Voice: Feathery Touch vs. Booming Motors

onceuponatimeiattendedapresentationgivenbyareallysmartpersonwhospokesofast,butrathersoftlylikehewastryingtosayeverythinghehadtosayinonebreathsohecouldquicklycompletehispresentation, breath, andgospendtherestofhisallotedtimedrinkingcoffewiththosewhocametohearhimspeak.

During my instructor deImagevelopment classes, I teach a segment on the importance of using your voice. Trying to write a wimpy presenters fast pace, low volume and even monotone speech is more difficult than demonstrating it for a class. There are many reasons people use poor vocal skills while presenting such as lack of confidence in front of others, inexperience as a presenter and contempt for the topic. The opposite is also true. Speaking at a rapid pace in a loud volume continuously sounds like you are recording a commercial for the latest monster truck rally. Three cliches come to mind when considering the use of one’s voice during a presentation. The first is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. The second, “Variety is the spice of life.” The final, “Silence is Golden.”

Slow is Smooth; Smooth is Fast

Speaking slower during a presentation allows you to select the best words to express your ideas the first time. Students understand what you say better. A slower pace allows students time to hear what you said and think about how it relates to them so they can effectively incorporate that information into their behavior. But what about the fast part? Great question! If your students understand what you said the first time, have time to reflect upon its meaning and ask necessary follow-up questions you only have to state the point once. No need to repeat what students all ready know. Fewer repetitions allow time discussing information unfamiliar to students. Result; better learning, and fewer remedial trainings.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Changing your pace, volume and tone of voice helps keep students attention. Turn up the volume to clue students of important information they may see again, say on a test. Use a fast pace to sound like the voice over announcer on TV reading the legal disclaimer for a predatory loan suggests important information has been provided and is available to reference later. A soft whisper tells students you are sharing a well guarded trade secret. Now they belong to an inner circle of trust. Certain patterns may suggest transition from one topic to the next. An effective phrase a friend uses is, “ALL righty, then…” his clue to the class the discussion is changing.

Silence is Golden

Silence seems the reverse of what a trainer should do while standing before a group of students. Periods of silence encourage participation. Ask a question and wait for someone to answer. Make a controversial statement and allow a student to challenge your position. Student participation always improves training.

ImageNext time you find yourself in front of a class or giving a presentation remember and use these three rules. Silence is only bad because you do not know what to say next. Use it to encourage student interaction. Silence is golden. Using a slower pace allows information to sink in like a slow steady rain. Students absorb the information the first time allowing the class to progress faster. Slow is smooth; smooth is fast. Changing up pace, volume and tone signals students about important information, topic changes and help keep their attention. Variations in vocal qualities keep things interesting. Variety is the spice of life. During your next introduction, let the class know, YOOUU ARRRRRE REEEADDY TO RUUMMMBBBLLLLLLLEEEEE?!?!?!?!?!?!?


 

Photo Credits

Both pictures from Flickr.com used under Creative Commons Attribution License

Nick Chill

Mitchell James

Oh No! Mandatory Training!

Mandatory refresher training…the bane of every instructor. Frequently the trainer is provided a lesson plan and a slide deck, a period of time to fill and appropriate training facilities (maybe). The instructor is expected to stand before the group of experienced students and present the material determined by management as essential. The result one to four hours of heavy eyelids, sore bottoms and the sending and receiving of text messages on mobile devices by distracted employees who fail to pay attention. They learn nothing. You can improve the situation by recognizing that the occupants of the room possess hundreds of collective hours of experience; many more qualified to teach than you. Developing methods to engage, entertain and focus students during mandatory training separates the run-of-the mill instructor from the master trainer. Nothing that follows is new, but I challenge you to adopt one or two of these ideas for your next refresher training and take your first step down the road to become a master trainer.M.CoghlanGpDisc

Facilitation is a training process that focuses on the student rather than the instructor. Generally facilitate means to make easier, to promote or to serve as a catalyst (Google 2014). An instructor who engages in facilitation recognizes the expertise of the students and develops a learning environment that permits those with various experiences on a given topic to share what they know allowing the rest of the students to assimilate those experiences into new ideas on their own. This process allows the students to come to conclusions on their own.

