I recently had a conversation with a colleague who has a background in professional training and instructional design. She loves using experiential learning to make training come alive, so her question to me was, ”Does your virtual training deliver the benefits of experiential learning?” I answered, “Absolutely!” and went on to explain that MIBOSO’s Authentic Personal Branding Program includes many experiential activities.
One requires participants to request input from others on a short list of customized questions. Of the thousands who have participated in our Authentic Personal Branding program, all report that this exercise yields an extremely high degree of experiential learning. Many also say they were astonished to learn that others possessed insights into their character, motivations and values that had eluded them up to that point in their lifetime!
In another part of our Authentic Personal Branding Program participants are required to introduce themselves to others by sharing their personal value propositions. (One or two sentences that clearly convey the unique value that they offer to others.) They are asked to first write it out as a draft, then test it with friends and colleagues, after which they revise, retest and practice delivering it until it’s “pitch perfect.” I have been told repeatedly that this activity also provides exceptional levels of experiential learning.
So when it comes to learning and development, those who learn the most by experiencing the most gain the most. And at times, those who learn the most also risk the most. The two activities described above can be a bit scary for people who are private by nature. So in other words, it’s not how quickly or easily you complete a training course that matters. What’s important is how you can apply the knowledge and insights you’ve acquired to achieve your personal and professional goals.
Here’s a comparison. If you book yourself into a “10 Countries in 5 Days!” bus tour through Europe, you will get the experience of sitting in a bus full of fellow Americans (or Canadians or Australians…) looking out at France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands (and whichever other countries are part of the designated ten) through a tinted bus window. There will be certain places you won’t see, as many narrow European roads simply can’t accommodate large tour buses. (At least not without taking out other vehicles, fire hydrants, parking meters, road signs, even slow moving pedestrians… and I don’t imagine you’d opt for that sort of tour!)
So you’ll follow a special “tourist route” that can accommodate your bus. You’ll dine at restaurants that cater to bus tours. And you’ll be fed food that “pretends” to be a French (or German or Belgian or Dutch…) specialty but is actually something rather international that appeals to the American (or Canadian or Australian…) palate. Anyone who has experienced a multi-day bus tour can attest to the benefits of everyone on board having settled tummies!
But if your goal is to…
- mingle with the locals in France
- enjoy bona fide French cuisine
- shop in the markets of Provence
- explore the backstreets of Paris
…you’ll need to find the kind of trip that delivers those experiences. And to get everything you want out of that trip, you may need to do some things that feel a little scary.
If you’re afraid of getting lost, for example, you’ll want to equip yourself with maps and other navigation devices plus be willing to ask for directions.
I became the “Queen of Lost” during a two month trip to South Africa a few years ago. I had an excellent road map and took pride in my navigation abilities, which always get me where I want to go in North America and Europe. But as only about half of the roads in suburban Johannesburg are marked, my maps became useless. The helpful directions I got from gas station attendants (and their customers) sent me in circles, right back to the same gas station, which was not anywhere near where I wanted to go.
I finally had to pull off the road, call a friend and describe where I was, so she could drive over to meet me and lead me home. Needless to say, I got over my fear of being lost. It even became something of a joke and I began building half an hour of “lost time” into every trip to a new destination.
So as you progress through your learning and development journey, keep your goals in mind and choose the programs that will deliver the experiences you want. And in addition to learning valuable skills, you may get to leave a few of your fears at the side of the road.
In Part 1 of this article, I asked if you are
more prone to accepting the information
about the training programs you are
interested in at face value?
Do you tend to trust, or question?
What IS a healthy dose of doubt?
Let’s go back to the story I told you in Part 1.
If you are the artist who’s approached by an
agent who tells you they want to represent
you because they have access to a national
audience of wealthy art buyers who are very
interested in your work, do you accept what
they say at face value and:
- Get excited and begin imagining thousands of commissions
pouring in from enthusiastic collectors?
- Picture your original paintings and prints hanging in homes and
offices all over the country?
- Begin to think about the exhibits you might be invited to put on
in New York or San Francisco?
Many of us fall into this category. We are the idealists who build it” and trust that “they” will come… We “grab the brass ring” when it shows up. After all, at old time carnivals, anyone who was able to grab the brass ring on a merry-go-round got a free ride. And most of us love the notion of getting a free ride.
