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

Measuring Success

Measured-Michael_Coghlan.jpgTrainers and leaders need to measure success. Measures of success demonstrate the organization does things correctly and does the correct things. Trained tasks support the organizational mission, the organization’s why. Trainers measure performance and leaders measure effectiveness. Understanding the difference ensures organizations correctly apply the correct measures to tasks by the right people.

Performance measures are those things that show we are doing something correctly. Examples include demonstrations of completing a task within a set of given guidelines, passing a test demonstrating knowledge of selected ideas, or achieving a certain result we believe leads to effectiveness. All these examples show the task is being performed correctly. These are the measures a trainer uses to demonstrate tasks are understood and performed correctly. Front line leaders use measures of performance to demonstrate assigned tasked meet defined standards.

Effectiveness measures are those things that show the organization is accomplishing its mission. Effectiveness is harder than performance to measure because organizations often have poorly defined missions. Effectiveness comes down to an individual or organization being able to focus on their one reason for existing. Examples of effectiveness measures include things like changes in behavior favorable to the organization, increased trust between employees, customer loyalty, or improvement in a given condition. Measures of effectiveness demonstrate mission accomplishment by the organization.

Organizations must understand and communicate why they exist in order to be able to measure effectiveness. Jim Collins talks about businesses that learn how to laser on their purpose for existence. Great businesses last because they were designed well in the beginning, or transform to meet changing times. There are many books that talk about the importance of why including Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and Stephen Covey’s First Things First.  Senior leaders use measures of performance to determine success when the organization meets its mission.

As leaders and trainers measure success, they need to learn how to measure both performance of individual and collective tasks, but also the effectiveness of those tasks. Everyone may be doing everything well, but if they are doing the wrong things, they fail. Knowing which measures to use and when help organizations ultimately complete their mission. Find your why; determine what an how to achieve it, then measure your success.

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Photo Credit

Measured by Michael Coghlan from flickr.com under a Creative Commons License

Organizational Artifacts

Organizational Culture

Modified Jug_by-NikitaAvvakumovCompanies carefully develop and vigorously safeguard their corporate logos and trademarks because the leaders understand the importance of brand. Logos speak for the company, what it makes, and stands for. Some trademarks become terms for common items, actions, or a range of products. Years ago people would Xerox a copy when they wanted a photocopy. Everybody had a Frigidaire even if their refrigerator was a Whirlpool. Today if you want to find out some piece of information, you Google it. Mention these names or show their logos and people create a vision of excellence in each of those industries. The trademark is the company and people know the values of each. Artifacts, such as logos and trademarks, are the visible representations of an organization’s culture and values. Other aspects of artifacts include customs, traditions, celebrations, buildings, and attire. Leaders can use artifacts to change behaviors of stakeholders to align with desired values.

Back in the day, families had coats of arms that contained symbols representing significance accomplishments from the past, the region of origin, and tools of their trades. Military organizations thrive on the symbolism of their unit crests. Good leaders understand the qualities shown in organizational symbols and use them to provide a common bond for all stakeholders. The symbols and traditions create a unification for all those involved in the organization.

The terms blue collar and white collar demonstrate how artifacts affect perception. Mention blue collar worker to someone and they probably envision a person working on a factory floor, working in an automotive repair facilities, or dumping waste cans after the office closes. White collar workers are viewed as those working in clean environments such as offices, hospitals, or laboratories. Blue collar workers have GEDs or high school diplomas. White collar workers have college degrees, have offices higher in the building relative to their perceived power. These statements are not necessarily true as there are plenty of people holding traditionally blue collar jobs with high levels of education, and many office workers with high school diplomas.

Ceremonies and customs are other artifacts that show the world and stakeholders where an organization places value. Organizations that toss their new employees to the wolves with little training demonstrate they value people less than accomplishment. Those who celebrate small successes show they care when people succeed and understand that when an individual succeeds, everyone in the organization is better because of the achievement.

A smart leader seeking to change an organization’s culture can use artifacts to help that change occur. He can point to the symbols of a logo to talk about the important values of the organization. He describes how certain behaviors emulate the organizational values while others detract. He eliminates ceremonies celebrating negative achievements that belittle and embarrass, and replaces them with rituals observing feats supporting desired behaviors. Awards for compliance with desired organizational values serve as visual representations of success and encourage others to model similar behavior. Employee of the month is one example, but a creative leader finds other ways to also provide visual cues.

