The Leadership Trainer | Jonathan Kroll


How can leaders prepare to train and develop others?

Jonathan Kroll is the founder of Leadership Trainer, a nonprofit that specializes in trainer preparation and facilitator skill building.

In this episode, he’ll discuss his new book, Preparing Leadership Educators, and share his wisdom, including:

  • The importance of authenticity
  • Why experiential learning is key
  • How to incorporate reflection into your day
  • The importance of morning routines
  • Developing emotional intelligence
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Jonathan Kroll: We have to dive into our authentic leadership practice in order to be effective in working well with others in navigating obstacles effectively and working towards goal accomplishment. And so I think that is very, very important.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach and I am here with a brother from another mother. My good new friend Jonathan Kroll is here today. He’s a leadership educator and entrepreneur. Jonathan began his career as a university administrator by focusing on leadership development, community engagement, and reflection initiatives, which is the secret sauce to leadership. 

He has co-founded two leadership training businesses and he’s so bored he needs more to do please call him. He has co-founded two leadership training businesses in addition to Leadership Trainer, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that specializes in trainer preparation and facilitator skill building, which is so needed, dare I say that. 

Over the last decade, Jonathan has facilitated hundreds of leadership workshops, retreats, trainings, conference presentations, and classes to 1000s of participants across four continents. Let’s find out what they are in just a minute. In addition to serving as the Executive Director and Master Trainer with Leadership Trainer, Jonathan is an assistant teaching professor and program director for the professional leadership studies program at the University of Rhode Island. 

Jonathan has earned his PhD from Fielding Graduate University in Leadership with a focus in Group Mentoring. He coaches, consults, writes, teaches and trains about leadership, mentoring and training and facilitation. Oh my gosh, I’m gonna learn so much. And so are you. Welcome to the show.

Jonathan: Nicole, thank you so very much for having me. I am delighted to be here. I am ecstatic about our conversation.

Nicole: Oh, it’s gonna be so fun. And so I said, we’re brothers from another mother, because I love training. I love it so much. I love working with leaders so much, I can’t hardly stand myself. I think it’s the answer to all the ills in the world. So, Jonathan, we’re glad you’re here. And as all my listeners know, and as you know, I am looking for definitions of leadership. And you’re one smart cookie, tell me what’s your definition of leadership?

Jonathan: Well, here’s the thing. I’m actually not going to share with you a definition. That’s on purpose. Because there’s endless amounts of definitions. There actually, is no formal, tried and true, universal definition of leadership. And so we all internalize what leadership is in different ways. We know what leadership is, even if we don’t have the language for it. 

And so what I found, as an educator and as an entrepreneur in this leadership space, that when we, when experts like you and I have a definition, then people tend to focus on the words, not the meaning behind that definition. And so I tend to stray away from providing that definition, because I don’t want us to get all tied up in a specific word that I did use or didn’t use. 

With that being said, I came out in November with my first book, Preparing Leadership Educators, which I’m so proud of. And in the book, I share similar to what I just voiced you, that there’s not a definition here, I do outline a number of different scholars’ definitions, and I share what I believe are critical, essential factors to understand leadership. 

So one, is leadership is relational. It’s not this solitary act that a leader performs, but it is the engagement, the purposeful engagement between leaders and followers, that creates that leadership context. Leadership is not about position or power or prestige. We are often indoctrinated. We’re culturally engaged in understandings of leadership that are about what position you hold, what power you wield, what kind of authority you have. 

That’s not leadership. Leadership is doing good work that creates positive change. And so those are two factors, and in Preparing Leadership, Educators, I’ve got many, many, many more. But I’m sorry to disappoint in not providing a definition.

Nicole: Oh, I’m really easy to get along with Jonathan. It’s not a problem in the world. I love it when somebody has kind of a different take on things and so we’ve got a lot of definitions, but I love what you said, don’t miss this everybody like we could define it. We could get our Webster’s out, like you said, and I don’t know, you’ve got a PhD, which I want to talk to you offline about, because I’m toying with the idea of doing that. 

So, you know, I got this big fat book, and I can’t remember, do you know what it is? It’s the one that says the something book on leadership. Like I had to buy it when I got my master’s degree. It’s a big old fat book full of all the leadership stuff. And you know, I love what you’re saying, though, is behind all that, it’s all relational. Right? We could see, we’re, you know, so I love that. 

