As a leadership trainer who works with first-generation Hispanic employees, I’m often inspired by their sincere willingness to learn. For most Spanish speaking supervisors, sitting in a training room with their workbooks is not a familiar experience. In fact, for most Spanish speaking supervisors, it’s the first time they appear in front of an instructor.

The reactions are almost always the same. At first, they feel intimidated, fearing they might be challenged or worse, embarrassed by questions they may not be able to answer correctly. Once they realize that they’re learning real-life,  practical leadership principles they can apply in the workplace, they begin to drop their defenses. This is when the energy in the classroom is released and the questions begin to fly. They want to know more.

First generation Hispanics prefer experiential learning. They don’t want to just hear the facilitator explain what process leadership is, they want to live it through practical storytelling and relevant examples. They want to own what they learn so that they can apply it immediately in their workplaces.

Many leadership training programs fail to reach their learning objectives because they don’t take into account the cultural learning preferences of Hispanic employees. They assume that the learning techniques applied to other audiences and cultures will work just as well. Also, one of the most ineffective methods of providing leadership training to Spanish speaking employees is to have an English speaking facilitator present the workshop while a Spanish speaking assistant translates. The learning outcomes are guaranteed to be minimal at best!

However, when the material and key principles are adjusted to suit their specific workplace learning needs, the results are very encouraging. They can apply the leadership lessons outside the classroom and begin to make a significant difference in improving their leadership skills.