Cut through the noise
Let’s have some fun. For each of the eight statements that follow, determine whether you believe it is a goal or an expectation:
Employees can only do what you expect when they know what your expectations are. That sounds simple enough, right? How is it then that so few people, when asked, can provide a fantastic—or even just an adequate—answer to “Will you tell me one specific expectation your manager has of you?”
There are three mistakes managers commonly make that undercut their effectiveness. The first two mistakes, failing to set and communicate expectations, and their fixes are detailed in Chapter 1 of Focus on This, Not That, but Mistake #3, failing to maintain a focus on expectations, is nicely “blog-sized.”
You can't have the same training in half the time. You can’t. But you can have better training in half the time. Getting to better training in half the time will certainly include design choices. But better training also requires a communication strategy at the outset that sets you up to develop better solutions. My Five A’s model will get you there; and, this article will address the first of the A’s – Appreciate.
I observed this One Great Idea during a recent virtual meeting. Keep it handy to use the next time your virtual meeting gets off to a slower start than your schedule has room for.
This One Great Idea was shared with me while working with a team recently. It seamlessly blends effective meeting management with employee development.
Success is not the result of a single action. It comes from a series of decisions, choices, and actions, it comes from consistently performing well, it may grow out of messy mistakes, and it certainly sometimes gets help from happy accidents along the way. This is true in life; it is also true of meetings.
Relying on accidental success is a questionable approach—which is also true in life and meetings. Instead, embrace happy accidents when they occur, but use these questions to engineer successful meetings.
Here is a riddle: What happens in a meeting when the right people aren’t there? The answer: Nothing—other than reinforcing the stereotype that meetings are a waste of time.
The meetings you want to be known for—inspiring, engaging, results-driven—require having the right people in them. This is a basic premise for meeting effectiveness but one that is commonly violated. To have the right people in the room, you need to shift your approach to extending invitations. Two common extremes are inviting everyone you can think of or attempting to fly beneath the radar by inviting as few as you can.
This really happened to a colleague. I am willing to wager that it has also happened to you or someone you know…
A newly hired senior vice president called a staff meeting to update her team on revisions to a mission-critical standard operating procedure (SOP) affecting the group’s work. A few weeks later, she confided her frustration with her staff to her executive coach: “I don’t get this place! Two weeks ago, I brought the whole team together to share this update. No one wrote a thing down or even brought a pen and pad. No one asked any questions either—I’m not even sure they were listening to me. And then, this morning, one of them sent a group email saying the process that had been in place—the one I updated them on—no longer works and needs to be revised. To make matters worse, two staff replied in agreement saying they experienced the same thing. I feel like I might lose my mind.”
It would be convenient if one-on-one meetings were somehow exempt from disruptions caused by the two participants. In reality, they aren’t. Whether pleasant conversations with people whose company you enjoy or tense conversations, one-on-one meetings can require you to manage disruptions.
Reality Check: Do you approach one-on-one meetings expecting an easy flow from one agenda item to the next? If so, read on…
Meetings that lack participation can be awkward and uncomfortable—such as those characterized by the leader who asks a question and when he gets no responses, quickly fills the void with “OK, well here is what I was thinking….” At the opposite extreme, meetings in which participants dominate, ramble, negate everything, introduce tangents, or “participate” in other counterproductive ways can be as or even more painful to experience.
Yes, you want participation—but not all participation is created equally. If you expect people to automatically participate productively in response to “I’d like to have everyone’s participation today,” you will likely be disappointed. Instead, use this 4-step process:
Shift your mindset. If you are responsible for developing teams’ skills, change the definition of your role from “creating learning events” to that of “building development continuums.” When you do, you will be able to enhance learning outcomes and regain lost training time. Building a development continuum requires designing a complete learning solution—one that prepares learners for the core course, provides multiple touchpoints to the body of content, integrates on-the-job application, provides support to learners after the core event, and taps into the frequently overlooked role played by learners’ managers.
Have you ever committed to do something for a friend only to have it slip your mind? Then, days or weeks later, a passing comment, commercial, or other trigger reminds you of it? And, even though you had every intention of following through, without the trigger it wouldn’t have happened?
Learners experience the same phenomenon—even in the best-case scenario, in which they appreciate the learning opportunity, arrive motivated, value the course material, and intend to use it. When they return to work, they get hit by all that transpired while they were in training and often lose sight of their implementation plans. Learning boosters can refocus them on their action plans and implementation strategies.
Which learning strategies provide the greatest return with limited training time? Which engage learners, but also enable personal reflection? Cause learners to work hard, but also play with purpose? Allow learners to fail in a safe setting, but also set learners up for success? These are not conflicting opposites. They are the mix of learning strategies that provide the greatest return in a limited amount of time—and, frankly, in any amount of time. How does an instructional designer remain true to these tenets?
It isn’t easy to create effective learning events. If it were easy, there would be little need for instructional designers—everyone would build their own learning events. So, your Word of the Day is andragogy, which was popularized by Malcolm Knowles in The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (Knowles 1984).
What do you already know of andragogy?
Do you recognize this post’s title as lyrics from Darius Ruker’s “For The First Time”? Maybe you are even in singing it in your head right now. I often sing the line to myself – mostly for the encouragement it provides me.
Personally, I want to live a life in which I have a quick and recent answer to “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” They don’t have to be grand-adventure-type answers, but they do need to provide me with new experiences, memories, or perspectives. Possibly even take me in new directions.
In preparing for a series starting this week, Staying Centered Through Conflict™, I wrote a note to the participants. Part of it read: “For me, conflict tends to arise in two categories: critical needs and inconsequential stuff. Our sessions will provide tools for managing the critical needs. The conflict that we classify as inconsequential stuff is perhaps best managed by recognizing it for what it is – annoying, a nuisance – and ignoring it. Our effort is so much better directed towards other things.”
In Same Training, Half the Time, I invite readers to expand on this excerpt from the book – a list of challenges that are driving increased demands on learning. Please share additional reasons from your experience in the comments of this post.
In my work with learning and development leaders, I commonly encounter professionals working hard to enhance other employees’ skills and develop them for the future of their positions. Yet, so often, that same effort isn’t invested in preparing themselves for the future. So, beyond mastering the fundamentals of the field, what is a L&D leader to do?
Here are five ideas to achieve more by doing less based on two themes I consistently hear from learning professionals.