Wednesday, 31 December 2008

How to embed learning...

I came across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (even though I live in England...isn't the web cool!) called 'Lessons Learned - The key to effective training isn't necessarily what happens in the classroom. It's what you do afterward.'

It is a great article about how you really embed learning in an organisation following a training course. This is something that I think it is really important to focus on and I always ask myself the following questions when putting in place a training programme:

1) What are the outcomes that we want to achieve (think/know/do)?
2) How will we know if we have achieved these outcomes?

Big questions......but not always easy to answer.

The WSJ article provides some interesting tips on helping with this:
  • Ask the delegates to put an action plan down on paper. The act of writing it down can really help people think about it more deeply and also makes them more likely to take action.
  • Measure results. If delegates know they are going to be observed and measured following a training course, then they tend to do something about it.
  • Help from peers. Get people together in peer groups following a training session. Share experiences and you will find that people benefit from the support and encourgement.
  • Supportive superiors. An actively involved  boss greatly increases the odds that an employee will apply what they have learned back in the work place
  • Access to experts. Research shows that employees who participate in follow-up meetings with instructors after training are more likely to apply new skills and knowledge on the job.
The article provides some real life examples that support these points and has a practical tone to it - something that I like! If you have any other tips then I would be interested to hear from you.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Time for reflection...

I am really looking forward to my Christmas break and taking some time to be with my family. For me it is also an important time to just sit back and reflect on whether I am focusing on the right things in my life. Everyone clearly needs to shift their focus at different times but it is important to do this in a conscious way.

Techniques such as the 'wheel of life' can be really useful to help with this. Have a think about where you would have plotted yourself 5 or 10 years ago compared to now. Are you focused on the right things or is it at the expense of other things?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

More Line Manger tips: GROW - A model for coaching

Whilst not formally qualified in coaching I often find myself in 'coaching conversations' with people - not always those that work for me. Initially I found this uncomfortable but I persevered with it as I seemed to be getting some positive results. The breakthrough came when I learned about a simple model called GROW that provides some structure to the coaching conversation.

I thought it would be useful to share with you as it is a tool that every line manager should have up their sleeve....

GROW is simply a set of questions that you ask the person that you are coaching. The sets of questions are grouped into:

1) Questions about Goals. Questions such as 'what would you like to discuss'?, 'how do you know that this is something worth achieving?'. These questions are designed to help the coachee think about where they want to get to and how much it means to them.

2) Questions about Reality. Questions such as 'what is happening at the moment', 'what is holding you back'. These questions are designed to understand where you are starting from.

3) Questions about Options. Questions such as 'what is the right thing to do', 'what would you do differently if you were to start over again'. These questions are designed to explore what is possible and any resources that can help you achieve your goal.

4) Questions about 'What Next'. Questions such as 'what are the next steps', 'rate on a 1 - 10 scale your motivation to achieve the agreed actions. What prevents you from being at a 10?'

When I first started to use these questions it was all a bit clunky. However once you start using the technique often it quickly becomes more natural. Now I find that I can build them into a conversation much more easily. The key thing to remember is the order that you ask them - always follow G.R.O.W. The questions are extremely powerful as they really help people think deeply and clearly about their goals and how to achieve them.

Give it a try and I am sure you will see the results

If you want to know more about GROW then check out the following links:

Mind Tools - they use a slightly different definition of GROW but the same principles apply

For a useful worksheet to use when having the conversation then check this out.

For more on GROW and other coaching techniques Clare Chapman offers some useful articles.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Specific tips on coaching and feedback

In my last post we started to look at how feedback and coaching are important elements of a line manager's role.

As a line manager there are a couple of specific components that are worth focusing on with respect to feedback and coaching:
  • Being as specific as possible and avoiding generalisations

  • Thinking about whether this is the right time

  • Avoiding being judgemental and focusing on being descriptive

  • Providing a balanced view

  • Having a two way conversation

  • Maintaining self esteem.
The following table gives some specific examples for all of these components.

Click on the image to make it bigger and print it out as a reference.

