Quick Tip #3: Are You a Truth Teller or a Pleaser?

March 13, 2013

Do you seek out and expose the truth, or do you please people by telling them what they want to hear?

Consider this story:

In the novel A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean, 1976, University of Chicago Press), Paul is watching his older brother, Norman, fish in Bitterroot trout stream. Rather than fishing amidst the tree roots and low-hanging limbs where fish like to congregate, the brothers are in a wide open area free of trees and other obstructions. There are no fish, but Norman doesn’t care because he is avoiding the hassle of getting his fishing flies tangled. Paul, frustrated by the lack of fish being caught, exclaims, “Brother, you can’t catch fish in a bathtub. You cannot catch fish unless you go to where the fish are!”

When it comes to your training programs, are you a truth teller like Paul, or are you a pleaser who just goes with the flow? Truth tellers are not afraid to tell training program sponsors that training alone will not lead to the results they often task the training function with delivering. Sponsors can’t just “sign off” on the budget and expect the initiative to yield results. They will need to commit their personal support and high levels of accountability to maximize program impact. Are you willing to boldly explain this to them before starting a new initiative that involves training?

Some training professionals shy away from this confrontation because their stakeholders may tell them to “go back to where they belong,” to the world of training. To sustain the training function, you can’t let this discourage you from getting real with your stakeholders. Before every major initiative, it is important to discuss roles and responsibilities and what is required for an initiative to accomplish performance improvement and desired results. Training alone won’t do it. The risk in just being a pleaser and delivering training that doesn’t have the appropriate post-training support in place is that training will eventually be viewed as a “nice to have” enhancement when there is extra funding, not a mission-critical function, because it isn’t delivering the needed results.

Training professionals also can set themselves apart as truth tellers with the evaluation questions they ask. Review your training evaluation form to see how easy and comfortable it would be for a participant to provide honest feedback, even if it’s negative or constructive. Are your questions open enough to solicit actionable input?

After training, you can continue being a truth teller by gathering quantitative and qualitative Levels 3 and 4 data. Paint an accurate and honest picture for your stakeholders of the degree to which new skills are being applied and results accomplished. Think of this as actionable intelligence. If shortcomings are identified, you have the opportunity to collectively determine and implement an appropriate intervention and get the initiative back on track.

The decision is yours: Do you want to be a pleaser and always say what people want to hear, whether it’s true or not, or do you want to be a truth teller, committed to creating training effectiveness that maximizes organizational results?

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Additional Resources:

Three Steps to Effectiveness

Training on Trial

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program
Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certificate Program

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