In workplace learning, as in all learning, strong learner-teacher synergies are vital to success.

Today, many—albeit still too few—workplace teachers are practicing a more social, collaborative, and synergistic style of learning and teaching. They inspire learners to come together, connect, and create real results. They manifest mutual trust and respect. They make learning fun and meaningful. And they can, and do, bring out the brilliance in everyone.

So, how can you join the ranks of these synergizing superstars—topflight teachers who truly engage learners’ hearts and minds? Whether you’re a corporate trainer or team leader, a manager or mentor, a coach or counselor, here are 10 fast tips for firing up learner-teacher synergies and fueling workforce brilliance:

1. Know your learners

You can’t connect with your learners if you don’t know anything about them. So, who are they? To find out, ask lots of questions. What inspires or drives them? What are their goals? What do they need to be most successful? What do they want to learn? And how do they learn best? You won’t know—until you ask.

2. Tell stories

Stories help people relate to and remember key concepts. Tell your own stories and support learners in telling theirs. One professional speaker, in talking about acting on one’s values, shares a story about his decision to do less traveling. In heading out for a trip, his young son asked him, “Dad, if you value your family, why are you always leaving?” It’s a story that audiences say they remember and take to heart.

3. Make connections

Be a “connector” and link learners to one another and to the content. When interacting with small groups, for instance, call attention to each person’s unique talents or strengths. Help learners connect the dots and see that two or more heads really are better than one.

4. Be flexible

Sometimes you must bend your best-laid plans. When a situation changes, change with it. For example, if a major reorganization has just been announced to learners, meet them where they are—not where you are—and modify your content or approach to meet their needs.

5. Read the room

You can stimulate—or stifle—learners’ energy. Look around and “see” what people are saying. Are they sitting up, smiling, and shaking their heads in agreement? Or are their eyes glazed over, and they’re slumping, squirming, or sneaking peeks at their smartphones? Such signs can tell you what is, and isn’t, resonating with learners.

6. Create a safe place

Learners who feel safe are willing to show what they don’t know, making them more open to learning. One way to create a safe, sheltered space is to share some of your own shortcomings or mistakes. Also, watch how you respond to learners’ comments and questions, and instead of setting yourself apart, sit down with people, walk the room, and show appreciation for everyone’s contribution.

7. Avoid assumptions

Learners can withdraw, act out, or resist learning for a variety of reasons. What's more, those reasons often rest well outside the four walls of the learning environment. Avoid making judgments or assumptions about people, and concentrate instead on learning more about them and caring about their success.

8. Build confidence

Help learners recognize that they really are okay. Build confidence by bringing everyone’s thoughts and ideas into the program and rallying round people who may be less self-assured than others. Be patient in letting learners relax into the experience, and help people contribute in their own ways.

9. Set people up to win

Everyone has something to offer the group, so give all learners the chance to shine. Throughout the session, ask wide-ranging questions that spawn discussion and spotlight individual knowledge and skills. Help people to “get it right” in their own unique way.

10. Get over yourself

Flip your focus from yourself to your learners. When you say to yourself, “He hates me” or “She thinks I’m stupid,” you are making a learner’s behavior about you. Check your ego at the door and change your perspective. For instance, flip your focus from “I want her to think I’m smart” to “I want her to be smart.”

Victoria Halsey, Ph.D., is a leading expert in workplace learning and author of Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences That Connect, Inspire, and ENGAGE (Berrett-Koehler, 2011). Vice President of Applied Learning at The Ken Blanchard Companies, she is a sought-after instructional designer, consultant and trainer, and keynote speaker. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..