Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mentoring Relationship Stages

A mentoring relationship has four definable stages within its life cycle:
1. Getting to know each other – establishes expectations of a mentoring relationship. In the early stages, a large part of the mentor’s role involves being supportive and creating a reassuring environment for the mentee. Initial meeting agendas might include:
  • getting to know each other personally
  • identifying the mentee’s learning needs for career and professional development
2. Goal setting – establishes expectations of learning by:
  • identifying potential learning opportunities at work and the technical and theoretical learning that might result (e.g. brainstorm possible areas of learning that relate to the development or profession as a whole, suggest useful contacts, check for other training opportunities, etc.)
  • agreeing meeting schedules and ways to arrange meetings by writing a Mentoring Agreement
3. Progress and maturation – the longest stage. At this stage, the emphasis of the mentor’s role should change to that of a challenger and stimulator to encourage deeper learning and reflection. A balance needs to be reached so that mentees continually explore their limits but not to the extent that they feel overwhelmed. Emphasis should be on issues of professional development. Later meeting agendas might include:
  • reviewing general progress and achievements to date and giving guidance on ways to improve performance and progress
  • reviewing any work-based learning
4. End – a final meeting is essential. For many mentors it can be tempting to avoid defining the end or separation stage and to regard it as unnecessary. However, a final review session is crucial to provide closure on the relationship for both the mentee and the mentor. The mentee and the mentor are jointly responsible for providing a proper ending to the relationship.
This structure provides a clearly defined approach to the mentoring process. It will ensure you are both clear on the progress of the mentoring relationship and allow you to consistently review and support development.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for Mentor Training, which are available for purchase from our website

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Influencing in Groups

Influencing people can sometimes be a difficult and demanding process. People respond in different, sometimes unpredictable, ways when others are trying to influence their thoughts and actions. This is true enough in one to one situations but is particularly so in group situations. The following ideas will help you overcome difficulties when trying to influence groups.

• Setting a positive tone and modelling positive influencing behaviours

• Being yourself, without defensiveness or hidden agendas, and sharing your experiences and feelings to establish empathy.

• Describing what you see rather than being judgemental, e.g. “on the basis of what you’ve said, you don’t look to be supportive…”

• Being empathetic – showing you understand people’s situation, needs and feelings, i.e. trying not to give advice, judgements or interpretations.

• Maintaining your assertiveness, but avoiding displays of unnecessary emotion (weakness or aggression) and unhelpful behaviours, immediate counter-attacks and talking over the top of people.

• Keeping people and problems separate, i.e. recognise that in many cases other people are not just ‘being difficult’ – real and valid differences can lie behind conflicting positions. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging working relationships.

• Exploring options together, i.e. being open to the idea that a third position may exist and that you can get to this idea in collaboration with others.

• Listening first and talking second – to stand any chance of influencing others you must first understand where other people are coming from before feeling you must ‘defend’ your own position.

• Focusing on getting the support of the ‘early adopters’, i.e. there will usually be a proportion of people in any group who are open to new ideas or new ways of doing things. Their support can often be influential in encouraging the more resistant to come forward, over time, in support of your views or action plans.

Recognising that people often behave differently in groups can help you, tactically, to be more effective in influencing others. Much of this is about watching and listening to group behaviour and exercising your own judgement about when to be assertive and intervene and when to sit back as discussions unfold and people exchange views or come into conflict.

This article is a short excerpt from the training material, 'Influencing Skills' provided by Trainer Bubble at

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Train the Trainer - Our Incredible Brains

We've developed a new video to accompany our Train the Trainer training course materials. This video demonstrates the capacity for learning that our brain has and how this means we should find different methods of training people to ensure they get the most out of the learning. - It supports and is a key part of Train the Trainer course materials By Trainer Bubble.

We hope you like it!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Building a Virtual Team

A good process to follow if you are building a virtual team (or refocusing an existing virtual team) is to set up an agreed approach to ways of working. In order to do this, we must first look at what makes up an effective virtual team.

Shared objectives

The virtual team must understand what it is they are trying to achieve as a team. This means highlighting the team goals and objectives and linking this to organisational strategy wherever possible.

Knowledge of what to do

Further than knowing what their objectives are, they should also have clarity around how they should do their job and what you expect of them in the role. This might include processes and procedures and any plans they must follow.

Tools to do it

If there are certain ways of working, what are they? Are their preferred tools, technology, and guidelines they can use to achieve their goals?

Ability to do it

Do they have the ability and knowledge to use the tools of their job. If not, what can be done to help them develop?

Desire to do it

Are they motivated and inspired to perform their jobs well and to the ways you have agreed?

