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Hit your class with a BEAM!

May 08, 2019 Matthew Cole

My daughter (McKenna) is in kindergarten and her teacher (Ms. Dee) is an excellent facilitator, experienced in her role, a creative thinker and a real people person.  I appreciate the role Ms. Dee has played in both my children’s lives (she has been teaching more than 30 years).  I know that she cares and is willing to try even when things get tricky.  I would venture a guess that many of us could not understand how stressful a kindergarten teacher’s job is! My daughter makes this situation even more strenuous by testing every aspect of Ms. Dee’s patience, and skill sets just as in the case shared below:

The class was doing an exercise, and Ms. Dee was walking around giving some of the children encouragement.  Some of the other children needed help getting aligned with the goals of the project.  When she came to my daughter, McKenna was sitting there playing with her school supplies with no intention of working on the assignment.  She absolutely can and will sit there without even indicating that she is not following along as she should.

Even though McKenna had decided that she was not going to participate, Ms. Dee, was not going to allow that as an option.  She tried a couple of ways to coax McKenna into doing the work with no success.  After several tries, Ms. Dee finally resorted to discipline.  She indicated that if McKenna would not comply with the directions, then her name would have to be moved on the wall resulting in a sad face stamp when it was time to dismiss for the day.  The power of a “sad face stamp” is real.  I have witnessed many kindergartners coming out of class trying to wipe off the ink or hiding it from their parents/guardians.  As this is a serious infraction if you are in kindergarten most children would be motivated appropriately to comply with the request.  So, what did my McKenna do with this potential threat?

McKenna got up and moved her name and then sat down with her arms crossed in defiance as if that settled it.

Although McKenna completed this action without saying anything, it was implied that Ms. Dee set the terms and that she was merely complying with one of the options.  It was as if McKenna was saying, “We are done, and you can move on to helping someone else now.”  As you can imagine that was not the end of the story.  Ms. Dee had to escalate her tactics.  To bring this story to an end; my daughter finally conceded and completed the assignment.  For my little girl, it just had to be the hard way: It seems that on some occasions it just cannot be simple.  Thankfully Ms. Dee has the experience, patience, and the desire to work with all types of individuals.

McKenna is one of those individuals that for whatever reason we have to change our tactics to gain her “buy-in” to complete some tasks.  Today it was riding in the truck with dad versus riding with mom.  The day before it was something about cleaning her room.  It will be something else tomorrow.  It is not a discipline thing nor is it a rebellious thing as it has to do with defining success for her.  Some might label her as difficult.  Her teacher could have easily written her off as an obstacle not worth investing time in, just marked her and moved on.

As in the case of McKenna’s teacher we have choices to make as trainers and leaders that either encourages team members to push themselves to greatness or to give up on them.  I think as a leader we often get overwhelmed with the sheer number of obstacles and focus more on the problems than the people.  We see people as “a task” to complete.  Instead, we need to focus on people as individuals that may need help.

You may have heard the statement, “If it weren’t for the people, this would be an easy job!”  I can imagine a kindergarten teacher possibly saying similar things. Unfortunately, early in my career, I heard and even used this phrase on many occasions. I have since changed my view on this long-standing “joke” that leaders have used to relieve the stress of interactions gone wrong.  Going forward you can hit them with a BEAM!

Here is how you can BEAM your team/class and keep yourself centered with the right thought processes:

Build Relationships: How you should start (or restart) any team/class.

    • Focus on getting to know your team individually.
    • Learn their learning style and personality traits.
    • What do they need / desire to achieve short and long term?
    • Find and understand what motivates them?
    • How do they like to be rewarded?

Establishing Norms:  What should training look/feel like.

  • Start / End on time.
  • Respecting others.
  • Avoiding cell phones except in cases in which they are directly used for an exercise.
  • Active participants (participating is key).
  • Be open to new ideas.

Note: It’s best to have the class participants determine this list.  Make an “agreement” that both trainer(s) and trainees will abide by.

Ask Questions: Build the correct learning environment.

  • Act from a place of curiosity to utilize questions that build knowledge.
  • Use the “Socratic Method”.
  • Implement a “Parking Lot”.
  • Know when you want to field questions.  Be ready for this and facilitate the class to participate in not only asking but also answering questions.  Allow a discussion to take place.  This is where some of your best learning can happen.
  • Be upfront when you want the class members to hold questions until the end.  Give them the ability to note questions, so they are not working on trying and remembering a question and not listening to you, potentially missing the answer to their question or other important data.

Managing Tasks: Building efficiency to spend time with people and behaviors.

  • Know the difference in managing tasks and leading people.
  • Use your time effectively to complete tasks efficiently.
  • Spend more time on people than processes.

Now you can BEAM with pride in knowing you are laying a foundation that enables you to respect others.  You can demonstrate that you know your team/classes value and drive a real relationship with each just as my daughter’s teacher has done.  My daughter is learning and growing every day because her teacher makes an effort.  My daughter respects and loves her teacher; this does not mean that the interactions now are less frequent or less trying.  The interactions are based on a relationship, and you can see my daughter maturing through the process.   How awesome to be a part of the journey that will shape my daughter’s future.   You can have the same impact as those around you.

Going forward, I use the statement as a way to remind me how important people are versus how much of an obstacle they could be.  Any time I hear, “If it weren’t for the people, this would be an easy job!” I immediately think, “Yes, let me just hit them with a BEAM!”

Without people, our job is meaningless.  We as leaders/trainers have no real functions if you remove the people from the equation.  This means that “People” is my job!  Learning to effectively engage people is crucial for a trainer in facilitating the class and transferring knowledge.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.