As with all development this requires practice so don't expect to get it absolutely right first time. Also, the next time you are on the 'receiving end' have a think about why it went well, or not so well. Which of the components above were in place and which weren't - why and how did that make a difference?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Leadership Development Carnival

Dan McCarthy's Leadership Carnival has come to town again........and is definitely worth a visit for the latest thinking on the subject of Great Leadership.

If you haven't visited Dan's blog before then I recommend it highly for not only insightful thinking but also some really practical advice and tips on all things leadership.

In this month's carnival my pick of the most interesting links cover topics such as:

- 6 powerful questions to ask in your Performance Review........I have made my own notes on this!
- Succession planning strategies
- The Workplace of the Future

......and loads more....

Friday, 5 December 2008

More Line Manager tips - feedback and coaching

If a line manager is not taking steps to develop the people that work for him then they aren't doing their job properly. Of course as a line manager there a hundred different priorities that need to be sorted out but how often is people development near the end of this list?

One of the key ways in which a line manager can do this is to provide some good quality feedback and little coaching now and then. It doesn't take a huge amount of effort (but it does require some) and the rewards can be very high for both the line manager and the individual.

First a question - what is the difference between feedback and coaching........?
  • Feedback is what happened and can be praise or for issues identification
  • Coaching is how to improve
As a line manager you need to deliver both and in sequence - feedback and then coaching.

There are lots of types of feedback that you need to provide to your people. 

Consider the following types of feedback:

Reinforcing: encouraging what they are doing right. If people know that they are doing the right thing then they will keep on doing it. If they aren't told it they may well assume that it must be wrong!

Correcting: adjusting what they are doing wrong (the opposite of reinforcing)

Confronting: probably the most difficult type of feedback and the one that many line managers avoid. Conflict is inevitable and there are likely to be performance issues.

Of course, what is most important here is how you provide the feedback. Many line managers often fire the feedback like a bullet from a gun.....and then wonder why it didn't go down very well.

Just take a moment to put yourself in their shoes - 

  • How might they be feeling?
  • What would be the best way to deliver the feedback?
  • Is this the right time to provide them with feedback?
  • How can I remove emotion from the situation by keeping things factual? 
In my next post I will give some further insights into the best way to provide feedback including some specific examples.

....and now with your coaching hat on some questions to ask yourself.

Do you genuinel believe that every member of  your team has untapped potential?
  • You, the person you are coaching and the operating context all affect the way a task is done. If you thought about all of the variable how might things work differently, rather than just following a process that you always use?
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. Do you coach the way you would want to be coached?
  • Your team member will have their own perspective - on their performance and on you. How is your coaching affected by what you believe your team member thinks of you?
  • You can't like everyone. What impact does liking or disliking a team member have on your relationship with them?
In my next post we will look at some of the key components in a bit more detail with some examples and advice on how to coach and provide feedback....

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Role of the Line Manager – how to motivate your people…?

As part of my recent Making Learning Stick series I had a number of emails and comments on the piece that focused on the role of the line manager.

It is great to see people agree that the line manager has a key role to play in the development of their people. Sadly, not all line managers live up to this expectation and we all have our own experiences I am sure!

Therefore I will be posting some
tips and advice of the coming weeks targeted specifically at helping line managers be both better role models but also to help them develop the skills that they need. As always I will try and keep this practical and pragmatic – my aim is for it to be as useful as possible!

One of the key roles of the line manager is in motivating his employees and in the current climate this is more important than ever. Loads of research has been done on what motivates employees (if you want the theory then check out
Herzberg and McClelland) but for me it boils down to one key factor:

If you feel good about your job then you will be motivated. The better you feel, the more motivated you are.

OK, I here you say – so what is the secret of making people feel good about their job? Actually, that’s also quite straight forward:

I feel good about my job when I can see that what I do makes a difference.

As a line manager some of the motivating factors are in your control and some aren’t. The kind of things that
you can influence are:

Achievement: can your team see how they are achieving things over a period of time? It is really easy to drift from week to week without looking back and reflecting on what you have achieved. Incremental achievements over a period of time can add up to some big things. As the line manager just take a moment to remind people how much they have achieved so that they can realise their contribution.

