How a Come Dine with Me experience identified a confidence gap

Easy for you.. but not for me

As a child, I recall eating my mother’s homemade Rabbit Pie. And it is a rabbit that I think of when I hear the words ‘Come Dine with Me’. Not because of Mum’s Rabbit Pie, but because of a training experience which, for a few moments, left me feeling like a rabbit caught in headlights…

Over the years I often seen otherwise competent people struggling to take on a new concept or skill. I vividly remember one occasion when it happened to me:

It was a small, three-day training course, during which each delegate would have three opportunities to deliver an ever-improving brief training session to their fellow students. In order to make up numbers, during these sessions I changed role from being the course facilitator to being one of the ‘guinea pigs’ for the delegates.

I confess that until I ran that Training Skills course a few years ago, I had never seen Come Dine with Me and had very little knowledge of what it was about. (For those of you still scratching your heads, it’s a competitive TV show in which 4 or 5 strangers take it in turn to host dinner parties over the course of a week and score their rivals’ efforts out of 10. The highest-scoring individual at the end of the week wins a cash prize.)

…so it was with sinking heart that I received the instruction to start…

David, a confident individual with good communication skills, had decided that he would teach us how to plan our own Come Dine with Me experience. Like any good trainer, he was keen to make it hands-on, so it was with sinking heart that I received the instruction to start listing the menu I would like to prepare. The reality is that not only are my culinary skills fairly limited, but any/the little imagination or creativity that I have parks itself firmly outside the kitchen door.

Until that point I had been confidently leading the class, but as this subject was introduced, my confidence evaporated, my mind went blank, and at that point it would have been too great a challenge for me to list the ingredients for cheese on toast.

David was marvellous. Once he had ensured that the other delegates were on task, he sat down with me and talked me through the process. He quickly realised that the starting point he assumed was streets ahead of where I was, so he took me back to first principles and with small steps helped me to make progress and to gain confidence.

It is almost always possible … to convey your confidence that they can get over this new hurdle

It is almost always possible to help someone identify that there are areas where they already hold great competency; to convey your confidence that they can get over this new hurdle; gently persuade them to take a first supported step in this new area; reinforce confidence with this small success and follow it by delegating a bigger step for them to take. Sometimes, this process needs to be repeated for each stage in the skill that is being acquired, but almost inevitably, as they start to see their own progress, their confidence – and the ability to learn – is restored.

It’s feedback like this – on the occasion of another Training Skills course – that shows the success of this approach:

“Ian was brilliant in helping me with my confidence. I was extremely overwhelmed about doing my 1st presentation, he provided good support and discretion to the distress that I was in and over the 3 days my confidence has grown enormously and I can’t thank Ian enough for helping to show me and the rest of the group that we can do this and we are good at it. Thank you Ian.”