The second category of people is quite a lot smaller than the first and strikes more of a balance between idealism and reality. You are in this category if, as the artist being approached by the agent, you would:
- Do your best to find out about the other artists this agent represents and what sorts of shows, commissions and sales he has been able to generate for them.
- Ask the agent what his commission structure is and who is responsible for exhibiting expenses, the cost of shipping art across the country to his more remote clients, etc.
- Make a point of speaking to some of the artists he represents to ask about their experiences with him. Did he deliver what he promised? Much more? Or considerably less?
There’s a third category you might fall into,
but very few people will see themselves in
These are the people who often gravitate
towards law or law enforcement as they
believe that little or nothing is as it
You’re here if, as the artist, you would:
- Do a thorough background check on the agent to determine if he is someone that you want to have associated with your professional reputation.
- From your discoveries, assess whether he will be an asset to you, or a liability.
- Find out what he gets from representing you, and compare that to what you will get from worjing with him.
- Ask for a specific list that outlines his responsibilities and yours, so you’ll know what he will do and what’s left for you to cover.
- Check to see if he has a criminal record, any associations with public scandals, accusations of shady practices, or multiple identities.
Stereotypically, artists are more naïve and less savvy in regards to business matters that a business person seeking professional training, but this example can provide a useful reminder to anyone planning to buy a product or service which will thereafter be associated with them.
We take this into account when choosing our children’s colleges and universities. It’s important to choose a training provider that has a reputation that you are proud to align with your own professional reputation. If you don’t, you may have to remove the certificate , skill or credential you have earned from your resume or professional profile.
To go back to the question we started with, “How can you figure out which training programs are solid and which courses you should to avoid at all costs?” The answer is quite simple. Begin by identifying exactly what you want. Then determine which training company’s program best meets your needs by reviewing the benefits (hard benefit, not platitudes) that it claims to deliver and asking questions. Lots of questions.
Don’t accept platitudes or other people’s “testimonials” as substantive proof of quality. When you begin to scan marketing materials with a questioning mindset, it’s quite funny to notice how much they FAIL to tell you and how little proof they supply to back up their claims.
Asking your own questions will enable you to make your best decisions. Unless, of course, you would prefer to prepare by taking our “Asking Good Questions” program. It’s been called “the best decision making approach available in the business world!” by Fortune 100 executives.* And if that’s not convincing enough, our participant’s testimonials are posted at… Ah ha! Did I get you? <smile> Questioning examples will br posted within a few days. Check them out, then go forth, and question!
How can you figure out which training programs are solid and which courses you should avoid at all costs?
Is it possible to develop a customized, exciting, career accelerating, skill building and positively challenging professional growth curriculum? Yes! Absolutely!
But creating YOUR perfect training curriculum will require you to do some research, and, once that’s done, put the right questions to your short list of prospective training providers.
That thought brings me to another that’s been showing up over the past few weeks.
Why do so few of us ask questions?
Is there is a widely held belief that it’s rude or inappropriate or somehow “bad” to ask questions? Or is it simply that we’re never taught how to question in an effective and respectful manner? Surely it’s less than polite to assume that we know what someone else is thinking.
I was recently on a conference call to support an artist client who had been approached by an agent who wanted to represent her. She did her homework prior to the call, googling the agent, reviewing his on-line profiles and the websites of artists he represented. But when it came time for our conference call, she was unable to ask the questions we had agreed that she really needed answered. Well, that’s not quite true. She DID ask, but answered her questions herself (by applying her assumptions and projections) before the agent had a chance to respond. This left the agent with the challenge of filling the rather confusing gap at the end of her statements.
The artist’s goal was to find out what markets this agent could open up for her in terms of additional sales and exhibitions. But that’s not what she asked! Here’s how the conversation flowed. (The context of the conversation has been changed to protect the identities of those involved)
Q: “I understand that you work with artists all over the country and specialize with those based in the north-west pacific states, but that you also do a lot with those in the east and south-west, as it’s such a big market, so you really have a national clientele. Is that correct?”
A: “Well…I work primarily with those in Washington and Oregon. There are also quite a few in the New York/Connecticut/Rhode Island/Massachusetts area and some in Arizona and New Mexico.”
