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…
“Leadership” has become the most overused word of the 21st century. Primary school children are rated on their leadership skills in their report cards. Non profit volunteers are assessed on their leadership abilities when they are recruited to serve. And of course, in the business world, there are massive lineups for leadership training programs at the world’s most venerable educational institutions.
100 Texas principals are in the queue for the Harvard Business School’s Leadership Training. They are being sent by an Austin-based non profit chaired by former Lt. Governor of Texas, Bill Ratliff. He explains, “This is an exciting, historic opportunity for public school principals and public charter school administrators from across the state of Texas. By investing in the leadership of our schools, we will realize the positive impact of the Harvard training in day-to-day school management, in campus morale, and, most importantly, in the classroom.”*
Yale Divinity School offers a “Leadership in Public Ministry” course. Oxford University’s growing portfolio of Leadership Programs for China** offers a range of programs that focus on key priorities such as balancing economic growth, the environment and social development.
As you can see, when you search for leadership training, you cast a very wide net. It’s conceivable that it will take you so long to sift through the 20 million returns that your “leadership training” search delivers, you won’t have time to actually undertake the training. How will you decide what to keep in your net and what to toss back?
We suggest that you narrow your search by adding a qualifier to your “leadership training” search term. Googling “Leadership training for executives” delivers one fortieth of the number of returns that “leadership training” does, so you will reduce your array of choices to about half a million. ”Leadership training for entrepreneurs” delivers one fiftieth of 20 million, or about 300,000 returns. Searching for “leadership training for e-marketers” really narrows the field. It delivers a much more manageable “mere” 300 returns.
And if the notion of gaining the laser sharp inner perspectives that you need to lead yourself and/or your team to successfully reach your vision, please ask us about our personal vision and personal brand development programs.
*Source: March 26, 2008, Austin Business Journal