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

The Wall, A Powerful Memorial

On May 17, 1969, CPT David R. Crocker Jr. was killed in action in Viet Nam. His widow Ruth recounts her life with CPT Crocker in her book Those Who Remain. She details attending a reunion of her husband’s unit years later when she is invited to visit the JuneMarie-VNMW-flickrViet Nam War Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. with the Soldiers he led in battle. As she approaches and walks along The Wall, she relates memories of her David in various assignments and contrasts them with how she thinks combat veterans she is there with think about their memories of the war, each other, and their beloved commander.

I made a trip to The Wall a few weeks before reading Ruth’s account of her first time to the memorial. Unlike Ruth, it was not my first trip. As I walked along the increasingly tall black stones, the first thing that struck me is how rude some people can be. After suggesting to a younger man that his cell phone argument should be completed elsewhere, I returned my attention to those engraved slabs. MarionOSullivan-VNMW-flickr.jpgI found myself contemplating each name that caught my eye. I wondered how my brain selected some names to look at while skipping over others. My thoughts wandered to my own combat experiences. I mentally compared my experiences to those who fought in Viet Nam and eventually to every other war.

By now I found I completed enough steps so the stones were over my head. I noticed the reflection of my battle buddy on the surface of the stone, himself a combat vet in a different place and time from me or those whose names appeared before us. Like me, he would focus on some names and skip others. Unlike me, he remembered his childhood neighbor heading off to Viet Nam. He never returned. Today he searched for his neighbor’s name. As I remembered this visit and my other visits to The Wall, I conversed with my friend about his experiences at The Wall. After reading and considering Ruth’s description I started to realize why The Wall is such a powerful memorial.

There are several war memorials on the nation’s Mall. There are even more in the D.C. area. Many are large signifying the importance those wars play in history. Others are smaller, almost unseen and forgotten like many of our nation’s conflicts. While it is true these smaller wars and monuments are less known, they are no less important for those who served and those who died in those conflicts. Yet the Viet Nam Memorial is a most powerful monument to our fallen heroes.

The Wall is a powerful memorial because it allows people to project their own thoughts, feelings, and memories about war, their loved ones, and their experiences. JuneMarie-Etch-VNMW-Flickr.jpgThat is why a Gold Star Wife can accompany a veteran wearing a Combat Infantry Badge and feel connected. Each brings their own stuff, projects it on the tall, cold, black stone and The Wall, like a black hole, absorbs it all. Visitors do need not know any one person of the 56 thousand inscribed on those black shiny panels to project their stuff on to it. The Wall accepts everything just as the service members whose names appear on The Wall.

Other monuments and memorials of war are different. They have more conventional shapes. Each is a different size. Their materials and colors change across each individual monument, yet seem to copy from each other. Each of these attributes deflect projection. I cannot see my battle buddy’s reflection living or dead in those other memorials. Those memorials are about their war only. Thoughts, memories, and other reflections ricochet off their surface the same as a 5.56 does on hard surfaces. The Wall accepts them all.

The purpose of memorials are to allow people to remember the past, and make a connection with those who came before them. War memorials are more so by remembering the selfless sacrifice of those who served our country, defending freedom and liberty. In order to connect, one must develop an understanding of how those memorialized events affect their lives today no matter how long ago they occurred. Laura-VNMW-Flickr.jpgThe Wall, even with all those names carved into the otherwise flawless surface is a blank slate, enabling all to search for meaning. Like the classroom blackboard each person can write the story of how events years ago changed the world and their place in the world. Each finds meaning.

The meaning they find may have nothing to do with those on The Wall. It may have not relate to Viet Nam or any survivors. Their meaning found in those dark slabs is unique to each individual. Meaning not only about the terrible cost of war, but also how death of loved ones hurt no matter the cause. They may achieve an answer to a random act of violence. They may develop a reason for suffering PTSD. The Wall accepts it all reflecting back each individual’s reality.

