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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