Ton Voogt’s speech on specific way of Training of Schouten China

I am honored to be able to speak to you today at this conference. You have come here to acquire a better picture of the training methods that Schouten China has applied, and continues to apply, with such success. Today, five of the people who have successfully completed the course will be presented with a certificate proving that they are now qualified as Soft Skill Trainers. The IRCES certificate confirms that their names have been added to this register, which can be openly accessed on the Internet.

What are the key features of the Schouten training method?

From the social sciences we have learned that all people’s actions are always driven by two basic motives. First, everyone is motivated to fulfill his or her talents, to achieve certain specific goals. Second, everyone is motivated by a desire to ‘belong’.

In pursuing these basic goals, people develop habits. Habits that are sometimes effective and efficient for a while. But then, they may outgrow their usefulness. Schouten’s training focuses on these habits at that stage in time.

Schouten China bases its work on fundamental values: it appreciates people’s efforts to find personal happiness; it seeks to contribute to organizational success and harmonious societies. We find it important for people to be able to choose for themselves between a selfish, ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality, putting others first, and sharing advantages. Each unique situation calls for a specific choice. In principle, there is something to be said for each of these choices. Everything depends on the situation and the rules. Doing business is about winning, and the winner does ‘take all’. But in a team, if each of the members is going after his own self-interest, the results of the  team as a whole will suffer. On the other hand, putting others first all the time will leave you empty-handed.

Schouten China’s training courses help to strengthen self-respect. We set out to expand social skills, helping people to build up relationships in which people respect each other without giving up their own self-respect. We work for individuals, and with individuals. We engage with their values, their attitudes, their self-confidence and their skills to express themselves and to improve their relationships with others.

Why does this matter so much? Let me tell you very briefly how we look at people and their habits. People develop habits. These habits help them to act efficiently without  spending too much time and energy weighing things up and reflecting. And they continue to be effective as long as the results continue to be satisfying. But what happens when they are no longer satisfied with the result? Or when others make it clear that they are not satisfied with the effects of these habits? People often respond by making resolutions: “I’m going to do things differently from now on”. They may say, “You’re quite right, I’ll change the way I do things.” But often, it just doesn’t happen. Why not?

The efficiency of a habit comes from the fact that it is internalized; you act without being conscious of it. It’s like a reflex, which takes effect before the conscious mind even has time to notice. We say, “I did it without thinking” or “I’d already done it before I became aware of it”. We often feel bad about admitting this: we prefer to think we have everything under our conscious control. But habits don’t belong in that area. Habits take effect before we become conscious of what we’re doing. Conscious control doesn’t work, however much we might like to think it does. That’s because habits have become ingrained in our  emotional and physical constitution. This has very important implications for the kind of training that is needed to change habits. Schouten China is geared towards changing habits. So it has to use special methods, which are effective in changing habits. If all we were to do would be to make people aware of their habits, encourage reflection and new resolutions, make recommendations and encourage people to copy others – that’s not the way to achieve permanent changes.

Since habits are anchored in people’s emotional and physical constitution, they are highly resistant to changing influences. A habitual response takes place independently of the situation. Habits are anchored with feelings of fear which arise if the habits can’t be applied, or if they’re blocked. Fear of negative repercussions, fear of negative reactions from other people, fear of failure. On the other hand, they’re also anchored with feelings of relief or satisfaction which arise when these habits are applied.

Take the following example. Some people have the habit of avoiding the anxiety and stress they feel when they have to stand up and speak in front of a group of people by avoiding the situation altogether. But this means that they miss out on an opportunity to show that they have good ideas. As a result, their own career may stagnate, and the company does not get the benefit of their ideas. This in turn will make them feel very dissatisfied. So they make a new resolution: next time they will grab that chance. But then they often discover that they don’t have the necessary tools to avoid the feelings of anxiety and stress. So they end up avoiding the situation again and achieving a temporary sense of relief, and as a result, their sense of self-worth is eroded still further.

The methods applied by SchoutenChina involves first inviting participants to formulate some precise goals. Then we encourage them to break the old habit in very stressful situations. We encourage them to go through the stress and display more desirable behavior. After that, they can repeat it dozens more times – not just in training sessions, but in real situations too: in shops, in the street, or in the office. People gradually learn which specific techniques work for them, and practice them.

