What trainers can learn from motor sport driving instructors

Imagine the situation.   You are sitting in the passenger seat of a high performance car, with someone you have never met before who is about to drive you around a race circuit at speeds of over 100mph. During the journey you will have to remain relaxed, communicate effectively, and encourage them to keep improving their performance.  Does this sound difficult to you?


This experience is one that a motor-sport driving instructor has to go through every time they take a member of the public out on one of those popular Experience Days, held at places like Silverstone Race Circuit in England.  And it was something that I had wondered about.  What were these instructors doing to be able to remain relaxed, communicate effectively and help someone else to learn, in this potentially high risk environment?  So I set about finding out the answer to my question.


Uncovering Excellence

Using the modelling technique that I had learned during my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner training, I decided to interview three experienced motor-sport driving instructors to find out what cognitive and behavioural patterns they used that enabled them to be excellent instructors. I then wanted to consider how that learning could be applied to anyone who has to train others.  The results were written up in an article published in the Industrial and Commercial Training Journal, and some of the key points are summarised below.

  1. Learn to think fast and communicate slowly – All of the instructors talked about having the ability to take in and analyse a lot of information quickly, and then communicate the results of it in a relaxed manner, to ensure the other person remained relaxed.
  2. Influencing begins long before an event ever starts –  You can begin to develop an expectation about an experience long before it begins. We are influenced by subtle cues, such as the tone of an email or communication, the promptness of response, and how you are greeted on arrival at an event.   The instructors used to in a positive manner.
  3. You are receiving far more data than you realise – the instructors described a lot that was related to their senses (e.g. how the car feels at a given moment, their sense of the person who will be driving, the tone of voice used) which indicates that often we know a lot more about a situation than perhaps we give ourselves credit for.   The trick is to learn to be aware of that data, to analyse what it is telling you, and to act on it as a result
  4. The importance of uncovering assumptions – The importance of not making assumptions is paramount, so being able to ask questions to uncover any assumptions is a critical skill to master.
  5. Knowing your capabilities can reinforce confidence – If you are clear about what you are good at, then when you get into a difficult situation, you are able to draw upon your core capabilities. The instructors knew that they would be able to handle the car even if the driver got into difficulties, which brought confidence to both driver and instructor.



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