Instructors are reluctant to conduct facilitated discussions for fearing accusations they did not follow the program of instruction required by management. A well thought out training event covers all the points required by management. The difference between an interesting, facilitated training event and being buried by slides is how the material is presented. The traditional, well-known, boring method of lecturing while showing a slide deck echoing everything the presenter says only ensures the required material has been presented. It does nothing to demonstrate knowledge transfer, but does provide coverage for the tushy if ever called to task for providing training on a given topic. A facilitated training however requires student participation during a guided discussion about the same points made in a lecture. In order to participate effectively, instructors must possess complete understand the topic, and students should have some knowledge.

Preparation for and conduct of a facilitated training event requires greater preparation and execution time. To prepare for a facilitated discussion,

  • Review and understand key learning points of the lesson,
  • Convert learning points into discussion points,
  • Prepare questions to requiring discussions to answer, and
  • Prepare to guide student discussion by infusing information and making corrections,
  • During the conduct of class,
  • Ask students questions that require thought and development of opinions,
  • Ask students what they think of points made by others during the discussion,
  • Require students to justify opinions based on facts or prior learning,
  • Ask students if they agree or disagree with other students points and explain why or not.

As the class demonstrates understanding of each point, the instructor segues into the next discussion point by either asking a pre-planned question, or taking advantage of a point raised by a student. Ensuring many students participate. Use the following formula to include all students:

  • ask the question,
  • pause to wait for students to think about the answer,
  • call on a student to answer.

When attempting to pull in the quieter students, it is important to ensure to ask them something there is no wrong answer. By doing so, you allow them to participate without loosing face. As the discussion moves along, show the required slides and let them speak for them selves allowing students to integrate the information from the slides into what they learned in the discussion.

A quality facilitated discussion during mandatory training improves student participation. Increased participation improves information retention. Increased participation permits the same idea to be expressed more than one way improving understanding by less experienced students. Engaged students are less likely to allow their minds to drift and learn more. Students pay attention when they know anyone can be called upon to answer questions. The slide deck re-enforces points made by the students.

Using a facilitated discussion during mandatory in-service training allows for management and instructors to cover important learning points. A good guided discussion covers all required points by allowing students to express their knowledge of the topic and identifies areas requiring more discussion or information. With more discussion the same idea is expressed in different words increases understanding of the concept. Students become responsible for their learning, more engaged in the process and focused on the class. For your next training event, implement some of these ideas to generate a guided discussion on one or more points. You may be surprised at what YOU learn in the class you are teaching.

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References

Google Search Results “define facilitate” https://www.google.com/search?q=define+facilitate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb retrieved 4/26/14

U.S. Army. 157-ABIC-3.0 / Army Basic Instructor Course (ABIC) (2011) Army Training Support Center, Ft Eustis, Va

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Photo Credit:  Michael Coghlan.  flickr.com CC license

Leaders Training Future Leaders

ImageAll trainers are leaders because they influence people in their organizations to accomplish the mission. The flip side to that thought is that all leaders are trainers. In too many organizations however leaders are selected based upon their ability to accomplish tasks more than their ability to influence others and too many organizations fail to train their highest performers to become leaders. Possession of influence is more important to a leader than possessing an ability to complete a task skillfully. Learning how to engage others to influence them to perform is more important skill for leaders than the task to be performed. Teaching the leaders to teach becomes that challenge for the middle and senior leaders of organizations, one that is poorly executed. Consistent leader training and development is critical to any organization’s long term success. Four simple, repeatable steps separate are the foundation of an enduring leadership training program. Those steps are telling, demonstrating, practicing and correcting.

