Real Life Learning

Tag: Training

Mentoring a Win Win

Four months ago in the middle of a really full intense period of work I was asked by another member of Otley Cycle Club  to be her mentor to support her to develop her own training business.  I wondered how I would find the time and agreed to do in exchange for tea and cake and on an informal basis because I really liked her and wanted to help. At the time my main focus was about what I could offer as a mentor and whether I would have the time and relevant insights to support someone else. I did not really see it as something that would benefit me.

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Mentoring Session One

After just two mentoring sessions I have realised that this is far from another burden.  A’s business is only a year old, mine is 10 years old. A is excited by all the diversity of the freelance role, she is enjoying the breadth of experience she is getting. I see her getting inspired by seeing one of my tweets from my work in Vienna to go and chase opportunities to deliver her training abroad via the UK Trades and Investment team (UKTI). She has all this energy and passion to just have a go, explore opportunities and find ways of marketing her products to others. It makes me realise how much I too still value these aspects of running my own business. Inevitably after 10 years you become a lot more ground down by the realities of navigating a business through the recession into recovery, you start to take for granted some of the aspects of owning a business that are so great. I sometimes take for granted all the learning I get from my international assignments and focus instead of how tiring it can be to manage the logistics of working abroad including missing luggage, cancelled flights and airport foods. Another insight has been comparing our home offices, this has made me realise that 10 years on mine is due for a makeover .  I could use that as a metaphor to describe the whole impact on me of mentoring someone who is a very different stage of their business development. You become immune to your surroundings and situation and hearing another perspective is such a valuable learning tool. When I have developed mentoring programmes I have often said “of course you as a mentor get benefits from this too”  as this great video which A was involved in but I am not sure I really understood what those benefits are. What I am learning is if you want to get something from being a mentor:

  1. Choose who you work with – I genuinely enjoy spending time with A so when the mentoring appointment pops up on my diary reminder I find myself looking forward to the appointment. Liking the person you are mentoring just makes the whole thing so much easier.
  2. Focus on Listening First – this is so easy with A, she talks me through all the latest projects she is involved in and I find it is so much better for me to pick out the themes at the end and not to force an agenda on the conversation.
  3. Share Experiences not Solutions – I avoid telling A what she should do but I do share my experiences of similar concerns and how I have dealt with this. One experience was about planning work and holidays into the diary so that you take time away from the business. I shared an experience of my worst holiday/work conflict  and my learning from this. A took that away and develop a solution that she felt would help her avoid the same problem.
  4.  Make Your Own Action Plans – usually the focus is on what actions the person who is being mentored will take but as a change why not think about what you are going to do. I have made a note of a number of actions I intend to take, including to stop moaning about the demands of international work and embrace the experience again!

So if someone asks you to consider mentoring them and you like them, say yes. The time you invest will be returned to you with profit!

Adult Learners and Choice – the Snow Question

Any trainer will tell you that when snow starts to fall in the UK your training plans are likely to get put under strain.
Initially there are the messages checking that the course is still running or telling you about delays expected to journeys. Once having got people to the session the next challenge is to keep people focused on the content and not on the snow outside.
One of the things that constantly amuses my European colleagues, particularly in places like Austria and Ukraine, is how a few centimetres of snow can put the entire country into a severe state of emergency. Holding a training session in this context can be a real challenge.
I was faced with this situation in two sessions recently during the January Big Snow event. My client had left it up to me to decide on whether to continue or not as the snow continued to fall outside. I decided to give my groups choices. I explained that I was able to stay until the scheduled close time and was happy to do so but that I knew some of the group would be worried about getting home. I explained what we were going to cover in the course and how they might catch up on this content in other ways. I then simply handed them the choice. They could check in on the transport advice on their phones at breaks and make their own decisions about when they wanted to leave.
I was really conscious that if you are stressing about your journey home you are unlikely to be learning so I explained to the group that I did not want them to feel stressed but equally I did not want them to miss out on the learning from this session. I made it clear that it would be ok if they needed to leave and that this was a choice that they could make for themselves at any point during the day.
On both days the sessions finished at the normal time with the whole group present. Our groups left the building in eerie silence as it seems we were the only groups who took this choice to stay. In other sessions in this period the various organisers made the decision for the group and announced an early finish. This could have been of course because the organisers needed to get home but I wondered how much of it is because we feel we need to “look after” our learners and forget that the principles of adult learning is about giving the learner responsibility for their decisions. Our role is to support, encourage but not to take over. The snow example showed me that learners can often surprise you when you pass over responsibility to them. I really didn’t expect that all the learners would choose to stay. That they choose to stay reinforced how valuable these group sessions are to the learners.

