Note-Taking Guides in Training

Man_taking_notes-PXHereTaking notes during class is a tried and true method to improve information retention. Developing a note-taking guide or workbook is a great way to encourage your students to take notes during class. A good note-taking guide is more than the traditional presentation handout with three slides on each page and lines in the right column. A good note-taking guide requires active participation by students to record and receive all the information. It takes time to develop a good guide. It begins as you plan your lesson. Here are some tips and ideas to make a great note-taking guide for your students.

Using your slide deck is a great place to start. You can simply replace key text with underscores to create blank spaces for students to complete. If you select the two slide per page option, the slide is large enough for the student to write their answers. If you develop great slides, the kind with pictures and little text, using the fill-in-the-blank method will not work. A little creativity, however, allows you to incorporate pictures into your note-taking guide and still provide a space for the student to insert keywords for retention. The SMART Goals page is an example of using this idea. Using pictures in your workbooks reinforces the ideas from your slideshow. You need to creatively find ways so students will insert the keywords to help them remember the meaning of the picture.

There are times when text is necessary such as introducing laws, rules, definitions, or quotes. Replacing keywords from the text with blank spaces is a great way to ensure students record the key ideas from messages requiring lots of text. Often, students who do take notes in a traditional notebook try to copy every word of every slide. When they take notes this way, they miss the supporting information spoken by the instructor. The blank space replacement method permits enough writing to reinforce important messages from the slide, and also allows the student to listen to the explanatory message from the teacher. Providing some additional space allows the student to record connections they make from the information to their experiences.

Copy the high points of your lesson outline into a separate word processing document. Using this method provides the same information as slides, but allow you to reduce the information in the workbook. Fill In The Blanks.jpgIt also is a great way to provide a note-taking guide if your slides do have lots of pictures instead of text. Go back and delete important points and replace them with the blank line. The blank lines send a message to students that the missing information is important. Having the high points puts students on notices about the general direction of the training. They know when important information is coming and are understand what the main ideas are versus the supporting ideas. Another method is to provide the category of information and then place an empty numbered list below the heading.

Training classes should have learning activities sprinkled throughout allowing students to practice what they learned. Use individual, collective, and small group activities. The note-taking guide is the perfect place to insert worksheets, instructions for exercises, or a place to record reflections of the learning activity. Frequently individual worksheets become separated from students notes. When they return to the notes later in their lives, they lose the benefit of the lessons learned during the classroom exercises using worksheets. If those learning steps are part of the class workbook, they are available to students days or years later when they reflect on finer points of the training that they want to remember at that later time.

As you prepare the note-taking guide, you will find it tempting to include everything from every slide in your presentation. Do not do it. I took a two-day class some time back. The students were provided with copies of the slides later. There were over 300. I have a two day class on professional decision making I teach. There are less than 80 slides. The note-taking guide allows students to note the most important learning points from your lesson. No one is going to easily find the information they are looking for by reviewing 300 slides. When I attend a training, I try to limit my class notes to one or two typed pages per hour of class time. With that number in mind, you should aim to only have one or two workbook pages for students for every hour of class. This number does not include any worksheet activities. If the class I took with 300 slides had information from each slide in the note-taking guide, the document would probably be 150 pages. Notes should be a summary of what is learned in class. A 150-page notebook is not a summary.

goal setting cycle.jpgFlow charts showing processes and decision points are great for inclusion in note-taking guides. The page includes all of the steps and decision points but excludes text. Include text for the most critical points so students have that information after class. Leaving most of the steps empty however requires the students to pay attention and fill in the blanks. When they leave class, they have a model of the whole process. The remember more of the process because they wrote it down in the note-taking guide. They can return to it anytime and review the process improving the quality of their work without supervision in the future. Their behaviors conform to the organization’s expectations which is the point of conducting training.

Developing a note-taking guide for training is a way instructors encourage students to take notes during class. A well designed note-taking guide serves as a workbook by including adequate space for structure and unstructured note-taking, forecasts what points will be made during the training, includes worksheets for use during learning activities, provides pictures with meaning, process charts for student completion, and improves lesson retention. Students structured notes to refer to in the future to share their learning with others, and to refresh their learning. An ideal note-taking workbook is one or two pages for every hour of training exclusive of any learning activity worksheets. The guide is not a copy of the slide deck used in the presentation, rather it complements the slide deck. A well designed note-taking guide improves learning but takes time to develop. Development begins as you work on your lesson plans. Your students will leave class thinking you are the profession expert you professed to be when you provide a quality note-taking guide.


Image Credits

Person Taking Notes:  PXHere.com-no attribution information.

Workbook page examples: Author from examples of his note-taking guides.

The RSA language is from NH.gov.

Veteran’s Day 2018

I was honored to be the guest speaker for the Woodsville, NH Veteran’s Day Ceremony this year.  I spent a part of my military life learning the basic art of artillery there and was humbled when asked to address the crowds knowing those who I looked up to years ago would be listening to what I had to offer.  This is what I said.

poppies-pxhere.jpg

Thank you. Commander, fellow veterans and guests:

I was asked to speak today about what it means to be a Veteran, and I will. However, given that at 11:00 am Paris time 100 years ago today, the final shot of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, was fired, I must recognize that event. WWI began in August 1914 as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Serbia. Before long, the nations in central Europe were at war, dragging their allies with them. In the four years of fighting around the world, 8.5 million Soldiers lost their lives and more than 21 million were injured. These numbers exclude civilian casualties. Even though the United States was involved in the war about a year, we lost 116 thousand Soldiers, 53 thousand to combat and 63 thousand to non-battle deaths such as disease and accidents.. Four point seven million troops served in the US armed forces during WWI, nearly 5% of the population. Today only 0.5% serve in our armed forces.

