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Feb 3 2012

Managing Prisoners

In the blog “Who Comes to Your Workshops” I identified three kinds of workshop attendees; participants, passives and prisoners. I left the reader with two questions, one of which we’ll address in this blog. How do you manage the prisoners?


A chief attribute of a workshop prisoner is their negative energy. There are many reasons for this negativity, some justifiable while others may include a lack of maturity. Whatever the reason, the reality is that the trainer must put the group, not the prisoner, as their top concern. Is the prisoner’s behavior impacting the group – if so, you’re asked to intervene indirectly or directly to maintain group health and growth.

In our coping comments below, keep in mind the ‘bushfire’ concept. Responding early to disruptive prisoner allows you to keep the status of behavior at a bushfire level. Letting the prisoner behavior go may well exacerbate the situation and soon you have a forest fire on your hands. It’s much easier to be proactive in a bushfire than reactive in a forest fire.

And secondly, your strategies to manage and lead the prisoner can be seen at two levels; diffuse and depersonalize.

Diffuse strategies

Move from indirect to direct

Move from a preventive to a more corrective approach, from a responsive to an assertive style. The responsive approach usually allows the trainer to make a connection with the learner.

Avoid arguments – acknowledge problems

Avoid getting caught up in opposing positions. Instead, hear the problem. Get to the bottom of things by asking. You validate the person and allow yourself the opportunity to gain an empathetic attitude. Be hard on the problem but soft on the personalities involved. Acknowledgement does not imply agreement, rather validity of what a person is experiencing. Acknowledgement also reduces the risk of making false assumptions.

Work one on one

Do not give the prisoner a stage. Diffuse any tendency to upstage by removing yourself and the prisoner from the room to talk in private or to speak during breaks. The one on one approach allows the prisoner the freedom to respond without reprisal from other learners.

Refer to ground rules

During a workshop opening ensure you provide or generate workshop guidelines. Then when speaking with a prisoner, you’re being proactive, not reactive, when reference is made to group standards. Sometimes, that is all that is needed.

4 on 1

In some cases, linking a prisoner with participants in a subgroup setting may diffuse the resistance or resentment the prisoner is feeling. Be careful that the linking is not done at the expense of the participants. Monitor subgroups with prisoners and intervene as needed.

Seek a partnership

When working with prisoners, be collaborative, not competitive. Seek a learning partnership. Model the very action you want from them such as cooperation, a positive attitude, lots of patience and good listening ability. To seek a partnership sets up conductions for a prisoner to save face while looking for more constructive ways to behave.

Challenges are Gifts too

Sometimes the workshop experience can be the best thing for a prisoner. You’re your patience and perseverance, prisoners may park their luggage and become more engaged with other participants and the learning.

But whether or not you’re able to help a prisoner, don’t forget that the challenges you’ve faced are ultimately gifts in disguise. As you look back on difficult training moments, as yourself, “So what did I do well and what would I change?” A question like this helps you frame the experience in a way that promotes insight into yourself and develops your coping strategies.


Trainers are much more than subject matter experts.
They are also people-matter specialists.

Trainer's Edge

Jan 11 2012

Managing Passives

In the blog “Who Comes to Your Workshops”, I identified three kinds of workshop attendees; participants, passives and prisoners. I left the reader with a few questions, one of which was; "How do you manage the passives in a workshop?:


These folk are pleasant but not in the workshop mode. They view the workshop as time to kick back, relax and enjoy themselves. They are non-committal, arriving with low expectations yet with a pleasant attitude. As a trainer, your primary challenge is one of motivation.

Here are some tips and techniques to consider in your attempt to invite passives to become participants.

Connect with work

In advance, conduct an audience audit so that you are aware of attendees work opportunities and responsibilities. Then early in the workshop, address linkages between workshop content and workload. Promote workshop benefits as well.


Use subgroups where possible and place the passive with a group of participants. The energy and involvement of participants may encourage the passive to ‘join in’.

Shared responsibility

In a non-threatening way, appoint passives as leaders of their subgroups. Putting them in positions of responsibility can help them become more involved and interactive.

Group Questions

Instead of relying on individuals to ask questions, have subgroups generate two to three questions to be addressed in a Q & A session. By placing the onus on the subgroup, you draw out the passives and encourage them to contribute their queries – again in a non-threatening way.

What other techniques or approaches have you used?