And so don’t miss he did say that it’s doing good work to get positive change, right. So if I had to boil down everything you said, that’s the one that grabbed me. I was like good work to do positive change. And here’s the thing. If you’re in an organization, everything’s changing. And that’s why you need training. And that’s why you need leaders who can master change. That’s fantastic. All right. So that’s our first question always out of the gate. 

And congratulations on your book. And he said it so quickly. Let me say it for you. It’s Preparing Leadership Educators, A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices And Facilitation Skills. And hey, all you MSOD, all you organizational development, HR training types, you got to get the book. It’s on the Amazon. All right. 

So the next question is, what are the most important skills of a successful leader? I bet you as you wrote the book, again, Preparing Leadership Educators, that you thought, okay, here’s what we got to make sure leaders know how to do. What are the important skills of a successful leader?

Jonathan: Well, you’re exactly right. And there’s 18 in the book that are really important. 

Nicole: Eighteen people. 

Jonathan: Yeah, and I’m not going to list all eighteen. The ones that come to mind right away, certainly emotional intelligence, right. The most important intelligence of all, so that’s certainly one. And then it depends on our context, what kind of leadership practices and skills competencies matter most. What I will say is across the board, one that is incredibly important is our authenticity. 

And we have to dive into our authentic leadership practice in order to be effective in working well with others in navigating obstacles effectively and working towards goal accomplishment. And so I think that is very, very important. And then a last skill that I do talk about in the book is the oscillation, the integration of reflection, and action. 

So often, leaders are expected to be action oriented, go, go, go, getting things done. And while that is important, is not important at the expense of reflection. In that we have to create space for reflective inquiry for critical thinking. We have to create space for stillness, and quiet and purposeful pauses, so that we can be super effective when we get into that action space.

Nicole: I love what you’re saying. Yeah. So do you have coaching in your background? I bet you do. I bet you poked on coaching thing before.

Jonathan: I do. I’m not a certified coach, actually, I should do that.

Nicole: Don’t should all over yourself. Don’t do that. You’ve got the PhD. I mean, come on, I bet you had to look at coaching just a hot second.

Jonathan: But my dissertation and subsequent research has focused on group mentoring, which is a sibling development relationship to coaching. And so I’m very familiar with coaching as a practice and a process and how it relates to mentoring. And both are absolutely wonderful, so important, as developmental relationships and experiences. And so I am a hard advocate for both.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And so, when I took my coaching training, what I was going to say is, I mean, one of the things that was required of us is that we had to, like, go online. And we had to, you know, write what we were thinking about the topic we were studying. And everybody used to get like a little irritated by this, but I’m gonna tell you, we’re in a society that’s so used to just taking in information, that we don’t sit with it so that we can actually absorb it. 

And so I love what you’re saying about this last skill of reflection and then taking action. Will you share just a little bit more about how leaders might help themselves with more critical thinking, stillness and quiet? I mean, what can leaders do to get this practice in place?

Jonathan: Yes, so it starts with morning routines. Certainly. We start today by either getting on our phone and just mindlessly scrolling or hopping out of bed and into work, then we’re missing a prime opportunity to pause and reflect and to set our intention, our mindset around the day and what’s to come. And so that’s something that we ought to incorporate into our early first thing, morning routine. 

But also, there’s little ways that we can incorporate reflection into our day. One is to not eat lunch while doing work. Create some time, even if it’s just 15 minutes or 30 minutes to have lunch, which is often just, you know, thrown into the mix of everything else that’s going on. But to have lunch, to take mindful bites, to use that time to space out to think about the rest of the day, to reflect on what’s happened in the first part of the day. 

To enjoy the meal, but to be present in that space, rather than just, you know, consuming food mindlessly while doing the other things that we have to do. But I also suggest that we create space. We build in time for a stroll or going to the gym, or something where we’re engaged in our physical bodies. In movement. So that we can create some space in our minds for this reflection. 

And then I also think, bigger picture as we look at our weekly and monthly and yearly calendars, that we utilize time for purposeful pauses. Whether it’s an hour at the end of the week, on a Friday afternoon, to just recap what’s happened in this past week. Or what’s going to happen. How do we set our intention for the next week. 