The other monuments are what they are. WWII.JPGIt is hard to make the colossal statue of Lincoln something else. The size of the World War II Memorial is like the war, massive, so massive it is hard to take in all of it and understand, even after the passing of time. person-people-monument-statue-army-sculpture-1026122-pxhere.com.jpgThe Soldiers marching at the Korean War Memorial are always on patrol, frozen in time, with little room for any other interpretation. Only The Wall absorbs our feelings and casts back what we need to develop understanding.

I’ve learned that sometimes the most important thing to understand is war is war and things sometimes happen for no reason. Tim O’Brien said often people expect a war story to end with a moral, but war stories are just war stories. Like war, they are what they are. Few end with a moral and fewer end happily ever after. Every war story is important to the teller. The teller may never know why, but something in that story changed their lives. Lots of things happen in combat. Only a few are remembered. The Wall captures each story, every memory. In time visitors may gain understanding of recollections from The Wall.

For those who experience war, detail of stories fade as time marches on. They never go away. This essay is about war and remembering war. In school we learn every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. War stories definitely have a beginning, though the beginning may vary by the teller. War stories have a middle, the part where the action occurs. The end however can be tricky because there is always something that happens next. Maybe that is why few war stories have morals, they never really end. That is why we need memorials like The Wall, to help make sense of the senseless, and maybe that is why The Wall is such a powerful memorial. The Wall allows everyone to find their own sense in the confusion.JasonBrookman-VNMW-flickr.jpg

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Photo Credits

June Marie – flickr.com — Creative Commons Attiribution.

Marion O’Sullivan – flickr.com — Creative Commons Attiribution.

June Marie, ibid

Laura — flickr.com — Creative Commons Attiribution.

Author — Creative Commons Attiribution.

pxhere.com — Creative Commons Zero

Jason Brookman — flickr.com — Creative Commons Attiribution.

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Show Me, Bring Action to Your Training

music-light-people-crowd-concert-audience-870980-pxhere.com.jpgKen Blanchard spent many years working to improve leadership, training people tactics and habits gleaned from successful leaders. His philosophy is tell them, show them, let them, correct or redirect or praise them, and repeat (Be, Know, Do. Blanchard). In an earlier training article, I discussed whys to improve knowledge transfer in the telling stage using checks on learning. This article focuses on the show them stage. Having more methods to teach people ensures you connect with as many learners in your class as possible. If you only tell them things, visual and kinetic learns are left behind. There are several ways to show people. This article discusses three methods of showing; pictures, videos, and demonstrations.

Slides are a common classroom method of sharing information. Text based slides are telling, not showing. Slides with nice pictures for the sake of having pictures are also telling, not showing. nextPicture based slides showing stances, methods, screen shots, and other action are showing. Pictures may contain text for the purpose of showing finer points. You may want to add an arrow for direction of action, or to show points of attention. The image shows how and what to do saving thousands of spoken and written words.

I discussed finding lots of high quality low and no cost photos and images in an earlier blog. Check out the information at this link: https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/one-thousand-words/. There is generally no requirement to use images as they were taken or created. Using image manipulation software allows you to edit the image to meet your needs. Photoshop is a high end answer. GIMP, short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a free, open-source graphics editing program. With such software, you can create the image you wish you had by cropping, tweaking colors, making something black and white, with a single color for emphasis, creating a new background, deleting ugly utility poles, or anything else that make the image tell the story you want to tell. Learning to use graphics editing software seems intimidating, however YouTube has lots of videos showing how to do anything you want to with GIMP and other graphics software.

A great way to show how to do something is with videos. camera-vintage-antique-wheel-retro-old-804975-pxhere.com.jpgIf you create a video, do not simply transfer the classroom lecture to the screen. Use video showing someone doing the skill you are teaching. Sound is not required. You can narrate the action for the class. Consider inserting pauses in the video allowing discussion.

Editing video is not as easy as editing pictures. PC World picked Shotcut as the best free video editing software for 2018. Shotcut offers several tutorial videos. Like GIMP, YouTube offers plenty of additional tutorial videos. As with GIMP, you can use Shotcut to customize an open source or public domain video from the web, or create your own content.