The people who take part in Training for Trainers realize that as prospective trainers,  they too have habits they need to break. Habits that may be much valued in everyday life, but which are not useful in a training situation. In everyday life, the ability not to put people under stress is valued very highly. It is considered good not to confront people with stressful situations. In normal life, challenging so-called ‘normal’ views is not appreciated. But trainers have to be able to create difficulties and put people in situations that are stressful. They have to be able to create uncertainty and to make their limitations visible. They also learn how to create an environment in which people feel safe enough to dare to confront their own weaknesses.

在培训中打开学员的“秘密”The “SECRET” to Open Up Participants



作为思腾的软技能培训师,必须具备这样的一个技能,就是能够在培训中建立一个安全的心理环境,让学员愿意在这个环境中谈论自己,不怕犯错地尝试新的行为,改变自己。而达到这个目的,需要应用到很多的培训师技巧(Trainer Skill),在这里,我把其中一部分技巧总结为“SECRET”。

我们的培训师首先要做到的,是在课堂上营造出一种安全的氛围,并将这种氛围贯穿培训的始终。思腾的培训师在培训一开始,都会与学员共同设定一些ground rules,其中有两点,是我们在培训中常常强调的:
 Nobody gets to be wrong(没有人是错的)
 Confidentiality(保密)
其中,Nobody gets to be wrong,并不是说所有的人在做法上都没有对错,而是每个学员作为“人”本身是没有错的,是需要激励的。Confidentiality则是希望同意不要将学员在课堂上分享的案例到课外去传播,从而对分享真实案例的学员造成不必要的影响。





思腾培训的“连结”不仅体现在老师与学员之间、学员和学员之间,还体现在学员把自己的学习目标(Learning Goal)与课程内容和练习之间的联系上。在思腾的培训中,我们特别关注学员个体的成长,努力帮助学员明确自己学习目标(learning goal)。培训师也常常会引导学员寻找/设定具体清晰的培训目标。在这个过程中,非常重要的是要让每个学员的声音/想法被听到、被关注到,在一开始就能够使培训师和每一个学员建立连结,同时也帮助学员之间建立连结。


思腾的培训植根于心理学,思腾的培训师长于通过观察行为了解学员。比如,很多学员在培训中不愿意谈论自己,常常是因为害怕受到评价,尤其是负面的评价。因此,在思腾的培训中,我们的培训师非常注重的一点就是减少对学员本身的“Judgement”,努力做到“Heart to people”,相信他有能力突破自己、改变自己,将自己变得更好。正是因为这种尊重和信心,思腾的培训师在学员挑战和改变自己时,又常常会“Hard on result”,挑战和引导学员将新的行为做到位。

“Heart to people, Hard on result(对人要用心,对事要严格)”,也是我们的培训师需要用行为贯穿培训始终的一个原则。在培训中,我们的培训师不仅自己要做到这些,还要引导学员也这样做。


在一个培训中,往往是一小部分学员先打开,当这部分学员谈论自己的行为/挑战时,其他的学员则选择观察他人的方式进行学习。在这个阶段,通过个别学员的分享、练习及反馈,每个人都能获得属于自己的学习点。但这是不够的。因此,我们的培训师常常会更进一步:他会引导学员发现,那些主动分享、主动要求练习的学员学到的东西更多。与此同时,他还会邀请更多的人参与练习。这样,随着培训课程的开展,学员之间会彼此影响,彼此带动,从而达到“Participants learn from each other, and also inspired by each other(学员相互影响,并相互激励)”的效果。思腾的培训师最擅长的技能之一,就是能够充分利用团体动力,带动更多的学员投入、参与到培训进程中来。

当然,我们没有办法做到每一次培训中的每一个学员都能够彻底打开,但掌握了上述的“秘密—SECRET”,再加上其他一些培训师技巧,我们将能够增加打开学员的可能性,让思腾的培训真正地帮助学员谈论自己、反思自己、挑战自己和改变自己 。

Reflections on the Uniqueness of our Training

Six month ago, before the TFT (Training for Trainers) training, I had to do a PDP (Personal Development Plan), in which I was asked a question, “Imagine the sky is the limit: What would be your ideal situation after 6 months?” Now after the final two weeks’ very intensive training in Zaltbommel, Holland, I’m about to welcome the closure of the TFT program and I have to say, the benefits and the results of it was beyond my imagination before taking it. I not only truly experienced my own professional development, but also found myself to be deeply in love with the Schouten & Nelissen way of training and its training programs.

