What’s the hard work? Focus on that.

I started work on a new curriculum development project last week. This one is about human trafficking and sexual exploitation—pretty heavy stuff. Our goal is to make sure the staff and partners of this global organization protect vulnerable people. Difficult topic, but at the end of the day, this is a classic outcome-based curriculum. We want people to do things differently with their everyday life.

Trying to get my arms around this topic, I read through powerpoints and white papers from other organizations. Bullet point-filled slides explained the scope of the problem, the UN declarations these issues violate, and the psychological impact of human trafficking on women and children. Okay, I’m convinced—human trafficking is bad and widespread. That’s a training more relevant for university students, however, not international development workers expected to change the situation.

The third bullet point about 37 slides into one presentation caught my eye. “Make sure you train your staff how to spot human trafficking.” Now that is something to focus on. How do you spot human trafficking? The information until now was “why” and “what” information—what the problem is and why it matters. This nugget is a “how,” how someone can stop human trafficking if our prevention techniques fail. The “how” of something is what people really need to know and practice if they are going to do whatever it is we are hoping they will do out of our training.

I’ve talked in the past about the barriers that hold people back from action. We often get this wrong, thinking that people aren’t taking action for one reason when it is really another. We spend time on the context of the problem trying to motivate people, when they may really just need some practical tips.

As I talked with my colleague at the organization, we agreed that this step is where the rubber meets the road, and it is also really hard. Every situation looks a little different. You don’t want to mess up, such as calling in the authorities when you see an old man with a child only to find out he is her grandfather. But we can’t assume that managers know how to train employees to spot trafficking. We’ve identified the hard work. It is now time to dig in and provide some solutions.

“What’s the hard work?” is one of those Swiss utility knife questions—you can flip it open to address many different types of challenges. It is definitely a question for a training situation, but it also works with pretty much anyone you are trying to influence. Here’s some examples from recent projects:

Board members aren’t helping to raise money.
What’s the hard work?
Getting them to understand that fundraising is much bigger than asking for money.
Name and practice other ways that they contribute to fundraising.

Staff members aren’t completing forms correctly.
What’s the hard work?
Remembering what goes in each field.
Create a job aid to remind them… or a template where the fields are already filled out.

Nonprofits aren’t planning for disasters.
What’s the hard work?
Identifying the risk factors most relevant to that organization, then making time to talk with the board about that.
Give nonprofits a framework to think about disaster planning. Make sure it is flexible to be relevant to nonprofits in different places and situations.

What is the hard work holding back the people you are trying to influence? Focus on that.

“What is the hard work?” is one idea that we will be talking about at The Trainer Academy on June 15 and 22. If you want to learn how to design and deliver and effective workshop or webinar, join us!

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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