During this war, the world saw the first widespread use of submarine warfare with attacks on civilian passenger ships. The first widespread gas attacks caused panic on unprotected, unsuspecting troops. Before long both side were gassing the other. Commanders ordered waves of human, online attacks previously used to mass offensive firepower. The problem with the tactic in this war was a crew of three to five men armed with a new machine gun had the firepower of a division and mowed down line after line of troops. Artillery grew larger and projected shells farther than cannon crews could see. Forward observers called in corrections over great distances against enemy positions. Planes, invented in the previous decade, took to the sky to observe enemy movements. Before long they were armed and pilots were dueling each other for control of the skies. Pilots learned to drop bombs in trenches, the basics of dog fighting, and ground crews learned how to control the firing of machine guns in order to avoid shooting off propellers. Before long, large armored beasts crossed no mans land crossing trenches and brought another new weapon onto the battlefield.

In the last months of the war, a new killer emerged. Influenza cropped up in the winter of 1917-18. It followed troop movements around the world but was a nuisance rather than a threat. However, as the little germ found new hosts, it, like the other battlefield warriors, adapted and became increasing lethal targeting those of fighting age. In August, outbreaks began in several small pockets knocking out whole units and military posts. As infected Soldiers moved around the world, the new, more lethal virus moved with them causing even more death. Before this battle ended it was estimated 1/3rd of the world’s population became infected and at least 500 million people died from the flu.

However, Trumans-Battry_SM_Dominic-DAndrea.pngon the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918, the 11th Field Artillery Regiment of the US Army fired the last round of the war. This day has become a day to honor all those who served in our Nation’s armed forces. Today we recognize the sacrifices those individuals make to protect us all and keep us free.

What is it like to be a Veteran, the topic I was asked to discuss? I can only speak with any knowledge about what it is like for me to be a veteran. Every veteran has their own experiences and stories. They are all unique to each individual. Even Soldiers who fought in the same battle on the same day only yards apart have different perceptions about what happened. An example is April 9, 2004. I along with about 100 other Soldiers of which about 50 were from our company, were engaged in what some claimed was the largest attack on a fixed Army position since the Viet Nam War. I do not know if that is true, only what I was told.

Most of the things the other Solders tell me seem to make sense and match what I remember. I talk to others who were only a few feet away, and their stories about the same events sound like they happened in a different place and time. Still there are enough commonalities between those who served that with one or two words I can raise a response from other veterans. Those few words tell a whole story to them. The Army PT belt, drill sergeants, and basic training. Words that tell stories with those I severed with include, the rocket room, 40mm sponge, thee dumpster, and “light ‘em up” all have meaning. In my second deployment, I forbid my platoon to use the phrase “light ‘em up” because the near disastrous consequences from the term.

We were tasked to interdict mortar crew in The Projects that had just fired at our position. When we arrived we found lots of civilians out after curfew, but no obvious insurgents. It was dark and I wanted to see better so I instructed the squad leader to bring the HUMVEEs around and like them up. He refused and I repeated my order. He insisted that he was not going to shoot unarmed, innocent civilians. Silence. As I realized what he said and what I meant my heart stopped. He did shine the HUMVEE lights on the civilians after I clarified my order. It is funny now, but wasn’t then.

There are other things that have meaning in my career. Service members during the Cold War had their problems. Units stationed along the Iron Curtain lived with the fear of the Soviets racing through the Fulda Gap with divisions of tanks to invade western Europe. Decades later, I found myself in an airport in Leipzig Germany. TCheckpoint Charlie-USG.pnghere was a map on the wall showing where we were. I said to the young Soldier beside something like, “Holy cow, we are in East Germany!” The young Solider responded, “You mean eastern Germany Sergeant.” He did not know about East and West Germany nor of the Berlin Wall. His experience in that airport was different from mine even though we stood in almost the exact same spot.

Some veterans spend a career and never see combat. Others see much combat in a few years. Some come home and go on with life like they just went off to college. Others struggle from the unseen scars left by their experiences. 

Some of the veterans standing beside you out there returned home after defending freedom and democracy to be booed, jeered, and spit upon by protesters. They do not know the elation of the welcome home parades received by veterans of WWI, WWII and those from the Gulf War and GWOT era. Their experiences were different than mine.

Because of these commonalities and differences two things seem to hold true. Some veterans learn ways to deal the events from their military service and lead productive lives. Some veterans never figure out how to deal with those experiences. Those who learn to deal with those events seem to find strength by associating with other veterans. Those who do not isolate themselves thinking they are they only ones feeling what they feel and die at their own hand. Suicide is too common an experience for too many veterans. The VA reports on average 22 veterans commit suicide every day. There is help for those struggling. Find VeteransCrisisLineLogo.pngout the numbers for the Veteran’s Crisis Line ((800) 237-TALK (8255)). Put it in your phone. You may never need it, but someone you know might.

I’ve been fortunate to been able to serve my nation at the State of New Hampshire for over 36 years. Like many, I planned on doing 20 and getting out. Every time my end of enlistment neared I found new challenges to conquer and I extended. I’ve met and worked with some really great people I never would have met here in New Hampshire, across the nation, and around the world. I have seen and done things others only dream about doing. What is it like to be a veteran? For me, it has been great!