Use caution when using videos from others. Copyright law offers protection for using small amount of video (or any other copy righted material) for educational purposes. If you use a whole video produced for the purpose of education and requires a fee for classroom use you may receive legal process. Copyright laws are intended to protect intellectual property, but they allow fair use. Richard Neil has good information about copyright and fair use on his website: http://www.leotrainer.com/copyright.html.

Videos supplement your lesson. Videos do NOT replace you. You may have videos that show in exacting detail how to rebuild a carburetor, but you are the expert in the room. Impart the little tricks and secrets you know from your years of completing the tasks you train. If you show nothing but videos, your students figure they could watch them from home or their work location online. Anyone can push the play button. Be the expert and add to the information shown in videos you select for your training.

Demonstrations allow students to see a task executed first hand. Whether you are milking a cow, or creating a bench hook, watching someone do it helps learners understand the task better. Ideally the instructor should conduct the demonstration. Sometimes instructors team up; one talks about the task while the other executes. If you select the two person demonstration, coordinate with the other person. You both need to practice the demonstration ensuring the narration matches the action. A firearms instructor trainer I know cautions student instructors to practice drills they plan on teaching their students. If the instructor cannot execute the task accurately and correctly 99.999% of the time, he looses his expert power. Students walk away from the demonstration convinced the instructor is a wind bag because he cannot be execute the task. If you cannot complete the task in a training environment, how are students going to execute the task in the real world? Practice your demonstrations and drills so you appear to be the expert you are.

Repeat your demonstration more than once. Change the way you stand so everyone in the class in able to see what you are doing. Tell the class you will be moving so they can see the finer points of the demonstration from all angles. Repeated demonstrations are especially important in larger classes. Move to a different part of the training area. Use live streaming video for work on small tasks such as setting coupler height on a model railroad car, or showing the angle of a file while sharpening a saw. Unlike the magician Magicianpuking cards-pxhere.jpgwho only shows a trick once to prevent others from learning how he did the trick, your goal is for students to leave your training knowing the tricks and how to perform them. Repetition ensures your students understand and improves their skill.

Showing students how do accomplish a new skill is an important in any high quality training. Showing turns knowledge into action. Three common methods to show others are use of photographs or drawings, showing the skill performed using videos, and live demonstrations by an instructor or skilled assistant. Each has advantages and drawbacks. Pictures are easy to put together. They are static. After a few slides students become bored, however stills may show better as a series of images. Videos provide action. Videos are abundant on the internet but may not show exactly what you want shown. It is more difficult to create original video content than static slides. Demonstrations seem like the perfect solution. They provide action, allow the instructor to narrate and point out fine details, but the demonstrator must be skilled to ensure flawless execution. Some tasks are difficult to demonstrate to a group such as how to land an airplane, or the proper application of explosives to safely collapse a snow drift to avoid an avalanche. Learn to use each method at the right time for the right audience. Showing turns ideas into action and improves retention. It is the second step in teaching new skills. Add a few shows to your next lesson. Your students will walk away smarter.

 

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Additional Resources

Ken Blanchard Companies:  https://www.kenblanchard.com/

GIMP Official Website:  https://www.gimp.org/

ShotCut Official Website:  https://shotcut.org/

Use official websites of open source software to avoid potential unwanted software and malware.  Carefully read the installation windows.

