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During my years of teaching work-based ESL, being a manager, a business owner, and then as a researcher, studying work-based training programs, I began to realize that there seemed to be elements that made some training programs more successful than others.

My organizational side immediately began to make a list of the practical components (Point 1) of a good training program.

Then as I moved on from an MBA, which is the practical information of running a business, to the theoretical scholarly approach of a doctoral learner. I began to see that there were theoretical factors to training and running a business.

Theory is based on observations, research, assessments, evaluations, and such; of the practical.

Throughout the PhD process, I saw only these two points of the triangle.

I did my course work; I worked on my comprehensives and passed them. I wrote my proposal and it was approved. Up to this point, in my mind the theory of all I was learning was to help define and better; the practical.

Theories / principles / concepts (Point 2) that were learned could then be applied to a business or a system or a procedure that would help it become more efficient, better planned, more productive, etc. depending on the theory and/or the outcome.

It wasn’t until I was asked to change my methodology (the method or approach) of my research that I began to see that there was another point on the triangle. I was asked to change my methodology from a case study to phenomenology.

I remembered the word vaguely from a previous class, but had to research it to learn what it was.

Phenomenology is the study of vital measured systemization of consciousness or awareness of experience, which an individual discovers through reflection and analysis.

Simply put it is lived experience and the awareness or reflection of such.

As such, it encompasses additional kinds of experience. Phenomenology, therefore is a methodology, but it is much more, it is a philosophy as well.

It is awareness of the temporal and spatial, of one’s perception, a wakefulness, of paying attention, a mindfulness of one's own experience, self-awareness, the ego in different roles, and includes cognizance of other individuals, societies, systems.

Our empathy, our purpose or intention in action, our meanings, our communications, our understanding of others, our social interactions, almost any ordinary activity, of which we are aware or upon which we reflect, in our life, is part of phenomenology.

Therefore, phenomenology directs an individual from conscious experience into a mindfulness that gives experience its purpose.

I realized then, that this was the third point on the triangle. One’s philosophy, one’s perceptions, vision, mission, values shape the other two points of the triangle.

A simple example would be of an employee recently hired to work at a fast food restaurant. Let’s suppose that the first task this employee must learn is how to fry the French fries.

Point 1 of the triangle is the practical. This of course is the simple steps that he or she must be taught.

This usually can be systemized into certain tasks and the order in which they must be done. Many managers stop with this step. Well so and so knows how to make fries now, let’s go on to the shake machine.

However, if point 2 is incorporated, the manager will teach the theory or the why behind the task.

If the employee is taught that the company has spent thousands of dollars on research on how to make the best fries in the business.

That we cook them this long, or that is why the oil must be a certain temperature before you put them in so they do not come out half frozen or wimpy or burned…whatever.

Nevertheless, if the employee is given the principles or concepts behind the practical application of the task, he or she will be much more likely to do the task correctly.

The third point on the triangle is found less often in training. It is the values of the organization, the mission, the vision, their philosophy.

Many organizations, individuals, and business never get past the first two points.

The manager thinks, “I taught him or her how to make fries a certain way and they know why I want them done that way.”

However, what if this fast food chain had a mission of making the best fries in the world for the price.

What if they told their employees repeatedly, it is our vision to have the best fries!

In addition, not only that, even if you are in Oklahoma or New York or L.A. your fries will always taste the same and be hot. And they will be served cheerfully and quickly!

Each of the 3 points has certain areas of organization. Each must be planned, organized, and developed in order to create efficiency, increase productivity, and change attitudes and behavior.

To incorporate The Training Triangle into your organization, each point must be considered, planned, organized. Goals must be set, decisions made, critical thinking applied, strategic planning implemented, and an over all philosophy/vision chosen and set upon.

The following story relates two training stories. As you read it, ask yourself which of the points is missing in the organization.

I was hired by two different community colleges the same semester.

At Community College A, I was hired to teach ESL Writing and Grammar, Level 4. I showed up the night when the adjuncts were assigned for their training.

The training lasted about three hours and consisted basically, of the librarian and other lab directors and professionals talking about many of the different services offered at the college. At the end of the evening, I filled out the necessary forms.

I then met with the Dean who handed me a book, a class roster, and a set of keys. He told me where I could park and gave me some cautionary advice about the campus.

I then went home and prepared a syllabus and lesson plans for the semester. I e-mailed them to the Dean as instructed in one of the handouts that I had been given.

I then proceeded to start teaching for the Spring semester. The students, as usual, complained that I worked them too hard. I told them that I always made my students write more than other teachers did, however, they would thank me in about 10 years, as writing is essential to every single class at college.

Unbeknownst to me, several of the students had gone to the Dean and had complained to him about the workload of my class.