Trainer's Edge

Jan 11 2012

Who comes to your workshops?

It may be an oversimplification, yet I have found thinking of learners as one of 3 types can be useful in helping facilitate a more productive and positive experience for the group.


These people come to your workshops with well-defined intentions, a willingness to learn and the desire to support others in their learning quest. They contribute positive energy to the workshop, manage themselves well and focus on both their learning needs and the learning needs of others. They are focused, active and enjoy a variety of workshop activities. Their wisdom and experience will bring new insights that add much value to the product and process of the workshop.


If passive people were cars, they’d be stuck in neutral. Usually they are pleasant people who pose a motivational rather than a management issue to the trainer. They come with lower expectations and prefer to play the role of observer. They are the vacationers. Their lower energy is not a burden to the group but it can be frustrating to a trainer. If you could get inside their heads you might hear; “Don’t bug me, just let me enjoy the class with my colleagues. Yes it’s true I won’t be contributing much thinking or ideas to the class but I won’t create problems for you. If I get one or two ideas from the workshop, that will be fine.”


These folks will drain energy from you and the group. Prisoners will surface at workshops for many reasons; mandatory training, low staff morale, they feel they’re the subject matter expert, personal crises, poor timing, overworked, difficulty finding the training location, certain other people in attendance, and so on. Whatever the reason, the negative luggage they bring can pose a challenge to both the trainer and other attendees. Some prisoners are more private by nature so they usually restrict their influence to the subgroup. Other prisoners are more public and can become very visible to the whole group.

Here’s a summary chart on the three types of workshop attendees





Attitude to workshop



Hesitant to resistant

Want from other learners?




Attitude to workshop events




Manage individual needs by




Contributions to group




Trainer deals with them





Two questions might emerge for you at this point.

How does one proactively manage the different types of learners?

What about the status of the trainer? How do you keep yourself as a ‘participant’?

For responses to these questions, refer to 3 blogs:

“Managing Passives”

“Managing Prisoners”

“Manage Your Status”

Trainer's Edge

Nov 10 2011

Subgroup size?

What is the best subgroup size?

As a workshop leader, you'll find yourself dividing the group into working subgroups for specific exercises. Or you may want to use table seating arrangements with people in small subgroups for the entire workshop. What size of subgroup works best?

In my experience, the ideal size for a subgroup is four to five people. With this size, you tend to encourage maximum involvement. With subgroups of six or more, it is easier for one or more participants to opt out of the discussion or activity. People will also find it easier to engage in sidebar conversations.

In general, I consider triads or trios to be the minimum size for a subgroup. If the learners are comfortable with one another, these smaller subgroups can work well. I often use triads when working with groups that have less than twenty people. However, the risk with the triad size is that it only takes one person to make a group malfunction. Diads or pairs can work only if you’ve got considerable trust and comfort.

Trainer's Edge

Nov 10 2011

Giving Feedback

How do you like getting feedback?

Learning is advanced exponentially when feedback is an essential part of any workshop. That feedback may come from one or more of the learners or from the trainer. Here’s a few tips I remind learners and myself of when engaged in providing constructive feedback.

Be specific
Don’t just say “good job” or “that’s not right”. Be specific about the behavior that was performed properly or that you’d like to see eliminated. Don’t beat around the bust.

As soon as you are ready to give constructive feedback, ask the performing learner to return to the subgroup.. The closer to the performance the feedback is received, the more impact it will have

False praise will have a negative effect on the performing learner. It can also cause resentment or concern among other learnes who may get feedback later in the exercise. When giving corrective feedback, be sure you have your facts straight and talk directily to the learner.

Provide insights and suggestions that can be used by the person receiving the feedback. Be down to earth.

Use the learner’s name. The personal touch is especially important when giving positive feedback because learners like to hear their names associated with good work.

Consider the 3 – 2 – 1 method
This process starts and ends on positive notes. Choose six point to comment on:

  • Three things you want the performing learner to keep doing
  • Two things you want the performing learner to start and/or stop doing
  • One thing they did very well

This method works well because it does not overwhelm the performing learner, yet the learner is giving substantive and qualitative feedback.

Trainer's Edge

Feb 14 2012

Luggage is not Destiny!

Psychologists use the terms framing and reframing to explain how we interpret life experiences.

When we frame an experience, we draw conclusions about it that help us to internalize the event. For example, persons who have been abused by men may frame the experience by concluding, “Men are not to be trusted”.