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References not incorporated in the article

PCWorld article: https://www.pcworld.com/article/3240982/software/the-best-free-video-editing-software.html

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Photo Credits

Light Show – pxhere.com  CC Zero license

Next Slide — Author

Antique Projector — pxhere.com

Magician — pxhere.com

 

 

Maximize Return on Investment for Training

Companies spend large sums of money to sending employees for training to improve performance. When employees return, they resume ineffective habits. Ken Blanchard says in his book, KNOW, CAN, DO, that he is frustrated people do not implement the changes he teaches. The point of leaders sending employees to training is to develop to new, effective behaviors in employees and become better people. Here are some ideas how leaders effectively help employees implement behaviors learned at training increasing their return on investment (ROI) on training.Man_taking_notes-PXHere.jpg

Require employees to take notes during class. Note taking improves retention. Hand written notes are better than typed notes in the classroomi. When they return to work make them then sit down and type those notes. Typed notes are better than handwritten notes after the class. Typing notes requires the student to revisit the material again providing an additional opportunity to learn improving training ROI. It also provides a readable copy of the notes which will be more useful a few years from now. They understand the type written notes better than their hieroglyphs taken in class. Typed notes should include the title, location, and date(s) of the training, the name of the employee completing the notes, the name of the presenter, and a website for additional information. Typed notes are necessary for a later step in this process, sharing learning with others.

Once your employee has completed their note typing, have them report to you the big concepts taught in the class. Ask them the one or two take always they think are most important to implement in their work behaviors. Work with them to develop an action plan or goal. There are a few other blogs here on goal setting and developing personal improvement plans. As the leader, you have the responsibility to periodically check in with the employee to monitor progress. Employees require your guidance to overcome obstacles and provide encouragement. Set aside 30-60 each week in the first few weeks after class to meet with the employee and measure progress.

One great way to improve learning is teaching. Have the employee present what they learned at your next staff meeting. There are several advantages to having employees present after training. One is you increase your return on the investment you made on that training event. Every employee learns something new, not just the employee who attended the training. Second, the employee becomes the teacher and for a short time, the subject matter expert. This puts them in the spotlight. Everyone craves recognition. This is a great method allowing employees to shine in front of their peers. Third it provides you an opportunity to discuss why the behaviors learned in that training are important. You reinforce for staff what new behaviors you expect from all of them. The message about expected new behaviors comes from a peer. Peer pressure is strong. Use it to your advantage.

Remember those typed notes? Copy and distribute them during the short training session. The notes should include the name and email address of the employee who took the notes. Having the employee’s name and email on the notes provides contact information for others. When other employees have questions, they are able to contact the company’s subject matter expert and receive answers; another opportunity for the subject matter expert to shine.

It may sound a bit overboard to provide all kinds of recognition to an employee returning from training. In some organizations, training is viewed as punishment. People in those organizations think the only reason the company would send someone to a training event is because they messed up something. The training is the company’s way of telling the employee and others about your mistake. Highlighting the positive impacts from training encourages others to want to attend and learn. It is the basis of a learning and improving organization.

Since your employee returned from training, you worked hard to groom him or her into a subject matter expert. You allowed them to share their new knowledge with others. You developed a plan encouraging them to implement changes in behavior learned at the training. Now reap the rewards. Appoint your self-grown expert as a mentor. trusted_rock_guide-andrew.PNGAssign a protegee to the mentor who is dealing with performance problems. Often we think of performance problems as coming from problem employees. Frequently though performance problems come from inexperienced people, or people assigned new tasks without appropriate background or training. Use your subject matter expert to teach this person how to improve. As they work with the newer person, they may find a need to refer back to their original class notes. Good thing they typed them so they are legible! Because you modeled goal setting with your employee, they use that skill to help their protegee set goals. Your newer, inexperienced person benefits from the training provided to the mentor weeks or months ago, another return on your investment. Instead of sending this person to the same training to learn the basics, you book them for something different. When they return, repeat the process and you have a new expert on a different topic.

As time passes, you find many of your people have gone to a wide variety of training. Some learned to become effective leaders. Others learned how to improve customer service. All attend regular training about advances in your company’s field of expertise. Every employee is up on the latest in each area because they benefit from the micro trainings each new subject matter expert provides after an off-site training opportunity. Your people acquired lots of information boiled down in carefully typed class notes. Many have become strong leaders. Eventually people move on to other activities in life. Because you took the time to train everyone about a wide variety of issues from leadership, to cutting industry trends, and building strong networks ensuring customer needs are met, you have no problem replacing leaders. Someone is ready to step into the role. This is the final pay off from that training investment perhaps years ago. You have the right people in the right places with the right training and experience so when someone leaves, no one misses a beat.

