A woman delivering training in Dubai

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Last month, I was given a very unique opportunity to deliver a 3-day-long training in Dubai. I have never been to this part of the world (apart from a very quick airport visit when changing the flights on my way to China) and, naturally, felt a bit nervous about the new experience.

Before the travel, I spent a bit of time asking some of my contacts from the training industry about their experience when teaching in the United Arab Emirates. I have also read a few articles online about the tips for solo travellers.

I have to say, the majority of the things I was told or read online turned out to be pretty negative especially towards women and this made me a bit anxious about the whole trip, especially that I was travelling on my own.

I cannot describe how surprised I was when, after my arrival, I very quickly realised that most of the things I heard or read about Dubai turned out to be completely different!

Here are some things that I was told versus what I learned:

  • ‘women find it difficult teaching or living in the United Arab Emirates’ – this could not be further away from the truth! The country, in fact, encourages and empowers women to take more challenges on board and public speaking, leadership and personal branding classes are widely popular and fairly cheap or completely free! To prove that, just check what this woman #ThinkNatalia and many others do in Dubai! In fact, UAE has a Gender Balance Council in Dubai which claims that: “As a part of our strategy, we aim to place the UAE as one of the countries at the forefront of women’s empowerment.”. Emirati women are employed in a vast range of sectors, although they do make up a tiny percentage of an expat-dominated workforce which includes many women.
  • ‘wear a scarf over your head’ – throughout my whole stay there I haven’t seen a single non-Emirati woman wearing anything resembling a hijab. Yes, it is advisable to be modest and cover your arms and knees to show the respect for the local traditions but no one expects or requires from non-local women to cover their heads! In fact, in the Dubai’s nightclubs that I had a chance to visit on the last night of my stay, I have seen girls wearing hardly anything- in some extreme cases even less than what I was used to seeing in the UK clubs.
  • ‘be aware that, when travelling on your own you might be looked down upon as going there for a different kind of business’ – now this was just shocking and couldn’t be further from the truth! Everyone treated me with respect, friendliness and kindness. Millions of women travel to Dubai for business every year and never experience any uncomfortable situations!
  • ‘you will be training mostly male Arabs’ – now my answer to this statement would be the following – yes this is possible but it depends on which industry you deliver the training for. I was teaching a subject related to international digital marketing and had only 3 attendees of Arabic nationality whereas the rest of the students were the expats from all over the world from India to Spain.
  • drinking alcohol is only allowed in the hotels’ – majority of bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs offer the alcohol. In fact, I haven’t seen a single one that didn’t.

This trip was very important for me for many reasons but mostly because it made me realise that sometimes, in order to broaden your horizons you have to experience something yourself rather than rely on what other people are saying/writing. Regardless how convincing it is. The beauty of travelling is in the fact that you can see the things by yourself and shape your own view- your own story that helps to change the perception of others!

Thanks to the people that I met in Dubai, I felt more welcomed than anywhere else in the world and I look forward to visiting this amazing and thriving city once again in the nearest future!

Thank you for having me Dubai! I will never forget your hospitality! 🙂

A Trainer Goes on a Train the Trainer course

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I am a passionate believer in a life-long learning!

Once I realised that education did not end with leaving the school (which, for some strange reason, was not that obvious to me first 😉 ) and that human capacity to acquire new skills and knowledge is ever-expanding, I went on a fascinating journey.

I learned (and are still learning!) two new languages, acquired specialist knowledge on several subjects completely unrelated to my university degree, gained new skills – physical and mental, social and emotional, professional and personal.

To put it simply – I realised that I am not a finished but rather a work-in-progress product. The discoveries and possibilities suddenly became endless!

Last week was a great reminder of this.

My employer decided to send me to the Train the Trainer course. Initially, the reason behind it was for our organisation to be able to meet the requirements for delivering CPD accredited courses (that is courses which would allow our attendees to gain points towards their Continuous Development Programme) rather than to actually gain new skills.