Time Management Tips in Practice

One of my least favourite courses to run has always been Time Management. At the beginning of my career I tried to meet this request by running a one day course and it was always a disappointment to me and the participants. This does not mean that time management is not an issue but just that imposing a standardised solution on people fails to meet the high expectations people have about training.

These days I focus on individualised approaches to time management. For many people what is needed is a fundamental look at their priorities and approach to time, this requires an understanding of psychology beyond the “if you think you can do you will” approach.

Other people need to consider tips and techniques, to have time to try these out and to reflect on the usefulness of these approaches. This means I am always alert to new time management tips and some of these I try out myself. Here are the two most recent tips I have been testing out:

Weekly Planner

My work involves a lot of planning and I used a to do list to keep track of the tasks. I have now supplemented this with a white board with the next 5 working days in a table format. I can then write on the board the events/meetings that I have in my diary and schedule time to plan for these and also to plan for other projects.

It is a simple visual idea which helps me to see ahead into my immediate future and ensures that I am meeting all my deadlines effectively. I like the focus that it gives me and the way it helps to reduce my panic when I am about to move into a busy delivery phase.

Don’t Switch on your Email

The idea of switching off your email is something I have incorporated into my practice for many years. I have often switched the email off when concentrating on particular tasks to avoid distracting my creative flow. The new tip I am focusing on is to do a task first before switching on the email. This is a great tip because it means you have achieved a task before taking on lots of new urgent tasks generated by your email. This works for me because it keeps me focused on the important but not necessary urgent tasks and avoids me getting sucked into my email at the cost of other things.

As I said at the beginning, time management is such an individualised subject that these tips may be of no use to you because of the unique challenges you face in your role. So it would be great to share some thoughts here:

  • what tips work for you?
  • What ideas have you taken from others and incorporated into your daily routines?
  • Why do these ideas work for you?

Making and Influencing Change: Beyond the Shiny Things Approach

One of the disappointing aspects of my profession as a trainer is how so many in our profession (and I include myself at times) get excited by new shiny techniques that promise us to fix one of the big problems in organisations…how do you get people to change behaviour? We seek out techniques that will work quickly and fix the problem so that our organisations can run more smoothly. From an initial pilot study a project can quickly be picked up and implemented across a whole organisation and then a few years later it is forgotten about as the desired change in behaviour has not happened.

It was in this context that I picked up Timothy Wilson’s book “Redirect. The surprising new science of psychological change” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Redirect-Surprising-Science-Psychological-Change/dp/1846142296

The book is a really detailed but readable overview of some of the latest research on various group and individual interventions designed to create positive change. Wilson outlines why many of these interventions have failed, even though they seem at first to make perfect sense.

An example which stood out for me was the “Free Book” project. The idea is that children get rewarded for reading by having a prize that they will get once they have read a certain number of books. For children who were not keen on reading this had a desired effect. Whilst the reward was in place they did read more. But once the reward system stopped their reading went back down to previous levels. The really scary thing was that for children who already did plenty of reading the scheme did not increase their rate of reading but when the scheme was over their level of reading dropped right off! By putting a reward system in place the children had started seeing reading as something that they had to be motivated to do by external rewards and no longer something that they valued themselves.

