Empathy for Trainers

It was like being peppered with shots from a nail gun.  Then there would be a period of silence from her for 15 minutes.  Then the nail gun would fire again.

Fortunately for me, I was an experienced trainer.  Using Empathy, a model of temperament that we teach, I could understand the mix of temperaments that she was demonstrating.

I was running a management programme and was confronted by this young manager.  I would be careful not to interrupt the ‘nail gun’ moments responding appropriately at the end of each interlude to show that I had heard her. During the periods of silence I did not attempt to get her involvement. I had realised that she was displaying two strong components (which were opposites in some respects) from the Empathy model of seven temperament components.

Psychologists tell us that 90% of our emotional behaviour comes from these seven components. We all have all of them in different strengths.  A major part of our difference as human beings is the relative strengths of each component within us.

An American psychiatrist, Dr A. J. Rosanoff, described these particular components in the 1920’s from his research into why we do the things we do. From this research was developed a full psychometric called the Humm-Wadsworth from which the Empathy model is derived. Each of the seven components has a name, a drive, and a way of behaving, thinking or feeling.

The Seven Empathy Components
The two components that the young manager was demonstrating were, during the periods of silence – the Artist component – the drive to be creative, displaying characteristics such as solitude, creativity, shyness and a passive stubbornness. (Some might see this component as an oyster, sitting quietly developing a beautiful pearl.)

During ‘nail gun’ interludes she was demonstrating part of the Politician component – the drive to win.  This is characterised by verbal fluency, strong assertiveness and loud stubbornness. (This is the tiger of the family – strong and unafraid of anything.) Two very different elements of temperament were being exhibited in the same person – unusual but certainly not impossible.

Let’s look at the other five components, one of which is the Mover – driven by the desire to communicate and characterised by physical energy, a positive outlook, friendliness, a tendency to talk (nearly) all the time and a love of people interaction. The Mover is very emotional.

The Double-Checker is also very emotional and in some ways is the opposite of the Mover. Whereas the Mover is ‘up’ for a lot of the time, the Double-Checker is ‘down’. The Double-Checker has a desire for security: he or she will worry about everything, will see future problems very quickly and clearly, can be somewhat downbeat, also loves  people contact and can be a very good listener.

The Hustler has a desire for material success. This is seen in the way that he or she presents themselves – the ‘showy’ gold jewellery, the smart suit and the fast or expensive-looking car. Image is very important to the Hustler who is likely to be hard-headed, realistic, commercial-minded and a risk-taker.

The Engineer is driven by the desire to complete projects – rather like the beaver. As the saying goes: the beaver would rather die than not finish the dam! Detailed, focussed and with enthusiasm for one project at a time, the Engineer loves to take notes – he or she is the one who studiously takes notes in your session, then files them away ready to be referred to at a future date, while the rest of us may take notes but have no intention of referring to them ever again – or even if we do, we have no idea where to find them!

Lastly, the Normal who has the desire for social approval and order. This name comes from the need for the person to follow the ‘norms’ of society, rather than referring to the person’s ‘normality’, whatever that may be. The high Normal is mature in outlook, logical in approach, unemotional, orderly and will follow the ‘rules’.  This is the person who checks the dress code before an informal party so they will ‘fit in’ with everyone else.

Typically people have between two and four of these components as strong – with others being either average or low.   See the diagram for a profile of someone we would describe as a Normal/ Double-Checker/ Engineer.

Dealing with people as they are
One of the big things that we learn through this process of studying people’s temperaments is that we need to deal with people as they are, not as we would like them to be. I was in my forties when it dawned on me how different people were from me. I know that it takes me a while to learn things but I do see other people, in all sorts of occupations and all sorts of ages, treating people as they want them to be, not as they are.

You may remember the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. Well that’s a good start – at least it gets us thinking “how would we like to be treated?” But it’s not enough. If I’m a strong Engineer I will want things to be very detailed, complete with the ‘whole story’. Imagine that I’m talking to a strong Mover who hasn’t the time or inclination to listen to, as he or she would see it, a long-winded explanation that I (as an Engineer) will refuse to shorten just because the Mover is bored or has become distracted. We can see how difficult this conversation will become and the frustration that will be created – in both parties.

With the Empathy approach we offer people the Diamond Rule: treat people as they want to be treated.