Regardless of the reasons, I was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to attend the course, especially since it was a 2-day training promising that we would ‘dig deep into the subject’

Despite having trained hundreds of people around the world over the last four years, I went there with an open mind. I have also decided that (in spite of my clear passion for the subject and natural extraversion) I would listen carefully to everything.

Right at the start, our trainer Ralph asked us:

‘Would you like to be pushed over the next 2 days’?

All of us, more or less confidently said  “Yes!” despite feeling a bit of natural apprehension towards the unknown.

Little did I know when shouting my ‘Yes’ how much I would regret saying it later on! 🙂

I think it’s fair to say that this was, so far, one of the most challenging educational experiences I have ever participated in!

It took me 3 days to fully recover from the intense 14 hours that we spent together during the course. My brain was on fire even during the night after the first day of training dreaming about some subjects that we discussed! 🙂

I have to admit, though, that I did feel a bit disappointed after the first day. This was simply because of the fact that I failed to successfully complete one of the exercises. The new knowledge didn’t sink in properly and I felt a bit ashamed about it that evening.

But the next day I woke up with a strong realisation that through my failure I have learned what I didn’t know I didn’t know! This was an ideal point to get to just before the second day and I was ready for any challenges.

The whole course provided many useful and practical insights and I could probably write a whole book about it.

Below are my biggest eye-openers that I would like to share with you:

  1. Knowing yours and your learners’ MBTI type can be crucial to understanding how we learn

3 months ago, one of my business colleagues, a senior manager in a highly successful travel search engine has once introduced me to this simple test. MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) allows you to discover your personality type through a series of questions about your preferences. It helps you understand what gives you more energy, how you perceive the world and what you take into consideration when making decisions. At the end of the test, you are given a 4 letter code indicating your personality. For instance, mine is ENFJ.

I decided to take this test last month while studying about leadership and the importance of self-management and was fascinated to realise during the course that this can also be used in training! I can completely understand that it might be difficult to persuade, especially strangers to do this type of testing at the beginning of the session but I think that this could be a very valuable tool for training employees within an organisation. I found reading about my type both fascinating and shocking at the same time simply because of the fact how accurate it was!

2. You’ve got to practice to master the subject

What surprised me the most during the course was that after literally 1 hour of training, we were told to deliver a 10-minute session on what we have learned so far. My inner chimp went in a mild panic mode – ‘Present?! Already?? But I am not prepared!’. Typical reaction for a high Judging MBTI type 🙂 Throughout the training, we had several occasions to practice all the newly gained skills and that helped me comprehend the new things in a quicker way.

3. You can guide people to learn without explaining everything yourself

Lecture and training are two different things.

Ralph explained that the most successful trainers are those that teach not tell. This was such an important point for me to understand! When planning a new training I have had a tendency of spending much more time preparing for what am I going to say rather than how I would interact with my audience. High engagement rate has always been extremely important for me but I found it much more natural to rely on the conversation driven by questions from the audience rather than driving the conversation myself.

That is why learning about questioning techniques has opened my eyes to a whole lot of opportunities. We were explained (and of course we practised!) how to use rhetorical, open and closed questions, as well as how to use probing and reasoning questions to help the audience discover the answers themselves.

I have to stress here that this was the part that I found most difficult to implement when practising because I had to actively think while delivering a training on how to throw, for instance, a reasoning question. I also realised that I had a tendency to ask a lot of closed questions such as ‘Do you like chocolate?’ (that’s is also a rhetorical question for me 🙂 ) rather than ‘Describe why you like or don’t like chocolate’. I also discovered that most of my questions were starting with ‘Does anyone’ or ‘Could anyone’ which, apparently, almost guarantees no response!

Those that know me or saw me delivering training know that I absolutely love teaching people but these newly gained skills made me feel extraordinarily enthusiastic about delivering my next training session. For me, this is an outstanding result!

And here is the most important point – if the idea of training is to either teach new things and/or change the way people do certain things, then creating enthusiasm for a change through gaining and practising the new knowledge should be the goal for each trainer to achieve!

For me, Ralph Moody from Target Training Associates has achieved this goal and that is why I am happy to recommend him!