How do you breathe life into a course you’ve taught dozens of times? For Certified Trainer Caitlin Ryder, the key is connecting to the material in a personal, authentic way that infuses your own life experiences into the course.
“Yes, there are words, and yes, there are suggestions on what kind of stories you tell or how you expand a slide, but it’s taking that next step as a trainer,” she said. “How do you really bring who you are into the training? And how do you do it safely and confidently?”
Ryder facilitated all five of Crucial Learning’s courses for Franciscan Health, a mission-focused healthcare organization in Illinois and Indiana. In this role, Ryder spent two and a half years teaching employees across the organization.
Her first interaction with Crucial Conversations came as part of her own new employee orientation—the course is built into each Franciscan employee’s first week.
“I sat through the class and was like, this is awesome,” Ryder said. “I really gravitate toward that course because when you teach it, it is not just in this moment, it’s not a capsule moment. It is going to expand into that coworker’s life. They’re going to take it home.”
It was this expansive nature—the way the course connected into all facets of a learner’s life—that also guided Ryder’s facilitation style.
“I found out very quickly, as I was getting certified, that I wanted to really make it authentic,” Ryder said. “And what I mean by that is I wanted to bring myself into the classroom. I really want to make sure [learners] know that, as a trainer, I’m giving myself, I’m sharing my truth. I’m going to come and share the safety so that they, in turn, can feel safe in sharing their own story and their own narrative to the content.”
That personal touch has led to Ryder hearing some really powerful stories over the years. Early in her time with Franciscan, Ryder facilitated a course in which one learner opened up about her son’s death from gun violence the year prior and the fallout it had on her life.
“It was obviously a very emotional session,” Ryder said. “She talked about how angry she had been. And when we talked about violence to silence and the spectrum of that, really seeing what she has done to isolate herself was incredibly impactful to getting herself out of this self-imposed grave that she put herself in… She was really open and honest, and we had a lot of great conversations about coming back to ourselves and our stories.”
This session left a lasting impact on Ryder.
“That was one of those stories that you never forget because of the power behind that change,” she said. “After that, I kind of said, I need to step myself up, right? I have this individual who is meeting a room full of strangers on her first week of work, and she’s being so authentic and vulnerable.”
As she progressed in her facilitation, Ryder said she started sharing deeper stories and noticed that her trainings had a deeper impact on her learners. By sharing real-life examples of her experiences learning and living the course principles, she invited learners to likewise draw connections and apply the lessons to their lives.
“I’ve had instances where somebody actually came up to me in the middle of class and said, ‘I just found out through 23 and Me that who I thought was my biological father was not. I’m not going to use this as my example with my team, because it’s so raw to me, I can’t really talk about it, but I’d like to connect with you after because I need to have a Crucial Conversation with my mom,’” Ryder said. “It’s moments like that where you’re like, wow, this content is so much more than just a few skills.”
If Ryder could emphasize one takeaway for her learners, she encourages them to start questioning their stories.
“You are coming in—everyone is coming in—with preconceived notions,” she said. “We’re telling stories all the time. And so, if you could start questioning what you’re thinking, the impact that one skill could have on your life is huge. It’s beyond powerful.”