Just think, when was the last time that you really changed your approach to your children, your partner or your work colleagues to fit in with their temperament? One lovely example that one of our Empathy trainers reported was that of a father who was becoming more and more frustrated with his teenage daughter who would not talk to or even look at him over the breakfast table. Following the Empathy training, the father realised that the daughter was probably high Artist. The next day he took a different approach. He said nothing; did not force the eye contact and had genuinely dropped his expectation of social interaction with her at that time. The result was not immediate but by the end of the week the daughter was starting to talk and interact with him on her terms and in her own time. As you might imagine, he was delighted!

Sales people who attend our ‘Empathy Selling’ programme learn about their own temperament, how to spot their prospect’s Empathy components – usually within the first 5 or 10 minutes of meeting – and how to construct a communication strategy from the tools that we give them, so that both sides get the most from the meeting. Many times salespeople report major sales gains through adopting this approach.

For managers there is ‘Empathy Management’ in which they learn how to respond to / manage / lead / communicate with their people and their peers in a way that supports who they are.  This approach gets the best out of them. This is a popular course for teams of managers who seek to reduce the frustration that can exist in management teams.  It helps to find a better way of working together through a deeper understanding of each other. It is also great fun!

For people in the training profession it seems to me that this approach has advantages in a number of areas.

Preparing and Delivering Material
When thinking about the way we present material to a group and the way in which we expect the learning to take place it’s important to consider the group’s temperament. For example, working with a group of Normal/ Double-Checker/ Engineers (the typical family doctor profile) will be very different from working with a group of Hustler/ Mover/ Politicians (the typical salesperson profile).  The trainer who only has one style which is not suited to or adjusted for a particular group will not be well received. So many times I have seen the need to be totally flexible in running a session.   I’ve prepared for one group, and then found that the group was very different from my expectations.

If I know that I’ve got a high Normal group, then I make sure they know what to expect. I stick to the timing, I manage the environment and I work to meet their expectations. In other words, I do what I know is the ‘proper’ way to conduct a training session.

In a high Hustler group I make sure that I’m delivering material in a way that will be of immediate benefit to them – they may well see the value to themselves faster than I can!

A high Mover group will expect lots of breaks, lots of ‘doing things’ and lots of ‘chat’ (or one-to-ones). I would expect them to be distracted and I will not be upset at the distractions or the jokes because I know they cannot help it. I know that I need to keep my energy up for the whole session, as I would if I were working with a group of Double-Checkers.

A high Double-Checker group is likely to be slower than other groups, not because they are any less intelligent, but simply because they worry so much about everything – the past, the present and the future. So they may well want more discussion of the ‘what-ifs’.

From a high Artist group I may not get much feedback. That could mean I’ll react in one of two ways: I’ll either think that they’ve got it and therefore move on, or because of the lack of feedback I’ll think that they need more input. This may be a challenging group to work with as Artists are individualistic and therefore they don’t always enjoy working as a group.

Feedback will not be a problem with the high Politician group. They will not hesitate to let me know what they think of my session, but not immediately. Politicians tend to be naturally suspicious so although they will give me the chance to prove myself, they will be waiting to make sure that I do. The most dominant one will probably sit at the head of the group and stare at me.

Finally when working with a group of high Engineers, I make sure that I know my subject and I allow enough time for the discussions that may emerge. I expect to be questioned in detail and will make sure that detailed and referenced handouts are available.

Selling Training Ideas
Whether you are a freelance or an in-company trainer, there will be times when you need to sell a training programme to a manager in an organisation. Again Empathy can help us to approach the manager in the best way. Decide which strong components you believe that the manager exhibits, then consider the following approaches.

The high Engineer manager will expect to see the detail – how your proposition fits into the overall plan. Make an appointment; do not just drop in and interrupt them while they are deeply involved in their latest project. Be prepared to spend more time with the Engineer. If you don’t know, don’t bluff it. Be ready to leave your proposition with the Engineer so that they can go through it in detail. Unlike Movers they will usually read it if they say they are going to.

In larger organisations, the manager may well have a strong Politician component. Present your proposal as to how it will help his or her team get ahead and win. Be strong; do not show indecisiveness. Do not ask for their opinion too early, for once a Politician has stated an opinion they will find it hard to retract as they do have some difficulty in separating opinion from fact. For a Politician you meet with regularly, sow the seeds of an idea and let them germinate; Politicians like to think that it’s their idea. As Politicians love to take decisions, close ‘on a minor point’ – for example, ask the question: “should we run the programme in December or would early in the New Year be better?”