 


Photo Credits

Poppy field from PXhere.com

Truman’s Battery by Dominic D’Andrea, a US Government work

Checkpoint Charlie from US Government collection

Veterans Crisis Line from https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

 

Character — the Foundation of Leadership

Character Character Vennis the sum of a person’s habits and qualities. It is the center of a Venn diagram of your skills, knowledge, abilities, values, relationships, past experiences, habits, and personality. Developing good character helps develop a good reputation, which helps gain influence. Others determine whether or not you are a good leader, or have the potential to be a good leader, by observing common traits in the character of other good leaders. Developing good character traits is within your control.

In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek tells a story about the order leaders in the military eat. He reports that without orders or instruction that enlisted military members eat before the noncommissioned officers, and noncommissioned officers before officers, according to rank. The reality is, those lessons are taught to junior leaders. As a brand new howitzer section chief, I decided to eat during a break in firing, before the rest of my section. I reasoned they could go to chow when we resumed firing, but I needed to be on the gun to supervise operations. As I neared the front of the line, I was approached by my platoon sergeant. He noted he had not seen several of my Soldiers yet. He sent me back to my gun without chow and directed me to eat after the rest of my section. The military trains leaders well, and learning to take care of troops is a key lesson that is taught.

The battery resumed firing before I was able to eat. I still had Soldiers going to chow. I did eat that evening. The last guy from my section brought me a plate of food because he knew I would miss chow during the fire missions. I learned the lesson of why leaders eat last. When leaders take care of their troops, their troops will take care of them.

DOD-2009-USMC by SSGT Greeson-flickr.jpgThat first lesson I learned during field feeding taught me the importance of taking care of those you lead. When your followers know you are taking care of their needs, they know they can focus on their tasks required to accomplish the mission. They know you have their back. That only happens when leaders receive trust from those they lead. Trust turns into respect. Respect creates disciplined organizations. Disciplined organizations accomplish great things in the face of adversity.

Anyone can build the kind of character that encourages others to follow them. Look at each element of character. To acquire any of those attributes, potential leaders need to act. Action is the key to leading others.

Knowledge

Leaders need education. Three pillars of gaining knowledge include institutional education, personal development, and real world assignments. Each provides different opportunities to learn.

Institutional education provides general information about the topics included in the course of study. The lessons learned in the classroom provide a background to help people think and reason when problem solving. One learns the theory behind the practice.Roberto-Saltori_Knowledge_Management-flikr.jpg

Real world assignments provide opportunities to apply classroom lessons. New graduates are given low level, simple issues to resolve. They are closely supervised to ensure they understand the expectations as they apply their knowledge. These opportunities allow people to apply their classroom knowledge and make mistakes on low-risk assignments in order to develop deeper understanding of underlying principals in their lessons.

Self development describes a variety of educational means. Examples include reading topical books and journals, asking for extra assignments to meet stretch goals, field trips to locations relevant to the work, and self selected training events or conferences. The smart young leader figures out what knowledge s/he needs to improve his or her performance and finds a way to gain that knowledge. Self development is viewed by more senior leaders as a key indicators of younger leaders potential for greater responsibility. It is demonstrative of their diligence.

Skills and Abilities

Most of the skills and abilities required of leaders have little to do with doing the work of the organization. Knowing how a machinist works a piece of metal, a warehouse employee finds a widget, or what day employment taxes need to be filed generally are important details for others. Knowing those things need to be done and finding the right people to do them is the leader’s job. Leadership requires skill to develop effective processes, the ability to apply influence to seniors, peers, and subordinates alike, and ensure resources are available.

Many have said that leaders lead people, and managers manage things. Someone can be a good manager and a bad leader. Leaders who are poor managers never become good leaders. Managing resources is an important skill so your followers have required resources to do their jobs.

Habits

I had a friend, Gerry Berry, who often said something like, “You always make time for the things that are important to you.” This would often come up when we would discuss doing something together outside of work; we being a few of us. It was rare that our little group of friends could always find the same day and time to do something with everyone. He would direct that line to those who had previous commitments as a way of reminding all of us about the importance of how we choose to use our time. Others determine what we value by the choices we make including how use of time.

Gerry developed an aggressive form of cancer while he was still young. He dreamed of building a barn for his wife and son so they could move the horses they loved to his home. Several of his friends developed a plan to build the barn before he died. At no time were all his friends present on the property at the same time. However, over the course of a week, everyone found some time to participate in some way. What do your habits tell others what you find important?

Experience

wing-cloud-sky-adventure-wind-old-593601-pxhere.com.jpgUnlike the other factors discussed above, we only have limited control of our experiences. A person may seek out experiences, but sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time with an open mind and properly prepared for some experiences. There are plenty of experiences people can control and obtain. You can choose to hike the Appalachian Trail and gain that experience. You can choose to develop a speaking program and present it to several local civic groups to demonstrate expertise in a subject area. Not everyone can go to Harvard, but most people can complete college if they really want and have a college experience. Not everyone can perform in Carnegie Hall, but there are plenty of performance venues if you want to perform.

Trying new things and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone allows you to understand more things in life. You become more emphatic with the plight and victories of others. You learn and gain knowledge. You learn about abilities you did not possess and you learn about others. There are plenty of things you can do to broaden you experiences.