Recognition – do your people feel that all of those long hours, sweat and stress are being recognised? Recognition doesn’t have to mean an ‘employee of the month’ award. Often a simple conversation can work wonders or perhaps just talking about it at a team meeting. If people don’t feel they are being recognised then they will be thinking ‘why do I bother’…

Interesting work – interesting work means different things to different people. For some it is variety and being exposed to new situations whilst for others it could be fixing things or solving problems. As a line manager take a bit of time to understand what aspects of their jobs your people like and don’t like. Next time a new piece of work needs doing use these insights to allocate the work according to both their interests and also to the areas where they want to develop.

Responsibility – When people are given responsibility to complete something they will feel like they both own the task and have control over what they are doing. Of course people may need some coaching and hand holding but be careful not to micro manage them. A good line manager will allocate responsibility within his team. A great line manager will allocate this according to development needs and will even (carefully) let people fail if it provides a positive learning experience.

Advancement and Personal Development – If people can see themselves progressing in an organisation then this is usually the result of the first three items being put into practice. As a line manager you should make it clear to people what they need to demonstrate and achieve in order to advance in the organisation. Giving them lots of constructive feedback along the way is how a good line manager steers people towards their career goals. When a pilot steers the plane he makes a series of really small adjustments all of the time rather than yanking at the controls – this is how a good line manager looks after his people.

If you are a line manager have a think about your team and how often you are considering these motivating factors. It really doesn’t take much………..
but it does require some effort. The best bit is that when you are able to motivate your own staff then it is one of the most rewarding and motivating aspects of being a line manager – a definite win/win situation!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Make Learning Stick....with a Personal Development Plan

This is my final post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that is currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.  From the emails and comments I have received it's clear that this is something on the minds of many people involved in L&D at the moment.

In my final post I want to highlight how  having a personal development plan (PDP) can be a useful tool to help people grow and develop.

Like most people I have had various development plans over the years - some detailed and some scribbled together 'on the back of a fag packet'. However the ones that helped me the most had a couple of things in common:

1) I wrote them - they were not written for me.  I found that the objectives I set myself were usually more challenging that the ones someone else thought up for me. I know where the limits of my comfort zone are more than anyone else.
2) They were written following discussion with someone who I respected and who was interested in my development. I have had some good and bad managers over the years (who hasn't!) but the good ones took the time to talk with me about what I wanted and how I could get there.
3) These first two points are great starting points but for me my most successful PDPs have been the ones that have changed and developed over time.  Finding the motivation to do this is much easier if you can see yourself making progress and also if you have someone giving you a gentle shove now and again.

The simple act of going through the motions of writing a PDP makes you really think about who you are, what you want to do and what the routes are to get there. Making Learning Stick in an organisation means helping people take real ownership for the own personal development. There are many tools that can help you do this, most of which do not require large investment........

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Make Learning Stick: Part 4 - Social networking tools

This is my fourth post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that is currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.

In this post I want to focus on how social networking tools can be used to Making Learning Stick in an organisation.

An important aspect of helping people to learn and then embedding that learning into their 'day job' is providing them with ongoing support following a learning intervention. In a previous post I discussed how the role of the line manager can play an important part in this. However as a L&D professional you should consider social networking tools as part of your blended approach to learning.

If you are not familiar with what social networking tools are available then check out this great presentation from Jane Hart. It gives a really good overview of the Top 100 Tools For Learning so it is important to first know what is out there. So how can they be used to Making Learning Stick?

I believe a key way that they can be used is as both before and after any learning intervention:

Before the learning intervention:

Wouldn't it be good if you could start to engage with delegates before they actually attended the course?Perhaps start to embed some key messages with them, interact with them, start to gauge what is on their mind....? Social networking is a great way to do this and here are 2 examples:

  • Use Twitter to drip feed messages about 'what is coming' and encourage people to tweet back and also with each other. People can tweet via SMS through their mobile phone so it is very easy to both access and use. See this article for more information about how Twitter can be used.
  • Set up a blog that provides both more information about the course they will be attending including some links to other interesting items. Also encourage people to start sharing their experiences and to communicate with each other. You need to provide some sort of carrot to attract them - be creative.
Following the learning intervention

