Can you spot the cats and dogs in the training room?

When delivering training it’s easy to make the mistake of focusing much of your attention on the dogs in the room, but if you successfully engage with the cats, then the dogs will come along with you anyway!

Having read that first sentence you may be totally confused, or perhaps not, but either way you’re curious and open to learn more, “what’s he talking about” you might think, “tell me more” you cry. Alternatively you may have already decided that I’m a kook and there’s nothing more for you here, “time to move on” you quickly decide. Well there you have it, you’re either a dog or a cat.

THE DOG
They’ve turned up convinced and engaged, all the trainer has to do is put out a small tasty treat and they’re there, ready and willing, tongue hanging out in anticipation for more.

THE CAT
They’re naturally sceptical, proud of their independence and will probably need persuading. They may start off alert, but will be watching carefully for reasons to support their scepticism and to disengage. They’re certainly not going to be accepting of any new theories and ideas just because they’re presented by a so called ‘expert’.

Labelling participants in a training session may not usually be useful, and of course one needs to be aware that people will shift attitudes regularly, will have external factors influencing them and will be in attendance for a wide variety of reasons. But I do find it useful to make a general assessment of whether the individuals are more prone to be cats or dogs. This way I can keep myself in check by asking, ‘Am I just presenting to the dogs?’, ‘Whose focus have I lost and could I have done better?’ ‘What can I do to make sure that the cats are engaged and are an active part of the group?’.

If, like me, you aim to generate a collaborative, supportive and shared learning environment then it’s essential to try to engage with ALL participants in the room, not just with those that have come ready and open, but also with those that may require some persuading and active inclusion.

Disengagement is contagious, so watch out for those cats!

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