Relationships

I often heard an expression that one can tell much about another by the way s/he treats those who can do nothing for them. Too often we treat co-workers better than friends or family members and our bosses better than co-workers. We believe we have to display our best behaviors at work, and we should. If we go back to the integrity thought, our treatment of friends and family is really a reflection of what we do when others are not watching. Yes, you have to be on your best behavior at home.Leonora(Ellie)Enking-alesalbanianwaiter-flickr.jpg

People of character treat everyone with respect and dignity. That does not mean you have to agree with everyone all the time about everything. Actually, to give that impression is disrespectful and not helpful. How you disagree with others is a true indicator of your respect for another person. It is okay to agree to disagree. People notice the character of your relationships to determine whether or not they should develop one with you. People want and need to interact with others. People who value others, find others value them. You demonstrate your value others by paying attention to them. Ignore your phone. Your social media feed will wait until you are alone. Focus your attention on the person in front of you.

Be on time. When you tell someone you will meet them at a certain time, do it. Adopt the idea that being early is being on time, being on time is late, and being late is unacceptable. Never keep your boss, a client, a friend, or a family member waiting.

Do what you say you are going to do. If you fail to fulfill promises, no one will trust you. It is better to under promise and over deliver than miss a deadline.

Personality

There are lots of personality tests out there. People take them for many reasons. Your tested personality is irrelevant. Many personality test questions ask what you prefer. What you prefer does not dictate what you do. What you do matters, even if it is not your natural preference.

Learn to take charge of your preferences, control them, and do what is necessary in any given moment. There are times to speak and times to listen. There are times for action and times to wait. I think this ends with, “There is a time to every season under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). These lessons are from ancient knowledge. Wisdom comes from learning when and how to apply them.

nature-forest-house-building-hut-village-1216943-pxhere.com-cropped.jpgThe foundations of character date back eons. Periodic reviews, such as this blog, keep lessons fresh in people’s minds. Each of us can change our behavior to improve our character.

Character is the foundation of leadership because it forms a solid base of power to influence others. Character is the focus of your knowledge, skills, abilities, values, relationships, and personality. People are predisposed to behave certain ways in situations based on each of these factors. Because people are self-aware, they can judge how their behaviors in each area affects their chosen path. People can choose responsible character building behaviors rather than their preferred responses. Successful leaders understand when and how to match their behaviors to those required for best results. Application becomes easier with practice and reflection. People make mistakes. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Work on your character in order to build a strong foundation as a leader.


Photo Credits

Venn Diagram by the author Creative Commons Attribution

Chow Line from US DOD by SSGT Greeson, USMC public domain

Knowledge Management by Roberto Saltori from flickr.com CC Attribution Reuse

Wild Blue Yonder from pxhere.com CC0

Nature Forest House from pxhere.com CC0 — cropped by the author

Charting Your Course on a Flip Chart

Low-Tech, Message-Rich, Flip Chart

nextSlide decks are high tech training tools when used properly help improve information transfer by embedding several types of media as well as text. Too often, they become little more that a high tech chalk board. You remember chalk boards, those black things teachers wrote text on they wanted students to remember. If a teacher took time to write something on the chalk board you know it was likely to show up on the next test. Most slide decks fail to emphasize what is really important. With so much text, there are no powerful points in text based presentations. Like a chalk board, an easel with chart paper is a low tech teaching tool that is portable. writing-workshop-pink-paper-label-brand-1340802-pxhere.comYes you can write words on chart paper which may serve as a tool to share important points. You can also use chart paper to record students thoughts and ideas during a class discussion. You can pull out those ideas later in the class to reinforce important learning points. When well planned, a good trainer draws a picture as s/he speaks, really draws on the pad a picture. Students are amazed at the trainer’s ability to draw while speaking. Using chart paper effectively in training takes planning, preparation, and practice.

As you work your lesson plan, think about different ways you plan to present material. Slide decks have become the go-to media because trainers sit at their computers and spill ideas related to the information in an outline that becomes their slide deck. Full of text, those presentations could almost serve as a text book read by students negating the need for your class. There are lots of ways You can find ways to improve your slide decks. Look for articles else where on my site, but if you want students to remember what you teach, you need to begin to master more than presentation software applications.

Creating the outline of the points you want to make during a training event is still a great place to start. You use the outline to identifying your learning goals. You do not need to present every learning point to students on a slide deck. Now that you have your lesson outline, you can figure out various learning activities to teach those points. A slide deck is on way. Other learning activities include student discussion, cooperative learning exercises, media presentations, and lectures. Instructors who use only slide decks limit their ability to transfer knowledge to students. Flip charts are a versatile method to improve transfer and retention.

Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter-flipcharts2-flikrUsing a facilitated discussion allows students to share what they already know. This knowledge may not be known to everyone in class. This method involves the student. Student involvement increases information retention. If this information is foundational to later points in your lesson and you intend to refer back to it, chart paper is the perfect method of capturing and presenting these points.

Many of us know, “a picture is worth 1000 words,” yet still use thousands of words on hundreds of slides to communicate ideas in training. While it seems chart paper was born for text, with a little planning, preparation, and practice, you too can become a chart paper artist. There are two secrets to drawing on chart paper in front of an audience. The first is to plan how to use each page of chart paper during your presentation. For example, on page one you will record things students expect to learn in your course, page two is a list of responses from the class to a discussion question, and the third is a picture you selected to show achievement. You must know which page in the chart paper is going to contain your pictures in order to apply the second secret. Many instructors place notes on each page of their flip chart to keep them on topic rather than using a regular lesson outline.