Once people have been on a course then the learning process has only started. It is the period following the course when people need the most support to help embed the learning into their roles. Again social networking tools can play a role in this:
  • Creating a community of like minded people can be a very powerful support network for people. The use of blogs and also tools such as facebook can be a great way to do this. Make sure that you let people know about this during the course (let them try it out) and keep the tool updated with interesting stuff.
  • Consider using tools such as a Wiki to provide supporting information for people. You could initially populate it with relevant information and then let people edit and update themselves. For a great example of how a Wiki was implemented then watch this video that Jay Cross shot about how Intel use it (Intelpedia). Another tool that is great for aggregating information is Delicious.  You can tag web based articles, stories or news items that are relevant to your audience and then share them very easily to create a wealth of supporting information. 
As an L&D professional you should be familiar with these tools. If you aren't then I recommend getting to know them - try them out and play with them. They can be a great way to Making Learning Stick in your organisation.......and they are free!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Make Learning Stick....Part 3....the start is not the end......

This is my third post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.

In my last post we looked at the role of the line manager and what a big influence this can have on the employee when they return back to their day job following a learning intervention. In this post we look at other ways to help support the employee back in their work environment.

How often have you seen people attending a training course where they are totally fired up and commited to changing their approach or behaviour?

As the L&D professional you return home feeling on top of the world thinking that your efforts have made a real difference. As the employee attending the course you genuinely want to change and are looking forward to applying your new skills and knowledge. However when Monday comes around and you get totally consumed back into your day job, how often have you seen people revert back to their original position? Some people who are more resolute may manage to resist for a few weeks but even then things start to tail off.........why?

The reason for this is because the learning only STARTED during the training intervention. You only learn about something on a training course. It is when you go back to the work environment that you really learn how to do something. If you think about the learning intervention in this way then there are a host of other things that need to form part of it.

In my previous post we talked about how the line manager needs to be part of this. Assuming that the line manager knows what to do or even what the training involves is probably not a good thing!

So what should I do to implement an integrated approach to learning?

1) Ensure that the line manager for each of your delegates has been informed about the training being attended. Remind them to have a conversation with the delegate before the training to discuss what outcomes they are looking for and then to have another conversation after the training intervention to see what happened and what needs to happen next. Personally I make sure all of the line managers are emailed but this depends on the scale of your audience. In addition you can make the initial conversation a pre-requisite for the course. Ask delegates to bring along the agreed outcomes and ask them to be prepared to discuss this.

2) Plan specific events or activities following the training that will reinforce the messages. These can take many different forms so here are a few ideas:
  • Help the delegate understand what other development activity is now useful to them. Give this to them to take away and discuss with their manager. It could be further training or specific roles and activities in their workplace. I call it the 'what happens next' list. On a more formal scale this is a development plan - but we will discuss this further in another post.
  • If it is appropriate for  your workplace and you are looking to change behaviours and elements of  your culture then you can reinforce messages by using marketing material. For example if you are trying to make your people more client focused then put up some posters around the place that reinforce this message perhaps in a humerous form. Put them in places where people will discuss them (break out areas, near the water cooler etc). Try and be provactive - the aim is to get people talking about it.
  • Think about how you  might use some of the newer social networking tools to reinforce the messages. Again I will look at this further in another post.
  • Think about how you can build a community of like minded people. This can be a very powerful for people to support each other. Again, look out for another post on this.
  • Action learning can have a huge role to play in embedding the learning and developing people. I recently published a separate series on this so take a look at that.
  • Keep in contact with the delegates. I make a point of talking to delegates when I see them in the office? How are things going? Can I connect you to other people who could help? What have they noticed about themselves? What barriers have they experienced? If you can't do this individually then send them all an email, arrange a follow up conference call - keep it in the forefront of their mind.
Sending people on a training course can be an important part of people development. However it is definitely only the start of the learning process for people. Taking a much more integrated approach to learning is another vital ingredient to making learning stick in your organisation.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lewis Hamilton: Leadership and Talent Management In Action

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the F1 World Championship. It is a great achievement for anyone but particularly for Lewis who is only 23.