Did she get the answer she wanted? No. But I have to give kudos to the gentleman being questioned for his ability to field a confusing statement-phrased-as-a-question.
I jumped into the conversation and clarified by circling back to the original question my client hadn’t asked.
Q: “You told us that you work with artists in Washington and Oregon, New England and Arizona/New Mexico. Could you give us an estimate of the breakdown of the sales of the artists you represent, by area? For example, 50% in Washington and Oregon, 30% in New England and 20% in the South West.”
This question was much easier for him to answer. And if there had been anything he was reluctant to disclose, it was also more difficult for him to evade doing so as any hesitancy on his part would give us another potentially revealing question to ask. “Why did you hesitate before answering?”
Do you accept the information that the training programs you are interested in provide at face value? Most of us tend to trust, not question.
What IS a healthy dose of doubt?
Since our generation is subject to vastly more sales and marketing pitches than any other generation in history, I have come to believe that a reasonable degree of skepticism is healthy.
Read more about this in Part 2…
Does it matter whether the trainer you choose prefers to use:
- Overhead or PowerPoint Slides?
- Flip-Charts or Whiteboards?
- Mind Maps or Flow Diagrams?
- Charts or Graphs?
- Video or Music Clips?
- Role Plays or Games?
- Quizzes or Puzzles?
- Flash Cards?
The types of training tools that your trainer selects is unimportant What matters is how skillfully they use the tools they choose.
If you come out of your training program feeling invigorated and eager to apply what you’ve leaned, chances are you’ve been treated to a savvy trainer. One who knew how to use training tools to educe learning.
Educe is one of my favourite words, but as it isn’t used in general conversation, people often ask me what it means. Educe is the root of the word educate. Educe means, “to draw forth or bring out, as something potential or latent; elicit; develop.” (If you like this word as much as I do and want to start using it, it’s pronounced “i-dyoos.”)
In this series of articles on training tools, we’re going to look at how each tool is commonly used, then contrast that with how each tool can be used most effectively. When training tools are used well, they enable the trainer to enter the mind of the trainee and ensure that the desired learning takes place.
We’ll begin by looking at flipcharts, whiteboards, overhead and PowerPoint slides. These training tools are the devices trainers use to create the mnemonics that support specific learning. Now THERE’S a funky word, mnemonics. (It’s pronounced “ni-mon-iks.”) Mnemonics is “the process or technique of improving or developing the memory.” While mnemonics are often verbal, they can also be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Verbal mnemonics can be short poems, special words or phrases that help a person remember something. here are some examples that you will recognize instantly.
Young children learn the alphabet with the use of the “ABC” song - it’s a mnemonics device. Older children learn grammar with the help of this mnemonics phrase, “I before E except after C.” And the following mnemonics aids in remembering the order in which you will find the planets in our solar system, when you start at the Sun and work your way out. “My Very Easy Method Just Set Up Nine Planets” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.)
Short stories and corny jokes can also act as memory aids. Rather than offer you a corny joke example that you’d rather NOT have lodged in your memory. Here’s a short story example instead.
Because people often have trouble pronouncing my company name, I tell them what MIBOSO means in order to help them remember how to say and spell it. Quite simply, it’s the first two letters of “mind.” body” and “soul” fused together to form an acronym that represents our holistic approach to personal branding. It’s important for our clients to remember our name, because the website that they need to log into is www.miboso.com. It’s also important for us, because when it is easy for our clients to remember our name, it’s easier for them to refer other people to us.
Read Flip, Write or Slide? to learn the best and worst applications of Flipcharts, Whiteboards and Overhead or PowerPoint Slides. PowerPoint Do’s & Don’ts covers the best and wost uses of that popular training tool. Go on to Map, Flow, Chart or Graph to find out about the do’s and don’ts of using mind maps, flow diagrams, charts and graphs in a training. These articles will be followed with others that focus on the use and misuse of Video or Music Clips, Role Plays or Games, Quizzes or Puzzles and Flash Cards
In the sports world, it is generally assumed that the more hits, strikes or goals a player scores, the better that player is. The baseball player with a batting average of 300 is considered better than a player with a 250 average.