Same with our monthly calendar, same with our yearly calendar, and that’s why it’s so important for folks to take vacations. To use that time to recharge, to recalibrate, to refresh, to rejuvenate, and then be able to go back and attack the work that we’re invested in.

Nicole: Fantastic. All right. So I like to kind of tell people what you just told them, it’s consolidation, you know all about this. So there’s four things that you could do to get this skill, this really important leadership skill in place of reflection is have a wonderful morning routine. I have the most amazing quiet time in the morning, Jonathan. 

I am so grumpy if I don’t get it. If somebody doesn’t let me sit in my chair for at least 10 minutes, I’m frustrated. Like on weekends, I’ll be in my chair for two hours. Oh my gosh, it’s so fantastic. So I just want to invite you to sit still put good materials around you, get his book, Preparing Leadership Educators, especially if you are a leader, and put a little bit of that in you every morning for the next year. 

Next thing he says is that you need to eat lunch, like a human. And like chew your food, and like maybe you would even pick a salad instead of you know, something out of a vending machine. And then you’ve also got to take a walk, you got to get outside. And you’ve got to take a purposeful pause in your calendar, which I think what you’re saying is block this stuff out.

Jonathan: Yes. Make it sacred. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, in our training programs, and so in your intro, you shared about Leadership Trainer, which is a nonprofit organization. And we focus on training and facilitation skills building. So many of us whether it’s higher education, nonprofit, or corporate trainers never really learned how to facilitate trainings. And so then we lean on, unfortunately, lecture style slide deck presentations as a training, and they’re just not effective.

Nicole: Killing people by PowerPoint. I’m sorry.

Jonathan: Exactly. So boring. And the worst part of it is they’ve proven to be just not effective in helping people learn and apply their learning. But what is important is experiential learning and reflective dialogue. And it’s the reflective dialogue that allows for the internalization of our learning, that then positions us to apply our learning. 

So even outside of a training context, in our everyday lives, as leaders, when we create space for reflection, it gives us an opportunity to internalize all the things that are happening in that work context and also in our personal lives. That allows for us to understand what’s happening, to have a bigger picture understanding of it, and enables us to then create change as we move forward from that place. And that’s why reflection is so very important.

Nicole: Yeah, and so I just want to dovetail with what you’re saying. I think it’s so fantastic. Because he’s saying like we pick a concept, we talk about it right, and then we reflect on it. We look at it. We look at ourselves in the mirror. Am I doing this? How might I do this? What would it look like if I did this, right? So don’t miss it. 

This particular podcast everybody is not just for folks who are OD as I I mentioned earlier, organization development or training people. But like leaders can work this into one on one conversations. You can work this into that Monday meeting, you can work this reflection in everywhere. I love what you’re saying. Okay, so let’s go back to EQ, which was your first skill set that you said was essential. 

And so EQ is emotional intelligence. And you made this really big statement, Jonathan. You said, it is the most important, so pay attention people because there’s, I don’t know what model you’re using for emotional intelligence. But I know that relationship management, social awareness is huge. So talk to us about EQ.

Jonathan: Yeah, well, so emotional intelligence sort of has two parts to it. One is understanding our own emotions, and having the important emotion regulation so that we can approach each situation and balance. So often, we get tied up in the really positive emotions, joy and elation, as well as the limiting emotions, anger, frustration, doubt. 

And when we are on either side, we then become skewed and are not able to have a grounded perspective of reality, of what’s happening. And so emotional intelligence is in part really understanding and having more balance in our own emotions, so that we can see an act clearly. 

And emotional intelligence is about understanding others’ emotions, and how to assist others, our followers, our colleagues, our friends and family, in navigating their emotions more effectively, and us as leaders, navigating their emotions more effectively, so that we can collectively create the goals that we’re pursuing. Or accomplishing goals that we’re pursuing.

Nicole: 100%. Yeah, and so, you know, I use this little phrase, when I’m teaching folks about emotional intelligence. I’m like, you know, don’t let yourself get hijacked by your amygdala. And so in your body, you have all these, you know, senses, right? And they are triggered by what’s going on in the environment. 

And when you allow these triggers to take over and make you quote, unquote emotional, you may not make the wisest decisions, and that’s why you have to steel yourself. I’m going back to the third skill set he talked about, which was reflection. You got to sit yourself quietly down a hot second, get your emotions under control before you come back.