Telling. The quickest way to transfer information is to tell the other person. When sending a message you want the receiver to remember ensure the receiver has a method of recording the information, whether it is a notebook, a voice recorder or a note on their device. Unrecorded information is sure to be forgotten. When someone writes, they remember better in the future and create a record for future reference when the teacher is absent. During the review of the lesson, the teach can have the student read back the notes ensuring all important details were discussed.

Demonstrating. You demonstrate the task. In this blog, demonstration is listed as the second step, but in practice, it is the first. When others work for you, you demonstrate leadership for them daily. When you take time to counsel the new leader, you demonstrate the importance of counseling. Your methods become the lesson as the techniques and practices you expect them to employ in their leadership role. Counseling is just one area, but the example crosses many such topical areas.

Practicing. At first you may be inclined to linger. This may not always work well. For the same reasons it may not be practical for your trainee to sit in on a counseling session with a fellow employee with a family problem, it probably is just as likely you should not sit in on similar situations unless you are invited. The senior leader has other duties. If she spends all her time overseeing one new supervisor, she ignores other areas of responsibility. It is not unreasonable to follow up by asking to see documentation of a process or to check progress of employees. This lets both the employee and their supervisor know you are paying attention to important aspects of their work and lives.

Correcting. Do this as close as possible to the performance of the activity. Often in performance oriented training we ofter students feedback in the form of an after action review within a few minutes of completing the activity. There is no reason to not apply the same practice. If you are invited to observe a process improvement meeting, plan on five or ten minutes after the meeting to review the supervisor’s performance.

When you have completed all the steps, repeat them until the leader performs them nearly perfectly. As they improve, you allow them to tell you how they can improve their performance instead of providing feed back from you. As you do so, you prepare them for increasing levels of leadership and improve the organization.

Good leaders are also trainers. They set the standard by telling, They live the standard through demonstration. They allow others to try to practice and correct mistakes so success is achieved. These steps train and develop leaders follows the same model. Tell them what the expectations are, demonstrate the way you expect them to behave, allow them to perform, make corrections and repeat. Leaders who practice these steps increase their sphere of influence, allow others to see he uses power to make the organization better, has concern for the future of the group and its people and is willing to e what he knows. Observers recognize the spark and passion of the leader doing the training and the overall success of the organization. Take the first step today with your young leaders.

Photo Credit:  tanakawho from flickr.com creative commons license

Disruptive Students

Recently I was demonstrating the proper technique to accomplish a defensive tactic according to the organization that certified me to teach. During the demonstration, I talk through each step working slowly so that the students see the hold and understand the correct form. I have selected one of the students in class as an assistant. As I talk through the steps, the student pulls his hand out of my grip and laughs. I can only believe it is because he showed the teacher that his tactic doesn’t work, but his resistance is outside the parameters for application of this maneuver. I attempt to use this as a teaching moment explaining to the class that this is only one way to confront a potential adversary and is intended for use on one who appears compliant and follows directions. I start over. The demonstrator pulls away again. Repeat one more time. Now it is obvious my student is disrupting the class and interfering with the learning. Instructors and teachers often have to deal with disruptive students in a classroom environment. Strategies for dealing with these students are widely available in text books, journals, and internet sites. No one talks about the disruptive student in the practical exercise environment. Over the years I have had many disruptive students in practical activities session who have challenged me, my skills and my techniques. How the instructor handles the disruptive student establishes his future credibility. Handled well and students learn the instructor is knowledgeable and respectful and gains the attention and respect of the class. Handled poorly and the students learn the instructor is self-centered, egotistical and is just as likely to treat them with contempt if they fail to live up to his standards resulting in lack of attention or respect.

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Attempting to address the misbehavior based on your perception of the student’s motivation you attract attention to the misbehavior and away from the lesson. Redirect the attention of all the students to the task at hand by acknowledging the slight and explain that this portion of the lesson is limited to the topic you are introducing. Use this as an opportunity to explain that there is more than one way to accomplish the task and this application has limitations that do not invalidate its use in the correct situation.

