Posts Tagged ‘Steve Rosenbaum’

Help with My Next Book

I’ve uncovered some of my research for a book that I want to write, book #6. I’d like the book to be short statements by highly successful people, hopefully tops in their fields. The statement is an answer to 2 questions:

1. How did you really learn to do what you do?
2. Would you have done anything different?

The underlying question is how close is the way these people learn to how we teach people to do things. And if so why?

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When most people start to define leadership, they list a number of traits or qualities. Often it’s a definition of the type of leader they would like to work for rather than one that is focused on being highly effective. For example, I often see the trait of “kindness.” While it’s desirable, the list of effective leaders who didn’t have this trait, is very, very long.

What if you started to define leaders from a different angle? Start with the question, “what do leaders produce?” “What is the result of effective leadership?” It would be a filled out description of leading others to achieve a vision or goal.

Does that vision or goal have to be positive or ethical for someone to be an effective leader? Take the example of Jim Jones (rather an extreme example.) Obviously he was an effective leader, you can’t say he didn’t lead others to achieve his vision. Was he a good or ethical person? We’d probably all say no.

It’s possible that someone can have all the traits of a great leader and lead everyone off a cliff. As they say, the road to hell is paved by good intentions.

Finally, I think then when we list qualities of great leaders we list what we’d like them to be rather than what they really are.

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I’ve been reading the new Ken Follet Book which tracks 5 families from 1911 to 1924.  What’s interesting is that leadership that top level leadership is removed from the actual work or from the front lines in World War I.  As a result, countless decisions are made that end up in disaster.  In addition, those who survive start to learn what actually works but this information never filters up the line.  Now shift the scene to my visit to the Comcast store last week.  They have countless problems with service and equipment quality that front line customer service needs to address.  Upper management has put them in a position to have to handle the same problems over and over again rather than looking for systematic fixes.  The morale of the story…when top management looses connection with the front line, front line employees become cannon fodder.

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by ulterior epicure

One of the core principles of quality improvement is that you improve quality by reducing variation.  In a learning context, this is often a hard point to get across because of the differences in learning styles and needs of learners.  But that’s really a discussion about offering variety.

Here’s how I explain the differences.  Baskin Robbins has been famous for decades for offering 31 flavors.  On any given day, you might see several different types of chocolate ice cream from mint chocolate chip to rocky road.  That’s variety and most people would say it’s a good thing.  They cater to the tastes of a wide range of customers.  However, if every time you ordered chocolate it tasted different that’s variation and that’s not a good thing.  You’re not getting a different flavor, you’re just experiencing lack of quality control in the ice cream making.

So here’s how it applies to training.  Let’s assume that new salespeople learn by going on joint calls with experienced salespeople.  Without a lot of structure and direction, it’s likely that the training will be different on every call and with every mentor.  They may sell differently so they will teach differently.  This is not because of the differences in the students by rather the differences in the instructor.  Imagine going back to 10th grade history.  Depending upon the school system, the school and the teacher, you will be a different class.  Some will be good, some will be bad and other will be indifferent.  Because of the variation, the quality of what you get is by the luck of the draw.

The best way to reduce variation is to identify it and try to reduce it, just like working on any other process.  As you do, you will also find you can take out time, waste and cost.

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I’ve been going back to find out where the statistics came from about the percentage breakdown between formal and informal learning.  It seems the origins go back to a 1995 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  But as I looked at that study and some of the more recent ones, I discovered that there really isn’t a uniform agreed upon definition of informal learning.  The line between formal and informal learning is blurred even more as new forms of delivery are developed.

I think it might be more useful to exchange the terms formal and informal for structured and unstructured.  You also might considered learning by design and learning by trial and error.  Take something like on-the-job training.  It can be done in a highly structured way or as informally as go work with Joe for the day.  When you go work with Joe for the day, it’s often highly unstructured and different every time.  It become informal learning.

Interestingly, when you start to add structure to informal learning such as identifying and guiding practice and experience, it’s really more like formal learning.  We think this is one of the fastest ways to accelerate learning.  We like to put all practice and experience on a learning path and then write directions on how it should happen.  This helps eliminate the waste of trail and error learning, and takes time out of the process by eliminating a number of wrong turns.

So what’s the point?  I say dump the terms formal and informal because they are too vague to be helpful and substitute structured and unstructured.  Then try to eliminate all the unstructured learning.

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If you do one or two role plays in a class, is that enough practice to master a skill?  Probably not.  That’s often why students do well in the classroom but can’t transfer the same level of performance to the job.  But I haven’t seen any companies that try to quantify the amount of practice.  They might set aside a certain amount of time, but not the number of repetitions.

I recently read Vince Flynn’s new book the American Assassin where the main character becomes highly proficient with a pistol after 20,000 rounds.  That’s a very specific amount of practice and might be a good guideline for other that follow.  I know that if you’d like to break 70 on a golf course hitting 25,000 golf balls is about right.

By the way, here’s what it means to hit 25,000 golf balls.  The average bucket has 85 balls.  So it’s around 300 buckets which is roughly 300 hours.  But not over your lifetime but in a relatively short period of time like a single summer.

I’ve heard to master a presentation that professional speakers charge money for, takes about 200 times to work out all the bugs and get the timing right.

So how many cold calls does it take to learn how to cold call?  How many customer complaints does it take to master customer service?  How many orders do you need to enter to reach a high speed without error?

Once you know this number, you can then build it into your training and coaching plan.  You can always shorten the number of repetition with good instruction, coaching and feedback.

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I’m continuing to research webinars.  It seems that around 10 people or less people have found ways to do almost every type of activity that you can do in a classroom.  This is particularly true if this is an internal session where you know everyone.  If you do this sessions a lot with the same people, they get to know the functionality of the technology and how you like to run certain types of sessions.