Jonathan: That’s exactly right. And that’s why breathing practices are our best friend, right? 

Nicole: Okay, talk about that. 

Jonathan: Yeah. So breathing is one of these things that we just do naturally. And if we don’t, we don’t, we don’t live. And so because of that, we often engage mindlessly in our breath. But when we can be purposeful with our breath, then we can take control of our emotions, we can regulate our emotions, we can engage in this reflective space. And so there’s a number of breathing exercises that we can practice. 

One is called box breathing as an example. Where we breathe in for four seconds, we hold for four seconds, we breathe out for four seconds, we hold for four seconds. And so you can do that for four seconds. You can do it for two seconds, you can do it eight seconds. What’s most important is engaging in the process. 

And taking in a purposeful breath, holding purposefully, exhaling purposely, holding purposely and going in a cycle with that box breathing. And that enables us to calm our emotions, calm our nerves. And so for those who do facilitate trainings, this is an amazing practice before we get on stage for our training, to calm those jitters.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. And so I do a lot of yoga. And so I was just also thinking about I don’t know what it’s called, maybe you know, Jonathan, but you close the one side of your nose, one nostril, breathe in one side, hold it, that space and then breathe out the other side. Supposed to balance you know, your body out before you go out there too. Do you know what that one’s called? You’ve got to knowing look on your face.

Jonathan: I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I don’t know the name of it.

Nicole: Yeah, that one has been very, very helpful to me. And hey, another thing that will help with your EQ is get yourself on the yoga mat. I’m just saying. All right, so that’s good. And then also, you know, you could walk or you could do yoga, that was back under reflection. Lots of reflection happens on the yoga mat. Alright, so EQ, really important. And then you said this thing about context, knowing what matters the most. Tell us a little bit about leading in context. I love that.

Jonathan: So, leadership is situational. And there is not a perfect universal definition nor is there a perfect universal way of leading. If we’re on the high seas in a crisis situation, the ship captain is going to be leading in a way where she’s making decisions based on what’s most important for that situation. Compared to in, you know, a run of the mill regular day of the week, Wednesday afternoon, right. 

The kind of leadership that’s necessary in that space is going to be wildly different. And so depending on the context and situation, our leadership practice needs to change. One of the major issues in the leadership space is our hiring practices or promotion practices around leadership. We tend to hire or promote people that have really phenomenal technical skills, which is great. But then we don’t give them the leadership skills. 

And the technical skills that we need are very different than the leadership skills that we need as we advance into higher levels of our organizational hierarchy and leadership roles. And so collectively across the board, we need to either promote and hire people that have leadership skills, and not necessarily technical skills. 

Or hire promote people that have technical skills, and then provide them with very intentional leadership development, so that they can navigate the different contexts and situations with which they’re going to need to employ their leadership skills.

Nicole: Yeah. And so all the OD and HR people said, amen. Right there. Okay. So that was good church right there. Yeah. So let’s make sure people have both sets of skills, right. So like, do you know how to, you know, run a sprint, creating code in an IT company, plus you can have a one on one with every employee on your team and encourage them and love on them and help them with their EQ and blah, blah, blah, right? 

So we have to be able to do both sides of the equation. I love what you’re saying. Which I think gives a leader an opportunity to be more authentic. And I love this, I might have to put this in my pocket and give you credit. But I love this idea of understanding my leadership practice in terms of my authenticity. Okay, so you said authenticity was really important in having a leadership practice? What do you mean by that?

Jonathan: Yeah, we really have to know, ourselves. And I mean, Nicole, one of the reasons I was so excited for this conversation is, you are so authentically you, and it shines. And so there’s vibrancy, right to play with your brand. And that’s what’s so important. And that’s what’s so attractive about these conversations for people like me, is it encourages us to show up as our authentic selves. 

And so when we do, we’re so much more connected to our values, we’re so much more connected to our vision. And that gives our followers much more to grab on to as we move forward, collectively. And so it’s really important for us to understand our authentic selves. To engage in the identity exploration and development work. And to make that a lifelong pursuit.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Yeah. And as you’re talking about that, I have this little exercise, it’s just called vibrant identity is what I call it. And you sit down and you write down, you know, like, all the things that you’ve been given in this life. Like all the things, like you popped on the planet, this is what you got. 

