There’s a threat to the growth of every professional that isn’t predicated on opportunity or finances.

This threat doesn’t discriminate by age, race or gender. Nevertheless, those whose expertise is assured, or whose experiences are celebrated, are often the worst hit.

And that threat is the curse of knowledge.  It stifles advancement, limits collaboration and hinders innovation – the death knell in your professional development or business progress.

When you’re mastering a craft, you take steps to improve your skills to advance your career or to build your business. You become proactive in gaining the required knowledge. Thus, you buy the books that illuminate; you apply for the MBA; you study to become certified, and you take the advice of mentors. You do all these things because you realise that unless you invest in yourself, your dream won’t be achievable.

But what happens when you’ve achieved your goal of becoming a subject matter ‘expert’, or you’ve broken that once-impenetrable glass ceiling?

What do you do when you believe that you’ve ‘made it’, and are easily the smartest or most successful in your circles?

You settle.

You become complacent.

And therein lies the danger.

When you’ve determined that you know it all, you believe there’s nothing left to be learned. As a result, you’re unwilling to contemplate trends that challenge your reasoning. In fact, you become convinced that your mastery will continue to serve you brilliantly. At this stage, you’ve already succumbed to the curse of knowledge. In this age of constant disruption, you’d fail to adjust unless you change your mindset and your behaviours.

Recently, while delivering a training workshop, I was reminded of the importance of being open to new thinking, and of how I needed to continually sharpen my communication skills.

What I’ve learned as a communications trainer

Now in my role as a communications coach, and as a communications trainer in my private ventures, I often deliver training sessions and workshops on communication-related themes.

Therefore, a few weeks ago, I was scheduled to deliver a two-day business writing workshop for the staff of a reputable organisation. The sessions were well received and the participants were engaging.

Despite being the facilitator, I learned two lessons that would improve my programmes.

1) Hunger for knowledge

Although the participants were enrolled for the mandatory training at short notice, they were upbeat, and their hunger for self-improvement was refreshing.

From the moment the first session began, to the concluding statement after an intensive session on the second day, they demonstrated a keen desire to acquire knowledge. They requested resources; they asked questions about practical scenarios, and they were mentally present.

Then during classroom exercises, they challenged one of my recommendations and offered solutions that I had never thought about. That moment was a turning point for me; it opened my mind to other possibilities.

If I hadn’t been receptive to different opinions, I wouldn’t have learned anything new from those insightful employees that would improve my delivery.

The biblical verse in Proverbs explains this lesson succinctly: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.

To become an effective trainer, you must crave knowledge. Become open to new ideas and welcome diverse opinions, even from unlikely sources. Be discerning about what you adopt, if you must. Nevertheless, realise that you’d never know the opportunity that might arise by considering different viewpoints, or where a serendipitous encounter might lead.

Resist the deceptive allure of contentment in your proven skills, experience or qualification, so that you evolve.

Keep sharpening the axe.

2) Communication skills to connect

With all the research available on the importance of strong communication skills, most people realise that this ‘soft skill’ is crucial for career progression, increased productivity and positive business results.

From leadership considerations and employee engagement to brand dominance, good communication matters. Moreover, different aspects of communication, including listening skills and other interpersonal skills, are inherent in emotional intelligence,  which in turn leads to a more productive workplace.

During the business writing workshop, my communication skills helped me to connect with the participants.

On the second day, each participant had a one-on-one coaching session with me. I needed to prioritise active listening so that I could understand concerns and offer the appropriate advice.

Interpersonal skills, which I’ve honed over time, helped me to relate to each attendee. I also paid close attention to nonverbal cues so that I could understand how best to advise each participant about improving performance.

In a group setting, trainers should be particularly sensitive to the needs of the quieter participants. These reserved people need to be involved so that they contribute to the learning process, and by doing so, they help sharpen fellow participants. To this end, I coaxed each participant to share ideas. Every opinion was welcome, and I encouraged healthy debates in class.

As a trainer/facilitator/coach, I always learn from classroom interactions, just as participants gain more knowledge. What I’ve realised over the years is that active listening skills and an open, engaging demeanour, break down resistance and help trainers develop a rapport with participants.

You should also be flexible if you want to be an effective trainer. Adapting your skills to the needs of your audience will make your sessions more authentic and convincing.



As a professional, if you’re being mindful of the curse of knowledge, you’d quickly adapt to change and remain relevant in your industry.
As a trainer in communication skills, updating your knowledge and/or elevating your skills will help you deliver sessions that would guide participants to improve their capabilities. In the same vein, your interpersonal skills, when used to encourage engagement, will create trust with your audience, which leads to a memorable delivery.
Armed with these suggestions, you can be assured that your sessions will inspire action after your programme.

And now over to you:
As a communication skills trainer, what other tips improve your delivery? 
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N.B:  First and fourth images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, via Second image is courtesy of Master Isolated Images, via Third image is courtesy of Boykung, via

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