When we reframe an experience, we reconsider out initial conclusion, reinterpreting it in a way that allows us to grow in a more positive direction. This reframing can take place years after the original experience occurred. The conclusions we draw when reframing are often call life lessons. To return to the example above, an abuse survivor may reframe his or her experience to conclude, “My father can’t be trusted. But I’m willing to consider trusting other men.”

Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Reframing takes a lot of courage, insight, and a willingness to consider alternative perspectives. To generalize, an optimist tends to choose better while a pessimist is inclined to choose bitter. Do you recognize a patter in your decision-making?

Do you learn toward better or bitter?

The key here is to take charge of your thinking, to control your destiny. Be aware of the way you interpret your luggage – your life experiences - and reframe them in a positive direction. Keeping choice alive is an exercise in will power.

Luggage is not your destiny. You can choose the path you want to walk!

People Maxims

Feb 2 2012

Your CQ Eclipses your IQ!

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A major shift is underway. Over the last twenty years we have begun to realize that character is a much a form of intelligence as intellectual ability. For many years, intelligence has been measured by gauging an individual’s intellectual capacity, often referring to a person’s intelligence quotient or IQ. However, we’re learning that a person’s strength of character, their character quotient, or as I like to call it, their CQ, may contribute to feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment, more so than IQ.

To discover how character contributes to a fuller life, let’s revisit the four pillars of character from my book: “Knowing Me Knowing You… a guide to proactive people skills”.

Pillar One… Self-Aware

Three of the values highlighted in my book – open-mindedness, humility, and perspective – are particularly important to the development of self-awareness. These values provide a compass by which to navigate the course of our daily lives. These character traits give us a broader view, empower us with choices and help us set realistic goals.

Pillar Two… Other Aware

When we’re other aware, we show empathy for others around us. The values of fairness, forgiveness and kindness guide our actions with others. They inform our decisions, helping us know what to do and what not to do, when to say yes and when to say no. Unlike the traditional view of intelligence, charter intelligence helps us to see the world through another’s eyes.

Pillar Three… Self-Motivated

Strength of character relies on our ability to take responsibility and face challenges. Values such as persistence, integrity, and spirituality support us in these areas. Persistence gives us the strength and motivation to achieve our goals. Spirituality lifts us to higher ground, empowering us to act in accordance with our beliefs. Integrity demands honesty in our words and actions.

Pillar Four… Other-Motivated

Strength of character (our CQ) grants us the ability to inspire and empower others. Hope. leadership, and love are all values that lift others to new heights. These values change lives in ways that academic smarts simply cannot!

Character strength, acquired by living out our values, ultimately accounts for our best practices. That’s how it can eclipse our IQ when we measure our life not by what we know but by how fulfilled and focued we become and who we impact.

People Maxims

Nov 10 2011

Temperament is not destiny!

Temperament is a part of your personality that is stable and unchanging. It relies on patterns or behavior that transcend such significant factors as culture, gender, and education. It’s comforting to know that we can depend on our temperaments patterns and those of our friends and colleagues. We don’t have to reinvent our personality. It’s simply a part of us.

However, this constancy doesn’t mean that we should allow ourselves – or our view of others – to be controlled by what we know about temperament.

Some people who learn about temperament use this knowledge to label everyone they meet. Rather than get to know someone by listening to their words, developing a relationship, or enjoying their company, they slot people into neat little boxes. With the person properly labeled, they feel there  is no need to understand that person more deeply. These individuals use their knowledge of temperament to manipulate others or to get what they want form a colleague, spouse, or friend.

Similarly, when some people learn about their own temperament, they apply labels to themselves, thereby limiting their own promise and potential. For example, a relater may choose not to try to become more proactive or assertive, knowing that isn’t his temperament. I remember one workshop participant saying, “Well, you see what you get with me. That’s just the way I am.” Her words seemed to be suggesting that she had no power to take responsibility for her decisions and actions.

But temperament is not destiny. We are much more than our temperament. Temperament is a great beginning, but it’s not the be-all and end-all to understanding ourselves and others.

People Maxims

Nov 10 2011

The Greatness in You!

In his best-selling book, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins states, “Good is the enemy of great.” He explains, “We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great governments principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

I invite you to raise the bar, to believe that good is not good enough, to aim to be the greatest you can be.

When I encourage you to strive for greatness, am I suggesting that you can do anything you put your mind to? Anything at all?