So, if you are aiming to move your virtual team to a position where they feel that all of the above questions are answered for them, you will need to establish ground rules with the team and ensure they are clear on what you are trying to achieve together.
Virtual team managers set ground rules during the initial team meeting. During this meeting, they must:

  • Articulate team goals and objectives
  • List roles and responsibilities 
  • Determine when and how the team will communicate both formally and informally
         - Team meetings
         - Information sharing
         - Guidelines and rules for using different technologies
         - External communication

  • Determine standards for when and how to coordinate team tasks
         - Communicating status to manager, team members, client
         - Tracking tasks
         - Risk management

  • Set guidelines for collaboration
         - Brainstorming
         - Sharing documents
         - Making decisions

  • Devise a strategy for relationship and trust building from a distance
         - Virtual community
         - Reliability
         - Conflict management

  • Determine when and how to execute best practices for performance management
         - One-on-one meetings
         - Motivational and formative feedback

Working on these key ground rules and guidelines as a team will help ensure you begin from a starting point of trust. You may have a good idea of how you want to approach each of the elements that you include in your initial meeting, but if your virtual team feels that these are being thrust upon them rather than decided as a group, you may find that they rebel against them and your efforts will have been wasted.

There will of course be elements of the discussion that are not up for debate, perhaps where policy or process are important, and in these cases you should make it very clear why you have made the decisions you have so that there is no confusion or opportunity for dissent.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for 'Managing a Virtual Team', which can be purchased from our website at


Monday, 1 September 2014

Networking - Increase Your Business Presence

Central to your networking strategy is the effect you have on those around you. Developing a strong business presence that ensures you leave an engaging impression on people you come into contact with will provide a cornerstone to your networking plan. This means that developing your business presence is critical if you want to guarantee that you consistently generate networking opportunities. However, understanding what makes up a strong business presence can often be difficult to grasp.

To make this process easier, we’ve split the idea of business presence into four key ingredients, which help you to focus on the necessary skills, behaviour and attitudes required to succeed.


Delivering what you say you will and meeting promises. People are unlikely to risk their own reputation in recommending you if they do not feel you have a strong track record. They want to be confident that you will do what you say you will, meet targets achieve results and be consistently effective.

Personal Brand

Your image and how ‘marketable’ you are. A personal brand is about your values, attitudes and beliefs. It’s about showing people what makes you special and different and promoting that to people around you. It’s a statement of what you can do and how well you will do it.


How aware of you your target market is. This is about making people think of you whenever they think of an opportunity that is linked to your skillset. It’s about ‘putting yourself out there’ and keeping yourself in the mind of others. After all, if people have never heard of you, they can never promote you.

Social Capital

Your influence and reach within your network. This is about being the person in your field of interest that is seen as being ‘useful’ and able to support the needs of others. Being someone who builds up social goodwill helps give you influence and puts you in demand. Social capital is built by aligning with key influencers and becoming one yourself. It’s about building strong relationships and personal goodwill.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble classroom training course materials, 'Business Networking', which can be purchased from our website at

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Effective Business Presentations

A common misconception about presentations is that they are there to inform the audience. When you are making a business presentation your key aim should not be to inform, but to encourage your listeners to agree to the proposition and concept behind the idea you are presenting to them. This could be a solution to a problem, a reason to purchase a product, a new way of approaching a topic or just to accept your way of seeing an issue. You should leave your audience with a sense that they should change their attitude, behaviour or thinking as a result of what you have presented to them. All this means that you need to persuade your audience and to do that you will need to make the presentation relevant to them while making them like you and accept what you are saying.

Now you could put together a very impressive presentation that makes people laugh and gets them clapping at the end. However, if there is no supported action following the presentation, then much as they will be impressed by your delivery, they still might not do anything different as a result and therefore your business presentation has not been a success. That doesn’t mean that presentations shouldn’t impress people or make them laugh; it’s just that this shouldn’t be your main aim. Too many presentations focus on providing information rather than getting action and results. What you should focus on can be summarised by the following points…

Emotional buy-in - It’s important to make the audience want what you are offering, which means you have to get their emotional buy-in. The best method of achieving this is to demonstrate the benefits of your offering and appeal to their needs and wants.

Aim for change - You want your audience to think, feel or do something different as a result of your presentation. Without some form of change, there’s not much point in making the presentation at all. You might argue that some presentations are ‘just for information’. If this is the case, perhaps you should just send an email or find another way to get the information across.

Show the benefit - Every person sitting in the audience is thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ If you can’t answer this question then you are aiming to fail. Don’t describe what your offering is, but rather what it does…for your audience.

Ask for action - Your business presentation will be successful if the people in your audience do something differently as a result. This makes it important to be clear about the actions people can take to benefit from what you have said.

