Learning From The Trainer-Motivator-Inspirator Dilemma

Being a Professional Learning Facilitator, I found it easy to introduce myself to clients because the certification and the system it was based on allowed me to ride on its promise of quality.

However, for other learning professionals, one of the biggest challenges they face is what to call themselves. Depending on the role, it could be trainer, instructor, coach, facilitator, mentor, motivator, or dozens more.

The good news in choosing from this list is that no one actually owns these terms and anyone is free to name themselves if they have enough credibility to carry it. The bad news is also that no one owns these terms; they are infinitely open to abuse.

Malaysia has seen many examples in the past. The term Trainer has had its ups and downs in the 1990s. Because there is no one standard certification for a Trainer that everyone can agree on, Human Resource (HR) professionals have experienced a variety in the quality of training delivery, both good and bad.

In response, HR now resort to asking for evidence of a Trainer's experience and not simply rely on their certifications. Trainers have a slow climb to build individual brand credibility to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Later, around the new millennium, we saw the rise of the Motivator when productivity and quality were issues in the workforce. Newly-minted Motivators, many of them trainers themselves, created a niche market that everyone, public and private alike, were willing to pay for. They were good at what they did, and they earned well.

The niche grew, and again, Motivators, with dubious credentials began crawling out of the woodwork. If you were presentable, humorous and had public-speaking skills, you could motivate. The industry got very crowded very fast.

The public soon saw that these people weren't the heroes they had envisioned. They saw instances of bad behaviour, profiteering and long-term ineffectiveness of their cheer-leading in the long term. This damaged the term Motivator. People who once called themselves motivators became defensive, sometimes even ashamed to use the term, because of the action of a few show-boaters.

In response to that, recently, an archaic term was discovered as its replacement: the Inspirator. It is so ancient, even spell-check software don't recognise it. More and more people are becoming comfortable using this instead of Motivator, and have various justifications for doing so.

Unfortunately, the problem remains. No one owns it, no one can control it, and all it takes is for some rotten apple Inspirators to spoil the barrel. Once the Inspirator becomes inevitably soiled, what alternative dictionary will supply their new term?

Thus, the Professional Learning Facilitator (PLF) realises that while the PLF is a new concept, it was coined based on a complete system with checks and balances to ensure that what happened to their friends, the Trainers and Motivators doesn't happen to them.

The term PLF itself, is generic enough to be used to cover the roles of trainer, facilitator, mentor, coach, motivator and inspirator. However, the legal registration of the term and specificity of its definition ensures that a PLFs actions are accountable.

When someone becomes a PLF, they take upon themselves the principles enshrined in the Take Charge! Learning Facilitator System® (established by Mohd Rizal Hassan). They commit to live up to a set of standards and give and receive developmental feedback within the PLF Family.

The Mastery level practitioners coach and audit the new PLFs and keep them honest to the system's tenets. Like the scientific and medical professions, it is peer-regulated, or at least, that's the long term goal.

The PLF Family is, in all senses of the word, a professional community that collectively takes it upon itself to maintain standards and safeguard the good brand name of the Professional Learning Facilitator. By doing this, they assure clients and the public of the quality and productivity of a PLF, as well as their openness to improve.

Any deficiency on the PLF Family's part to continue this effort will certainly lead us along the same path that our Trainer and Motivator siblings have trod.

If we don't protect and defend the PLF brand name, sooner or later, we will need to leaf through an old dictionary to find something else to call ourselves.