Straight talk – Connecting leaders with employees

I’m just reading the Towers Watson 2014 report on the Global Workforce.  Some real insights that could impact companies significantly in the next year.

The headlines: A) the disconnect between what employees want from work and what management thinks they want B) Lack of trust and engagement with immediate managers C) Motivation.

Surprised?  I’m not. With the economy strengthening, employees are saying what they’ve held back on the last few years.   In the Top 5, employees want learning and development, job security and paid time off.  Employers did not have any of these in the top 5. Instead employers thought employees valued the mission/vision/values.  Sorry, not interested.

Some quick advice. Think about how simple it is to retain your talent.  Offer them ways to continue to grow and develop – you’ll have a better trained and motivated employee.  Don’t be so quick to layoff.  And be generous in your time off policies.  If employees are expected to be “on call” 24/7 or working “whatever it takes,” then give them the time they need to recharge.

Only 40% of employees are highly engaged.  The rest feel either unsupported (54% report managers do not remove obstacles), detached or disengaged.  We can do better.  There are more “working managers” today than ever – even at the executive ranks. I’ve talked to leaders who are not just managing and directing, they are doing work too. Perhaps because of this ramp up/do more culture, we’re missing opportunities to engage with our workforce.

Motivation.  Today, employees are looking to be treated as customers.  We’ve paid lip service to that for a long time.  It’s time to move towards action. A motivated, engaged worker is a better face for the company, more committed and more apt to go out of their way to ensure the customer is satisfied.  We need to remove obstacles so they can do this. We need to build trust and give trust to our employees on the front lines.

This is the perfect time – end of one calendar year and soon the start of a new one – to strengthen your relationship, policies, and engagement with your employees and set yourself up for greater success in 2015.  You can read about the study here.

Posted in Engagement, Learning, Motivation, Trust | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gaining Trust

Trust – it’s the first point of the Scout Law.  It’s what enables everything from businesses to families to work together successfully.  It’s a necessary ingredient for a good business-provider partnership.   Yet it’s something we so readily either skip or forget about in order to achieve whatever goals we’ve been tasked to do, whether it’s a major project, support effort, or running an errand.  In fact, Patrick Lencioni in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” has trust as the first factor a successful team needs to have.

According to Lencioni, trust is defined as “A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”  As someone with a newer consulting practice, it’s something I need to gain in order to earn business.  Top tier educational providers, consulting firms and major companies get it as a result of who they are and past success with their customers.  We trust Disney, McDonald’s, P&G and Harvard.  The rest of us have to do earn trust ourselves.  Why and how?

Why is the easy part. With trust, you can have a relationship that can be candid, open, and mutually beneficial.  Without trust, every word, statement and project becomes a test and can be viewed skeptically.  My goal is to be seen as a trusted business partner and for my clients to know I have their best interests at heart.  That’s always proven successful to me in the work I have done with clients in the past.  In fact, I always offer a value-add. What does your company need that I can help with, and what do you need for yourself professionally? Let me help you in both ways.

How do you gain this trust?  Several ways based on the acronym TRUST:

T – track record – Have you proven yourself?  Show it.

R – results – Have you shown results with this person or with others? Prove it.

U – understanding – Do you understand this situation, issue, or challenge? Demonstrate it.

S – safe – Are conversations confidential and respectful? Give it.

T – time – Do you respond quickly?   Live it.

By building TRUST you can give trust, and be on your way to having a highly successful client, customer, and family relationship.

Posted in Change, Growth, Speed | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Advance Learning through Learning Strategy

Advancing learning has been the name of this blog since I started it over 5 years ago.  I am now taking that forward to my business, aptly named, with a focus on learning strategy, leadership and team development.

But what exactly is learning strategy?  Today there are more ways than ever to learn, and the learner has as much responsibility as the trainer/educator/teacher.  How do you choose and share the options the available?  Where do you go to map out learning paths?

Michael Lessard-Clouston has written, “Within the field of education over the last few decades a gradual but significant shift has taken place, resulting in less emphasis on teaching and greater stress on learners and learning.”  Klassen, Lam, et. al. from the City University of Hong Kong recently conducted research into learning. They summarized “The recent constructivist view toward knowledge acquisition places greater emphasis on the role of learners in constructing their own knowledge.  Learners have their own systematic way of transforming information into knowledge, and good and poor learners differ in how and how well they do this. In other words, learners employ different learning strategies when they learn.”  The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning defined learning strategy as “a person’s approach to learning and using information.”  Defining a learning strategy and finding the best way for people to learn is critical if you want learning to last.

We are pummeled with more data and information each and every day than our parents received in a lifetime.  In fact IBM has reported that knowledge will soon be doubling every 12 hours!  How do we sort it out? What do we choose to absorb of this vast amount of information?  What are the different ways we can learn vital new skills and knowledge, and what is the best way to do so?

Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey devised the theory of situational leadership which stated that there is a right leadership style for every person and in each situation.

I profess that there’s also a right way to learn for each person, each organization, and each topic.  Have time or is it a critical skill that needs practice, feedback and discussion?  Classroom may be best.  Is it short bytes of product knowledge in a field environment?   Mobile learning may be the way to go.  Do you need to onboard new hires remotely?  Then a webinar or combination could work.

There are more ways to learn than ever.  Choosing the right method, coming up with an overall learning strategy, and implementing it are necessary to ensure that you are considering about the needs of the learner.   As Lessard-Clouston said, learners today are more self-directed and motivated than ever before.  Helping them make those right choices, and having information in modes that work best, is equally important.

Tools such as the Learning Receptiveness Profiles from Neuro-Link, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Inventory (HBDI), and other learning assessments help the learner understand the way they learn best.  This can help learners choose learning methods that work best for him or her.

