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This article was published 19-07-2016

Training in China: ‘the trainer knows the answer’ sometimes rules

Interview with Xin Zhong en John Tse Tow. Xin is a senior trainer/coach and Business Development Manager for Schouten China in Shanghai. Her area is mainly team collaboration, leadership and talent development journey design.

Just imagine… how many trainers stand in front of a group every day. In all corners of the world. Do they feel the same rush, face the same struggles? Let’s find out by talking to two trainers abroad. Here’s a unique look behind the scenes in China.

1. What does a training setting in China look like?
John: The traditional training landscape in China likes courses that are full of content, models and cases. The lecture theatre cramped with 100 executives learning how to negotiate effectively from a celebrity trainer is sometimes a common sight in this industry. However, we feel that a paradigm shift is taking place. Not only are multi-national corporations looking for more learner centric workshops that focus on enhancing behaviors, more and more native Chinese organizations are also shifting their perception towards this setting.

2. Who are the people you train and what’s their view on training (in general)?
Xin: The people I train are very divers, from students in University to executives. Most of the people are willing to take the ownership to learn. But in other areas, generally people still keep the mindset: ‘the trainer knows the answer.’

3. China is a ‘digital minded nation’. Do you incorporate social media, digital tools etc. in your training?
John: Smart phones and tablets have invaded almost every aspect of life in bigger cities in China. WeChat is a very popular app used in China. It’s like rolling Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, Apple Pay and Uber into one single app. In the past couple of years, we have been working with clients to integrate pre or post course assignments on WeChat. Going forward, we foresee a proliferation in this form of learning. There may be a trend to migrate chunks of face-to-face interactive learning to a virtual platform.

4. Does giving (critical) feedback play a role during training?
John: It works like magic! The concept of “saving face” has always been synonymous with the Chinese or many Asian cultures. However, we find that in a training session when the scene is set and the safety net is spread out, most participants are open to candid and sometimes critical feedback. More often than not, such feedback is welcome and seen to impact training positively. I rarely see critical feedback go horribly wrong in a training setting. However, I believe that an important factor is that feedback must not be overtly blunt. And it may require a certain degree of skills in reading the body language of the receiver.

5. How do you mentally prepare for a training session?
Xin: Mindfulness is very useful to me. I go to the training room at least one hour ahead of time. To prepare the flip chart and all the materials by myself is a mindful process for me. And I will always ask myself the same question: what energy will I bring into this room today? I then feel the energy flow within me, mentally and physically.

6. What’s your core value when training?
John: I truly believe that for an individual to find his/her real ambitions in life and behave the right way to meet this ambition, it is crucial for one to be mindful of his/her own personal values. Without being authentic to one’s own values, any skills or knowledge that one acquires may only be superficial. Xin: Everyone is different and has a unique strength. My job is let them know this. And to evoke the learning process, to empower people with the ability to explore themselves, to explore what they want and what is important to them, to experience the new behavior, to encourage people to move out of their comfort zone, to taste the good feeling of growing etc.

7. To conclude, what do you love about training, why is it the best profession in the world?
John: I believe that as a trainer, I am doing my part to move the world to a higher level of consciousness. I believe that as a trainer, I am evoking a change in my participants and this change may be cultivated to bigger developments in themselves and the world around them. Xin: Training is happy work, because it’s all about helping people to grow, to share insights, to mirror the learning of participant. All these things give me energy, allow me to be part of the most beautiful learning processes in the world.

Xin is a senior trainer/coach and Business Development Manager for Schouten China in Shanghai. Her area is mainly team collaboration, leadership and talent development journey design. John is the Learning and Development Director of Schouten China. He’s been training since age 18 with a strong background in the financial industry.

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