The second secret to becoming a well known chart paper artist is sketching your drawing with light pencil lines on the selected page before you present. There are two ways you can accomplish this successfully. The first and easiest is to use a projector and trace the important lines lightly with a pencil. The next is the classical grid method. Print an image and impose a grid system over it. Recreate Me-Draw_Vase.JPGthe grid on your chart paper. Copy the lines from the small print to the large paper lightly with pencil until you have the image you want. In both cases, you can see the lines well enough to recreate the image as you present your message verbally. Your students will not see the lines.

I built on this gem during an instructor development class. During my presentation on using chart paper I asked a student to draw the picture I described. I asked the student in the break before this section to help and share the secret with him. The class was pretty impressed with how well the recorder was able to capture what I was saying without more instruction from me. About half way through the presentation I asked my recorder to select another student to replace him, but not explain how he created what I wanted on the page. This exercise demonstrated the power of using chart paper in a well thought out presentation for all the future instructors.

A third way to use chart paper is recording student responses to discussion questions. This is a great way to save those ideas for activities later in class. Record their responses as closely as possible to what the student actually said, particularly if you plan to use the responses to counter ‘common’ arguments to a course of action. When the time comes to reuse the page in class, you can return to the flipped pages or hang the page(s) somewhere easily viewed.

You need to know some other things to effectively employ chart paper during presentations. Use high contrast colors such as black, red, blue, brown or green. Print large and neatly, do not use script. Letters should be at least one and a half to three inches high. I found printing in small all caps with the first letter larger helps me print neater. Keep your text straight. Use a pad with preprinted lines, or add pencil lines to pages you intend for text. Alternate the color of each line item. Alternate colors help the students understand which ideas belong together. I like to use black for the title of the page and then red or brown with blue or green in the body. Allow students to do your writing for you. This engages them more. Movement helps keep everyone awake and paying attention, very useful after lunch.

writing-person-professional-lecture-hz10anz-439533-pxhere.com.jpgWriting takes time. Use this time to encourage students to take notes as your write. You know they have time to write down important points if you are writing them at the same time. When creating illustrations or charts, students demonstrate improved understanding of processes. They also participate more because they think and reflect as you draw resulting in a livelier class.1 Student participation improves student retention.

Slide decks are great to standardize messages and presentations. They are also a great way to put audiences to sleep ensuring the message is completely missed. When used well, presenters embed a variety of media, not just text, to keep the attention of their students. Even though chart paper is low tech, it is a media form that keeps student attention. Using chart paper requires the presenter to move away from the podium. Chart paper allows the presenter to make important points by selectively writing down need-to-know information. A blank page allows the presenter to draw a picture saving 1000 words of writing while capturing student attention. Instructors can display information from more than one page to be simultaneously allowing reference to the page throughout the lesson. Student ideas on important discussion points can be preserved for later use in class. The simple pad of chart paper on an easel seems passe, but used well, it remains an important tool in the box of any great presenter. Think of all they ways you can use it in your next presentation.


Reference

1. Dlugan, A. Jan 29, 2013. Six minutes speaking and presentation skills. Flip charts 101: How to use flip charts effectively. Retrieved 9/24/2018 from http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/flip-charts-101/


Photo Credits

Author

pxhere.com 0CC license

Beth Kanter: Cambodia4Kids.com  CC license

Author

pxhere.com 0CC license

 

Improve Decision Making Skills

paint-chips_pxhereDecision making is a critical leadership skill. Use your decision making abilities in and out of the office to improve both your work and personal lives. People making good decisions inside and outside the office derive many benefits. Learning to make good decisions is a first step to becoming a well respected leader.

There lots of benefits of being more decisive. Making conscious choices allows you to shape your life path reflecting your values and priorities. Without taking action, you find yourself drifting through whatever circumstances come along. Learn to set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals. Writing down a plan of action for a goal is easy. Choosing to implement the action steps is what make your dream reality. There is lots of information available in the internet about setting and achieving goals. I contributed some of that content by sharing things I do to accomplish my goals and dreams. Here is a link. https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/

hourglass-cropped_pxhereSome decisions should be delayed, but most can be made quickly. Making decisions at the correct point frees the time by avoiding waffling that robs not only your valuable time, but also energy. Avoid going back and forth over the same options. Making a decision at the appropriate time eliminates stress, confusion and anxiety you feel about making mistakes. Most decisions fail to work out as planned requiring adjustments along the way. Taking greater control builds your trust with others and your confidence to make good decision. Decision-making skills are like exercise. When you exercise more, you develop fitness factors that increase your physical ability. Making decisions increases your self-confidence and your ability to make better decision. You create positive momentum because it’s easier to make decisions when you believe in yourself and your abilities.


Every time you make a decision, you learn. You learn about how your decision affects others. You learn what information is important when making future decisions. You identify sources for help and advice. Your choices reveal your character to yourself and others. A big lesson learned is how your willingness to learn from adversity provide valuable feedback about areas you can improve.

Becoming more decisive is simply a decision, your first important decision to be more decisive. The most difficult time in any moment of decision is the space between deciding to do something and making the first step. Law enforcement calls this space the Fatal Funnel.doors_choices_choose_open_decision_opportunity_choosing_career-546878 It is that space between being outside of a key engagement area such as a room, and being in the engagement where you gain control. It is like being in the doorway. You are neither in the room or out of the room, but that space is the most dangerous because you are completely exposed. As soon as you step left, right, or move forward, the danger decreases. Motivate yourself because once you take action, you recognize more opportunities. You can only see the doors in the next room by fully stepping through the door directly in front of you.