Let me use a metaphor to describe my experiences within the last two weeks’ TFT training in Holland. For me, the entire learning experience was almost like solving a puzzle. I was given a number of pieces of the puzzle during the early months and all of a sudden, during the final two weeks, I found these pieces to come together in a very coherent way and as a result, I saw a whole picture with consistent themes cutting through all pieces. That was exactly what I experienced during my stay in Holland. I clearly experienced and identified the uniqueness of the S & N way of training and I was able to tell common threads in terms of philosophies, themes, and skill sets that are stressed in all training programs at S & N. It was also deeply felt that our professional trainers have to truly believe in what they do and more importantly, practice soft skills and assertiveness in the entire process of training, from the intake interviews to the delivery of the training programs.

I also witnessed dramatic changes in the thinking of my Chinese colleagues, including myself, during these two weeks. Right before taking off for Holland, we were quite occupied with commercializing our products. That is, we attempted to come up with a program book in which we detail (to every quarter of a hour) topics we cover and exercises we do in a given training program so that an experienced trainer can carry out the training simply by reading the manual instructions. After the two weeks’ training, we gave up that idea, as we realized that it was simply not our way of training. In effect, my greatest gain from the training in Holland was to figure out that our training is always about here and now, that is, what is happening at every minute in the training site and with the participants. It was such a significant learning point to me was that when Janneke, the communication program trainer, asked what two words I want to take with me back to Beijing, I said, “Here and now.” For me, the flexibility and adaptability of the trainer to the ongoing situations during the training was the key to the uniqueness of the S & N way of training.

In terms of the uniqueness of our training, another deeply felt aspect was the focus on behavior and the use of simple exercises in our training. That can be best illustrated by our leadership program. A lot of leadership trainings in the existing Chinese market tend to stress popular theories, stories of celebrity leaders such as Peter Druck, Ma Yun, and Liu Chuanzhi, and thought provoking case studies borrowed from others. In contrast, our leadership program is designed to allow leaders at all levels to demonstrate their people skills by doing simple things, such as moving chairs, rearranging cups, and decorating rooms. It doesn’t matter what they do. What matters is that the minute we ask people to organize others to do something, we are allowed to observe their leadership skills and identify their weaknesses so that we help them to work on the improvement of their leadership behaviors. We believe, the simpler the exercises are, the more difficult for the participants to find excuses not to fulfill the task in a satisfactory way. The same philosophy applies to our other training programs, including assertiveness. When the tasks and settings get complex, surrounding factors start to intervene so that it becomes difficult for the trainers and participants to focus on related behaviors that we really need to focus on and to improve. Our experiential way of training also suggest that instead of using others’ cases, oftentimes, hypothesized ones, we prefer to elicit real difficult situations from the participants everyday work and life settings. Through conducting systematic functional analysis of their behaviors and through rebuilding the situations and trying out alternative behaviors, we help the participants to increase the awareness of the impact of their behaviors so that they learn to make conscious choices later.

Last but not least, the trip to Holland allows me to identify a good match between my personality and the organization’s culture at S & N. It is a human organization with a lot of warmth in interpersonal relationship among colleagues at all levels. I also have to say that I was deeply touched by the professionalism of the organization, as it was demonstrated by all the Dutch trainers that I encountered during the entire TFT training. The organization also impressed with the quality of its professionals who absolutely have passion for what they do. In effect, the impact of our trainings oftentimes affects who we are as a human being and how we interact in our personal lives. In that sense, the nature of our job decides that it blurs the boundary between work and life in a positive sense. That is, through our professional development, we better ourselves as human beings. I saw that happening to our Dutch colleagues and to me and my Chinese colleagues as well.

Now with the closure of the TfT training, I will be equipped with the wings to fly. And if the sky is the limit, I would enjoy the freedom as much as possible…Of course, I will always need nutrition and guidance from the mother bird.

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