I reflected on this in terms of the myriad of performance bonus systems that I have seen implemented in the various organisations I have worked in. Many managers I work with love these incentive schemes as they feel that they are able to reward good behaviour with a positive outcome. If you scratch the surface then you quickly realise that all these schemes are doing is introducing a mechanical way of getting us to “do the right thing”. Once the reward changes (and how many incentive schemes are ever that good in a recession?) then the motivation to do the right thing is no longer there.

The key solution that was recommended from the research was something that individuals could easily implement themselves – the story editing techniques. These are defined by Wilson as “a set of techniques designed to redirect people’s narrative about themselves and the social world in a way that leads to lasting changes in behaviour” (p.11, 2011).

You can read more about the story editing technique in this interview with Timothy Wilson

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-improve-your-life-with-story-editing

If you are a trainer or change consultant who is bored of the shiny things you might find the book as useful as I did in promoting a more reflective and research based approach to intervening to influence change in organisations.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Redirect-Surprising-Science-Psychological-Change/dp/1846142296

Banish Boring Training

Banish Boring Training Sessions

One of the areas of my work that I love the most is when I meet a trainer who says that they have a programme to design that is on a really challenging topic which they are finding hard to bring to life. A recent example I am working on is Assessing Credit Risk in Professional Practice. I can tell that you are already looking excited about this topic! You probably want to sign up now for me to run the session for your team. But just in case this topic doesn’t fill you with heart felt joy then read on and see how you might approach a seemingly dull subject like this.

If you are already excited and want to book a place check out my clients website!

http://www.cmlawltd.com/contact-us.php

The main challenge that the trainer faces is resisting the feeling that face to face sessions must be used to explain the legislation and guidance. Face to face time is too precious to waste by verbalising what would work as a set of hand-outs or a self-explanatory slide show. We have to move away from the idea that we have to verbalise stuff for it to be learning. I can read a lot quicker than you can talk so just let me get on with the reading or give me an audio podcast to listen to. Please don’t just stand there talking at me!

There are ways you can use the time with people in a room so much more effectively than talking at them..

Tip 1: Separate background knowledge from discussion and stimulation

  • Provide in advance a set of self- explanatory Powerpoint slides to work as a slide show. Avoid using lots of bullets, try using different visuals to bring this material to life.
  • Create an attractive detailed written guide to the legislation and guidance.
  • Create on line learning questionnaires to check knowledge before or after.

Tip 2: Engage people with the topic

  • Its about hearts and minds so find reasons for people to listen. I once used real press releases about breaches in data protection to get people to realise how serious it can be when it all goes wrong.
  • Run a face to face group session which encourages participants to discuss a range of different scenarios and to explore the consequences of breaches in the legislation.
  • Work with the group to generate some tips to create a check list to use when assessing risk
  • Create some fact cards using the information in your hand-out pack and get participants to use these cards to assess typical situations they may face. An example I created for the credit management course was selecting the best search to do when your organisation has no budget for credit checking.

Tip 3: Brief Everyone about the Training

  • Make sure everyone in the organisation knows about the training and what you are planning to cover. This will help to ensure that the right people attend and that they know why they are attending the training.
  • In your publicity talk about the benefits of attending the training, in the case of credit management it will save your organisation taking on a client who never pays their bill!

The most important thing is about the commitment of the leadership to the training, leaders can have a big influence on training being seen as more than just a “one hit, big tick” event. Effective leaders will make sure that the training becomes part of the way that things are done and provides a safe place for practice and follow up to happen. The trainer can do wonderful tricks to make most topics come alive but if the training is not taken seriously in the organisation then there is no return on the investment and this must be the most boring message for organisations to get!

If having read this you want to attend a programme on Credit Risk Assessment for Chambers and Law Firms then you can book a place at

http://www.cmlawltd.com/contact-us.php

www.bellthompson.co.uk

The Only Way is Ethics

*thanks to Bill Moody for this great title!

