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Trainers need a Socratic Oath

This morning in my usual browsing of social media I came across this post:

I do not know who wrote it...whoever you are out there thank you. I keep thinking about this ever since.

While it is a little on the political and provocative side, the essence and meaning of this post resonates with me. As a trainer, facilitator and coach I have been invited, hired, or booked, to deliver trainings all across the world. In most of the cases, unfortunately, the audience was anything but motivated to learn anything. Many where there because they had to. A few really did not want to be there at all and vented their frustration out. So I found myself facing a similar dilemma than the author of the post. Do I just play the performing monkey and entertain the crowd? Or do I do what I feel is what I want and should do, what trainers and teachers are supposed to do : ask challenging questions, make them think, make them reflect, maybe even reveal some uncomfortable facts.

With the happy-sheet evaluation in mind (oh I WILL blog something about that topic sometimes very soon!), the temptation to just make the event enjoyable, painfree and insight-free (but who cares really? noone really knows how to measure learning impact anyway (how convenient!)) is, of course, very high. And, as a human being, you want to be liked. And so a tiny little voice says in your ear: if they like you, if they enjoy this, they will book you again, you can pay your bills.

And that is where ethics come in. There is something fundamentally wrong with you as a teacher or facilitator having to make the audience like you - thus maybe making the choice to be much less uncomfortable and make them learn less just to make sure you get a good evaluation. This is of course not a free pass to be a jerk. But as the author says, sometimes your job as a trainer is to be hired somewhere...and take the risk they will never bring you back - because you asked those uncomfortable questions, because you challenged the audience, because you did what you are supposed to do, which is teach, coach, facilitate learning - respectfully, purposely, with good intention.

I come from a family of doctors (I like to think I am the white sheep having refused to go down the medical road). Doctors swear the so called Hippocratic Oath - an Oath of ethics, where physicians swore back in the days to various healing gods to uphold certain ethical standards.

So I think teachers, trainers, facilitators and coaches should swear something similar, to various gods of learning and wisdom, like Athena (funnily enough the Goddess of wisdom, knowledge and war, which leads me to think that if you want to commit yourself to fight for wisdom and knowledge you better know how to defend yourself properly). Something like a Socratic Oath, where we pledge to uphold ethical standards in learning. Because we are NOT performing monkeys. We are not here to entertain you. And you should not hire or re-hire us based on our entertainment factor or whether you like us or not. Our job is to make you grow, to make you evolve, to help you improve. And that is not always comfortable. You should still invite us back.

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