Understanding organizational culture is a critical leadership skill. Knowing how symbols, ceremonies, and traditions creates certain behaviors enabling leaders to change artifacts to encourage behaviro changes. If something runs counter to a professed value, it is shed. Leaders adopt new artifacts that support behaviors aligned with desired values. Take a look around your work place. What do the dress, visible symbols, behaviors, and traditions say to someone walking in for the first time about what is valued? Change those that subvert what you want others to think of you and your organization, and replace them with artifacts that show the character you seek to achieve.


Photo Credit

Nakita Avvakumov https://www.flickr.com/photos/drnik/2857646470/in/photolist-5mwbJJ-6bXTAW-cWNuEG-ogb2uP-6bXUYC-74auQQ-bjUuLa-dfPbpg-BsuyfJ-8eCvnt-ogstHx-dMZSDL-2A6cFN-E1JUTs-67mS86-ATUtr2-9euKg7-uLhc-57xfTs-Bz4NEy-PZP2PQ-5V9AWA-c7hjWf-wMfExB-QvqyfS-MGFg37-N6NaAj-PZP3zh-NncCAS-zEmsYi-QkEA9Q-ManQ54-N2jNX8-KdZwbq-MCHQ11-MEWtdK-S35rzb-S35rnC-QU9tXK-S35rfd-ExDU2b-622Hms-S5FNVK-RXKgGM-T2GiWi-kHLLyN-RoViju-qyFLP4-r2BLQg-6iE95L Creative Common License

A Call to Action

bullhornspeaker-firefightersdaughter-CalltoActio

I recently listened to a short piece on my local public radio station from the TED Hour (http://www.npr.org/2015/02/06/379184277/what-s-the-antidote-to-political-apathy). The speaker talked about getting people to the polls and ways to overcome apathetic voters. As I listened, a light bulb appeared over my head about a way to improve training. If trainers expect students to change behaviors based on their training, they need to issue a call to action to participants. A call to action ensures students leave knowing how to change their behavior, possess excitement to change, and where to find help when they run into road blocks.

In this TED talk, the speaker noted in an unscientific study he conducted that in local publications, the editors would include information about how to contact a local charity, the hours of a new eatery, or the phone number to the box office of a show they reviewed. The reader knows how to learn more. When the local periodicals ran political pieces they often present information in a fair and balance way. They explained the issues about the topic. They did not include information about websites, phone numbers for involved organizations, or other information to make the reader take action on that subject.

Often trainers and leaders behave the same way. They call for changes. They show people one way to do something that works in the classroom. They may even provide some sort of high energy event that fires up the students and employees so they feel motivated. When they return to their cubical, they stumble on road blocks and because the trainer or leader provided no information about where seek help, the change they and their proteges hope for starves on the vine.

The fix is easy. After providing students their call to action, provide resources to use for follow up. When students return to their offices and run into a roadblock, they know where to find more information to help overcome the road block and successfully implement the desired change.

Provision of follow up resources requires more than a short bibliography at the end of your note-taking guide or a sheet tucked into the back of a participant folder. The trainer should call attention to the resources. He should provide screen shoots of the websites. He should point out email addresses and phone numbers of people who are willing to help. He should also provide a short sales pitch for each of the follow up resources provLearningSailing-John-ModsOK-croppedided so the student understands help really is there.

Many trainers already provide such information and calls to action for their students. Adapt a page from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone by sending out a group email reminding students to look up a website, read an attached file, or how to find a book.  They are more likely to click on a link and incorporate what you taught them after leaving your class.

At they end of your next training, issue a call to action for change. Motivate students to implement what they have learned. Sell them on the resources available to help them over hurdles. When you issue a call to action, change will happen.

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Photo credits:  Both photos downloaded from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license and modified to fit the space here.

Speaker photo by firefightersdaughter.  Sail boat photo by John, yes, just John.

Respect & Forgiving Misteaks

Leaders in learning organizations demonstrate two critical qualities: respect and forgiveness. Most people learning new skills make mistakes. People stop creating in organizations lacking tolerance for honest mistakes. Respect instills confidence for people to try new things. They their first attempts result in failure, yet respect acts as a safety net encouraging more attempts. As workers gain courage and skill, eventually succeed. Respect allows forgiveness; forgiveness spins the safety net of success.

spilled.milk-elycefellzForgiveness is often seen as a weak, outward display directed at those who offend us. Unlike respect, viewed as strong, outward behaviors directed towards others, forgiveness is a strong, inward action directed towards ourselves. Holding grudges does little to change someone’s behavior. Instead, grudges harm the holder, preventing him from developing better relationships.