I have been working a module on business ethics for a client and have been researching materials on business ethics. I have a copy of the “Good Business- Ethics at work” which is produced by the Quakers and Business Group.  I confess to not having studied this with as much vigour as I should, especially as I am actually a Quaker! I have found it to a very challenging guide and am finding lots of gems to help with the leadership module.

The first section is about honesty and integrity and this seems so relevant today as organisations attempt to shore up practices to ensure that a HackGate incident doesn’t happen to them.

The section begins with advice and then queries which are designed to encourage individuals to reflect and review their own practice.

Honesty and Integrity

Advice

The most important word to remember in all business dealings is ‘integrity’. Integrity is essential to developing trust; we know that a person is acting with integrity when he is not moved by opportunist or self-seeking impulses and we can trust his response to a total situation. Integrity involves being open honest, truthful and consistent with your beliefs in all your business dealings.

The whole of business requires trust, faith and goodwill. In the emerging digital economy, establishing trust is a critical factor for success.

Queries                                      

  • Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do?
  • If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity are you prepared to resist it?
  • Do you do what you promise, even if it just to return a phone call?

One of the pressures on my integrity is that I am successful at running training workshops but I know that the return on investment on these is poor unless the organisation really embed the learning. Do I refuse to take on training projects unless there is embedding included or do I leave that to my clients to wake up to the waste of learning that goes on? What about you, what do you say about the dilemmas you face and the pressures on your integrity in your world?

Using Tiny Url

This week I have become a late converter to Tiny URL. This website allows you to take a link to a website and convert it into a shorter verision. I am finding this really helpful when I am writing follow up resource guides. I have often put web links into these documents and if participants use the documents on line this is not a problem, they just click on the link. However people often print off the material to follow up later at home and then the really long link becomes a barrier to people following the material. By using Tiny Url I can now eliminate this problem. It means that this link to the BBC Personality Test http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/whatamilike/index.shtml becomes a much easier http://tinyurl.com/bigpersonality1

 

I have also discovered the TinyCC site which does the same activity as Tiny Url but allows you to track activity on your shorten web link, which could be really helpful if you have designed a link for a group of participants on a learning programme, you can access which of the materials seems to have generated most interest. The tinycc link to the personality test is here the fact that you can review use is very helpful to me but I have had more problems getting the link to work than with tinyurl.

http://tiny.cc/bigpersonality2

 

Another similar site is Notify url, this does the shortening aspect and will send you an email when the first person clicks on the link which is helpful if you are sending information to one person, perhaps someone you are coaching.

http://NotifyURL.com/bbcpersonality

Learning Technologist – Finding TED

I discovered TED about 2 years ago and it is an amazing source for people who want to learn about leadership. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is an invite only event where some of the world’s most influential people give talks on a variety of themes.

The first level I use TED for is to recommend particular topics to individuals who are exploring different leadership skills. A current example is the talk by John Wooden talking about coaching. He is reflecting on a life time of coaching in the sports environment and there are some great insights which could be relevant to a manager wanting to be a more effective coach.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/498

The second level is to look at a variety of speakers on TED and identify what they do to make their presentations effective and how they influence the audience. What techniques do they use? How do they seek to influence their peers to their viewpoint at the conference. An example is the talk by Captain Charles Moore about the impact of waste on the oceans. He is not the most entertaining of speakers but he has some great examples of how he has influenced people to think about the impact of waste on oceans.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/470

The talks on TED are about 20 minutes so it is realistic for individuals to make the time to watch one, reflect on it and then report back in the next learning session about their insights.

The third way to use the TED site is to browse through the site and see the themes which are emerging as core issues for our times, this can be a helpful way of identifying current and maybe future trends. I use this when working with leadership teams on innovation and creativity, just asking them to click and browse and report back findings can be the basis of a really interesting session.

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