For me the Lewis Hamilton story is one that has many interesting links and examples to the world of learning and development. In particular there are two areas to highlight:

Talent Management

  • Lewis’ talent was identified by McLaren at a very young age as they saw some specific qualities that they knew could be nurtured. You could say that Lewis was identified as a high potential’ very early on in his career.
  • McLaren carefully developed Lewis over a period of time. They gave him increasingly challenging roles and assignments as he progressed through the various racing formats. These were meticulously planned with the goal of helping Lewis achieve his potential.
  • Lewis was taken under the wing of a hugely experienced mentor – Ron Dennis. Not only did Ron provide feedback and advice to Lewis, he also fought his corner for him when required. F1 is a fiercely competitive business and there are hundreds of eager drivers just waiting to step up. Ron had the belief in Lewis and put his own neck on the line.

Leadership Qualities

  • Listening to Lewis speak after his championship winning race in Brazil he continuously referred to his success in a collective way. For example “as I approached the last lap I knew that we still had a chance and that we just had to keep going”. Like all great leaders Lewis always wants to make sure that the praise and recognition is centred on the team and not himself.
  • Last year Lewis missed out on the title by a single point and this was largely due to a couple of mistakes he make. However Lewis made it very clear that he took responsibility for them and that he would learn from them and come through a stronger person. It is a great example of how people only really develop by making mistakes on the job and then using the learning to really grow as a person.
  • There are many factors that can influence a successful outcome in Formula 1. However if you look at the ability of the drivers there is very little to separate them – they are all extremely talented and capable. The one thing that does differentiate them though is mindset and attitude. Lewis has bags of belief in himself, but in a quietly confident way. Whilst those around him are getting emotional (and even attacking him personally) Lewis has always remained calm and confident. At no point was this more obvious than when he overtook the Toyota on the final lap in Brazil to win the title – nerves of steel and resolute belief.

As a learning and development professional I think it’s important to find good examples of real world examples that help to illustrate development issues and approaches. Building your own catalogue of these over time can often help your influence with the people that matter.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Make Learning Stick......the role of the manager

If there is one area that can have the most influence on embedding learning (making learning stick) it is the role of the line manager. So, what is the role of the line manager....?

1) Prior to the learning intervention even happening a good line manager will have frequent discussions with their people about their development needs. Some of these may be formal but some will also be informal - chats on the phone, a quick catch up with a cup of tea etc. This means that the line manager is aware of the development needs and can help the employee recongise them........and to then take some action.

2) OK, so it is agreed that you need to undertake some sort of development activity. The role of the line manager here is to help the employee to be really clear what outcomes they are looking for following the development activity. Are you expecting some behaviour change, are you expecting to be able to undertake a new kind of role etc? This really helps to focus the employee on their needs and to both build on strengths as well as identifying any blind spots.

3) Even during the learning intervention (eg. if it is a 5 day programme) a good line manager will check in to see how things are going. What have they learned? Do they still have their outcomes in mind.

4) Following the learning intervention it is really important to sit down and have a discussion about what they learned. What are they now more aware of, what are they going to focus on. A good manager will encourage the employee to come up with the items themselves. Write it down as part of your development plan.

5) The following days and weeks are the most crucial to making the learning stick. It is so easy to fall back into your previous thinking or ways of working. A good manager will be regularly monitoring progress. A great manager will have agreed specific tasks and/or assignments that will force the employee to apply the new behaviours.

6) A continuous loop of feedback, review and action with the employee is then what is needed to really embed the learning. What development is needed next to build on this success, what assignments might now be appropriate?

Making learning stick is the responsibility of the learner. However, the manager can have a highly influential role in helping make this happen!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Make Learning Stick.....Part One

The amount of effort that can go into the design and development of a learning intervention can be very significant. If you are dilligent you might even think about measuring some of the benefits......and this is often where things go wrong.

Measuring the benefits of a learning intervention is GOOD but it is important that you make the learning stick. How do you really embed learning after an intervention so that real behaviour has taken place.....permanently? You could show that the training course was a great success but what about 2 weeks later when everyone is back to their usual work environment......?

In the next series of posts I will look at ways to make learning stick in your organisation. With resources tight now this is more important than ever. If you have less money to invest in people development then you need to squeeze everything you can from it!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Why is L&D more important than ever?

If you work in L&D you may think that the current times are tough. Your budget is being slashed and maybe training has already been frozen or slimmed down. Before you reach for your noose there are some incredible opportunities out there for L&D at the moment.