Generally one makes a decision because a problem or opportunity comes into your awareness. Do your research. The first step to making a good decision requires properly identifying the problem or opportunity. You requires the correct information to properly frame the situation. Obtain facts and figures researching on your own or consulting those with the relevant expertise.


You will never have all the relevant fact and figures available in a moment of decision. Learn to analyze the available information to develop reasonable assumptions. Plenty of analytical tools are available to reach reasonable conclusions. Learn what tools are available. Identify which ones work bestCynefin-Model.png in different situations. Each situation requires a unique solution, but frequently problems and opportunities fall into five categories; simple, complected, complex, chaotic, or disordered. Different skills are required for each category. Developing skills and understanding for each category is easily each a topic for additional blogs.

Start with small, simple decisions in areas where you feel confident and where the consequences are relatively minor. I encourage those who follow me to be brave, make a decision and learn lessons from the consequences good and bad. I frequently have new employees come to me with their tails between their legs because a decision they made went wrong. My first question always is, “Did someone die, become seriously injured, or did something blow up or become seriously damaged?” Most of the time the answer is no. That means we have time to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. This allows employees to practice and work their way to more significant decisions. Working through the problem or opportunity with them builds their confidence. Trust your judgment and accept any consequences or criticisms that may arise in order to learn important lessons for future decisions.


Making timely decisions is important. Give yourself a timeline, but do not make it artificially short. If you have 12 months to find a speaker for a training conference, identify when you need to make that selection. Speaker bureaus may require three to six months notice for most speakers. That provides you up to nine months to complete your research which includes the perimeters such as cost, expertise, and other requirements for the speaker. In fact, the first step in your research requires you to identify what information you need to gather to decide who your speaker should be. That means you probably should not select the speaker in the month following the date you were assigned to make a selection. Use the time to gather facts and information. However, do not put off a decision of little consequence that can be made today, such as the pattern of the paper plates for the snack table. Use more time to make a choice for those decisions of great consequence. 9cd72001ef8b5fc00d4fe85767d2-1433771Do not waste time with decisions of little consequence. Learn the difference between the two.

Face your fears. You will make mistakes. Baseball players who only hit a base hit three times for every ten times they face a pitcher receive large paychecks. They fail 70% of the time! There was a time Babe Ruth held the record for the most home runs batted in Major League Baseball. He also held the record for the most strike outs. Tim Ferris claims to periodically go without food for days while sleeping in a tent at night to remind himself that if a decision he makes results in the loss of all his wealth, he can still survive even if it means not having food for several days and sleeping on the ground. Fear of making mistakes is a barrier to becoming more decisive. Mistakes are a part of life. Unfortunately people often learn more from failures than from victories because they analyze what went wrong when they fail, but rarely analyze what went right when they succeed.


The best way to become decisive is to decide to make decisions. Decision making is a skill required of all leaders. Leaders who make decisions develop a reputation as being decisive. Every time you make a decision, you learn from your mistakes and successes. Making decisions is simply learning a process then accepting the results of the process and acting on them. Decide to be a respected leader by making decisions.


Photo Information

All photos from pxhere.com used with a 0CC license.

The Cynefin Model graphic was created by the author and is based on the work of David Snowden and Mary Boone.  For more on this model read A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making at https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making.

Can Do, Building Skills

people-auditorium-meeting-sitting-student-education-1246944-pxhere.com-modified.jpgMany organizations confuse training and education. Training is a process of teaching people skills. Education is a process of transferring ideas or knowledge. Often organizations educate people but call it training. People learn ideas and gain knowledge from education. People learn skills from doing the required task. Education is necessary to build skills. Building a skill is not required to aquire knowledge or learn new ideas. This is were the disconnect between education and training occurs. Trainers think passing ideas and knowledge to learners means learners understand how to use the information to complete tasks. For people who posses skill in a given area, this may be true. More often, new learners need practice completing the skill one task at a time after receiving foundation ideas and knowledge. People learn skills by doing.

beach-sea-coast-ocean-horizon-cloud-83500-pxhere.com-modified.jpgIn the movie, The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi teaches Danny several karate defensive moves through the process of household chores. Miyagi never tells Danny why he is expected to complete certain tasks in the prescribed fashion, only to follow instructions. Eventually, Danny learns the basic skills of karate.

Most adult learners require understanding of the ideas behind a skill. Education is required to pass along knowledge and ideas. Typically ideas and information are presented in slide decks lulling learners to sleep. Transferring knowledge requires communication. Sleeping students receive less information that alert students. Showing images related to the task while discussion the action supported by an idea improves knowledge. Require students to take notes during your talk so they can access knowledge during skill building exercise.

Students remember slides with images better than slides with only text. Use an image that has something to do with the information presented. Trainers committed to improved slides often turn to photographs or computer generated drawings. Charts and graphs are also images. Charts and graphs help learners understand how information relates to similar information. Images of flow charts showing steps required to complete a task, or data comparison puts information in perspective.

Follow up each bit of knowledge with a check on student learning. This can be in the form of questions, asking students to discuss their understanding, or a short worksheet. Learning checks ensure students received the knowledge, understand it, and remember it. This step serves as the base for the next step, building skills. If the foundation is defective, the structure eventually fails.

person-smoke-military-portrait-soldier-army-732095-pxhere.comCompleting the educational piece of the training sets up students to work on skills. Whether the skill is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, conducting an analysis of data, or building a rocket motor to take a space vehicle to Mars, knowledge is the basis of the skill. Skill building exercises begin the process of changing ideas and beliefs into actions to achieve results.

