Article Published by Vertical Magazine

Have you ever been hired by a company or promoted to a new position and feel you received less than adequate training? Did the person doing the training spend time with you and explain in detail so that you understood? Or was the training rushed, rude and full of disregard?

Recently, I spoke with a pilot who was doing training with a senior pilot. He told me he found it difficult to stay positive and focused when the senior pilot made sarcastic jokes about his performance. The senior pilot used a direct way of giving instructions, and he rushed through the lessons, causing the pilot to get flustered and lose focus. Instead of showing any concern, the senior pilot would get frustrated and lose his patience. The pilot also got frustrated, which caused him to make more errors. It was a vicious cycle.

The pilot taking the training was more quiet and introverted. He was a perfectionist, operated by the book, and did not like to get things wrong. The senior pilot was outgoing, hard-working, and would slightly “bend” the rules if it meant getting things done. He had expectations of the way things should operate, and he had no problem letting others know how he felt. Both of them are great pilots, but with two very different personalities. And now they are clashing in the cockpit. As you can imagine, the training is not going well.

This is not the first time I have heard this scenario, nor will it be the last. It usually happens when someone is promoted to a training position for one or more of the following reasons: they are good at their current job, have been there the longest, are the next person in line for a promotion, meet the right requirements, or there is no one else to do it. Unfortunately, sometimes people are promoted into a position of leadership without being given leadership training. As a person in charge of training others, you need to have leadership skills. You transition from utilizing technical skills as the primary purpose of your job, to people skills.

Why is it that pilots and mechanics are trained and required to be checked out on a new aircraft, yet when they are promoted to a leadership position, they are not provided any training on how to be a great leader? How comfortable would you feel jumping into an aircraft flown by a pilot, or maintained by a mechanic, who was unfamiliar with the make and model? Yet every day, people manage and/or train others without any training in how to do so.

A successful trainer needs to have certain skills. They should already have the technical skills, but they often lack the personal skills. According to the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is a group of five skills that allows leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance. These skills are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

Firstly, self-awareness is knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others.

The senior pilot in my example lacked self-awareness. He was not aware the impact his method of training was having on the pilot. He thought he was “joking” when he was pointing out the things the pilot was doing incorrectly, but instead the pilot was taking the jokes as insults. His weakness was not being able to accurately assess the level of his frustration as well as the pilot’s, and how that impacted the training session.

Next is self-regulation, which is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods.

The senior pilot allowed his frustration to show. He made sarcastic jokes and allowed his mood to shift when things weren’t going smoothly. This had a direct negative impact on the pilot, who was there to focus on his training.

The third skill is motivation, or relishing achievement for its own sake.

Relishing achievement does not mean boasting. It means taking pride in a job well done and looking for creative solutions. The senior pilot was most likely not motivated to be the best trainer; otherwise he would have found other methods to encourage the pilot. Chances are the senior pilot was “motivated” by external reasons such as a promotion once the new pilot’s training was complete.

Then there’s empathy, in the form of understanding other people’s makeup.

Anyone who is in a position to lead, train, manage or direct, will not be successful in that role unless they have empathy. Empathy does not mean feeling sorry for someone. It means being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes so that you can make better decisions for a better outcome. Had the senior pilot reminded himself of what it feels like to be training and learning something new, he could have focused on more positive feedback instead of using sarcasm.

Lastly, emotional intelligence requires social skills.

Not the type of social skills of telling stories in a bar over a couple of beers. It means finding common ground and building a rapport with someone because you may need this person in the future. The senior pilot failed to build a rapport with the pilot. Instead he created a relationship that was strained from the start. Not only did this interfere with providing good training, but it also created turmoil in the cockpit. Most likely in the future, when these pilots fly together on regular missions, the animosity will still be there.

Technical skill and job performance are important pieces when it comes to being a successful trainer, but without emotional intelligence, the puzzle is not complete. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned. As Goleman says: “It takes time and, most of all, commitment. But the benefits that come from having a well-developed emotional intelligence, both for the individual and for the organization, make it worth the effort.”