The recent collapse of the financial markets was largely due to the lack of regulation in place. The banks could do what they liked......and we are now all paying the price. Now that the banks are back under the control of the govt (in the UK the govt now owns most of them) then that will all change. There will clearly be a focus on introducing new regulations and policies but perhaps more importantly a focus on changing the culture and inherent behviours of those in the banking industry.

Can you imagine how many people are going to be impacted by this....?  Each organisation is going to have to make sure that their people fully understand these new regulations - without it they won't be able to do business. If that wasn't a large enough L&D opportunity then how about the behavioural change piece. How can you change the behaviours of such a large group of people?

I am already talking with clients about these opportunities. To say they are receptive is what you might call an understatement....!

What other opportunities are out there for L&D professionals.....?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Education vs Training

In the past couple of weeks I have gone from watching the news eagerly each day to becoming quite nonchalent about the shrinking economy, the falling stock markets and the weakening currencies.

In the corporate arena I have noticed that each part of the company is having to work really hard to justify their existence. This is even more obvious about this time of the year when budgets for next year are being finalised.

If you work in L&D then you need to have your ducks lined up, your business case in hand and your sponsors well prepared.

You may find it helpful to read this article by Paul Kearns on the Training Zone site. Paul starts out by illustrating the difference between 'eduation' and 'training' and uses a really funny example of sex education.

"I'm happy for my teenage son (or daughter) to receive sex education but I don't want him (or her) having sex training!'

He discusses how sex education teachers might evaluate their work using the Kirkpatrick approach. Can you imagine the level 2 check - kids putting a condom on a banana..........and how about level 3 - the practical application...!!!

Of course being able to evaluate the ROI of any learning intervention requires you to focus on the practical application of the new skills, knowledge etc. If you can't show how it is having a postive impact on the business then it's a waste of time and money.

So remember the following items to make sure that your L&D voice is louder than everyone elses:
  • Always have crystal clear, measurable, organisational objectives right at the beginning of any training activity. Pick items that are in the language that the business understands - increased sales or reduced costs for example.
  • Despite being tempted to see all 'trainees' as homogeneous we should view everyone as a unique 'trainee'. It might sound bleeding obvious but not everyone is the same - you can't deliver training off the shelf and expect it to have the same impact on everyone.
  • There is little point running training programmes that are detached from all of the other extraneous factors that influence behaviour. You need to integrate it into the culture of your organisation and the way in which everyone works in the real world.
  • Some things will always happen by chance, or even by accident, but training should endeavour to make things happen by design.

Keeping focused on business impact should mean you get your fair share of the cake...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Leaving - A Talent Management Opportunity

I left my company today having worked there for nearly ten years. Obviously this was a major decision for me and something that I thought about a lot.

The whole leaving process wasn't a good experience and I am therefore leaving the company with a few negative feelings. It reinforced my belief that I have made the right decision to leave. Of course I will move on and am already excited about my new job which I start on Monday.

In the current climate there will be a lot of people leaving companies, many of them involuntarily. However if handled correctly organisations have an opportunity to leave a professional image with the departing employee. Why is this important? Well it is entirely possible that the person leaving now might well be on your 'shopping list' in the future. What simple things can organisations do better?
  • Make sure that at least all the adminstration takes place correctly. Arrange for them to return company property etc. Don't just leave it up to the individual and hope for the best.
  • Have a proper exit interview. Encourage the individual to be frank and honest about why they are leaving.
  • Take some time to plan a handover. Make the process as easy as possible with enough time for someone else to pick things up. Where possible get things out of their brain and into a document of some sort.
  • Communicate with all parties concerned. Don't try and brush things under the carpet and hope no one will notice.
  • Make sure you provide easy ways to maintain links with the individuals. Well run alumni schemes can be a gold mine for future talent.
  • Be civil and professional - try not to let emotion and feelings cloud the process.
I'd be interested to know other people's experiences - what did 'good' and 'bad' look like?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Training Qualifications....worthwhile....?

For the past couple of years I have been designing and delivering training programmes without any formal training qualifications (apart from NLP Practitioner). I seem to have been doing OK - maybe I was lucky. Feedback has been positive and we even measured good ROI.

