4 Defining Moments of an “Accidental Trainer”

Time to high-five ourselves.  

Last week we gave advice on “What We Would Tell Our New Trainer Self”.  When I reflect on my own past there was certainly a lot of room for improvement.  A LOT. I shared the post on LinkedIn and I got all sorts of great feedback; from remembering to develop yourself, to moderating presentations to remembering that even though we are the trainers – we don’t know it all and never will.  Good stuff and you can see the comments here (and if you have additional pieces of advice the document is set for editing so feel free to add your thoughts).  I will be sharing those thoughts on a future post.

Today I’d like to focus on what we did well as we were first starting out.  Giving ourselves the virtual high-five for a job well done, lessons learned, or defining moments.  

Just as I learned from the mistakes I made “back in the day” as a young trainer, there were also moments that make me proud and still, even today, continue to define my position, reinforce my values and my beliefs as the Learning and Development professional I am today. I wanted share a few of those defining moments, if nothing else to help or inspire other “Accidental Trainers” to keep fighting the good fight.

Here we go! 


1) I’m glad I can still feel my blood boil against the operations person who told me (in front of a group) to be quiet in meetings because I was “just” a trainer.  Respect issues aside – that moment motivated me more than anything else in my career.  The birth of a Learning Rebel can be pinned to this moment. I have spent the rest of my career making sure that business leaders understand that L&D can and should be their partners and together they will not only build a successful business, but build a thriving learning culture.  Do not hide your voice. Do not bury your point of view because some professional Neanderthal can’t see past “Ye Olde Corporate University” circa 1985.  It hasn’t been an easy road, but I can look myself in the mirror knowing that I am advocating for the end-user and partnering with the business to build success stories.


2) I am still happy that I rebelled against a former manager who wanted me to change my presentation style.  My style is one that is conversational in nature.  She wanted someone who “commanded more credibility on the stage” and who could be the “sage on the stage”. Whatever.  This seemingly small stand “against the man” (or this case woman) gave me early motivation to continue to look at training differently.  Even then I understood that adults do not want to have someone pontificating to them, they want someone whom they can relate to, who allows them to engage with each other and learn from shared experiences. It was in this moment when I realized that delivery counts.  You just can’t stand up and read from the screen behind a lectern.


3) I’m proud I asked “Why?”. Even though I may have been a rookie in the learning field, my business instincts were sharp.  I had spent a few years in operations, and operations is all about improving productivity and business acumen. Having this background made me ask “Why”, often. Why are we spending so many man hours on tracking items that do not matter to anyone? Why are we focusing time on metrics that have no overall impact? Why are we spending dollars on training that does not connect to any business goal or impact any business issue? Why are we insisting on a training solution when clearly this a management issue? Those sorts of questions are business 101, and that’s how L&D should think.  L&D maybe a support function, but first and foremost should be a business partner.  I’m glad I fought and still fight for the answer to “Why?”


4) I’m pleased that each year since I became an “Accidental Trainer”, I have booked time for personal development.  I have spoken with too many L&D people who say they don’t have time to attend conferences or seminars.  This sets a bad example for the rest of the business.  As Covey asks, “Have you ever been too busy to stop to put gas in your car?” L&D acts shocked and amazed, and gets all up on their high-horse when the business tells them there isn’t time for their people to participate in training – but we don’t value learning for ourselves.  How can we possibly move learning forward and make use of the current thinking and tools if we stay in our cave? I have always made sure that some sort of personal development was booked within the budget. I’ve learned, if it’s not budgeted in both time and money, it doesn’t happen.  We owe it to ourselves, and the business, to make sure that we don’t become the cobbler’s children.

All of these moments, plus my learning experiences from last week have made me the Learning Rebel I am today.  But the most exciting part is that I know that I’m not through learning, I’m not through making mistakes, and I’m certainly not through finding more defining moments in my future.  Let’s all “Boldly go where no one has gone before!” (WOW, managed to sneak in a Star Trek reference!)

success story

I’m sure you all have moments of greatness in your histories, so share your story!

What are you most proud of, what has made you the success you are today? What was your defining moment? Let’s all celebrate our greatness together!

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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