And then you write down all the choices you’ve made, both personally and professionally, right, in the chosen category. It’s a little circle. And then at the core, there’s three springs, the core is like, you know, who you are at the core. And I think that is probably one of the most valuable things I do with leaders. And then if they turn around and share that with the people that they lead, they become a human, and they get authenticity. 

You know, like, I really screwed up when I took this job, or, you know, like, sometimes they’ll find out my boss was fired once. And like, if you tell that story, and you say why. He’s like, oh, I used to have an ego the size of Texas or whatever. You know, it really, really, really helps. So please don’t miss these skills that he’s talking about. He says, EQ is so important. Leading within context, being authentic and reflection. 

So I hope you caught all of those. Now, I want to ask you. So some leaders, they’re super successful. They just kind of get it and then others struggle. I know there’s 18 skill sets they could have but I’m wondering if you could kind of pinpoint why do some leaders have great success and others just stay on the struggle bus?

Jonathan: I gotta think for a minute. I gotta reflect for a moment.

Nicole: Take your time, take your time.

Jonathan: I think that a lot of it has to do with leveraging the skills that we have. And so I’ll share an example. I had a really very bad leader when I was working at a university. And I was there for four years, and I probably should have left after six months. Yeah, it was terrible. And the reason I stayed is because I kept making excuses for myself around the compensation package. 

And I had started my Ph. D. program. And so like, it provided me flexibility to do that. And so I kept making excuses. But after four years, it really, my quality of life was so poor, because I just felt trapped. And this particular leader, was a quintessential Yes Man, for his superior, the Vice President, the Dean of Students. And so it didn’t matter what any of the subordinates had to say. 

It was only if the dean, my boss’s boss would have approved and that provided direction for the organization. And so as a Yes Man, he struggled, because he didn’t have any perspective of his own. He didn’t have any vision of his own. He was just a cog in the machine. And he knew it. And we all knew it. And it was a really bad situation. Ultimately, he was forced out.

Nicole: Which was a miracle in higher education, I bet.

Jonathan: Yeah. There’s no question about that. So I think for as I think about that story, when we are so driven by approval from our supervisors, from our managers, from our bosses, we’re just not going to be effective. Some of it depends on how we define and label success and effectiveness. For me in this context, effectiveness is about creating, nurturing, nourishing relationships, where we can create really healthy, positive change. 

And in that organization, everything was stagnant. I think I and others, were pursuing so many other interests, because we were so unfulfilled with our work responsibilities. That was the first time that I would, and it was not a nine to five job. But I would come in at like the start time, and I would end at the end time. 

And it would be the bare minimum that I was giving to the job, to the work, because I just didn’t care. And I was finding lots of opportunities and outlets to do the things I did care about beyond my employment. 

And if a leader can really capitalized on building these nourishing, nurturing relationships with folks in the organization, then people are going to be devoting themselves to the work of the organization, which is going to improve the bottom line, which is going to enhance the relationships that people have, the connectivity that folks have to individuals and the organization. As you know, Nicole, people never leave organizations, they leave their boss.

Nicole: That’s right. Yeah. And so like, please don’t miss what he just said. Take a giant step back. Here, we have a guy who will has enough energy to get a PhD and write a book that’s an inch thick. Are y’all with me right now. And he had a leader who could not capitalize on all this energy and genius. Like what in the world? And what I heard you say is he had an addiction to approval? He was a Yes Man. 

So many of you, leaders and listeners, leaders and listeners that are listening, have heard this for me before. Thomas Keating has this little book. It’s called The Human Condition, will you please go buy it and read it? I’ve told you 100 times. And so in the book, he talks about how humans are addicted to three things. Approval, security and control. And so here is a picture perfect leader addicted to approval. 

Who could not take the genius of Jonathan Kroll and put it to work. I mean, so that’s just like an addiction to drugs where you can’t function. Don’t miss that. All right, Jonathan, you’re amazing in my life. Okay. Let’s talk about the book. All right. We’ve already given you four skill sets. That’s enough to work on at one time. Four is enough. Pick one. And think about getting The Human Condition. 

All right now also go out and get Jonathan’s book. It’s on the Amazon. It’s Preparing Leadership Educators. And if you’re a leader, you’re an educator. A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices And Facilitation Skills. So how does this book contribute to the leadership landscape? So there’s like four bazillion books out there. Tell me why I need to get this one. I know I do. So tell me all about it.