You will notice that all of the points shown here focus on the audience rather than you. This shows how important it is to write a presentation that appeals to the people you are presenting to, rather than focusing on things you think you want to get across.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for Business Presentations, which you can purchase from our website at

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

How to learn anything in 20 hours

Josh Kaufman does a fantastic TED Talks presentation on how to learn anything in 20 hours.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

PowerPoint in training - When a good thing is not a good thing.

I thought I'd write a few words about a topic that often comes up in discussions about training, and that is the use of PowerPoint slides. I have received many emails, had many discussions and attended many meetings where the subject of PowerPoint in training is raised. What is obvious is that there are those that are strong advocates and others that are not so convinced by the use of PowerPoint. Personally, I fall into the latter category.

I should start by announcing that I think PowerPoint is an excellent tool and its use has helped presenters and trainers immensely over the last two decades. The idea of returning to acetates and an OHP fill me with dread. Having said that, I believe the fantastic ability and usability of PowerPoint means that those very users have become too reliant on the tool and training has suffered as a result.

As a trainer and training designer, I get very frustrated by people who equate a good training course with how many slides are included. I have even recently read a training design company's view that a days training should include between 60 - 100 slides. I'm sorry, but this is just poppycock! This would mean that you are displaying at best 10 slides per hour or 1 every six minutes. If you are showing slides at that rate, then you are simply providing no time for activities, review, discussion or even any meaningful commentary from the trainer.

This point brings me to the key element of importance regarding PowerPoint during training and that is the statement, ‘PowerPoint should support the message, it should not be the trainer supporting PowerPoint’. Without following this critical element you fall into the trap of letting the technology, not the content, become primary.

Training should be interactive and indulgent for the learner. It should allow time for the participants to explore the practicalities of an issue as well as to absorb the theory in a relaxed environment. If we simply present information to participants in a slide format we become lecturers, not trainers. To reiterate, PowerPoint should support training materials and the trainer in order to help the learner learn. This means using the tool as a reference point, a method of highlighting a point with an image or where it is not possible to demonstrate a point without a graphic or text based representation.

Some argue that they use PowerPoint as a method of ‘sorting their thoughts’ and although their training course has 2698 slides with it, ‘I won’t be showing most of those’. Well, great, but there is always the danger that someone else training your course will and besides that, surely there are better ways of laying out the structure of a course? That, to me, is why we invented Trainer Notes.

regular study that is carried out by a website called, ‘Think Outside the Slide’, shows the dangers of PowerPoint and how it is perceived by the audience. Although the data is aimed at presentations rather than training I think it shows very well how problematic PowerPoint can be. The data reveals what annoys people most about PowerPoint.

The speaker read the slides to us - 69.2%

Text so small I couldn’t read it - 48.2%

Full sentences instead of bullet points - 48.0%

Slides hard to see because of colour choice - 33.0%

Overly complex diagrams or charts - 27.9%

As you can see, the speaker reading slides is the most annoying thing to people and although this study was taken in 2009, the same point has been top for every bi-annual study since it started. The author reads a lot into this and it is well worth a read, but my thinking is that the participants don’t like having the slides read to them mainly because they could do that for themselves. As someone on one of my courses recently said about a previous course, ‘The trainer was so intent on putting his notes on the slides, I couldn’t help but feel he should have just emailed his notes to us.’ This brings me back to the point that training should be interactive and involve the participants throughout. PowerPoint limits the potential to do this.

On a typical Trainer Bubble training course you will find something in the range of 12 – 24 slides per day. This will include the ‘title’ slide as well as two ‘objectives’ slides (one to open and one to close the session). PowerPoint advocates might feel that this is a bit sparse and that consequently the training course lacks content. This is certainly not the case and our thousands of customers will testify to this. The fact is, our training content is based in the Trainers Notes, where it should be, and the participants that attend one of our courses will gain knowledge through the information provided by the trainer, the activities they explore, the exercises they carry out, the discussions they take part in and then finally the supporting materials they see and receive. After all, as Confucius said, "Tell Me and I Will Forget; Show Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Will Understand."

Confucius probably had it right too , because from various research sources we know that we remember from: the Lecture (5%); Reading (10%); Audio Visual (20%); Demonstration (30%); Discussion group (50%); Practice by doing (75%) and Teaching others (90%). Even a good set of slides will only meet the Audio Visual element of this and at 20%, that’s not a very good return. Of course it’s not possible to make teachers out of all our participants and so the aim is to involve areas from each of these principles. A good training course will do this and allocates as much time and effort to each principle as the output justifies.

To sum up, PowerPoint is an effective tool to use during a training course, but it is only as good as the person using it. Let it support your training course, but don’t let it BE your training course.

