The "I'm Just Giving Them What They Want" Syndrome

It's easy for trainers to fall into the trap of giving the client what he or she asks for. For example, a client comes to Trainer John and says: "We need a full day of training on communication skills, since poor communication is the cause of many of our problems in this company." Trainer John replies: "Ok. Sure, I can do that. When do you want the seminar?" And off they go.

The problem is that after the seminar is completed the client notices no improvement whatsoever. This is a great example of the "I'm just giving them what they asked for" syndrome.

To see why this is a problem, let's look at a more obvious example from another field. The customer calls up Plumber John, and says: "My toilet is leaking and I'd like you to come out and replace the wax seal on it. When can you be here?"

Plumber John comes out, replaces the seal, and collects his fee. One week later the customer calls back and says: "What the heck is wrong with you. I asked you to come out and fix the leaking toilet and now it's even worse than before." John replies: "Well, you told me to replace the seal, and I just did what you asked."

And in a sense, the plumber would be correct. Except that when we hire someone to do something for us, whether we phrase it properly or not, we want the professional to fix our problem. It's the same whether it's a leaky toilet or a leaky organization. And sometimes, the customer makes a false diagnosis, or a partial one.

A trainer who gives the customer what is asked for, without specifically trying to determine whether what is asked for will actually work for the customer is not offering good value. One could go so far as to say that, at least in some cases, the process of knowingly giving a client training that will not help them is unethical.

There are many trainers who feel that giving the client what he wants is the best way of doing business. They sell training like soap power. The flipside is that other trainers sell their expertise and judgement and not just "a seminar". Guess who can charge higher fees? Guess who succeeds over the long haul.

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