Years ago two people worked together in difficult circumstances. The leader treated him well and thought he earned the other’s respect. One day the leader became aware his previous employee blamed him for many things that occurred on the job. The employee held that hatred for years. The employee’s hatred of the leaders offenses did nothing to harm the leader who was unaware of his offenses. The hate attacked the employee everyday, preventing him from achieving greater successes in life. The leader moved on in life, building new and better relationships and increasing his successes. The leader was was hurt after learning of the grudge because he believed he did the best I could do at that time with his skills, knowledge, and abilities. He reached out seeking forgiveness from his former employee bur received no response. I suspect the employee still blames his former boss for many of the bad things that occurred during the time they worked together. The boss offended and was offended by others during that time. He carried grudges against some people for a while. He forgave some people and some people forgave him. One day the boss met one of those who offended him and realized they were clueless he was angry with them. He noticed the person moved on and felt no pain from his lack of forgiveness. In a period of reflection the leader realized forgiveness was not about the other person, but rather about him. Once he learned to forgive, life improved.

No matter how hard we try, offending others is inevitable. Often we do not realize our faux-pas and therefore see no reason to say, “I’m sorry.” For those who do not understand forgiveness carry their hate while the offender remains blissfully ignorant of their mistake. Forgiveness is a vital part of respect because acting respectfully to those we hate is hard. Forgiving requires releasing hatred.

Without respect, others lose confidence, fail to grown, or learn new skills. It is equally difficult to hold a grudge against someone we respect. Leadership is about influence. There are plenty of examples of leaders applying influence motivated by hate. History views those leaders as failures. People who learn to lead from a positive influence motivated by respect gain more power permitting even greater influence and success.

Many of the problems facing our nation and the world revolve around forgiveness and respect. Examples of extreme grudges include mass police murders in Baton Rouge, people protesting police violence coming under fire in Dallas as officers protect the crowd, terrorism in France, a military coup-d’etat in Turkey, Islamic extremism in the Middle East, Muslim against Muslim, Christian verses Christian, Jew fighting Jew, and each against the other because of hate and disrespect.

Violence is not an answer for past slights, insults, past violence, or perceived disrespects. Jim Collins talks about the fly-wheel effect in his book Good to Great. Acts of violence begin a downward spin of of the violence fly-wheel; every additional act increasing the fly-wheel’s momentum. Forgiveness acts as a break on the violence fly-wheel.

Treating followers respectfully creates a positive position for the leader to gain increased influence. Good leaders recognizes everyone makes mistakes. Instead of being offended by a follower’s error, a good leader forgives, respectfully corrects, and allows the person to try again. This cycle allows growth and improves the organization. Grudges hold back offended parties. Offended parties may seek to retaliate through acts of violence. Recognizing most people do not intend to offend us with their actions allow us to forgive. Forgiveness stops grudges and restores peace. Respect is the greatest gift we offer others; forgiveness is the greatest give we give ourselves.


Photo from elycefellz on flickr.com  Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Overcoming Hurdles to Change

I recently listed to a short piece on my local public radio station from the TED Hour (http://www.npr.org/2015/02/06/379184277/what-s-the-antidote-to-political-apathy). The speaker talked about getting people to the polls and ways to overcome apathetic voters. As I listened, a light bulb appeared over my head about a way to improve training. If you want to changed behaviors based on what you train, you need to issue a call to action to the participants. When students leave, they need to know what to do, the excitement to change, and ways to find help when they run into road blocks.

hurdle.melinda.huntlyIn this TED talk, the speaker noted in an unscientific study he conducted that in local publications, the editors would include information about how to contact a local charity, the hours of a new eatery, or the the phone number to the box office of a show they reviewed. The reader know how they could learn more.

When the local periodicals ran political pieces they often present information in a fair and balance way. They explained the issues about the topic. They did not include information about websites, phone numbers for involved organizations, or other information to make the reader take action on that subject.

Often trainers and leaders behave the same way. They call for changes. They show people one way to do something that works in the classroom. They may even provide some sort of high energy event that fires up the students and employees so they feel motivated. When they return to their cubical, they hit road blocks and because the trainer or leader provided no information about where seek help, the change they and their proteges hope for starves on the vine.

The fix is easy. After providing students their call to action, provide resources to use for follow up. When students return to their offices and run into a roadblock, they know where to find more information to help overcome the road block and successfully implement the desired change.

Provision of follow up resources requires more than a short bibliography at the end of your note-taking guide or a sheet tucked into the back of a participant folder. The trainer should call attention to the resources. He should provide screen shoots of the websites. He should point out email addresses and phone numbers of people who are willing to help. He should also provide a short sales pitch for each of the follow up resources provided so the student understands help really is there.

