Over almost 20 years I’ve seen many examples of good and not-so-good behaviour in front of groups of learners. Many times it was me doing the talking, but recently I was reviewing a video presentation from a seasoned facilitator and it became obvious to me that many of the professional behaviours I’d taken for granted, may not be that widely practiced. 

And I don’t think it’s the fault of the facilitator, but rather the lack of awareness that has been drawn to this subject by the profession at large. We spend a lot of time on workshop techniques, activity planning, the use of technology and so on, all of which are very important, but spend precious little time thinking about the five things I would like to go through now. 

Like most of the skills we learn, these behaviours combine what we learned in other aspects of business and life. So they may not seem obvious to trainers and facilitators at first. So let’s run through these together and as we do, consider areas where these might impact you. 

1. A leader doesn’t disparage their organisation. In leadership education, we’re taught that doing so will damage the trust that our staff have of their organisation and their leadership in general. As facilitators, we should never find ourselves mocking or belittling the course designers, content, slides, handouts, client contacts or our own managers if applicable. If something isn’t what we would like it to be, we save our responses for the appropriate time and place. And address it with the right people, not our students. 

As I mentioned, recently I watched a facilitator telling their learners that the courseware was old and had mistakes, and that they’d told the organisation many times to improve it – but they didn’t listen, so the students would just have to deal with what they had on hand. Or, better still, the facilitator would make changes as they went along, to prove how smart they were. This was an attempt to remove themselves from any blame about the content, rather than address it professionally. We’ll look at how to do that in a minute.

Professional training and facilitation tips

2. Embrace an internal locus of control. Another common psychology term that has made its way into leadership training; your locus of control is where you feel the decisions that affect your life are being made. External control suggests that others around you control your behaviour and feelings. An internal locus suggests that you are ultimately in control of how you feel and what actions you take. 

In a facilitation setting, this means taking ownership of every situation in your training room. The internet doesn’t work? Don’t blame the facility, look for a solution. The materials didn’t turn up? What could you have done to mitigate this, and if it’s beyond your control, what can you do to remedy the situation now? 

3. Be a representative. If you attended a corporate training session in the city, what expectations would you have concerning the trainers’ attire, and general professional posture? These are the expectations that others will have of you in whatever setting you facilitate training. Whether its online, in a corporate headquarters, or on a building site. Dress and behave the way you’d expect the best in your industry to act.  

4. Be resilient. We all have low days. And it’s ok to feel whatever you feel as a result of the situation you might be in. A professional facilitator will do everything in their power to put aside or deal with their personal situation for the benefit of those attending their training. And if you are not sure that’s a healthy thing to do, remember your locus of control. Can you postpone the training? Can you start later to allow yourself the time to get ready? 

I’ve uttered words to this effect many times, “I look forward to issues in my classes, as I get to grow”. And I mean it. Give me the difficult situation, let me see how I react. Let’s see what I can learn for next time. These are our choices. Be resilient.

5. Make mistakes. By this, I mean own your errors and move straight through them. If a slide doesn’t work, if you forget some step in an activity, if you print the wrong handout, or you’re unable to answer a question from a learner, make a mental or physical note to correct this for next time, but don’t make a deal of it in front of your trainees or students. Better still, do whatever you can to act like it’s perfectly fine to make mistakes – because in the real world, it happens. Your learners just don’t want to hear you complain or apologise. They want to see a star performer move straight through their mistake with poise and confidence. 


Let’s summarise these five qualities and traits. Firstly, never criticise the training in front of your learners. No matter what’s going through your mind, just hold course and maintain your composure. Maintain your locus of control as internal as possible. Be the solution to your problems and don’t blame others. Represent yourself and organisation with dignity and integrity. Look the part, hold yourself well, and lead from the front. When things are tough, be tougher. We grow when we’re regularly put under pressure. From weight training and running, to dealing with conflict or intense emotional situations. The more we face it, the more resilient we become. And finally, be free to make mistakes and don’t let them define your training session. Move on and show your learners how confidently you can deal with problems. They’ll respect and trust you even more.