Sending employees to an off-site training is a big investment. Good leaders understand how to leverage the learning of one person so that everyone on the team learns. Using these skills the ROI on your training investment. Employees use a training event to help other employees develop goals changing behaviors, the objective of training. Good leaders spotlight the employee’s learning and behavior changes by helping them become subject matter experts. Good leaders set the stage for people to want to go to training because they understand you want them to stick around for a while. You developed a library of knowledge in the typed class notes which is available for everyone. Employees have contact information for subject matter experts. Employees mentored others learning to lead. You influenced change. You influenced others to effectively improve behaviors and accomplish the organizational mission. You maximized the return on the company’s investment on training. Next time someone comes back from training, put them to work so everyone becomes better and maximize ROI on your training investment.

References

i Doubek, James , and NPR Staff. “Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away.” Weekend Edition Sunday. April 11, 2016. Accessed March 09, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away.,

and

Mueller, Pam A. “Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension.” Association for Psychological Science. April 04, 2014. Accessed March 09, 2018. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html.

Helpful Links

For coaching skills from Ken Blanchard Companies: https://resources.kenblanchard.com/whitepapers/coaching-skills-for-leaders-the-missing-link

Good SlideShare summary of Know, Can, Do:

https://www.slideshare.net/ramadd1951/know-can-do

For more information on goal setting:

https://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/goal-achieve-cycle

For a goal setting worksheet:

https://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/sample-goalsworksheet.

Photo Credits

Note taker from pxhere.com.

Climbers by Andrew St. Cyr used by permission

Check Learning to Verify Knowledge Transfer

“Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.” The idea is  something heard three times is more likely to be remembered.auditorium-pxhere There is a better way to make sure your student learn material and for you to know they learned what you taught. Conduct checks on learning during and at the end of your training. Checking learning ensures they heard and retained what you taught. Two simple ways to check learning are simple exercises and questioning.

An exercise that allows students to work through a problem using information provided verbally or in writing allows them to develop skills from their new found knowledge. A short story with a series of questions to answer modeling your lesson reinforces your teaching. Students work alone or in cooperative learning groups and report back to the the class their results. The exercise can be harder by asking students to work through a problem without the prompt questions. For example they are given a scenario. They are expected to explain which widget is the best for the situation and why. They also are expected to explain how they would use the widget. The back report reinforces the lessons with the whole class one more time.teamwork-pxhere.jpg

The easiest check on learning is questioning. Ask the students a group of questions. They parrot back the correct answers if they memorized the material. Ask questions that require students to explain concepts like, “Who can tell me when a widget is the best choice?” or “What is the best way to use a widget in the following situation…?” require students to think about their responses and apply what they learned in their response. These questions demonstrate understanding versus simply knowledge.

A spin off of the questioning check on learning model requires each student to write a question about the lesson on one side of an index card and the answer on the back. Use the cards as questions in a quiz show like review at the end of class. Student contestants will be able to challenge the ‘correct’ answer provided on the card. Award bonus points for the team if they successfully challenge the ‘correct’ answer. This process allows the class to correct misunderstood information and research correct answers further embedding new found knowledge and skills.

Relay-pxhere.jpgStudents and trainers come together for the purpose of transferring knowledge and skills to students. Each has a responsibility to enable learning. The trainer’s responsibility is to ensure the knowledge and skills are received, understood, and usable when students leave the training. Checks on learning completed throughout the lesson provide necessary feedback on the success of the transfer. Conducting a review at the end of class by repeating what you previously said is easy. Completing an in-depth check on learning as a review is harder, but shows what has been learned. Students and instructors can leave the training environment confident the new knowledge and skills have been passed and are ready to be used upon returning to their daily assignments.


Photo Credits

All photos from pxhere.com a website offering Creative Commons Zero License images.  No photographer information was available for any of the images.