However when I read this article from Training Zone I got a bit concerned. I just didn't realise what a plethora of training related qualifications there are out there. Here are some of them:
  • CIPD Certificate in Training Practice
  • ITOL Certificate, Advanced Certificate & Diploma in Training & Occupational Learning
  • Doctorates in Education & Training
  • Masters Degree in Learning, Education and Training
  • Certificate in Post Compulsory Education & Training
.....and so the list goes on.

Most of my learning has definitely come 'on the job' and it has been more about understanding the business and then delivering development activity that supports it.

I would be interested to know your views on this but I suspect the answer is a mixture of some academia layered with 'hands on' practice - I guess that's a blended approach with lots action learning thrown in to the pot!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Warren Buffet on Talent Mgt

The current credit crunch is shaping a major rethink for many investors, forcing them to take stock and rethink their priorities. Some investors will lose out, others will win.


For those engaged in talent management - recruitment, assessment, development, coaching and succession management - it is a good time to evaluate their leadership investment strategy and game-plan. And who better to learn from than Warren Buffett, the most consistent and successful investor in the world?


Download AMAzure's take on how Warren Buffett might approach talent management here.

It applies an interesting slant on talent management using Warren Buffet's own philosophy. He has achieved 20% compound growth per year by investing in businesses that:

  • he understands
  • have favourable long-term economics
  • are run by able and trustworthy economics
  • come with a sensible price tag.
Even if you just take 5 minutes to read the short document I am sure you will find it worthwhile.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Leadership Development - beating off the crunch

Leadership is really under the spotlight at the moment. Gordon Brown has been getting some negative reviews of his performance over the past months and Henry Paulson is both a hero and a villain.

So how can we help our leaders and managers develop? If we can help to equip them for times like these then that can only be a win/win situation.

"So what kind of development is most likely to enable that transfer of learning into practice? There are no guarantees that it will always work, but the kind of characteristics of a development programme that are most likely to produce real performance changes are:

1. Clearly defined learning outcomes that are linked to the identified needs of the learners and to organisational goals.

2. Flexible learning that fits into the working practices of the organisation and its business cycle.

3. Short, focused learning programmes that enable flexibility yet are part of a larger programme that has a coherent structure and inter-relationships between the elements.

4. Structures that encourage learning transfer and performance change.

5. Mechanisms for assessment that focus on application and performance."

Wally Brock also has some interesting advice on leadership learning on the job:

"Yet, despite recognition of its importance, leadership development is going nowhere fast. Confidence in leaders has declined steadily over the past eight years, and most leaders are not satisfied with their organization’s development offerings."

There's lots of good material about leadership development and succession planning in the Summary and the whole report. There's material on the differences between line executives and HR executives, too. Each of them blames the other for the problems with leadership development."

Finally Art Petty has some great advice on Teaching a Senior Team to Dance with Leadership Development. There are 8 Steps to the dance so I suggest you put your best foot forward.

All L&D professionals have an opportunity to really engage with the business to show how they can really add value and support. Are you up to it?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Do we need a stress awareness day at the moment?

If you are connected with the Financial Sector at the moment then you will be surrounded by stress and worry at work. Even if you are not directly connected (who isn't?) then just turning on the news brings more tales of woe. 

It made me chuckle that November 5th is National Stress Awareness day. Surely they got the date wrong by about a month! Do we really need to be made more aware of stress?

Having said that as a good manager it is an area that you need to be both aware of and prepared for. Do you know how to recognise stress and do you know what to do about it - both in yourself and others?

There is no specific law in the UK on stress, but under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 you must take measures to control the risk. Failure to do this could cost you dear in an employment tribunal. Watch your back!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Mentoring - another way to focus on L&D during tough times

Mentoring schemes are a great way to support the development of your people. If you don't already have a scheme in place then now is a great time to start one.

The mentoring relationship can be a win/win situation for both people involved. It's a great way for senior people to spot talent and the less experienced people get a great opportunity to impress as well as receiving their words of wisdom and guidance.

For great tips and some more advice check this article out.