So the bigger challenge is running larger open sessions.  In reality if you have a 50 person classroom session, you still have a lot of people multi-tasking or not paying attention to everything you’re doing.  That’s why you have to repeat directions several times to get everyone to do an activity.  However, I think with a little creativity you can do a wide range of activities and add some entertainment value.

For example, video has become something that’s very easy to add.  Services like Vyew.com and others allow you to upload Youtube videos.  This gives you access to all the Youtube videos include you videos that you upload to Youtube.  Small one and two minute videos provide a break from staring at PowerPoints and make great conversation starters.

Another idea to get a little more discussion going, is to create a four or five person panel to discuss a question or topic.  They can also be armed with the typical questions you expect to be asked.

I’m going back to my list of icebreakers to see how you would do some of them in a large web setting.  I’ll post some of the up.

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The biggest challenge for most webinar leaders is that they are getting no direct feedback when they are speaking.  When you are speaking to a live group in a classroom, you at least know they are there and you get feedback from their body language.  When you’re speaking on a webinar, you always have the feeling that you’re talking to empty space.  This is magnified when you ask for questions and there’s no response even in the chat area.  You could be doing a fabulous job and people are quite because they are being entertained or  mesmerized by what you’re saying.

Anyone who has ever lead an audio conference or web conference has experienced this.  So what’s the answer?

The best answer comes from talk radio.  Radio talk show host talk into the ether for hours with a high level of intensity.  What they do is have someone else in the room with them and occasionally engage them with a question.  They might speak for 30 minutes straight but the feedback from that other person live makes it a lot more comfortable.  It also helps them pace their speech.  People on their own talking to space tend to speed up and try to fill all the dead space.  They feel like if they stop talking, the audience will disappear.  This speeding up also makes people more tense and affects their breathing.  So it’s a good idea to consciously slow down and take a deep breath.

Doing a web conference with a co-facilitator is extremely helpful even if they are in a different location.  To make the exchange from one speaker to another more natural it’s a good idea to have a signal when the other person wants to talk.  Don’t just say to the other person, “do you want to say something?”  The second person also makes it easier to handle all the technology and the audience.  It’s a lot like having an engineer in a radio studio.

Video can  help with a small group but it doesn’t give you very much feedback for a big group.  That’s why TV talk hosts have a studio audience.

So look to radio for some good tips and remember to breathe!

Photo by: Angatuba – Legionaire

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The worst type of classroom training are long PowerPoint presentations with limited interaction.  Transforming this type of training into a webinar because it easy and cheap, doesn’t make it good training.  Adding a few discussion questions or a quick poll might make it more interesting, but does it really make it more effective.  Most of what’s written about webinars relates to choosing technology and various features of different providers.  However, there is very little written on how to turn webinars into great training.  Therefore, I’m going to start a series of posts about instructional design concepts for webinars.

I think the first place to start is to consider what type of training is well suited for webinars and what isn’t.  Audience size and make up can make a big difference.  Hosting a webinar with five or six coworkers can be highly interactive with lively discussions.  A two hundred person public session is very different.  Only a few people will actually ask a question and it’s difficult to let more than a few people talk.  Designing these sessions to be more than a one-way data dump or sales pitch is difficult and requires a lot of creativity.  In general, here’s a quick list of what I think webinars can do well and what they’re not so good at.

Best Uses of Webinars

  1. Kickoff Sessions (Big Picture Overviews of What’s Going to Happen)
  2. PreWork (Substitute for reading assignments or self-study before coming to a class)
  3. Just-in-Time Information and Communication (When there isn’t time for anything else)
  4. Lunch and Learns (Quick overviews of topics in series)
  5. Introductions (Replaces things like department visits)

Worst Uses of Webinars

  1. Skill Building (Anything that requires a lot of practice and feedback)
  2. Action Learning (Anything that requires a lot of people working in teams to discover new ideas and techniques)
  3. Coaching Sessions (Most good coaching is one on one)
  4. Longer Activities (Some activities require an hour or more to complete, a lot of dead time on the phone)
  5. Role Plays and Simulations (Tough with more than a few people)

These aren’t hard and fast rules but general guidelines.  Often logistics and budgets restrictions will lead to more webinars and doing something is often better than doing nothing.  I think webinars can be particularly effective when they are part of a blended learning solution.

In my next post, I’m going to try to dig into the actual design of a webinar and share some best practice ideas.

Photo by DimDim Web Conferencing

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I’ve noticed that there are two different backgrounds for trainers and training managers.  First, there are those who are good at a particular job and they get promoted into training.  This is very common for sales forces, call centers and manufacturing.  Their knowledge of the job and often on-the-job training is high and their knowledge of anything formal about training tends to be low.  The second are those with a training background but have limited work experience.  The know education models and theories but often not how business works or other business models.  Hopefully over time, they begin to close these gaps.

The role of mentoring for these trainers and training managers often involves closing some of these gaps quickly while reducing a lot of mistakes and certainly conflict.  Often one of the most challenging things for new trainers and training managers is leading groups and teams of more senior level people without getting run over.  This is a particularly good place for a mentor.  Here are some of my ideas on some of the best things mentors can do:

  • Connect trainers with the appropriate associations and networking organizations
  • Show trainers how to find training resources
  • Provide tools and templates
  • Allow trainers to job shadow especially with higher level meetings
  • Review work and provide feedback especially at the design level
  • Involve trainers in other business initiatives such as quality improvement
  • Work with trainers on building business cases and the finance side of the business
  • Sit in on classes and provide feedback

There are many more this is just a start.  Helping training managers establish their role and learning leaders is an additional challenge you might want to help them with.

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