Andrew Wood is the Managing Director of Trainer Bubble Ltd., a specialist provider of interactive and engaging training course materials for trainers. Visit their website at

Monday, 24 March 2014

Don't Give Up On Classroom Training

Times have changed in Learning and Development. Gone are the days when we could schedule a plan of classroom based training courses and expect that to cover the organisational development requirements for the coming year. Now we have to be much more able to adapt to market changes, organisational demands and employee needs. An organisation that is not willing to adjust their approach to employee development will soon falter in their attempts to progress and grow.

These new demands have seen a shift in focus and at the same time, emerging technology has stepped in to fill the void. E-learning, management learning databases, social media interventions, open learning platforms, video clips, development blogs and many other creative approaches to learning have made headway into most business training strategies.

There’s also been a growing demand for more formulated ‘on the job’ training, also referred to as ‘informal learning’, which has always been around of course, but is now being given some of the important focus it deserves, after all, we probably learn most of what we do in our job roles while actually doing our job. The issue with informal learning in the past has always been that it is very hard to track and manage this learning, but of course the fact that we have new tools such as learning management systems means that this has become a much easier task. This means managers have more control over the process and more importantly, they can provide evidence and reports to back this learning up.

The approaches I’ve described above are probably well on your radar and most businesses have begun to implement these ideas in one way or another. They’re very popular, not only because they are seen as innovative, but also because once the initial outlay has been made, they are often found to be a cheaper alternative to traditional approaches.

You’ve perhaps noticed by now that I’ve made a very good case for these methods of learning and this belies the original title of my article. Many readers who fight the corner of classroom training who were encouraged by the title are likely now creating small effigies of me to put needles into. However, to neglect the fact that these new methodologies exist and are actually an important part of learning and development would not only be insincere, it would also be hugely incorrect. These interventions are valuable, they do have a place and they can save money and help develop a strong approach to employee development. What they can’t do is provide every piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is learning.

It’s right that classroom training is not seen as the only way that people can learn and actually it never should have been. People have always learnt outside the classroom and if you don’t implement any of the teachings from a classroom then the learning will have been lost anyway, so ‘doing’ has always been a key component. This isn’t restricted to the classroom though, because if you don’t go out and do something different after you have watched a video clip or taken some e-learning or even read a book then the value is soon lost, it’s exactly the same.

Now, you could argue that the informal ‘on the job’ training doesn’t suffer from this problem because you are already doing something with what you have learnt and I totally agree. However, this type of learning has always existed. We haven’t made a magic new formula with informal learning; we’ve simply got better at recording it. So, if we needed classroom training before when informal learning existed, we still need it now.

Let’s not forget that classroom training has changed vastly over the years too. We used to take a much more presentational approach to classroom training and learning would be focused around an expert at the front of the room who would impart knowledge much like a professor lecturing a class. Now classroom training is much more engaging and inclusive and will be filled with activities, exercises, group work and, dare I say it, a lot of the new technologies that people are using outside the classroom. Good trainers hunt down relevant and interesting materials that will enhance and support the training content that they need to get across and training has improved immensely because of that.

Classroom training is really important and should sit side-by-side with any other development approach being used. Here are a few things I think classroom training gives you that e-learning and other technologies don’t do effectively…

  1. A chance to physically practice skills with peers in a safe environment
  2. Ability to openly debate and discuss issues with others (writing on forums or via emails doesn’t count for me)
  3. The prospect of learning from an expert, your peers and people from different areas of the business
  4. Provides an opportunity to review learning and ensure understanding at time of learning
  5. Be able to relate your experience and knowledge with others and see how this fits into your wider understanding of a topic

These are just a few of the things I think learning technology is unable to provide to any effective degree currently. I’m sure there are other reasons why technology is not able to replace classroom training and I’ve also missed out the more intangible elements such as working with others and teambuilding etc. It’s clear that classroom training still has a place though and there are a lot of people who much prefer it to the often anti-social and data-led approaches that technology can offer.

When new ideas, technologies and approaches come along, it is tempting to throw the baby out with the bathwater and neglect everything that has gone before, but this can be a big mistake and while new ideas should be embraced, we should not forget the important role that ‘the old way of doing things’ can play. In fact, you could argue that most of these ‘new technologies’ are actually not new at all, they are just using new tools to do the old things we used to do. You don’t read a quote from Martin Luther King anymore; you watch a clip of him making it. You don’t view a diagram of that new product being developed; you scroll through a 3D plan of it.

A lot of training is also bringing technology into the classroom and I think this best demonstrates my thinking on how classroom training should be perceived in the modern world. It’s not that it is outdated and needs replacing, more that we need to best work out how to combine classroom training with the many other interventions that are arising these days.

So let’s not give up on classroom training just yet. It has just as an important role to play as it always had. We just need to ensure that it plays nicely with everything else that is emerging.

Andrew Wood is the Managing Director of Trainer Bubble Ltd. who design and develop training resources and course materials for download from their website. Visit them at to access a wealth of resources including a large section of free training resources and material.