Posts Tagged ‘Training and Facilitating’

Career Conversations – 7 Tips for Managers

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

By definition, in most organizations managers are expected to develop people as well as get ‘the work’ done.

I can hear all the reasons why this is not a priority for you. The most common reason is lack of time; the urgency of the work takes precedent over long-term productivity. Do managers with high turn-over attract suspicion? I cringe when I hear,”I finally have my employees working like a well-oiled machine; I don’t want to mess with that?” Why do your employees have to “learn it the hard way, like I did?”

Or maybe you just don’t know how.

Career Conversations happen as you share your insights, offer constructive suggestions, helping people think about next steps in the project or work. Career Conversations don’t have to have formal time booked on your calendar. Some of the best ones occur walking between meetings, in the kitchen or an informal phone check-in if your team works virtually.

What’s in it for you to develop  your staff?

The investment of time and genuine interest in developing others pays off in both tangible and intangible ways. Staff development criteria may be a part of evaluating the managers’ performance. Is there an expectation (or even incentives) to provide well-trained talent to other parts of your organization?

Many managers talk about the pride they feel in seeing employees grow and be successful.

Bottom line: If you don’t offer development opportunities, your staff will find someone who will. That’s not the kind of turnover you want.

Here’s what you can do:

Check your assumptions. Do you want to be known as someone who grows and develops the best talent in your organization or someone who circles the wagons and fights to maintain turf (staff). Don’t get complacent with your staff.  Expect and encourage turn-over due to better job fit, new opportunities, etc. Everyone, not just Millennials, are hungry for training, career advancement and opportunities for growth. Keep your eye open for new talent and be ready to replace those that move on in their careers.

Help them connect the dots. Nothing is more important than doing work that matters. Rekindle the emotional connection [pride] that employees have with your company. Hold “trend” discussions to align individual goals with reality of your workplace, your profession and industry environment. Tell the stories about the people that make your business tick,. Remind them of the purpose your department serves. How does your organization make money or get funding? What deals are in the works? How are the economics of the organization evolving? Keep your team educated about ongoing business developments to directly improve their engagement and performance. The more resources you can give employees on how your company functions, the more loyal they’re likely to be.

Be a champion.  Develop your reputation as someone who offers opportunities rather than holding people back. Stay alert to opportunities where someone on your team could contribute or learn, and be willing to loan them out. They’ll return with valuable knowledge and relationships that can support your team. And if they move on, they will thank you. If you haven’t already, offer cross-training within your team to fill gaps.

Provide daily development opportunities. Use a micro-learning approach with employees’ everyday work. For example: Make mundane tasks into a game. Encourage and show them how to discover answers on their own and praise them when they do. Start or end your weekly meetings with anything they’ve learned to improve the task, their approach to it, about the impact of their work, relationships with others or developing competencies that your organization values.

Develop each person individually. Too many employees get trained on things they don’t need, and fail to get the skills that will actually make them more productive. Assess each persons’ needs and provide targeted, relevant content, instead of one-size-fits-all training. People learn in different ways, so offer hands-on (discovery) as well as ‘read the manual’ options.

Use a coaching style to develop their thinking skills and become smarter. When they come to you with a problem, help them think through the logic to discover the best solutions. This will show them how to approach similar problems in the future, hopefully saving time for you.

Be available, but don’t hover. Set expectations and boundaries, provide resources then get out of the way.

PS – You can have your own career conversations with your peers and boss. Let me know what works for you!

“Future-Proof” Employee

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

In IBM’s report from interviewing over 1700 CEOs around the world three main themes emerged for the most successful organizations. At the highest level, none are news to us. But going deeper there are some critical nuggets worth exploring. I’m focusing on “Build future-proof employees.”

Because emerging capabilities are hard to define, hiring and equipping employees with the skills to close the gap becomes a guessing game. CEOs look for people  who are collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible.  They create an environment where these traits develop more naturally through:
•     Create unconventional teams.Intentionally mix specialties and expertise
•     Broaden the range of situations and experiences that employees are exposed to in their normal work. Incorporate external influences — like customers and partners — wherever possible.
•     Encourage employees to develop a diverse and extensive network of contacts as both potential
collaborators and prospective customers.

How do you demonstrate that you are collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible?  What do you do as an individual to become ‘future proof?”

Book Review: “Real World Training Design” by Jenn Labin

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

When the initial flip through a new book stops you on a page that makes you burst out laughing – its gonna be a good read! Incredibly engaging graphics and illustrations! This handbook takes the classic instructional design process and brings it up-to-date with examples and tips. Labin provides succinct and helpful tools through-out the ISD process to reduce costs and time while maximizing learning and meeting business objectives. QCs provide background and additional resource links.

