by Tory Butterworth
So, I have a new job. I'm back in community mental health, but one step up. Now I'm training employees in mental health, rather than working the front lines. I’m excited to be there.
My first task is to come up with the mental health training calendar for 2008. My boss gave me a list of people to contact, to ask about their training needs. As far as I'm concerned, bopping in on meetings I'll never have to go to again and chatting with people I don't know is the fun part. I feel like an anthropologist in a strange land. Where do they come from? What are their customs? What are their beefs?
Of course, at some point the fun exploration stops and the real work begins. In my case, that means coming up with titles and descriptions of trainings employees will want to come to, and then conducting them.
One of the Training and Development department's biggest beefs is that employees ask for certain classes, and then don't register. They've checked out the best days and times. Still, no interest. I can't say I have any crystal ball into this phenomenon, but it does make me wonder about asking people, "What trainings do you want for 2008?" Do people know what they want?
As a psychotherapist in private practice, I have to give clients what they want or they don't return. In therapy we ask, "What brought you here?" That's called the presenting problem. For ongoing complaints we ask, "Why now?" That's called the precipitating event. One supervisor of mine suggested that if you give the client what they want, you often have some room left over to help them with something they need, but haven't yet recognized. That's called diplomacy.
My favorite inspirational speaker, Marianne Williamson, suggests that the most boring question you can ask in bed is, "What turns you on?" She believes the real answer is, "Surprise me!" I'm not sure that's true even in bed, but is it true other places?
Most novelists I know don't go around and ask people, "What do you want to read?" (or, "What turns you on?" for that matter.) An idea comes to them, and they try to mold it into something people will like. Sounds to me a lot like therapist diplomacy.
What about picking out a novel in a bookstore? Do you know what you want? Or do you like to be surprised?
I'll let you know over the next few months how my efforts go at figuring out what trainings employees want, and whether they like to be surprised. In the meantime, in terms of books, do you know what you want?