Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 40

A client of ours from the Ministry of Defence recently casually asserted that 'about a billion' was spent on training in the MoD, adding that, 'fortunately, most of what we do is training, not the real thing'. While the same is obviously not true in the NHS, a huge amount of training, both formal and informal is the norm. Given how much there is, can anyone train people? Is it a skill hardwired into the brain?

There is nothing like being a participant yourself to find out. In a much earlier career, as a rookie TV producer, the BBC sent me on two directing courses, one on studio, the other on film.

Humphrey ran the studio course. He broke most of the rules in the goodtrainers' guide. It was intensely competitive; we were pushed relentlessly from one slightly-too-hard exercise to the next after receiving tough and ruthlessly frank feedback. He made the mistake of confusing the pace at which the real task has to be carried out with the appropriate pace for learning. I remember sobbing with selfpity and exhaustion on the drive home.

By contrast, Peter's film course contained a variety of skilfully graded activities, including the welcome relief of just listening as more experienced film-makers explained their art.

In theory, Peter was the more competent trainer, Yet actually, in my view, he was not. Humphrey produced better results. This is because he radiated an intense wish for us all to know what he knew, an absolute belief that we would all get there, unfailingly praised even the smallest step forward and created the fantasy that each of us was special to him. He was personally modest, as willing to learn from us as expecting us to learn from him. As the US columnist Dale Dauten remarked, 'Confidence is believing you have something to teach; arrogance is the belief that you have nothing to learn.' Probably most mature adults can learn to do a decent job as trainers by understanding how adults learn, by acquiring presentation and trainingdesign skills and so on. But can Humphrey's shining qualities be acquired? I do not think so. If you have them, use them. And if you are on the receiving end, celebrate your luck.

Jenny Rogers is a director of Management Futures info@managementfutures. co. uk