Jonathan: Yes. Well, there’s lots of reasons for sure. One is I wanted to make this a very, very practical resource for folks. There’s so many leadership books and lots of leadership resources, as you mentioned, and so many of them are just not accessible, or they’re written so poorly, or they’re written in a way for a very niche audience. 

And so what I wanted to do with this was take dozens and dozens of leadership theories and practices, there’s over 45 of them, and write them in a way that we can understand what it is, what it means, why it has relevancy for us in our work. 

So whether we’re thinking about adaptive leadership, or servant leadership as theories, or these practices, the skills of emotional intelligence or grit, it provides a high level overview of what that theory is, what that practice is. And then, for those who are facilitating trainings, I include an experiential activity and my go to reflective dialogue questions.

Nicole: Oh, money people. Hello, training people. Hello,

Jonathan: Exactly. So there’s no book like this that exists. That provides the leadership stuff, and the facilitation stuff. In the facilitation portion of the book I share about our training methodology, our training story approach, as well as best practices for facilitation, whether that’s presence or communication or asking critical questions. 

And then as I said, I include an experiential activity. And so if you are facilitating training on adaptive leadership, or on emotional intelligence, you have the background information, you also have a very explicit experiential activity that brings that topic to life, so that we are not leaning on slide deck lecture style presentations as a training. 

And then I have my go to reflective dialogue questions, so that you can help your participants access training message and material, internalize their learning through the reflective dialogue, and then position them to apply their learning and practice beyond the training bubble. And so I’m super proud. It is a thick book.

Nicole: I think that’s fantastic.

Jonathan: It just kept growing and growing. I kept wanting to provide more stuff. Eventually, I was like, okay, John, we got to go to print on this.

Nicole: We’ll get volume 2 here in the next couple years.

Jonathan: That’s exactly right.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And like, please don’t miss this palpable enthusiasm and energy. Like this guy loves this stuff. Now, one thing that I don’t know if you ever experienced this, hahaha, but when I’m doing leadership development, it’s almost like sometimes leaders are like, they don’t think they need it. Like don’t miss that everybody. 

And here’s what happens when you don’t just do a PowerPoint deck and kill him with the PowerPoint and do the lecture and all that. Is if you really get leaders thinking they will, they will think in new ways. And like Jonathan said, just a hot second ago, he said, and I quote, he said, Nicole, they don’t leave the company, they leave the later they leave the manager. 

And that is absolutely true. And so you’ve got to get your guys and gals in a room, calm them down, and get them to get take a concept. Talk about it, do the experiential. Now, for those of you listening experiential. 

So talk about the word experiential, because I’m right there with you. I know what you mean, I’m gonna make you touch, taste, smell, experience, what we’re talking about. So talk a little bit more about an experience, maybe even tell us when you do or something. So people understand that word.

Jonathan: Exactly. So experiential learning is hands on immersive opportunities to actually experiment with that training, theme or topic. So often, with conventional learning, like I’ve said, this slide deck lecture style presentation. As participants, we sit back, and we listen, and we try to avoid boredom. That’s our objective in that kind of training experience.

Nicole: We all have flashbacks to the terrible professors we had in college.

Jonathan: Yes. They’re horrible experiences. What we want to do, if we want people to actually learn and then apply their learning to their leadership practice, is we have to give them opportunities to play with that theme. And so as an example, and I’ve done this with corporate executives, I’ve done this with elite professional athletes. I used to work with the Boston Breakers, a women’s professional soccer team that has Olympic athletes. 

And so I’ve done that with college students. So across the board. Like when we talk about teamwork, when we talk about communication, what I’ll do is set up a long rope like a TRX rope from the gym, and everybody will be sitting sort of zigzag on either side of the rope. And they’ll essentially need to use their tension and teamwork, to pull themselves from a seated position to a standing position in unison.

So what we’ll do is we’ll engage in that experiential activity, rather than me just lecturing on teamwork and communication. We’ll have an experience together a shared collective experience. And then we’ll engage in reflective dialogue to process what did we just do. How did it make us feel? What did we explore or learn? 

Or what was an aha moment around communication or teamwork? And so we put people into an environment where they need to actually do something that creates fodder for the reflection and the dialogue, which then leads to them internalizing what worked in this experience? What is my experience outside of this training bubble that doesn’t work? 