Skill building exercises can but used as checks on learning as described above after the introduction of certain information, or as separate learning steps after information transfer. In the example of analyzing data, students may need to understand data base basics like data entery, how reports are generated, or how to write a standard query language command. The instructor determines what information students need to know and develops a means to transfer that knowledge. The instructor follows up with some questions. The skill builder requires students to enter certain portions of data from a stake of 3×5 cards. The exercise teaches students how to find data in a source document, how to work the software, and develops understanding of how errors may occur. These exercises reinforce information provided students during the education portion of the training.

Another exercise might require the students to organize the cards manually so they understand the process databases use to organize data. The teacher might ask a group to alphabetize the cards by last name. Another group organizes the cards numerically by phone number. A third group sorts the cards by age of the person. The first two are pretty simple. The last exercise helps them understand how the computer has to calculate the year and then sort by month and then day. That is a more complex task than just alphabetizing, especially of the date fields include month by name rather than by number.

work-person-people-girl-woman-hair-790938-pxhere.com.jpgEvery skill building exercise should be developed to allow students to connect the skill to information learned during the educational portion of the training. Connecting knowledge to skills improves understanding so when things go wrong, students can trouble shoot the situation. Teachers and instructors cannot teach students how to respond to every possible situation they may encounter. Connecting skills to knowledge allows students to effectively solve problems in the real world.

As students work their projects, they will make mistakes. Making mistakes is an important part of skill building. Mistakes in training are opportunities for instructors to provide deeper information, improve understanding, and identify areas where knowledge may not have been transferred effectively. Mistakes allow students to rely on what they learned to correct mistakes on their own. Correcting mistakes allow the student to practice again.

Instructors share information with the class based on student mistakes improving overall understanding. People absorb only so much information in an abstract sense. As they begin to develop skills, mistakes hand-guitar-tool-leg-hammer-nail-704019-pxhere.com.jpgpresent opportunities to provide additional information and improve understanding. Use mistakes as opportunities to expand student knowledge of how a task step effects the overall skill.

Sometimes instructors fail to effectively transfer information to students. The information may have been communicated poorly, or the student may have a barrier preventing reception of the message (like sleeping during your boring slide deck). The instructor should accept responsibility for the lack of transfer and send it again. In the process, the instructor may learn other students failed to receive the information correctly. Restating the information using other terms may improve understanding. Asking a student who demonstrates understanding to explain is another way to help students learn.

Training and education are not the same thing. Education is an important part of training. Education is simply passing knowledge or ideas from one person to another person. Training requires the transfer of skills. Skills are best learned by doing. Training is doing. Instructors identify critical knowledge and tasks required to learn a skill when they develop training. During the educational portion of the training, the instructor passes on knowledge and ideas to students related to the skill. During the doing portion of the training, the instructor develops exercises to build skills one step at a time so students can complete the task upon completion of the training. Students develop skill by doing activities. Training develops skills so people know and can do. Next time you are assigned to conduct training, develop lessons that transfer knowledge and incorporate doing.


Photo Credits

All images from pxhere.com used under a 0CC license.

All Leaders are Front-line Leaders

TassieEye.Flickr.jpg

Organizations promote good leaders front line leaders into senior leaders. As leaders move through the levels of leadership, they need to adapt to their leadership style to meet the level they reach. Front line leaders address the challenges facing the organization here and now. Mid level leaders prepare the organization to face expected challenges in the next few days to several weeks. Senior level leaders anticipate problems for the organization months and years from now. One thing all levels of leaders deal with are those problems that occur today. At every level, all leaders need front line leader skills. Whether you are on your first day as a new shop foreman supervising ten machine operators, or the CEO of a major corporation with ten vice presidents reporting to you, you directly supervise and lead people every day. There are three basic attributes front line leaders at every level must understand, possess, and use; character, leading skills, and action.

Character is the foundation of leadership. Character is the collection of habits and actions taken by a person commonly defined by their hidden and stated beliefs. A habit is simply something a person does repeatedly.

A mid-level leader in a leadership workshop confessed his surprise hearing the expressions from his employees about how much he cared. He received a promotion and was moving to a new assignment. During his last days in that assignment, almost all of his workers approached him at some point and told him how much they appreciated the personal attention he provided regarding some sort of personal issue. They each said it showed he cared about everyone of them. He told the crowd of other mid-level leaders he did not remember most of the issues for which each thanked him.

hand-leg-finger-food-produce-care-1028578-pxhere.com.jpgHe told his classmates he devised a simple system using spreadsheet software to track employee issues. Every morning he made a list of people to contact to follow up on those issues ensuring they were addressed. His actions allowed employees to focus on their work, not their problems. His habit of tracking people’s problems and checking with them periodically, resulted in a reputation of being a compassionate leader. He only spoke with others who had a reason to know about the problem in order to provide support to the employee or help resolve the problem. He did not gossip. His habit of keeping his mouth shut gained him the reputation of being trustworthy. His habits and actions told others the story of how he felt about resolving people’s problems, not a speech delivered from a soapbox about being there to help his people. His character was defined by what he did, not what he said.

Front-line leaders need to find ways to organize information and their schedule or people think they are unreliable. Discipline is critical to repeat effective actions until they become habits and create your character. Learning how to relate with others enables leaders to motivate and influence people them by finding how individual needs, interests, and abilities align with organizational requirements and mission accomplishment.