But let’s stop for a minute and take a look at what those batting averages actually measure. A batting average of 300 means that the player missed hitting seven out of every ten balls. That’s right, a player with a “good” batting average misses 70% of the balls pitched to him!
Understanding how averages work makes it clear that success in baseball cannot be measured by the number of balls a player hits (or misses). We’ll need to look at a broader scale of proficiencies when assessing how well a player is performing.
What other playing skills are baseball players expected to execute well? Obviously they need to be able to pitch and catch competently. They need to be able to collaborate with their team mates in order to execute planned plays. They also need to be able to capitalize on unexpected opportunities that arise during the play of the game.
But what are some of the less obvious skills that can transform an “average” player into a top draft pick?
They could have a convincing ability to “miss” enough pitches to:
- Fatigue the pitcher
- Figure out the signals that the pitcher and catcher are using to communicate plays
- Create doubt in the pitcher’s and catcher’s minds regarding their pitching strategy and technique
Clearly none of these skills will help a ball player’s batting average. But they may well be the sorts of skills that lead a player to a long and lucrative athletic career. Or to a World Series winning team.
This example demonstrates the importance of selecting the trainer who delivers all of the individual elements you need to form a well rounded proficiency. For even the baseball player with the most stellar batting and catching skills won’t be in the game for very long if he fails to pitch in as a team player.
In this last part of our executive training series, we will be looking the greatest challenges faced by executives in three specific industries. We will examine them in point form, as what we are really looking for are common challenges that are indicators of broad based executive training needs.
In 2008, Fair Isaac Corporation commissioned The Tower Group to survey Banking Executives. Results showed that their greatest challenges are:
- Improving analytics - 75%
(Indicates needs for better risk management/long term planning)
- Managing increasing credit delinquencies - 50%
(Indicates needs for risk management/reduction)
- Developing enterprise-wide fraud solutions - 50%
(Indicates needs for risk management/reduction)
- Dealing with the current credit crisis - 33%
(Indicates needs for risk management/reduction)
A 2008 NASSTRAC Member Survey asked Transportation Executives about their biggest challenges, which are:
- Concerns around increasing transportation costs (despite rising fuel costs) - 50%
(Indicates needs for innovation/cost controls)
- Globalization: increasing international shipping demand / outsourcing to third-party logistics providers - 35.3%
(Indicates needs for effective collaboration/long term planning/contingency planning)
- Market Conditions: coordinating transport sectors & technology/maintaining & restoring infrastructure/managing congestion - 29.5%
(Indicates needs for collaboration/teamwork, innovation/recruiting/retention, short and long term planning)
- Fuel surcharges and runaway fuel costs - 35%
(Indicates needs for risk management/communication/innovation/efficiency)
- Marketplace demands to maintain costs, ensure efficiencies and deliver quality, on-time service - 26.5%
(Indicates needs for communication/innovation/efficiency)
- Labor costs. 71% said this is the primary impediment to enhanced competitiveness
(Indicates needs for innovation/recruiting/retention, short and long term planning)
- Tax policy and work rules - 66%.
(Indicates needs for compliance/risk management, short and long term planning/contingency planning)
- Government bureaucracy - 65%
(Indicates needs for short and long term planning/contingency planning
- Raw material prices - 56%
(Indicates needs for innovation, short and long term planning/contingency planning
As a number of core issues appear consistently across these different groups it is tempting to conclude that many of these executives would benefit from training that enables them to directly impact:
- short, long term and contingency planning
- risk management/reduction
- cost controls
That may generally be true. But are these “nice to have” skills, or “must haves?”
When you look at all of the challenges listed above from a solution-based perspective, what would equip these executives far better to address these issues—quickly and efficiently? I suggest that training these executives in Conflict Management, Problem Solving and Decision Making Training skills would deliver far better returns. To go further down that path, training in Focused Selection Interviewing, and/or Performance Planning and Directing would give them the additional insights necessary to turn their challenges into success opportunities.