And how do I create changes, so that when I return back to work beyond the training bubble, I can create strategic change that alters the way I engage in teamwork or communication or whatever the theme is, based on my learning from the training?

Nicole: Yeah. And so when he says, after that, they reflect. Another way you could think about it, like the word debrief is coming in my head, right? 

Jonathan: Processing. 

Nicole: Yeah, so like all of you military folk listening, right? It’s so it’s kind of like you, we have to debrief the mission, we were just on, which was pulling ourselves up with this rope, right? So it’s a very tried and tested way to do things is to say, what did we just experience? And one time I don’t, you’ve probably got this in your pocket, but I don’t know how many years ago, I got this. 

But us trainers watch each other because we’re like, we’re gonna get a nugget to put on our own deal here. And so one of the little debrief things that I had a gentleman use, it was three things. He would say, what just happened? And then we would talk about it. Then he’d say, so what, you know. And then the third thing you would say is now what? 

So it was just what happened, so what, and now what? And my and I use the what, what all the time, the what, what, what all the time, because it is so helpful, in just getting people to go, well, this is what happened. And wasn’t it interesting that this person did that? 

And this person finally stood up and said, wait, I’m going to be in charge. But did you think they were bossy? No, we needed somebody to take charge. We couldn’t get our behinds off the ground. I mean, you know, there’s all this stuff going on. And is it fun, Jonathan, to do this?

Jonathan: You already know. That was a leading question. Not only is it fun, it’s nourishing for us, because we’re just not in that space, unless we have an intentional training led by a really skilled and effective trainer. And so yes, it is a lot of fun. And it doesn’t need to be so physically demanding like the activity I just shared. It could be. 

Nicole: Oh, no, no. We could be on a flip chart or something.

Jonathan: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so there’s lots of ways to explore experiential activities. I’ve got 45 of them in this book. And they’re all designed for trainers and facilitators to actually put to use immediately for the next trainer, or next training.

Nicole: Yeah. And so number one, ask yourself this, what are my training programs like? Number two, who’s leading these training programs? And number three, how do I get them to Jonathan? Because that’s what you need to do. So those are the three questions, leaders, you need to be asking yourself, and maybe you go first. 

You go to training, then send your lead trainer, so you know what expectations you need to set for them. Yeah, so I love that. Yeah. Okay. So, leaders are out there, and they’re facing lots of challenges. So what challenges are they facing that you see? And what are you teaching leaders to address those biggest challenges?

Jonathan: The challenges that we face today are so much more complex and unwieldy than challenges ever before. And unfortunately, they’re only going to get more complex and more unwieldy in years and decades and generations to come. And after I say that this work is twofold. 

One, we want to provide very serious skills training around training facilitation for immediate application. That’s one layer and level of the work that I do. Immediate skills training. But this is also about long term generational change. 

A question that I asked is how can the next generations of leaders, the young people of today, our new hires of today, how are they going to navigate the challenges we will all inevitably face, if their trainers and facilitators of today are ill prepared. They won’t be able to. And there are a million first time trainers, every single year. 

There’s a million people that are doing a training for the first time every single year. And they are ill prepared, they are underprepared. They are not ready for that. And so for me, this work is about giving them the knowledge base and the skill set to be amazing and impactful as experiential facilitators. 

And it’s about their participants, ensuring that their participants can have the knowledge and skills because of the trainings that they’re being participants in to navigate the challenges we will all inevitably face in the years and decades and generations ahead.

Nicole: Yeah. And, you know, I want to add to that, Jonathan, by saying that leaders are like how do you know this training will pay off? Well, because knowledge is power number one. But you know, like, here’s the thing though, if I have facilitators who have learned underneath the mentorship of Jonathan Kroll, the author of Preparing Leadership Educators, A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices and Facilitation Skills, I’m gonna tell you, it’s gonna have a heck of a lot more ROI, return on investment, than if I just say, hey, somebody put together a PowerPoint and a deck and get the eight people in whatever department in the room and let’s tell it to them. 

So there is art. There is science. Again, Jonathan Kroll, our guest on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast today. He has a PhD. He’s done all the research, just believe already people you don’t have to do your own research. So I know that everybody’s listening right now would like, they’re like, Nicole, you’re almost done. I can tell by the way you’re talking. Don’t leave. Let’s ask Jonathan one more question. If we were mentoring a single special listener right now. 

