This past week I have been in the UAE facilitating a 5 day leadership and strategic change program for international participants (none from the UAE). The brief was to share international best practice around all areas of leadership and change. For the majority they found the teaching and learning of great value, however there were some that acted as delegates. Not listening or interacting above the absolute minimum. They appeared to think that they were perfect leaders already and could learn nothing. A strange attitude for a person who has flown ¼ around the world to be away from family for a week.
The program started with the premise – look for the one think that you can take away and use, a lot of material will be covered, but there will be a golden nugget that is just right for you – your challenges is to identify it, hold it and apply it when they return to work.
What transpired over the week was that the situation was worse than I thought – they weren’t delegates at all but passengers. Passengers that did not choose that form of transportation but needed the destination. Ok I could live with that, we all need learning and sometimes the only vehicle open to us is one that it not a best fit to our preferences. But no. These “attendees” attend not for the learning, but the money their employer gives them to cover the costs of accommodation etc.
I discovered that the course fee is paid for by the organisation (depending on seniority they are allowed to attend several per year), along with airfare – but they are given a very generous allowance to expenses. This allowance can be more than the average worker earns in a year. So they stay in the cheapest hotel, eat poorly, but the culture is that they take gifts back for colleagues and family. They really do not want the training. It is an excuse for the employer to pay individuals money or give them a vacation. Maybe I am the last person on the planet to understand this, but my approach is to deliver what I have been contracted to deliver.
For the trainer/ facilitator this can make life very challenging (or for the bad ones they don’t even try!). Worse, it is education that is getting a poor reputation.
Last month there was a posting on TrainingZone in which a person was looking for 4 weeks training in the UK for some participants from the middle-east, when I called him it turned out that what they were really looking for was an excuse for a holiday under the banner of “training”.
Is it time for international providers to come up with a new label for “holiday based training” events. Maybe once upon a time they were called conferences, however even these have become respectable learning environments. What about “traincation” or “semication”. Where there is minimum learning and lots of time for rest, sight seeing and shopping. The more honest we all are the better for those that need real learning. The risk of course is that come providers understand this – and that is what they provide – the danger is that someone from another culture will book on to the programme and be very disappointed – or worse think that what they have experienced is a good model for learning.