Time and cost constraints are the norm in the learning world. Yet quality cannot be sacrificed.  She provides hints and tips for all aspects of the project including getting and staying organized.  The checklists are the takeaways, but the stories (case examples) bring home the proof that they work.  With these tips and tools, you can discuss the process without using the training jargon that makes your clients’ eyes glaze over.

Real World Training Design by Jenn Labin

Keep that Phone ON during our Session

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The first ground rule in meetings these days seems to be to turn off your cell/smart phones.  Its really annoying to be trying to present a concept and someone’s phone is ringing; or they are texting away, not really paying attention to the speaker.  Generally its the speaker that gets annoyed. Sometimes its annoying to others around to hear the clicking on the pad.

What if you used their technology to actually augment the meeting? If someone is updating their FB, ask them to check a fact for you, or help answer a question by doing a search or using an app.  Are you stuck on an idea or definition? Do a real-time Search for the answer you need.  Are you in heated argument? Check the facts, right now.  Need to poll a group, or check with a SME? Ask them now. (even if they don’t respond immediately, its still keeps the momentum going). Use the smart phone app to record the ideas and action steps and send it to others without delay.  It’s not about the Smartphone or Ipad, it’s about how you can use the technology to enhance the concept, or problem-solving.  People can work in groups and share with those who don’t have smartphones, or other technology.

Think of the chart paper (trees) we can save! Think of the fumes we won’t inhale from acetone white board or scented markers! Think of the powerpoint we can avoid! And most importantly, think of the time saved by not having to have another meeting after the research is completed!

Incoming calls are a different matter.  Most of us set the ring on “silent” or “vibrate” to avoid annoying others with the interruption. In my meetings I like to respect people’s judgment to handle the truly time sensitive things, not just FB breakfast updates.

How else can we use the technology to engage and reinforce learning?

Change at Work – Bring a friend

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Its  so much easier to do something different or scary if someone else does it too.  We used to dare each other to do something “dangerous.” But it wasn’t so bad if someone else did it first. Courage comes in many forms. Even as adults we often prefer to go somewhere new when we take a friend to explore with us.

When it comes to Change in the workplace, we often feel like we are alone in our fears. Leaders can encourage people to bring a colleague to the informational meetings, the training, and other change related events. Team up people for the training. Provide fun incentives for enrolling their friends.  When the going gets rough, encourage them to help each other, not compete, so everyone can get up the hill. As they see each others’ successes, a wedge of success is created. We reduce resistance the change when we experience success together. As others begin to see the success, they will be less resistant and join their friends.

How else can we build success in our Change projects?

WIIFM? First, Listen

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

People are so overwhelmed by things changing in their lives and their work that we can count on them begin distracted while we are trying to communicate. Whether you are leading a training session or a meeting, over half the people are preoccupied with other thoughts.  Some are already gearing up to argue with you.

Our tendency is to talk more and to talk louder to get their attention. We need to deliver our message realizing they hear it through their “What’s In It For Me?” filter.  Anything that will touch my wallet will elicit an emotional response.  We need to talk just enough to deliver your message, and then stop talking so we can listen.

Listen for the concerns behind the blunt or badly phrased question.  Listen for what they fear behind the sarcastic tone in their voice. Respond first by ensuring that you heard their question by summarizing and asking them to confirm that your summary is correct.  Then offer the  clarification or additional information they requested.  If the answer is unknown, say so and ask for their help in finding the best solution. Too many of us launch into a rebuttal which may add further anxiety rather than address their concern.

It takes courage to listen when Change impacts our comfort zones.  We stand a greater chance of reducing the resistance when we communicate honestly and encourage the dialogue.

More on encouraging the conversations in the next blog.

What are your thoughts?

Introducing Ahull Unfurled

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

In sailing, lying ahull is a controversial method of weathering a storm, by downing all sails, battening the hatches and locking the tiller. The boat is allowed to drift freely, completely at the mercy of the storm. Ahull is also my first initial and last name. Thus, after too many years at the dock, I am launching this ship into the wilds of the blogosphere. However, the winds have unfettered these sails and we shall see where it blows us.

For the past 11 years I’ve had a consulting and training company in the Washington, DC area. The focus is on helping people enjoy their work through effective change and career management. We provide consulting and training on the whole employee life-cycle, from on-boarding through career and performance development, retirement and beyond.

Check out the website at