At they end of your next training, issue a call to action for change. Motivate students to implement what they have learned. Sell them on the resources available to help them over hurdles after the training ends. When you do, change will happen.

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Photo credit: Melinda Huntley, flikr.com  https://www.flickr.com/photos/piratepix2/4540203839/in/photolist-7VcJqx-GY8o3-8hDo4J-z3Akfw-7Laq5N-7VfYnb-84VQLx-eonsYx-bER96W-rkfoWv-9HcTG2-fEQaXu-4gXG8H-aoi8Ah-fdTQxU-82taWc-dgMHan-bmHArb-bzCtcn-6SH1c9-dAxF2t-9MMqtH-dAxEk4-bTKTPZ-rhcUEV-m5EDBX-xmhWs9-84VWcY-8hDfW9-H9y4B-8hDpi3-dAxExk-8hA7mV-8dTP4e-dAxEqM-r3PBRy-r3NJrC-rkfqt8-rkfpsF-8hA6ZV-82LnjE-my6DVw-eefeA1-6EPXjR-2AwKvD-rtAXvb-7Aw3ZS-ie4JrZ-7Aw4sU-pyEHWJ

AW…do we have to plan AGAIN?!

“Plans are nothing; Planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower. Planning is one of the fundamental functional areas of management. Leaders at all levels plan. Depending on the event and their level in the organization determines how they plan, but the planning process should remain the same. Whether you want to develop a new vision for your organization, or you are putting together a small meeting for your staff, planning is the process that identifies the needs for what is desired in the future, the resources necessary to accomplish the task, actions requiring completion, controls and guide posts to watch for along the way and a statement of success. One of the reasons planning is valued more than the finished plan is understanding that no battle plan ever survives past first enemy contact, but in the planning process, key leaders have opportunities to evaluate different courses of actions allowing them to change course as the situation evolves. This topic deserves more than the few hundred words dedicated here, however my intent is to provide readers a general direction for their own planning processes.Image
The first step in any plan in to identify the objectives. Plans are only required if there is difference between the current situation and what you expect in the future. The purpose of the plan is to change the future. At the strategic level, leaders develop mission statements, share their vision and establish guiding principals. At the operational level, leaders develop work processes, gather resources, train workers and establish goals and task steps.
Once the object is identified, develop alternative actions. Often this is done during brain storming sessions although other idea generating activities also work. Ideas do not have to appear practical or traditional. The important action at this stage is to developing ideas. You may find that some of what originally appear to be flaky ideas in the beginning, when paired with other ideas may work the best.
Now that you have several alternatives, take time to evaluate them whether alone or in a group. Identify their efficiency, alignment with organizational guiding principals, likelihood of success and other factors selected by the group’s leaders. During this stage you should start to develop the measure for success. As alternatives are eliminated the better ideas become evident. The completion of this step should involve a completed written plan. The plan does not have to answer all questions but should provide enough information for those charged with implementing understand the intent. Remember the old saying, “An imperfect plan delivered on time trumps the perfect plan delivered a day late.”
Action is the next step in the planning process. A complete plan is not required to begin action. The great thing about mission and vision statements are they provide everyone an idea about which direction they should be traveling even if they lose the directions to the final destination. Once the decision has been made to move towards a certain goal, action can begin. Starting movement is the hardest part of any change. Starting movement is they only way the plan will succeed.
Once things begin to move it is important to monitor progress. The plan should include specific check points where staff gather to report progress. Like any journey, if you don’t take the time to check your compass and read the road signs you may find you took a left when you should have turned right in Albuquerque. These controls may include checks on spending, use of resources, percent of quality improvement, number of units sold or any other metric that measures progress.
A final and critical step in the planning process is obtaining commitment from stakeholders. Too many projects fail for lack of this important support. Ensure the key leaders understand the resources requiring commitment for success. Obtain contracts from customers if necessary. Lock in resources from suppliers early.
A finished plan may not be fancy. It may not be complete. What matters is the process used to arrive at the plan. Follow these steps and you increase your plan’s success. Start by determining the objective. Identify alternatives to reach the objective. Evaluate the alternatives selecting the one most in line with organizational values and vision. Begin action as soon as there is commitment. Obtain commitment from key stakeholders. Check your progress regularly and plan those check-ups. As your project rolls along, you may find success lies off the road you selected to reach your destination, but through your planning process you identified detours and side trips. In the end you will find your planning helped you make small adjustments along the way and reach your destination.

 

Photo by author

Why Run Alone?

