Thursday, November 30, 2017

You Learn

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul;
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And learn that you really can endure...that you really are strong, and you really do have worth.

Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, November 16, 2017

5 Ways to Say Thank You

With the holidays coming and November being the month of gratitude, I thought I would share the best ways to say thanks. It’s a common platitude and often shared verbally, but we know that people want to feel appreciated in a variety of ways, so why not mix it up and try something new? It could lead to greater employee loyalty and coworker effort.

We all like to hear “thank you” after we have put in some effort or helped someone else out, but somehow it doesn’t really leave us with a true sense of appreciation. In fact, many people have their auto signature on emails say “Thank you” or “Thanks” just above their name. If I notice that you are sending that to everyone, how special do you think I feel? People value different things and what one person takes as a gesture of gratitude is different than someone else, even if you extend the exact same gesture to both. One might be over the moon. The other? Meh. To engage all different types of employees, we have to be creative in our approach.

1. Reciprocate. Instead of just saying thanks, do a favor in return. It’s always nice to hear, “Thanks for the ride to work today. As a thank you, I filed that stack of folders for you.” This exchanges an act of service with an act of service, instead of lip service.

2. Put it in writing. Some people really respond to written comments of appreciation. This doesn’t need to be a long letter or even a Hallmark card; sometimes a properly placed Post-It note with an earned compliment is worth gold to someone else.

3. Include recognition. Many employees would appreciate a public acknowledgment of something they did, perhaps in an internal memo or at a staff meeting. Others would be thrilled to see a LinkedIn review about them or a Tweet acknowledging them.

4. Specify the difference they made. Instead of a generic “Thanks” or “Great job” include some tangible outcomes that resulted from their effort. “Doing that extra research saved the department so much time, and helped us make the tight deadline!”

5. Give a tangible gift. It can be as small as a mug or a gift card or as big as personalized stationary or a round of golf, what matters is it shows you know them well and what they value most. You want them to feel the gift is perfect for them.    
If you aren’t sure which one of these would have the greatest impact on someone else, experiment. Try a few of them and watch the reaction you get. Once they feel truly appreciated, you will know it. Then keep it up beyond Thanksgiving so people feel valued all year long.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Most Common Reasons Training Programs Fail

We have all been the victim of a bad training event - and for some impossible to understand reason, it is often tolerated. Participants have come to expect that they will have to sit for too long, hear content that is too generic, and listen to speakers who are content experts but not trainers. Organizations tolerate bad training too, spending oodles of money on meetings and events with low expectations and little formal mechanism to measure any change in behavior.  The difference between bad training and good training can come down to some simple (but very critical) factors. Here are some of the most common reasons training initiatives fail, and what you can do to avoid them. 

Poor needs assessment.
It is critically important for an organization to take the time to identify the real development needs of the workforce instead of turning to one-size-fits all learning events. Consider offering learning tracks based on participant job specialties, years of experience, or open enrollment so participants can choose the session they know would benefit them the most.

Content that is too theoretical.
It is impossible to design an effective learning event from the comfort of your office. Program design is best done from the perspective of real field research, being in the field or office that the participants live in is the only way to truly understand the challenges they face on a daily basis.  

Trainers that want to check the box.
When training is seen as a singular event instead of one facet in an overall organizational development strategy, the learning is often disjointed, random and rarely leads to a direct improvement in performance. Every training event should build on a previous one; should add depth and layers to a developing competency; and should continuously increase in complexity.

No post-training reinforcement.
Training only creates awareness.  For true improvement to occur, participants need additional reinforcement in a real-life setting.  Consider providing participants with follow up options such as enrichment clinics 6 to 9 months after the completion of a program, job shadowing where coaches work onsite to provide participants with coaching and feedback on their application of the principles taught in the course and support in overcoming obstacles that impede performance, weekly or monthly email tips sent on practical ways to apply the learning content in day-to-day interactions.

No measurement of the behavior before the learning event.
It is impossible to know how much a participant is learning, growing or changing without a baseline measurement. Add knowledge surveys, skill evaluations, and self-assessments to your training process so you can better pre- and post-test to measure the results of your learning event. 

Lack of professional trainers.
When budgets are tight, it is a common practice for organizations to use subject matter experts as trainers. Learning specialists must have advanced speaking and facilitation skills that requires specific training. A learning event can become a complete disaster with untrained trainers leading the program. In this case, the delivery of the learning is paramount to the content - hands down.  

No adult learning theory.
Too many programs are based on a classroom model of training - the trainer speaks and the participants listen: Death by PowerPoint. Instead, it is critically important for content designers to understand the principals of how adults learn (which is very different than children) and ways to integrate various training methodology into the learning experience. Most adults don't sit in a chair for 8 straight hours with little opportunity for movement or discussion but in most training sessions, that is exactly what is expected. 

Vacationer / Prisoner / Learner participants.
Every audience contains three types of participants: the Vacationer who is thrilled to get out of the office or the field for any reason and see a day of training as an escape from reality; the Prisoner who absolutely does not want to be there and sees training as an unwanted interruption from their priorities and resents the trainer for making them be there; and the third type is the Learner who is actively looking for ways to improve him or herself and will seek out takeaways to get value from any learning program.  Trainers must prepare for these three types of participants and build in engagement levers for each.  

These common mistakes are the main reasons why training initiatives fail in most organizations. They make proving any return-on-investment in a learning event impossible to document and give training events a bad reputation. Most employees dread the idea of being shut into a conference room or hotel ballroom for days and days with little attention being paid to their unique learning needs and preferences. A focused investment in time and effort by the learning and development team can make a very worthwhile impact on any event, not to mention the overall competence of your workforce. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Months in a Minute

Walker Customer Experience Conference, San Antonio, TX; Nationwide Columbus, OH; Utah SHRM Crossroads Conference, Provo, Utah
We have to cover two months in this blog entry – I have been a little behind! September and October took us to clients and events in Manchester NH, Boston MA, Provo UT, San Antonio TX, Toronto CA, Pittsburgh PA, Salt Lake City UT, Gilbert AZ, and Columbus OH. Whenever I am at the conferences I speak at, I will usually attend another breakout or keynote session to keep myself abreast of current topics and trends in leadership. The themes of this Fall have included business acumen (knowing your business not just your job), identifying true customer engagement, successfully managing constant change, building resiliency, and self-leadership. Are these trends affecting you too?

A few years ago I did some work for one of our client’s in the hotel industry. We worked out a barter for a couple of nights at one of their resort properties in Bermuda. With my credits about to expire, David and I decided to go for a long weekend in October and I am so glad we did because it was gorgeous. The island is small and gasoline is $9 a gallon so the best way to get around is on a motor scooter. It’s relatively safe since the speed limit is no more than 35 MPH and there is only one lane going in each direction on almost all roads. However, if you are on a motorbike and traffic gets backed up, it is customary to pass cars to their right. Keep in mind that Bermuda is a British colony so they drive on the left side of the road. That means passing on the right puts you straddling the double yellow line and oncoming traffic. It was terrifying and thrilling at once. I have never ridden a motorcycle and not one for risking my ability to work so I almost chickened out of the whole thing. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone because riding on the curving roads alongside the ocean in the warm breeze was heavenly. It also helps that David is a very good driver and was a good sport about the death grip I had on his waist!