For organizations today, it is all about choosing, defining and creating the right learning strategy, and making it available to associates.  Three steps to achieve this:

1)      Determine what the critical information or skills are needed

2)      Map out the various and best options available for learning those skills

3)      Create a plan to design, deliver, and communicate those options, helping learners identify which ones are best for them, and measure their success.

Make sure your learning strategy is up to date, and that learning goals are achieved.  You’ll be a better learning professional, educator, and leader by doing so.

(Photo of friends learning this summer)


Posted in Learning | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Success as a Team

When do you set up for success? I recently conducted a board retreat, and after a good but very tough discussion, thought I should do an exercise to pull everyone together. As it turns out I inadvertently set the group up for success instead of a bigger challenge. Is that bad?

When you were a kid, did your parent or uncle or aunt ever do that with monopoly, cards, etcetera? You sort of knew they did but felt good about winning anyway.

Why shouldn’t a team be given the same chance to feel what success feels like and looks like? In doing so and giving them an early win, they can feel positive the rest of the time and know that success is at hand.

In Whistling Vivaldi , Claude Steele writes about different groups taking tests, with some bring told they are examples of a certain group (women, minorities, etc.) and others just being told this is a test. The latter always yielded higher, and most importantly, lasting results. I’m wondering if this is a technique we should be using with employees and teams, not just college students taking psychology experiments?  (Note: This is the featured book this 2014-15 school year for One Book, One Northwestern.)

In working with teams or new employees why not find ways for them to succeed? Let the imprinting of success stay with them as they continue to learn and grow in their job and on their teams.

Posted in Learning | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Change – just jump in!

What’s changed about how we change? Have you thought about how you’ve changed, what’s changed in your life and job, the way you work, live, and connect?

I just read an interested article in ATD’s Leader Executive Briefing. It was an article on a new book on change, and it made sense in every way but one for setting up something you want to change. Do we have the TIME to truly set up a change plan or project? I don’t know about you, but I’m thrown into situations. For example, I’m working now for Caveo Learning as a Senior Learning Architect. I work virtually, which means I manage my time, my goals, my projects, my resources. Did I have time to set this up? No, I started right away and just started doing it. Now part of that may be where I am in my career and what I’m able to do on my own. But how many of us find ourselves in situations at work, at home, with hobbies where there’s no time? We just jump right in with two feet and hope we land on them!

Some examples. When you get a new phone or technology project, do you read the manual or jump in and use it? I think we are getting to be a society of jumpers. I know my daughter rarely looks at manuals but figures things out herself. She’s really good doing that. As much as we’d sometimes like our hands held or an easy step by step guide, too often its’ here you go, get going! No matter how much time you do preparing to have a family, do you really use all that information or do you figure some of those things out yourself? Or the last two years I really learned to cook. Sure, I followed some recipes, but then did my own thing too, creating as I went. And not once did I have to order a pizza instead!

When not to jump in? Certainly some things need and require a careful training plan before doing it – I think about health and safety, where big dollars are at stake, something that’s totally new to you, or something that takes a lot of practice or apprenticeship. Or where you can’t afford to make a mistake along the way (I think about the manned space program and NASA, for example, even though they have had some tragic accidents.)

Jump in. Talk, ask, learn, seek answers, and try again. Society and change is moving faster today than ever before. It’s not about where you get on, its’ how you hold on while everything is in motion. Life’s a great adventure – jump in and embrace the change, the newness, the excitement, and the opportunity.

Posted in Change, Growth, Learning, Speed | Leave a comment

We Are All Leaders

Years ago at the company I worked for managers tried to sign up individual contributors into supervisory and management development programs called Supervising Employees Effectively and Managing People and Performance.  Why?  Because there was nothing else appropriate for them.  Although questioned and told that “you have to be managing others in order to attend this class,” that didn’t stop them from doing this.

Today, they would be welcomed with open arms.   As organizations become leaner and flatter, the need for individual contributors at all levels to step up is more prevalent than ever.  We all work on teams of various kinds and have opportunities to lead projects, provide input and make a difference in achieving our organizational goals, even those not designated as “manager.”  Because we are all leaders.

 Some of the skills needed by everyone include communication, influence, negotiation, time management, innovation, problem solving, and business acumen.  Sound like a leadership curriculum?  RD& partners did a study and identified the top 4 key skills for individual contributors: 1) Able to plan and effectively organize their work 2) Strong interpersonal communication, 3) Effective at collaboration and 4) Able to deliver consistent results.  The study can be found here:

 And the places we go to learn these skills are as diverse as the audience taking them.  Formal classes, informal learning, customized programs, online programs, MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), extension courses, university programs, executive education, audiobooks, hand held books, etc.

 Today organizations need to offer as wide a variety of leadership learning, when people need it, in the format that they most prefer, and with ways to apply, transfer and reinforce the learning to the individual’s skillset.  No question it’s difficult to find the time to do so – that’s why flexible learning and learning bytes is also important, so that people can get the skills they need when they need it in small bits of learning. Doing so will allow you to have associates and an organization better trained and ready to meet the challenges ahead. 

Posted in Learning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In-between thoughts

I have so much more I want to say in this blog.  Yet as I read more blogs out there, I discover many with great points that I’d like to share.

So each week you will either be seeing a new blog from me or some recommended blogs to follow – all around the theme of this blog, Advancing Learning.

Today’s “guest” blog is by Andreas von der Heydt, Director Kindle Content Acquisition at Amazon in Germany.  His blog is about the VUCA leader – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – a good description of the times we live in today. Enjoy this feature, and I’ll be back next week!

Posted in Learning | Leave a comment