I came to class one evening to find the Dean sitting in my class. I simply thought that he was coming to do an evaluation, but that was rather odd, as usually a supervisor would give you forewarning.

After the class was over, the Dean approached me and started to tell me that I was going too quickly, that I had given the students too much work, and that he wanted me to slow down.

I started to ask him questions and then I mentioned to him that if I slowed down that there would be no way that I could finish the book that semester.

He then remarked to me, "Oh dear, I must not have told you that the book covers two semesters, you are only to teach the second half of the book."

I asked if he had received the syllabus and my lesson plans that I had sent him. He said that he hadn’t had time to look at them.

I felt so frustrated that I had prepared a full year's worth of lesson plans. In addition, my students were frustrated, and it was obvious that the Dean was frustrated.

I had not even been told the final was given by the division, and another set of teachers would test and grade my class’s finals.

Now contrast this to Community College B. I met with the Dean and she spent three full hours with me going through new teacher orientation.

First, she had created an online teacher orientation “scavenger hunt” game. It was a game that one played online. It had important matters such as: what to do if you needed a substitute for your class, how payroll was done, how materials were to be procured, some of the policies and procedures on campus, what to do if there was a safety issue or an emergency, and so forth.

After I took the online orientation, she then took me around the campus, took me to see my classroom, made sure that I understood all the equipment and that it worked.

She then took me, to show me where the printing center was: how to make copies, how to turn in a 

requisition to have various copies made, what the codes were for the division, and so forth.

It was incredible. I didn't have one question all semester. I wasn't frustrated. The students weren’t frustrated, and she wasn't frustrated.

What a complete difference between the two colleges. Simply, because one Dean was organizationally superior to the other.

In fact, I do not believe the other Dean had any organizational skills, nor management skills, whatsoever.

In truth, from that night on whenever I had to ask a question about a policy or procedure at college A, I simply contacted the Dean’s Secretary or another teacher to find out what I needed to do. I did not have confidence in the Dean.

Therefore, while it behooves us, to NOT treat someone as an imbecile while we are training him or her. It is also important; to NOT assume that because they have previous knowledge or a skill set…they still NEED to know the policies and procedures of your specific work site.

After a week of skiing with his buddies, my husband Kip, thought the perfect capper would be a group photo in the lodge.

So he held out his camera to a man sitting nearby, “Excuse me, would you mind?” he asked.

The man seemed wary, but Kip kept after him.

It’s easy. Just look through here and push this button.” Then Kip showed him how to frame the picture.

After the fellow took the shot, the manager ran over. “Don’t you think that was a little insulting?” he asked?

“Not at all,” Kip answered. “He didn’t seem to know much about taking pictures.”

“Oh, really?” said the manager. “That was Stephan Spielburg.”

Reader’s Digest May 2005 submitted by Erin Bowser.

It is obvious that the Dean of Community College A had missed the first point of the triangle: the practical. He simple assumed that since I had taught before that I would know all the policies and procedures of a community college.

Any while it is true, I knew how to teach, how to write a syllabus, create curriculum, take roll, etc. I did not know each and every aspect of the tasks and how they were completed at this college.

The college should have a new teacher guide book that includes such information as: calling in sick, how to find a sub, who do I turn my syllabus in to, how is the roll done, how do I use the printing center, where do I park...

That way, it doesn't matter if you have an organized dean or not. The policies and procedures are already defined, set in place, and written down for any future employee to utilize.


Leadership is part of the philosophy or vision of an organization, which is the third point on The Training Triangle.

Some ideas on leadership:

The leader will note that just because something has been done a certain way for a certain amount of time doesn’t necessarily mean that it is working currently or that it will continue to work in the future. However, at the same time, if it is successful, he or she will know to leave it as it is. Much can be learned from knowing the history of an organization, culture, or person. The history will give a basis for the immediate response (Morgan, 1986).

Difference between leadership and managing

Webster describes motive as “n1: something (as a need or desire) that leads or influences a person to do something.” This is the true essence of leadership: to lead, to influence a person (or organization) to do something (Webster, 1978).

On the other hand, manage is described by Webster as “1: to oversee and make decisions about: direct”. He also uses the words: “handle, manipulate, and contrive”. There is a significant difference between the two (Webster, 1978).

Kotter (1996) addresses the difference between leadership and management; he observes that the key is focus. Both are necessary, they simply have different tasks to perform (Kotter, 1996).

He notes that the wise leader or manager has read and studied many options, he or she has prepared, and they have thought out in their minds the consequences of their actions. They are disciplined and usually have surrounded themselves with people of varying viewpoints in order that they may see things from many perspectives (Kotter, 1996).

