2013-12-26

Stand Out...Of My Way




Nowadays, so many of us go on a perpetual quest to acquire additional skills, hoping to stand out from the crowd. I guess this is only normal as we live in a society that idolizes celebrities and socialites, and frequently shuns those who choose to perform away from the noise and hassle of the public eye.
This has sprung many into developing a business model that relied on delivering soft skills or people skills for those seeking that extra edge.

How do I fit in all this?

As an adept of the fine art of knowledge transfer, I always found myself drawn towards opportunities where I could act as a trainer, a facilitator, a speaker. Knowledge sharing is in its own merit is a learning experience.

This specific entity I collaborated with not long ago, portrayed itself as a dynamic professional team that lived what they preached and preached what they lived. They looked as transparent, open, systematic as they could be, constantly running round tables and introspection sessions where everybody seemed like they truly enjoyed helping each other out.

I plunged into this universe and took it upon me to create and re-write workshop material, enrich slide deck content and optimize the delivery methods. Results came quickly with praise and positive ratings from corporate and individual attendees of my workshops alike.
At some point, I was even asked to take a pass on a university teaching opportunity as my involvement in the workshops they planned to offer was both increasingly necessary and forecasted to grow...and I bought into all that.

Fool me once, shame on you...

A few months later, one disappointment was piling over another. My quota of workshops unlike my ratings was decreasing constantly. Travel plans fell through for unclear reasons. Even the initial financial agreement was not entirely respected. Eventually, my freedom to deliver workshops in the style that I always had used became suddenly subject to scrutiny and comments over factors that had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the workshop and the satisfaction of the attendees. (see. Bullying101)

Things added up and it did not require me to be the lead character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle epic novel to discover that  my entire involvement was used to fill their gap in knowledge and resources. Colleagues that had asked to attend my workshops as guests were actually there to pry, copy, learn the extra info that existed only in what I delivered verbally. That information could not be deducted from my slide decks because, simply, it was not there.

Openness, transparency and management by objectives were nothing more than a honeypot to attract qualified individuals into this setup (pun intended)
This was a closely knit group that systematically attracted outside skills to improve itself, only to later bully those very same talents away when they were no longer crucial to the operation.

After all why pay an external facilitator while they could split the revenues among them?
Why attend expensive training seminars when you get someone to spoon-feed you the material while bringing in revenue to the business?

Needless to say, my exit was swift and determined. I had no intention of wasting any energy anymore on such endeavors. I felt cheated but I was not bitter. My instincts had been warning me all along that something was wrong and I had failed to listen.

The Takeaway...

I may have lost time and effort collaborating with these individuals but I did not walk away empty handed.
Here's my advice on collaborating as a team member with any of the many training & facilitation centers out there:

  1. Find out who their team members are then check out their credentials
  2. Find out if it's a family operated business (not just family owned) or if they are all previously acquainted aside from currently being colleagues
  3. Try to find people who collaborated with them before and ask them why they left
  4. Secure the number of workshops and frequency in your contract
  5. Secure the financial part in your contract
  6. Make sure that efforts employed in improving their syllabus are remunerated or maintain a clause that prevents them from taking ownership of work you did on the material without you getting paid for it.
  7. Do not accept other facilitators as guests (unless paid extra for that, and handsomely if I may ad)
  8. When you get another opportunity take it, if they care enough about keeping you with them they'll offer to pay extra.