Why Trainer Credibility Can Make or Break You

This blog is the second in a series of three blogs focused on giving trainers the most impactful beginning possible. I hope you find this helpful!

In How to Set the Stage for a Successful Learning Experience, I shared 5 key features of an effective introduction, that I believe to be extremely valuable yet too often don’t receive the attention they deserve.

As a law firm trainer, you are often faced with skepticism. This isn’t surprising considering most legal work surrounds suspicion, doubt, and the questioning of motives and assertions. Focusing on fault in order to protect a client’s interest is what lawyers do. (For more insight into the lawyer personality, read "Herding Cats - The Lawyer Personality Revealed" by Dr. Larry Richard). Because of this skepticism, you may find yourself playing the role of persuader instead of trainer.

Aristotle identified three ingredients or appeals to persuading others to consider a particular point of view: ethos, pathos and logos.

Ethos is an appeal to ethics. It consists of good sense, good will and good moral character. In today’s world, we call it credibility.

An excellent strategy for addressing skepticism is to quickly establish your credibility by appealing to the learner’s ethos. You can make statements about being well-educated on the topic (good sense), communicate the desire to help each learner (goodwill), and demonstrate trustworthiness (good moral character). While trust is something that is earned and maintained over time, good sense and goodwill can be addressed in a credibility statement.

A credibility statement addresses the experience or preparation made which makes one knowledgeable on the topic. When architecting a credibility statement, it is helpful to answer one or more of the following:

  • Why am I qualified to address this topic?
  • What job experience do I have which is related to the topic? What educational steps did I take to address this topic?
  • Do I have special connections via an organization which specializes in this topic?
  • If the topic is simply one of interest, why am I so interested? What did I do to research and prepare?
  • If I am addressing a specific need, what actions did I take to discover this need?

A credibility statement should be concise and focused. It will also likely change according to the topic being discussed. You don’t want to give a rundown of your resume, but making a few qualifying statements coupled with your goodwill intentions will make your learners want to pay attention.

Examples of Appeals to Ethos:

  • In the twenty years I’ve worked for this firm, I’ve held multiple positions in several practice groups. I have real-world experience with the many tools and processes used across the firm.
  • The managing partner and I worked together to improve this process and he has asked that I share those changes with you today.
  • For the last 6 months, I’ve been working closely with our IT department and a dedicated vendor consultant to design customized training incorporating this new tool into our workflow to improve our efficiency and commitment to excellent client service.
  • You know me! I trained most you when you arrived, I’ve led you through multiple upgrades, and I’ve worked alongside you to redesign workflow processes as our business model changed. You know that in every situation, I am committed to deliver what you need when you need it.
  • I invited our senior document production specialist here today to share 5 steps to successfully use our firm styles and numbering schemes. She has 15 years of experience, multiple certifications and has received numerous accolades from our CEO, Managing Partner and Practice Leads – if anyone’s qualified to share these strategies, it’s her.
  • I’ve recently obtained my DMS Certification and I’m excited to share several timesaving strategies that I’ve adapted to work well in our environment.
  • I was recently working with a secretary in your department and discovered that the volume of internal presentation development work has increased significantly. I worked directly with her and your practice group lead to develop tools and processes to improve your efficiency and consistency which I’m excited to share that with you today.

Once credibility is established, learners are more likely to engage and view your message as truth being delivered from a reliable source.

It is important to maintain credibility throughout the learning experience. One way to address this is by making further references to your credibility throughout the training by periodically referring to the characteristics previously mentioned.

What do you believe the negative consequences of not establishing your credibility might be? What benefits might you realize if you do establish your credibility? Please take a moment and share your thoughts on this subject with our readers.

Join us next time to discuss “What’s in it for Me? (Relevance Really Matters)” as we wrap up our discussion on effective introductions.