Hazy in the pews

idea, business, cloud, lightbulbAs the late Cavett Robert said, when it’s foggy in the pulpit it’s cloudy in the pew. What the noted professional public speaker meant by that little nugget of gold was that you had better be clear about what you want to get across before you start trying to get it across.

This is particularly pertinent to training and also to writing articles like this one. A recent article in these columns provided a sentence in parentheses that was unintelligible. The writer clearly had no clue what he/she was trying to say.

This was referred to me by a colleague with a request to clarify. I simply could not do this – I was as confused as the person making the enquiry – and probably the writer.

In a previous life I was charged with the responsibility to ‘train’ the senior retail management team, of which I was a member. The material was from an organisation now called Louis Allen Worldwide.

It is testimony to the company that it is still going some 40 years later, although I am sure it has changed somewhat. It was designed to effect change management, although at that time, that phrase had not yet been coined.

The idea behind the training originated from Lou Allen himself. I am not sure of his background but I suspect he may have been a military man. The training was structured with precision, and once you got your head around it, it was relatively easy to master. I learned along the way from a Louis Allen Associate, Ian Dean, to pepper the training with real live examples and/or fun exercises.

In the late 80s/early 90s in Australia, when there were grants for companies to train their staff, one needed a ‘qualified’ trainer and I attended a ‘Train the Trainer’ course for this purpose. And so while not a professional trainer, I am fairly well versed in training principles.

Fast forward to today, when I witnessed the frustration encountered by certain senior managers doing their very best to train middle management retail team members. Without the necessary training and tools, they were disappointed that those who had been trained were not able to answer the simplest of questions.

This was nobody’s fault. The middle managers wanted to learn and the senior management wanted to train. One of the issues was that things were a bit fuzzy in the pulpit. Another issue was that the trainers had probably not been trained.

So, whatever your role is – trainer, consultant, columnist – you need to be totally on top of your subject matter. If you are not, it will be hazy in the pews. Guaranteed.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702

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