The paradox in selecting executive training is that what will minimize the pain of the issue is often chosen over that which will tackle the source of the pain. From the inside, it can be very difficult to tell the difference, as the pain can be overwhelming. And indeed, in industries experiencing a great deal of pain, such as manufacturing executives who are facing a loss of competitiveness due to their huge labor costs, a general anesthetic may be a necessary prelude to life saving surgery. But the anesthetic will only hold the pain at bay for a short time. If surgery is not conducted, recovery will not be possible. The entity—as it was—will cease to exist and a new life form will emerge to take its place. Addressing what’s causing the pain in your organization requires courage. Anything less than complete truthfulness leaves remnants of the problem intact. They fester and reinfect the organization. Repeat surgeries increase the odds of executive or organizational mortality
Contact us to discuss your organization’s health. Our Training Needs Analysis is designed to diagnose the true cause(s) of your organization’s pain and provide a succinct and targeted prescription formulated to kill the infection and establish an environment for vigorous growth. And if, after reading this, you think, “Hah! Yeah, right,” perhaps the disease you are dealing with is indifference to the truth?
In the third part of this series on executive training, we’re going to turn our attention to the challenges and training needs of executives within specific industry groups.
According to a 2006 survey conducted by Accenture and The Economist Intelligence Unit, the biggest challenges of Hardware Manufacturing Executives (defined as executives in companies creating a wide range of products, from mobile phones, to cars, refrigerators and television sets) are:
- - Lack of in-house software expertise
- - Increasing the speed of time-to-market
(88% say they don’t do a good job of testing their products to prior to marketing them.)
- Developing automated testing capabilit
- Coordinating with outside partners and software developers.
To resolve three out of four of these challenges, Hardware Manufacturing Executives will need to attract managers and specialists who are savvy, experienced and able to think “outside the box” in terms of manufacturing, software development and testing processes. What sort of training will enable these executives to find such talent?
Interviewing skills training is one option to to consider. Our Executive Interviewing Skills Training enables you to hear what the other person is saying as well as the meaning, motivation and agenda behind their words. This lets you to dig deep quickly and walk away satisfied that you left no stone unturned.
It’s also important to remember when you are screening potential new hires, that as much as you’re assessing them, they are assessing you. So executive training programs such as the ones we offer on Personal Presence help you expand your charisma. This really makes a difference in the impression the candidate takes away of you, and by proxy, your company.
Coordinating effectively with others appears to require good collaboration and teamwork skills. But if you are a careful, methodical person, will you really be able to collaborate effectively with people who are driven by urgency, or individuals who regard diplomacy or politics as “a waste of time?” When choosing an executive teamwork training program, be sure you choose one that addresses the personality differences that drive dissension and conflict in teams. As real life rarely unfold as neatly as a role play in a controlled training setting, it’s essential that you emerge from the training equipped to collaborate effectively with the many types of personalities you will encounter. For as increasing globalization brings developed and emerging nations together more and more frequently, you will likely encounter a far broader diversity of personalities, values and attitudes than ever before.
Teamwork training programs that cover all of these necessary bases are always an excellent executive and management training investments. Not only do they facilitate good relations within companies, they also enable you to build strong bonds with external suppliers and customers.
In the next and last part of this series, we will move on to look at the executives’ greatest challenges by industry. Instead of taking the time to address each of them individually, we’ll be examining them in point form. When thinking of the challenges we have already discussed, what common threads do you expect to see emerging? What core issues might be driving these challenges? What types of training will best address and resolve these core issues? Read on to see what we uncovered.
We ended the first part of this article with the question “Are there common needs for Executive Training that supersede individual, functional and industry specific challenges?”
To continue uncovering the answer, let’s look at the results of a recent gender specific study conducted by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. After asking about the greatest challenges faced by female finance executives, this survey finds that gender bias ranked as these executive’s biggest challenge. Gender bias is a composite issue made up of a number of related elements, such as exclusion from the “boy’s club,” stereotyping, double standards and more. For a full breakdown see “Exhibit 3.”
After reviewing this list, it seems that executive training would also benefit the male executives in these firms. “Understanding Gender Differences” would be the sort of training program that could facilitate a far greater understanding between male and female executives. Teams that understand each others needs and goals are more productive, innovative and happier. This training could do a lot to slow the revolving door that far too many female finance executives pass through.