In order to influence others, a leader needs power. @wewon31-power-linup_flickr.jpgPower is commonly obtained in one of a few ways. The first is positional power, that which an organization give an individual in supervisory positions. Another is expert power. If you are an expert by means of knowledge on a topic, or possess a critical skill that you use and share. You sway others by your expertise. A third source of power is attraction. That ability some people have to draw the positive attention from others and to make others want to be liked by them. Often called charisma, it enables those endowed with it to influence people by bestowing attention on those seeking their approval. A final source of power is reward and punishment. This sounds like something a boss can do, such as providing a wage increase, or dismissing an employee. In this example it is not someone in a position of authority. People who use rewards and punishment for power include people like playground bullies, or a grass roots community activist. Each finds ways to reward and punish people they influence outside traditional organizational structures. Some example include using force in the case of the bully, or endorsing a political candidate in the case of the activist. These rewards and punishments lack official sanction. The power comes from the personal traits of the individual such as strength or speaking ability. 102_0158.JPGLearning to develop power across several sources is a skill necessary to influence others. Each has benefits and limitations depending on the skill of the wielder, the situation, and the audience. Each is a tool. One cannot build a house only using a saw; likewise, one cannot lead well with only one source of power.

A final critical skill for all leaders is communication. Leaders need to write well, speak well, understand how others use words to indicate problems and answer, use body language, customs and courtesies that make others feel welcome or insulted, and adapt their communication style to their audience. Use different words and sentence structure recruiting in a college classroom full of young and presenting a financial report to your board of directors comprised of older, experienced professionals. New line workers need different instructions than veteran equipment operators. Respect shown to all you deal with speaks louder than all your words.

An instructor at an officer candidate school charged the class to develop the best order to direct a platoon to erect a flagpole. Each candidate was given 30 minutes. After 30 minutes each student made their presentation. Each had multiple slides in a deck explaining the process of digging the hole; others had lengthy material specifications and work plans; and others had maps, charts, and diagrams showing how they would move the pole, position equipment, and stand the pole. When the students were finished the instructor congratulated them on their hard work. He asked them who the audience was for their order. All agreed it was for the members of their platoon. The instructor pointed out their slide decks and other media were great if they were briefing a general about how they planned to install a pole. The assignment directions were to issue an order to erect a flag pole. The instructor shouted, “Platoon Sergeant, POST.” The platoon sergeant ran to the front of the class and reported to the instructor. After exchanging salutes, the instructor said, “Sergeant install that flag pole,” and pointed to the flagpole, “over there where the grade stake is located.” The sergeant saluted, said, “Yes Sir.” and left to start installing the flagpole.

Community-Bible-Church_Flickr.jpgThis story illustrates the importance of knowing your audience and the message they need to hear. As the instructor pointed out, if the message is what the candidates needed to request to install a flagpole, the communication is different than directing a Soldier to emplace the flagpole. Of course if the Soldiers were less experienced than the Platoon Sergeant, the instructor needed to provide more direction. The senior person in the story understood he was directing another experienced person to complete a task. Detailed instructions were not required.Pete-Birkinshaw_Flickr_YouRangSir.jpg

Action, the process of making things happen. Anyone can sit in their cubical all day and plan for the future. Only those who step outside their cubical and take action accomplish things. Reflection is important. It allows us to see what is, and what could be. Without action, what could be remains a dream. One only gains character by doing something. Character is the sum of our habits, the things we do. Without those actions, one has no character. Developing character requires action.

Planning is action, but planning without execution is planning resulting in nothing. Executing results in success. There are plenty of things individuals execute alone and help develop character, but one is only a leader when others are motivated to help execute. Leaders provide motivation through communication. Communication is action. Leaders share their vision of the future, a vision that inspires others to follow the leader on the path to success. Leaders execute communication by coaching and counseling their direct reports. Coaching and counseling are actions. Leaders set up their direct reports for success by taking action to ensure resources are available to accomplish tasks. Resourcing is action. Leaders act and set the example by pxhere-actionconfronting unacceptable behaviors and addressing uncomfortable truths, such as failures to reach revenue expectations. Setting standards is action. Leaders execute by jumping in, getting their hands dirty and shoes messy. Doing something dirty is action. Leaders develop power and influence by doing things; acting, not just talking and planning. If you are not doing, you are not leading. Leading is a verb. Verbs are action. Actions, executed properly at the right time by the right right people result in success. You can plan. You can talk. You can be virtuous. You accomplish nothing until you act.

No matter how high one climbs the organizational ladder, one is always a front-line leader. CEOs have VP s and staffs reporting to them. Middle managers have front-line supervisors to lead. Every leader has someone who reports to them about something, or they would not be leading. In order to lead, you must have followers. The direct leadership required of a VP probably is not the same as a new hire on the cook line, but both need proper supervision and leadership from their boss. Provide regular front-line leadership to your direct reports as you prepare your organization, or your part of an organization, for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Build your character so you are worthy of respect. Communicate so they understand. Act by counseling, coaching, and executing. Use your front-line leader skill at all levels and be a leader who succeeds.


Photo Credits

Birds in line by Tassieeye from Flickr.com  CC License

Holding hands from pxhere.com 0CC License

Powerlines by @wewon31 from Flickr.com CC License

Tool Box by author  CC License

Network by Community Bible Church from Flickr.com CC License

Old Telephone Box by Pete Birkinshaw from Flickr.com CC License

Action Biking from pxhere.com 0CC License