On the other hand Double-Checker managers can be tough to sell to because they can have difficulty in taking decisions: they will see all the possible problems that might arise. They may need lots of reassurance that the idea will work. Don’t ask them to take decisions: bring them along with you in the conversation and assume the sale. You may need to give them some evidence either that this approach has worked before for other organisations or of your own competence.

Of all the components, the Artist manager is most likely to be a trainer himself or herself. This is because training is creative. They will listen to you politely and although they have strong views, if they disagree with you they may not tell you because the Artist is sensitive and does not want to upset you and face a possible confrontation. Ask for their ideas and encourage them to imagine the training taking place. If you find they are avoiding your eye contact, do not stare at them. Instead use a flipchart or a piece of paper between you to explain your ideas: it’s easier for them to concentrate on that – than look directly at you all the time.

Recruiting Trainers
As people in recruitment know, discovering a person’s temperament – their ‘way of being’ – is an important part of the recruitment process. This is also true for recruiting trainers.

Although we might say the ‘ideal’ profile for a salesperson is Hustler/ Mover/ Politician, over the years I have seen truly successful salespeople with every other possible combination of Empathy components. In my experience the same is also true for trainers – all combinations are possible: over thirty years I have worked with many excellent trainers.  As I look back, they were all different combinations.

Yet if I had to specify the trainer’s role, I would choose Mover and Artist as my main requirement: the Mover to provide the energy and friendliness that a group will need and the Artist for their sensitivity and creativity (being able to quickly come up with an alternative approach if the group gets stuck – “ok, look at it this way”). The other components may well depend on the organisation that the trainer is working in: working with salespeople, I would include Hustler because they intuitively understand sales; working in the ‘caring professions’ or with administrative people I would choose Double-Checkers because of their deep compassion and the understanding of these situations that the Double-Checker brings; working with technical people I would choose a high Engineer; and with a senior management group I would want to include some Politician to give the person the strength to stand up to them, if necessary.

The strength of a person’s Normal component is also important. Too high and the person can be too rigid and inflexible in their drive to ‘follow the rules’; too low and the person can be disorganised and lack direction – they will ‘do it their way’ too easily and too often, sometimes to the detriment of the group and the syllabus. To a large extent the requirement for Normal will depend on the organisation. So I would expect to find high Normal trainers in hospitals, in government and in the big accounting firms, for example. Mind you, that may not necessarily be the best for those organisations, particularly in a period of change where you need a new approach that doesn’t depend on the past!

Key Skills
The key skills of Empathy are the ability to recognise the high (and low) components of people that you meet and work with, and – knowing your own components – being able to construct a communication strategy which responds to the emotional needs of the other person. The toughest part is being able to change your behaviour to meet the other person’s needs. It’s one thing to say “they can take me as I am – I’m not going to change” but how many potential friends or business contacts are we in danger of losing with that approach?

We are all of course, like the young manager described at the beginning, a mixture of components.  The real skill of the Empathy practitioner is to work out what combination each person is displaying and then to work with that.

Sometimes I tell people that the Empathy approach works even if it doesn’t work. What I mean is that even if you believe that you cannot identify the other person’s components, the act of listening and watching the other person to understand them emotionally and then changing your behaviour so that you can have a successful relationship can only be a benefit for both parties.

Finally, in considering this article the high Engineers will want more detail; if you are a high Normal you will be wondering whether logically it could work; strong Hustlers will already have worked out how they can benefit from this approach; the high Politicians will have their own (strong) opinions about the article; if you are a high Double-Checker you will be worried that it all seems very complicated; high Artists will have several unique ideas of their own; and for the high Movers none of it really matters because they will not have got this far!

The Author:
Walter Blackburn is the founder of PeopleTrack Limited and Chairman of Empathy Stlyles Ltd. Walter started PeopleTrack 10 years ago from his training and business experience from the previous 20 years. Working with such organisations as the BBC and Computer Associates through to much smaller organisations, his drive is to make Empathy Styles a household name in Europe. For more information or to discuss any of the points raised in the article, please contact Walter or a member of his team on 01628 671 677 or email him on walter.blackburn@empathystles.com or visit: www.empathystyles.com

Key Learning Points:

Using Empathy in Training

Simply understanding your own and others’ temperament is not enough to successfully relate to others who are different from us: we must actually modify our behaviour. This article reveals seven components of temperament relevant to training in:

•    Preparing and delivering material

•    Selling training ideas

•    Recruiting trainers

•    Changing behaviour

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