The Three Types of Trainings: Which Do You Focus on Most?

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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business training

In my experience seeking to develop myself, I have sat through a lot of trainings. As a professor and consultant, I have also done a lot of teaching and trainings.

Through this experience, I have become more and more aware that there are three different types of trainings. There are trainings that focus on improving:

  • Behaviors
  • Thinking
  • Mindsets

Each of these have their pros and cons. In this post, I want to walk you through their pros and cons surrounding:

  • How motivated trainees are to engage in this training
  • How much trainees enjoy this type of training
  • How easy it is to deliver this type of training
  • How much benefit results from this type of training


We offer or engage in trainings focused on improving behaviors when we see a gap in how we are currently performing and how we want to perform.

Effectively, these trainings are for those who say or think, “I am experiencing a problem (e.g., my employees are having a difficult time returning to the workplace), instruct me on what I can DO (to get them back).

Training Type Behaviors

Generally, trainees are quite motivated to get involved in these trainings. If they feel there is a problem, they will want to resolve it. Specifically, they want clarity in being told what to do to resolve the problem.

Trainees really like these trainings. They think, “I have a problem, you have a solution, just give me the silver bullet and we can get out of here.” Trainees like these trainings to be streamlined and straightforward.

As a trainer, I have found it somewhat challenging to deliver direction for behavior that is clear, straightforward, and powerful. It is easy to come up with ideas for behavioral improvement, but that does not mean that they are always good or clear ideas and it does not mean that participants will connect with those ideas.

While trainees really like these types of trainings because they get clear direction on what to do differently, the reality is that most trainees actually do not end up changing their behavior. This is because trainings that focus on behaviors rarely address the underlying factors that induce the behaviors, such as less sophisticated thinking or mindsets, or contextual factors that socially or formally incentivize differently than the training.


We offer or engage in trainings focused on improving thinking when we see a gap in our knowledge.

Generally, the thought of the training deliverer is: If they can learn this principle, they will operate differently. For example, if they can learn what inclusivity really is, they will become more inclusive.

Training Type Thinking

Generally, trainees are moderately motivated to engage in these trainings. They often recognize that there is value in increasing their knowledge, and they generally don’t push back against these trainings because they don’t want to learn.

If trainees push back against these trainings, it is because they may not enjoy them as much. There are two reasons why these are less enjoyable than the behaviors trainings. First, it isn’t getting to a straightforward solution to their problem. Second, these trainings aren’t as prescriptive as behaviors trainings. Trainees quite commonly think: “Instead of telling me how to think differently, just tell me what I need to do.”

But, these trainings are the easiest to deliver for a trainer. This is generally because the trainer has personally gained great value in learning about the topic themselves, and they want to communicate what they have learned to others, believing that they will experience the same benefit as themselves. Also, it is easier for a trainer to develop material about ideas (i.e., thinking differently) than how to implement those ideas (i.e., behaving differently).

Generally, these trainings don’t lead to huge benefits, particularly in the short term. This is because the trainees generally don’t do anything differently because of these trainings. But, there is some potential for long-term benefits. We all know that knowledge is power, and sometimes it just takes some time for new knowledge to transform into new behaviors.


We should offer or engage in trainings on improving mindsets more frequently. This is because trainees’ thinking and behavior is a result of underlying mindsets.

For example, how I see and make meaning of failure will shape how I think and behave as follows:

  • If I see failure as unacceptable, then I will think about it negatively, I will be less likely to learn from it, and I will generally act in inappropriate ways when I fail (e.g., start yelling; micromanage).
  • If I see failure as being acceptable, then I will think about it more positively, I will be more likely to learn from it, and I will seek to get better when I fail.

But, there are some challenges with focusing on mindsets.

Training Type Mindsets

Generally, trainees are not very motivated to explore their mindsets, nor do they enjoy it much. This is because such efforts involve pushing against our worldviews, which generally feels uncomfortable (it will feel like we are sanding against the grain) and exposes our inadequacies.

Focusing on mindsets is generally difficult for trainers. This is because it is uncommon for trainers to have a really in-depth understanding of mindsets, and because helping people introspect about their mindsets is not easy. A lot of resistance comes up.

While most trainees don’t really like these trainings and they are challenging to deliver, these trainings have the potential to be the most transformational. This is because if we can help people improve their mindsets, it will lead to long-lasting and elevating changes in their thinking and behavior.

Now, Ask Yourself

When I lay out these three types of trainings like this, it becomes possible to evaluate what you and/or your organization tends to focus on.

In the process of doing so, I encourage you to evaluate whether your current ratio of behavior/thinking/mindsets trainings is the right balance.

Something I have found through my research is that only 12% of organizations focus on mindset trainings. But, when they do, they are over two times more effective in their training efforts than those who do not focus on mindsets.

Training Type Behaviors Thinking and Mindsets

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