In my first career, I managed a restaurant. Over the years I trained a lot of waitresses, ice cream scoopers, grill cooks, supervisors, and even managers. We had a three step process that worked really well. First, she watched me do it. Next, I watched her do it. Finally, she did it by herself, but I was nearby; present but not hovering, taking more and more steps back until she was efficiently operating on her own.
That was it.
Now I am in a different profession. I have been a trainer/mentor for many colleagues over the past several years. I recently have been on the trainee side of the equation again (hel-lo) and it’s helped me remember what is helpful and what is not so helpful from this side of the table.
- Listen to your trainee
- Choose your verbs carefully: “Struggling” is unkind. “Learning” is another word that expresses the same phenomenon but doesn’t leave your trainee feeling crushed.
- Rookies make rookie mistakes. Let them.
- Tell your newbie that she is doing a great job. Tell her frequently, every day, even it if’ it’s overstating things a bit. It’s very motivating.
- Adult learners process information differently (read: more slowly) than they did in their earlier decades of life, and they might be coming face to face with this difficult truth in a new and uncomfortable way. Give them frequent little breaks to absorb what is coming her way.
- Allow a little time to debrief at the end of the day.
- Chocolate helps. A lot. In large amounts.
- Introduce some fun; fun is good.
- Remind your newbie that you were sitting in the same seat that she is now when you first started, and look at you now!
- Never forget rule #9 yourself.