So which movie characters would be classified as a trainer? I’ll give you a hint: none of them have ever needed PowerPoint.
The list would include the some of the most recognizable characters in movie history:
Their movies have grossed close to $2 billion worldwide and have made household names of the actors who played them. These characters resonate deep within audiences all over the world.
And those audiences – who will watch these characters for hours on end, talk about them incessantly, draw inspiration from them, and festoon either themselves or a nearby toddler in their costume at Halloween – are filled with millions of folks who probably don’t want to spend one extra second in a training program, no matter how chock full o’ e-learning or social media or instructional design whizbangery you’ve packed inside.
How can these Tinseltown Trainers improve our industry and break down the resistance to what we do and how we do it? That’s the final question I set out to answer over four years ago and will continue to do so for as long as I’m a training professional. So as a tribute to the memory of Patrick Swayze, I’ll start with his most famous and beloved character: bad-boy dancer/trainer Johnny Castle.
Tip 1 – Get over yourself and take a chance on a lost cause: Discussions of this film usually ignore the fact that Johnny originally had no desire to train the inexperienced Frances “Baby” Houseman to dance. “Dumbest idea I ever heard of,” is his blunt summary around 32 minutes into the film. But with his dance partner Penny sidelined due to a career-threatening, and later life-threatening, pregnancy, and his own job on the line if he misses a performance, Johnny has no choice but to transform Baby into an expert dancer in a matter of weeks.
True, their relationship turns into the resort’s HR Nightmare of the Century. But it also forces Johnny to alter his training techniques and attitude. Because for all the ways to overcome a learner’s resistance to training, sometimes the trainer’s resistance to the learner is the real problem.
Moreover, how would your approach to training change if you knew the person whose skills you’re developing is the last, best hope of a desperate manager/department/company?
Tip 2 – “Nobody puts Baby [or your learner] in a corner.”: With apologies for the alteration, it’s the cheesiest line in movie history but WOW you remember it, don’t you? It’s awe-inspiring to watch someone risk everything to put the needs of another ahead of themselves.
But don’t stop there.
I have yet to find a man who didn’t want to be the hero that Johnny was in a that moment or a woman who didn’t want to be the heroine he gave wings to.
That scene taps into the most basic instincts your clients and learners have: to be a hero, to fight for something, to be fought for, to succeed, to soar. They trust you to help them do all that and more.
Maybe, just maybe, we trainers need to rethink our obsession over our “place at the table.” Maybe, just maybe, this scene and this movie challenge us to make the learner’s place at the table more important than our own. When we do that, our place will take care of itself.