Okay, so let’s imagine we have that guy or gal who is like, you’re really got a lot of energy. You’re young and energetic. Why don’t you put together a training? What advice would you give to that special listener other than go buy the book? Okay, it’s on the Amazon. Preparing Leadership Educators, A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices and Facilitation Skills. Jonathan, what would you tell them?

Jonathan: Yeah, well, I would frame it first by having us explore how we learned how to ride a bicycle. Most of us will talk about getting on the bike and pedaling. Most of us will talk about a loved one holding on behind the bike and running with us as we’re learning. Scrapes and bruises and all that. Often, in my trainings, I ask, who here has learned how to ride a bike by watching a slide deck presentation? 

Nicole: Not a soul.

Jonathan: And of course, after all the giggles and all the like stares of are you crazy? That doesn’t happen. Yet, why do we now, when we’re training people in leadership think that it’s appropriate to utilize a lecture style slide deck presentation as a developmental tool? It’s preposterous. And so what I would say if I’m mentoring somebody is how do we learn best? I would ask the question. I think mentoring and coaching leverages the use of really great questions. 

But how do we learn best. And the response is going to be through hands on immersive experiential opportunities. And so we want to create the conditions for our participants to do that. And then I would provide guidance and support, healthy challenge around them crafting an experience that includes experiential learning and most importantly has reflective dialogue.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And the whole time you’re talking about that I had a little flashback to my son learning to ride his bicycle. So for those parents out there that have put the training wheels on, taken the training wheels off, putting the training wheels on, taken the training wheels off. So you know if you’re having a little stress moment sit down you can do box breathing as he instructed about 35 minutes ago. 

But here’s the thing is, you know, I did that for my son. I mean I put those training wheels on. He says I’m ready to take them off. A little bit of fear came up I think, and he’s like put them back on, put them back on. So put them back on right Well, one day he had a little friend from school come over. You know like ride home on the bus with him. 

And he rides home and he gets there and he says to Kent in the garage. He’s like, is that your bike man? And these are like little seven year olds. Six seven year olds. And Kent’s like yeah, that’s my bike. The kid is like, you got training wheels on that thing, man? It’s like, let’s get those off of there. And that was the mentor coming in. 

Because Mommy was trying, daddy was trying but then you know like he had this little trainer come in, challenge him, ask him the powerful questions. Though you call them the critical questions, they’re all the same questions, and help and I mean, by the end of the day, that kid was riding that bicycle with them off. And so it requires the hands on and it requires somebody who’s like, I’m not gonna let you be riding around six years old with these training wheels on. 

Dude, let me help you. He was a leadership educator that day. So I love what you’re saying about the bicycle. So I am just delighted that you have been here with us today, Jonathan, and you’ve brought such good memories back to me. And so here’s what we got to do. We got to help people find you. 

So, hey everybody I know you’ve enjoyed this episode. Would you do me a hot favor and just like it’s so easy, just click like and could you put a little comment there like Jonathan’s awesome or something like that? Our leadership educator and entrepreneur he is located up in Boston, Massachusetts. Do you park the cah? Is that what you do?

Jonathan: I don’t. I’m originally from central Jersey, so I just regular park the car.

Nicole: Oh okay, all right. But all you my Boston friends you know I love you. I love Boston. What a great town to be in. If you haven’t been to Boston and done the whole Freedom Trail, walk the thing, go to the original pub, do the whole shot, end up at, you go to the pub then you end up at the Paul Revere church. It’s all so good. Sinning and sainting. It’s all good. All right, so Jonathan, tell us where we can find you. And again, tell us the title of your book.

Jonathan: Yes, well Thank you Nicole so much for having me. This has been such a treat, such a joy. The book is called Preparing Leadership Educators, A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices And Facilitation Skills. And folks can find me at Leadership Trainer. or jonathan.kroll k r o l l @

Nicole: All right, fantastic. And he’s out there on the LinkedIn as well. Hey, everybody, you know, you got to build your network. Go out there and find Jonathan, find me. Find Nicole Greer and Jonathan and we will link in with you. He’s also over at All right. It’s been so good to have you on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. I am grateful.

Jonathan: Nicole, thank you.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with their strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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