Many Hollywood movies and some life coaches try to get us to believe the misguided maxim: Anything is possible if you just believe hard enough.” But this simply isn’t true.

Consider the story of Rudy Ruettiger, a 23 year-old groundskeeper at Notre Dame University, who was the protagonist in the 1993 movie Rudy. Tom Rath retells Ruettiger’s story, explaining how Rudy didn’t posses the physical ability to play big-time football or the education to get admitted to Notre Dame, but he had ample heart. It took him three tries to get accepted into the University and then two years of practicing before he was invited to suit up and join his team for the final game of his senior year. In the final moments of the game, he was given the chance to play – and he tackled the opposing team’s quarterback. It was a winning moment and Rudy became an instant hero.

So what do you think? In his attempts to get accepted at Notre Dame and to make the university football team, did Rudy make wise use of his gifts and abilities?

We all have strengths, but we also have limitations. It doesn’t make sense to strive for greatness in an area that is not a strength for us. Rather, it makes more sense to  recognize your natural strengths – often done by completing a temperament survey – and then capitalize on those areas where you have greatest natural abilities. Of course, temperament is not the only place where you have strength, but it is a good place to start.

Acknowledge and enjoy what you’re good at.
Discover and deliver what you can be great at!

People Maxims

Nov 10 2011

Labels Limit, Love Lifts!

Many of us categorize life experiences as good or bad. We have so much going on in our lives that labeling an event or experience seems an expedient thing to do. However, this habit comes with some tradeoffs. Here’s why we should be careful about labeling events without reflecting on them.

  1. Labels limit our thinking. When you categorize an event as bad, you tend to associate it only with negative thoughts and feelings. The label limits your ability to reframe the event. It marginalizes sound thinking and settles the issue all too quickly. This, in turn, curtails your capacity to be creative, spontaneous, or willing to take a risk – even when one of these may be your best option.
  2. Labels simplify things that shouldn’t be simplified. When we call someone a jerk, a tightwad, a rich guy, a nerd, or a silver-spoon child, we label behavior without considering the whole person. We make up our minds about someone, attach a label, and take the relationship no further. The wonderful complexity of a human being is given short shrift when we describe him or her with short, limiting phrases.
  3. Labels are non-thinking conclusions. They can be prejudices or misconstrued thinking that is simply false. All too often labels are ‘stinking thinking’. They focus on negative impressions: “I’m a loser.” “I’m no good.” “She’s a nag.” “He’s a jerk.” Labels are often laced with unfounded and groundless assumptions that are given the power to guide your life. Imagine being driven by personal labels that misguide, misdirect, and allow us to mistake falsehood for truth. Labels are too easy. They don’t demand touch minded thinking.

Keep your mind open by being label-free! Instead of putting labels on your experiences, choose to approach each experience with a mind that is open to different options, different ways of seeing things. Seeking first to understand is much easier when we avoid the habit of labeling.

Coach's Corner

Nov 10 2011

I can’t get through to that person?

Over the years I’ve conducted a number of seminars with sport coaches. Often, the coaches talk about the struggles they have with their athletes, saying thinks like, “I just can’t get through to that kid. She seems to take much of what I say the wrong way. I think I threaten her.”

In some cases, this difficulty to inspire may be the result of two opposite temperaments trying to connect. If the coach is a Doer temperament, for example, they may use competitive language with short, direct phrases meant to lift, inspire and challenge their athletes. “Let’s go out there and get ‘em. You can beat them. No problem. Give it your best.” If the athlete is a Relater however, the opposite of the Doer temperament, they are not likely to be inspired by the coach’s ‘go get ‘em’ attitude. In fact, they might feel offended, awkward, and definitely not encouraged to give it their best. Relaters respond to kinder, more compassionate and considerate words. “I know you’re working out there. I believe you can perform at a higher level. You have the ability and it is in you. What do you say?”

Our temperaments have a strong influence on the words we choose. The strengths of one temperament are the very weaknesses of the opposite temperament. For example, the private Thinker complements the public Influencer. The time-focused Doer is in good company with the more relaxed and patient Relater. Getting through to the other person may well be challenged by opposite temperaments. It takes effort to address the comfort zone of your opposite.

When temperaments are opposite, their strengths can compliment one another – they attract.
When temperament are opposite, their strengths may also compete with one another – they attack.

Coach's Corner

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