Monday, 6 October 2008

100 Learning professionals to follow on Twitter

I have been using twitter for a couple of months now and sort of 'poking it with a stick'. I could see it has potential but I wasn't quite sure how I could really make the most of it. However I read a post by Jane Hart on the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies web site and this has now all changed!

Jane has listed the twitter addresses for a whole host of learning and development people. I connected with about 50 of them over the weekend and can now see what a powerful network this is.

Take a look yourself and start tweeting by connecting with me.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

10 Reasons to be cheerful

It's not all doom and gloom out there. Management Today have come to the rescue with 10 Reasons To Be Cheerful.

Being a bit of a greeny my favourite one is:

" REDUCED CARBON FOOTPRINT. Recession equals reduced consumption, fewer hydrocarbons burned and less CO2 emitted. QED. The roads are already less congested and petrol sales have fallen for the first time in 10 years. Airlines are canning less-popular flights and routes and parking surplus aircraft in the Arizona desert. Bus and train travel is booming, and the high cost of electricity and gas is encouraging householders to don another jumper rather than turn up the thermostat. It may not be fun but it's good news for the planet."

Friday, 3 October 2008

Action Learning - the Final Part

OK, in parts 1 and 2 we looked at how action learning works, the principles and also who needs to be involved. In this final part we are going to look at how to get action learning started in your organisation and how to best integrate it into other learning activities.

What do you need....?

Step 1: You Need Some Participants

It is really important that the people taking part in an Action Learning Set are there....because they want to be there. They should be open minded enough to approach the experience with a positive mindset - it is no place for cynicism. The individuals need to be prepared to share some of their issues and problems with the view to being able to resolve them via their participation in the group.

Try and get together a mix of people perhaps from different parts of the organisation or individuals with differing levels of experience. This all helps to provide the participants with a different view point on their problems and challenges. Hierarchy should be left at the door. However do avoid having an employee and their manager in the same group...

For your first Action Learning Set it may be useful to invite people who could become future facilitators. Having their own experience will be invaluable and of course they will also help to spread a positive message.

Step 2: You Need a Facilitator

In Part 2  I described the role of the facilitator and it is particularly important at the start of the action learning process. Whilst you ultimately want the group to be self facilitating they will almost certainly need a helping hand at the beginning.

The facilitator should have specific experience of action learning and will most probably also be experienced in coaching or mentoring. They need to be removed from the content and just facilitate the process.

Step 3: You Need a Sponsor

Ideally each participant should have someone senior sponsoring their participation. The sponsor should be interested in the outcomes and actions for the individual. A key reason that action learning fails is the struggle for individuals to find the time to participate. The sponsor can play a key role here.

Step 4: Select an Environment

This also shouldn't be underestimated. The environment should not contain any references to hierarchy and the layout should encourage the involvment of everyone (probably chairs in a circle). The participants may be wary of this to start with (it's not alcoholics anonymous.....) but it is an important part of the process. Clearly there are some ground rules to be agreed by the group ranging from turning off phones to commiting to follow through on 
any actions etc.

It is also worth thinking about how you will measure success for both the group and also the individuals. What are the outcomes that the individuals are looking for? Translating the outcomes into tangibles will make it easier for others to understand the benefits of the approach.

It's all in the blend....

As with all learning interventions success usually comes from providing a blend of learning offerings to your organisation. Action Learning can play a really important role on its own but can be even more powerful when integrated with other activities:
  • Following a formal learning intervention such as a classroom based course it can be extremely useful to form an action learning group for the paricipants. For example you may have been learning about emotional intelligence but the real learning comes when you return to work. That's where you need the support and coaching from an action learning group.
  • Think about how you can use action learning as a tool to develop your talent. You may wish to offer it to your 'High Potentials' initially to encourage their peer networking. It is also a great way for participants to develop their own coaching and listening skills.
  • Think about grouping your action learning sets into themes. For example you may want to start one for the sales community. They may all have a common goal of achieving their sales target but they will individually have their own sets of problems and challenges to overcome.
  • Think about how you can join up with action learning groups from other organisations. For example in the UK the Whitehall Industry Group (WIG) faciliate groups that span many organisations and sectors.
....and if you want more..

Action learning really does work and is most definitely worth the effort. If you want to find out more then here are some useful resources:-