It means taking a risk by demonstrating that the speaker is not all knowing, but the potential for learning is increased exponentially.

It also means relinquishing control, as the group control the pace of their learning, rather than the speaker.

And that is the other thing I learned. To relax, believe and go with the flow. My original running order of slides was chopped and changed so many times I almost lost confidence in my ability to deliver the core message. But this new way worked so much better!

Read more in my blogs:

Contact-me to learn more…

You can find more about me at or check out my facebook business page!/jas1955 or follow me on Twitter


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Filed under career, coaching, leadership, self esteem

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