However, when the crisis comes, the difference between management and leadership stands out. The leader takes a stand, and holds on to it. Critics do not matter; friends are unimportant; leaders, through their discipline, have learned that in time others will see the validity of their decision and will change their opinions or drift to another arena (Kotter, 1996).

Colin Powell, in this video, talks about this point of leadership. The third point on The Training Triangle would include leadership, while managing would fall under point 1, as it applies to the practical day to day of getting things done.

colin powells 13 rules of leadership revised

Colin Powell's 13 rules of how to be an effective leader. Also I have him talking in the background from a seminar that he is giving about leadership. Great, short , and useful video.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. New York: Sage Publications.

Webster, D.(Ed.).(1978). Webster’s new ideal dictionary. New York: G. & C. Merriam.

I use the following video in coaching, leadership, training, etc.

What is your first thought?

What do you think about the ants? About their leader?

A Bug's Life (beginning)

The first part of a bugs life (pixar)

Most people when they watch this video; they comment on the leader: how he helped the workers, how he showed them how to work, how to overcome the crisis.

But as a trainer/teacher: my first question or thought is:

Why did the ants not know to go around the leaf themselves?


A DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) officer stops at a ranch in Texas, and talks with an old rancher.

He tells the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."

The rancher says, "Okay , but don't go in that field over there," as he points out the location.

The DEA officer verbally explodes saying, " Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me."

Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removes his badge and proudly displays it to the rancher.

"See this badge? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish.... On any land.

No questions asked or answers given. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand? "

The rancher nods politely, apologizes, and goes about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher hears loud screams and sees the DEA officer running for his life chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull......

With every step the bull is gaining ground on the officer, and it seems likely that he'll get gored before he reaches safety.

The officer is clearly terrified. The rancher throws down his tools, runs to the fence and yells at the top of his lungs.....

" Your badge. Show him your BADGE !"

As part of The Training Triangle, this applies to change management.

An organization trains leaders, managers, and employees hoping to enact change.

However, when an individual is arrogant and will not listen. The above is what happens.

Sometimes it is an employee that has been there for 20 years who will not listen to the new supervisor because "they don't know how we do things here".

Sometimes it is a new supervisor or employee who won't listen to the old employees because they are outdated and ignorant.

Either way, both parties stand to learn from each other so the organization has to create a climate where listening and learning (humility) take place.

This uses all 3 points on The Training Triangle.

The practical is to actually teach these skills and apply them. The theory side is to understand their necessity, and the philosophy side is to create an attitude where they are not only accepted, but expected, in each individual.

When was the last time the supervisor or CEO asked the janitor or a secretary for their opinion?

Don't Widen the Plate.

In 1996, one of the most storied high school and college baseball coaches, John Scolinos, spoke to a convention of more than 4,000 baseball coaches in Nashville, Tennessee. Scolinos, who had retired from coaching in 1991, shuffled to the stage and received a standing ovation. He wore a string around his neck, from which hung a full-size home plate.

Scolinos spoke for 25 minutes before referring to his home plate necklace. He was mindful of the snickering among some of the coaches and then reproachfully said, "You're probably all wondering why I'm wearing home plate on my neck." He continued, "I may be old, but I'm not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people ... what I've learned about home plate in my 78 years." Then he asked: "Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?"

After a pause, someone said, "17 inches." Scolinos then asked, "How about in Babe Ruth's day?" There was a long pause, and another reluctant coach said, "17 inches."

"Right," said Scolinos. "Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?" Hundreds of hands went up. "How wide is home plate in high school baseball?"

"Seventeen inches," they exclaimed in unison.

"And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?"

"Seventeen inches!"

"Any minor league coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?"

"Seventeen inches!"

"Right!" Scolinos said. And then he asked about the major leagues, confirming that it's 17 inches there, too. "And what do they do with a big-league pitcher who can't throw the ball over 17 inches?" After a pause, he answered himself: "They send him to Pocatello!" The coaches laughed. "What they don't do is ... say, 'Ah, that's OK, Jimmy. You can't hit a 17-inch target? ... We'll make it 20 inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can't hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches."

He continued: "Coaches, what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? ... Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?"

The laughter faded as Scolinos' message became clear.

Scolinos made a drawing of a house on the home plate around his neck with a marker. "This is the problem in our homes today, with our marriages, with the way we parent our kids, with our discipline. We don't teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate."

Then he drew an American flag on top of the house. "This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast, and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful. ... We are allowing others to widen home plate."

Scolinos concluded: "If I am lucky, you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right, if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to." He held home plate in front of his chest and presented its black backside. "Dark days ahead."

This is what our country has become, and it's wrong. Go out there and fix it. Don't widen the plate.

John Scolinos passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.

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