Essential Skills For Internal Project Trainers

In the quest to provide project teams with good and varied training opportunities, many Project Teams look inside their ranks for potential instructors. Seasoned PMP®s have a wealth of experience to draw on, and they understand the Project Team’s strengths and weaknesses inside and out. But being a project management trainer takes a unique set of skills. See if you have what it takes to teach others on your team.

Read your audience. Each group of class attendees will be slightly different. Some will have longer attention spans than others. One group may have significantly more or less hands-on experience with advanced project management concepts than another. Whatever the dynamic, trainers must scan each audience and interpret where challenges and opportunities exist. Would this crowd benefit from an in-depth explanation of a few foundational project management principles before moving on to more complex subject matter? Will breaking into small focus groups earlier in the day better suit this group’s personality?

Explain concepts in multiple ways. People learn and digest course information in their way and at their own speed. Some are much more hands-on, while others are good at pulling knowledge out of texts and slideshows. One PMP® may assimilate data more efficiently once they understand the baseline concepts behind higher-level skills. Another might be better at understanding how a particular methodology works after they’ve had a chance to reverse-engineer the practices for themselves. Good instructors need to be able to relay data in several ways, so they can provide each type of learner with the information they need on an individual level.

Adjust your approach on the fly. When an instructor identifies class attendees with a particular need—to have a higher-than-usual level of interaction among participants, to better understand real-world applications of complex concepts, etc.—they must be able to tweak their training to address those needs. Instructors who can do this successfully and with little advance planning are those who understand the course material at a very granular level. They’re comfortable with the principles that underpin the concepts they’re teaching and can work with students in the way that is most effective, even if that means adjusting the curriculum or introducing topics not normally covered in that particular course.

Present scenarios from the outside world. Scenario-based training is a crucial part of many classes, but instructors need to be able to present students with an array of problems, including some that wouldn’t normally occur within their own project offices. This can be a challenge, as the trainers themselves may not have a lot of experience in other Project Teams. But it is important to demonstrate many different ways that project management methodologies can be applied, so internal instructors will need to do some homework of their own in terms of researching potential scenarios and bringing them to life for students in a meaningful and educational way.

Leave your baggage at the door. One problem with structuring internal training programs is that those teaching the classes are also coworkers of those who are attending, and any number of past experiences lurking in the shadows could strain that relationship. Disciplinary actions and personal disagreements are just two of the potentially uncomfortable issues that sometimes crop up. When the trainer is a member of the project team, they must be able to put those items out of their mind and focus solely on helping class participants understand and absorb the course material. Approaching a student in a confrontational way because they’re known to be argumentative, for example, will lessen the experience for everyone, and good internal instructors need to look past those issues.

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