Keep your cool. I learned this rule the hard way. Anger about the student’s behavior manifests as a personal attack. Too often the anger results in the demonstration being completed at 100% force without proper preparation resulting in personal injury or property damage. Instead, stay calm, redirect the students attention, explain the parameters for the skill you are teaching and continue the lesson. A successful method is to change demonstrators.

Explain to the class as one instructor I watched. The instructor introduced information that was contrary to prior learning in another course. The instructor replied to the effect, “What I am teaching is a way to accomplish this task. It is not the only way.” Often when doing hands on work it is impossible to teach students the best options for every situation because the “What ifs” pile up in a hurry. Using the “A way” response validates the student’s position while maintaining your credibility.

Hands on training is an effective method to ensure students develop skills required to complete certain tasks. Unlike the lecture where the instructor controls the flow of information, during performance oriented training, students will often share what they know about the topic from prior experiences. Sometimes this is helpful, but often is is disruptive. Effectively keeping the class on topic builds your credibility as an instructor and subject matter expert. Validate the students point of view if valid in some cases if there is more than one way. Delineate the conditions for the task you are training. Keeping control of your emotions shows you are an expert deserving their continued attention and trust. When you follow these steps, you ensure students receive quality, consistent information, develop skills to accomplish the task in the given conditions to performance standards and increase the probability they will complete the task appropriately in a stress filled field environment.

Photo Credit:  U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Lily Daniels under Creative Commons License Share-alike and Attribution, Commander U.S. Navy 7th Fleet

2/1/14 I just posted a companion slide deck on SlideShare.  Check it out at http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/disruptedpractice

Practice, Practice the Practical Exercise

One of the joys of being Chief Instructor at a military school house is the time I shared with instructor trainees during their final presentations becoming qualified Army Instructors. During one memorable presentation, the student instructor engaged classmates with two practical exercises. The first allowed students to work in small groups discussing how to apply lessons learned upon returning to their units. In the second, students developed a presentation for their commanders for adoption of principals of this lesson in their units. Both effectively ingrained important points of the lesson by allowing the students integrate what they prior knowledge with newly acquired information to develop their own ideas and reinforced what the instructor taught. This presentation raised several questions including why instructors choose to lecture instead of facilitate, use presentation software instead of practical exercises and how can instructors develop effective exercises to reinforce learning points.

Inexperienced instructors often choose lecture based training because they have the knowledge the students need, lack the skills to develop training that is learner based. They feel more comfortable talking than showing. Developing lecture based training is easy and the least time consuming. Lectures ensure presentation of important information, adhere to time constraints and repeatedly provide the same information during every presentation. Unfortunately, most adults do not learn well with the lecture style and many will leave forgetting most of what was said, defeating the purpose of the training.

Slide decks have become the standard to accompany the lecture method. Pictures, text and video supposedly stimulate the learner’s verbal and auditory centers improving retention from lectures alone, but one phrase says it all, “Death by PowerPoint.” An unfortunate reality, PowerPoint and other presentation software alone fails to engage learners as a result, some organizations forbid use. When used well, they amplify important instruction points, but most of the time slide are used as a crutch. Plenty of books, blogs, articles, TED Talks, comedy skits and ,yes, PowerPoints have been created to improve presentations and truly Impress (an open source alternative to PowerPoint).

ImageDeveloping practical exercises requires genuine understanding of the concepts and principals supporting training, information and task steps. Understanding allows the instructor to identify the basic knowledge required to achieve success. Basic actions required to complete the task create the practical exercise the same way that learning goals are the basis for test questions. Often people are selected to provide organizational training because the have a history of providing great training or are the most educated on the topic within the organization. Lacking expert wisdom, the instructor parrots what he was taught, but their lack of understanding of the concepts and principals prevent development of practical exercises. Students are denied the opportunity to experiment and discover how to use the ideas to improve their performance.