Seems about this time of the year dues for many of the organizations I belong to are due. Each year I use the opportunity to decide what associations are important to me and my future by deciding which dues bills I pay. A couple decades ago I remember thinking it was a waste of time for one of the fraternal organizations I belonged to to send representatives to either the state or international conferences believing they were little more than a fun-filled weekend away at the organization’s expense. As I’ve grown I have learned the importance of associating with others. Leaders interested in continued improvements benefit from rubbing elbows with leaders from other communities and fields. These associations keep their perspectives fresh by infusing their network with people who possess different skills, learning about industry trends and expanding their sphere of influence.

If leadership is about influencing others to accomplish things while continually improving, it makes sense to consisteImagently meet new people. When one meets people with different backgrounds, skills and experiences one no longer needs to develop that particular skill; at least not alone. At some point you will find a situation where the skill of the person you met at one of these meetings, conferences or conventions is necessary to solve a problem your, your organization or someone you know needs. By contacting them, you solve the problem, expand your influence and allow others to expand their influence.

Breaks and social events during conferences provide opportunities to meet with the movers and shakers on the cutting edge. Conversations often revolve around trends that may not have hit popular industry media. Having such information provides you and your organization an opportunity to react before bad things happen, or develop strategies for positive outcomes.

Developing and using your network creates opportunities you never have running alone. Many Americans imagine success as something obtained by an individual struggling on his own to meet daunting challenges. In reality, most successful people are surrounded by smart people offering a helping hand here and a leg up there. Occasionally they slip and fall, but because of they are working with a net, bouncing back is easier.

As you connect people, expand your skills and network and develop the reputation as all-around helper, more people inside and outside your organization turn to you when seeking information, skills and services. Each contact may not result in a direct benefit for your organization. Working with others cooperatively helps them successful. They in turn find ways to help your organization succeed. Your greater sphere of influence puts more people indirectly to work for your organization improving the likelihood of mission accomplishment. The choice is yours; you can strike out alone and figure things our for yourself or you can run with the pack using the energy, skills and wisdom of the group to push you to succeed.

Photo by author.

Creative Commons License
Why Run Alone by Christopher St. Cyr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

Training Ethics or Ethical Training?

There are so many ways to approach ethics training that it is unethical to have people sit bored while training ethics. Instructors can conduct ethics training on three levels. ImageThe first is to demonstrate by training ethically. The next is to provide ethical training. The third is to identify organizational behaviors that require changing and provide training that will change that behavior. What follows is a short dissertation how trainer can accomplish each of these goals without having to speak above the din of snoring in the classroom.

 Within the realm of training ethically there are three sub-categories; civil liability, ensuring employees are fully prepared to complete their duties and using the time of trainees well. Every organization wants to avoid law suits. Training your employees to do the right things the right way for the right reason ensures tort avoidance better than the coverage from insurance. By training employees well to avoid liability, you create added value by developing better employees who do their jobs well. Trainers have a responsibility to ensure they train employees well and when you do, students’ time is wisely used. Everyone despises the torture known as Death by PowerPoint. The point of presentation software is to help make critical points powerfully. By showing everything you are going to say on the slide the importance of the points are lost. Be prepared to speak ideas, not the slides.

 The next major area of ethics training is training ethics. Teach organizational standards, orders, policies or other written documentation governing behavior in your organization. These rules establish expected behavior. Let students know what the maximum and minimum penalties as well as the typical penalty for violating norms. Often these topics are approached by reading each document verbatim. A better idea is to assign the reading to be completed before class, review the material in the form of questions and answers and then use stories as examples of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Facilitated classes are great opportunities to share ethical theory with students showing how their biases effect their focus of organizational standards.

 The next area is training to change behaviors. Repetition is required for this training to be successful, but do not teach the exact same class to the exact same audience time after time. Both you and your students will become bored quickly. The point of this training is to focus student attention to behave in compliance with the organizational mission, principals, expectations and norms. Use this time to explain what the mission statement means to their section. Talk about how the organizational principals support the mission. Express your vision for the future of the organization. If you are training others, then you have been chosen to lead. Leaders have a better view of what lies ahead. Share your vantage point with others so they understand the importance of doing the right things the right way.

 As you develop training for each of these areas, you will soon find you have far more material to cover than the time available. Newer trainers will curse and try to squeeze everything into the allotted time. Experienced trainers recognize the opportunity to provide follow up training without repeating previous classes improving student attention and retention in subsequent classes. Focus on the three areas, ethically train, train ethics and change behavior. When you do, your students will clamor for more.