Gentle Bamboo Solutions

The GPS Series (6 of 6 – Get out of the way to be Impactful)

[Rakshith Bhagavath, my partner, has written the email for this entire week. You’ll love the series, I’m sure. Follow along, and let me know what you feel about this mail]


Today we look at the last step of the equation. However good your GPS, without the driver, your vehicle ain’t going anywhere. While the GPS Framework can help you craft an engaging session, the facilitator must be equipped to deliver an impactful session. Let’s look at one way to achieve this.

I was told, "If you’re good on stage, you’ll make a good trainer." That suited me. I had done school plays. I had hosted events and even a talk show. So, in the training workshops I did, I saw myself as a performer.

I prepared what I’d say and made good PowerPoint slides. I mapped out the stories I’d present. I planned everything. I practised words that were hard to pronounce and crafted questions I would ask. To ensure that I had the credibility of an expert trainer, I dressed better than the learner. I monitored my body language and gestures. I ensured that I didn’t pace the room too much, walk in front of the projector beam, or have my back to the class. I’d arrange the chairs in the room to ensure the optimum learning experience and talk to learners as they came in to set the tone. I followed all the rules everyone seems to know. And it got me mostly great Level 1 evaluation scores. I averaged over 4 out of 5.

Yet despite my commitment to performing well in front of the group, I believed in learner-centered training. I believed that learning takes place for the learner through practice and reflection. I said things like, "There are no wrong answers", but my sessions were so polished there was no space for learners to learn through the messy act of trial and error. I was not creating opportunities for learners to truly learn.

This finally changed for me recently when I did a session on Presentation Skills. While I had great reviews, a good 20% of the group was unable to put together a presentation at the end of the training. My entire training had been based on just how I thought about presentations and had not considered how my learners thought about them. I was restricting their progress by suggesting they follow my example when some of the participants would’ve done better experimenting with their own methods.

So, when I did this session a second time the following week, I changed my approach. I said, "I’m not going to give you a step-by-step approach. I’ll give you an overview and then you’ll test out what works for you. I’ll wander around you coaching you as you work."

The learners started experimenting. The room had lots of interaction. The energy was no longer concentrated around me, the presenter. It was with the learners. I’d stepped out of the way so they could learn. And the standard of the presentations was much better than the week before.

Why? Because I shut up, stopped worrying about giving the perfect presentation, and created the space for learners to build their own learning. And here’s something else: Rather than trust myself to get my presentation right, I trusted the learners to use their resources to learn.

I am still not fully comfortable with this approach. It feels wrong, like a dereliction of duty. But I cannot argue with the results. The session was far more impactful than the previous one. Have you tried this? How do you feel about it?


Getting my Driver’s License,