This survey goes on to identify three other challenges that ranked highly for female finance executives. They are:
- “A lack of recognition for achievements”
- “Establishing strong mentorship and support systems”
- “Establishing a work-life balance”
Emotional Intelligence training could expand the executives’ ability to recognize the achievements of their peers and subordinates, and by so doing, boost morale. In addition, providing executives with coaching skills training would enable them to provide skillful internal mentoring and coaching support.
The work-life balance challenge is more difficult to address. Female financial executives reported that they had accommodated the time demands of their roles in a number of ways, from reducing the time allocated to their outside interests, to neglecting their health and in a few cases, even opting out of the “Mommy Track.” See “Exhibit 2” for a full breakdown of the responses in this catgory.
Assigning an executive coach to each executive is one way to help these executives develop their own individual answers to these very personal questions. But it can be a costly solution. Assigning an executive coach or a facilitator with relevant experience to work with groups of female finance executives on a regular basis could also produce effective and practical solutions, as long as all of the executives are comfortable being open with each other - and the facilitator. A third option for executives is our Personal Brand Development program. In addition to gaining an in-depth understandings of their internal motivations and driving values, participating executives will gain clarity on their greatest strengths and personal “Modus Operandi” or MO. They would also build their confidence and develop the effective communication skills that will equip them to operate on a more level playing field with their male counterparts.
Clearly we uncovered FAR more data than we expected to when we began looking at what drives the choices of executive training. In Part 3 of this article, we will carry on by looking at the challenges and training needs of executives within industry specific groups.
If you are a female finance executive, do you agree with the gender specific concerns that the Korn/Ferry International survey reveals? Have you come across other solutions that you can share with us? Please feel free to add your comments, then join us for Part 3.
Executive Training is such a popular search term that I felt compelled to ask, “What are all of the people who use it really looking for?” It would be logical to assume that companies invest in training for their executives to make their organization more effective and productive, giving them a good return on their investment. But one thing I learned during my 15 years in the corporate ranks is that organizational decisions are not always logical! So my next question is, “How do companies identify which executives stand to benefit most from what sort of training?” Is it industry specific? Function specific? Challenge specific? Are each executive’s training requirements unique to him or her? Or is the answer to be found in an executive training equation that combines values from all of these categories, and perhaps even more?
To find out, I conducted an informal and totally unscientific survey of recent reports and surveys that sought answers to the question, “What are the biggest challenges faced by executives?”
For oil company executives, in our current climate of high (and rising) gas prices, their biggest challenges seem to be:
- Changing the public perception of their companies from price gouging and monopolistic (quite a feat, given their industry’s penchant for mergers and over the top profits) to benevolent and philanthropic. In order to succeed in this objective, they must:
- Convince the public that their companies increasing sizes and profits enable them to serve their customers (and indeed, their countries) by funding the research and technological development necessary to explore and expand energy options.
- Explain to the public that maintaining (or growing) their ranking in a highly competitive industry is necessary for them to succeed with their above outlined mission.
How very interesting! It seems that the executive training that would best serve oil company executives would be programs that enhance their communication and persuasion skills. Media training would be helpful and debating skills could also be utilized.
Now let’s look at a the executive training requirements from a global perspective. Executives building global [for profit] enterprises state that their biggest challenges are*:
- “Maintaining a common corporate culture [throughout global markets]” 49%
- “Understanding local customs and ways of doing business” 44 %
- “Serving remote clients/customers effectively” 41%
What sorts of training would best serve executives facing these challenges? They might want to consider a culture enhancement program (which is another description for organizational brand development). Diversity training would also be useful, along with a high level customer service training which could be rolled down through the ranks to the people on the front lines who actually deal with the customers. Actually, it might be interesting to turn the tables by having the front line people educate the executives on the issues they face every day before launching an amended broad scale customer service training. Emotional Intelligence training, complete with before and after 360 assessments would benefit the executives as well.
Sadly, only 55% of the executives who participated in this survey believe that their organizations are equipped to “develop leaders with the aptitude and skills to adapt to rapid change and new learning.” So a solid, outsourced leadership development program is also required, which explains why so many Internet searches target “leadership training.”
(*Source: Accenture Survey conducted Jan. 25, 2007)
In Part 2 of this article, I will continue to search for the answer to the question: “Are there common needs for Executive Training that supersede individual, functional and industry specific challenges?” Tell us what you think, then check out Part 2 to see what we discovered.