Good practical exercises achieve several objectives for adult learners. They allow the a review of new information learned during class increasing retention. They require learners to integrate new knowledge with what they all ready know. They permit students to teach and learn from each other. They require back briefs allowing peers to learn from their challenges and successes. Each step is a repetition of the information provided in class. Each iteration, embeds knowledge and skills learned increasing the likelihood of desired change.

Lecturing and showing slides permit training to check boxes. Lectures poorly translate knowledge into desired behaviors. Practical exercises allow trainees to practice what they have been taught. They provide opportunities to repeat key points. Repetition increases recall and creates deeper understanding of the material. Creating practical exercises requires the instructor to understand the concepts and principals of the task being trained. Development requires greater time and effort by the instructor but payoffs include increased student understanding, performance and changed behavior on the job. Next time you conduct training, create and conduct at least one practical exercise.

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I have prepared and posted a slide deck on SlideShare supporting this blog. 

I look forward to feedback.  Please take a moment to let me know how this blog has helped with your training and leadership activities.  I am also interested in know what other topics you are interested in reading.

Trainer = Leader

 

   The Director of the Training Council opened the instructor development course congratulating the soon-to-be instructors on their selection for attendance. “You have entered a new level of your career. As an instructor, you represent management and to be successful you must be convincing as you present your training material to employees.” The Director could have said as instructors and trainers you are leaders. Even without the title, people selected by any organization to conduct training, whether members of the organization, or outside consultants, are leaders of that organization.  8227072116_e4de7eba30_z

 

    Training is intended to change behaviors by influencing employees to conduct their activities in accordance with the procedures presented. The best definitions of leadership include descriptions of influencing others, providing motivation, sharing a vision or improving the organization. Trainers do all these things.

    Anytime the official leaders of an organization introduce change they typically provide some sort of training program. The training describes the desired change ensuring employees understand the new philosophy and can complete new processes. Frequently formal leaders, sometimes called managers, are called upon to conduct the training, but not always. How the trainer presents the material will either improve acceptance and success or result in rejection of ideas by employees and failure of the concept in practice. Training presented passionately in favor increases success and the trainer’s profile with senior leaders.

    Selection as an instructor gives line employees on opportunity to develop an appreciation for the vision of the top leaders in the organization. Most employees know where the organization is, but few at the bottom of the organizational chart really understand where the CEO wants to go. Becoming involved in the training infrastructure of an organization requires employees to take a few steps up the ladder improving their view of the destination. Employees who have demonstrated an ability to influence others in a positive fashion are more likely to be selected by managers to conduct organizational change training. Selection as a trainer provides an opportunity to learn more about the organizational culture and help senior leaders determine if those employees demonstrate abilities required to fulfill future leadership positions. Employees seeking ways to open the doors to formal leadership positions look for opportunities to teach and train. Often employees may be unaware their desire to teach mark them as future leaders, and all too often managers overlook those in training roles when leadership positions become available.

    If your eyes are raised higher up the organizational ladder here are several ways you can improve your chances of becoming a trainer and attracting the attention of you bosses. After attending a training, mention to your supervisor you would like an opportunity to present what you learned to others in your section at your next staff meeting. Once you receive approval, mention the training to some of your contacts in other sections or shifts. Their interest may draw them to the meeting increasing your exposure. A successful meeting may result in requests from others in the organization. Think about professional organizations for your career field and material you are qualified to present. Meeting attendance is improved when someone is scheduled to speak about a cutting edge topic. You may not receive any pay for your appearance, but the movers and shakers in the group will recognize your contribution and when the time comes to move along or they need to fill a leadership position you will be recognized as one with expertise.

   Trainers influence organizational culture and behavior. Learning to train others provides junior employees opportunities to show their leaders they possess skills to influence others and an ability to communicate important ideas and concepts. By creating quality training programs, trainers help management introduce important organizational changes focused on improvement. Standing in front of the crowd provides the trainer a spotlight to demonstrate their ability to organization leaders to influence others. As a trainer you are a leader in your organization. Change a life; change your organization; take time to train others and become a leader.

   Photo Credit

Global Integration from flickr.com with CC License = attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives