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.

A
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 www.trainerbubble.com

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 www.trainerbubble.com to access a wealth of resources including a large section of free training resources and material.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Don't lose your marbles - Make a positive difference to your life.

I've never been one to get over losing easily. In fact, I distinctly remember pushing a marble up my brother's nose as a dirty faced 8 year old because he beat me at Ker-plunk. Not that I was any good at the game, I just didn't have the patience for it.

Maybe that's what makes losing so hard to take, knowing that you didn't really have the skill to win in the first place and you are just kidding yourself to even try.......

Of course the paragraph above is absolute piffle. However, it is the same message that is played in a lot of people's minds every single time they fail. The truth is, failing should be seen as a positive, a chance to grow, an opportunity. Losing just takes you another step closer to getting it right (as long as you learn from it).

That's a lot easier said than done, I hear you cry, and you're right, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying. I can think of many things I've 'lost' throughout my life; football matches, card games, driving tests, job interviews and that special first date with Claire Martin in class 4c. At the time they all affected me in their own little way (particularly Claire Martin in class 4c, but I don't want to go into that right now), there was nothing fun about the loss and there shouldn't be. What matters is what happens afterwards.

Henry Ford once said "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right".

When I first read that quote I think I re-read it five or six times. It's not the easiest statement to make sense of, but it's one of the truest things I ever read. It sums up, for me, the fact that so many of us allow our beliefs to become our drivers and eventually these drivers become 'us'.

Stop and think about yourself and how many restrictive beliefs you have developed that are stopping you from really achieving what you want to in life. Go on, do it, stop, right now...and think.

Now consider where those beliefs came from. How much truth do they really hold? Now, now, don't start making excuses, or backing up the data with weak support...truly consider the facts of the matter. I would like to be so bold as to suggest there is not a lot of real factual evidence to back up your claims at all.

The good thing is, it's not too late to change, you just have to want to bad enough. So give it a go. It may feel uncomfortable at first, you may start to feel those old beliefs creeping back into your head. Blow them away, dust down the cobwebs of negativity and believe in yourself once again. I know you can do it and you need to know it too.

You see, I know that it works, I did it for me. I shrugged off my old beliefs and started afresh. I still fail, but I learn and move on and if people don't like the new positive me...I stick marbles up their nose.





Trainer Bubble provide lots of training course materials on personal development. The author of this article, Andrew Wood, is the owner. Visit today and view all of our free training resources and training course materials.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Understanding People's Behaviour - Banging Your Head Against a Wall?

I just came home to find my 13 month old son giggling loudly to himself whilst banging his head against the living room wall. My immediate response was to say, "Son, you're an idiot." and only once I'd managed to distract him from this pain inducing activity did I consider the possible consequences of my words.

Maybe this one time I was right to call him an idiot. Certainly banging your head against a wall is not the action you would expect from a sound mind. However, let's consider I call my son an idiot consistently over the next few developmental years. The likely outcome is.......an idiot.

You see everyone's behaviour is driven by their own self-image, and that self-image is built around the adult influences they receive in their childhood. These influences come not only from parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, sports coaches and pretty much anyone that they have regular contact with.

It is these influences that create our attitudes and ultimately our behaviours. For example; somebody that has always been told that they should stand up for themselves may ultimately become aggressive when placed in a stressful situation. Or somebody that is encouraged to always share and make others happy may develop a need to please people and will display submissive behaviour at times. I experienced this last type of behaviour with an old colleague of mine. Whenever we held a meeting he would wonder why he always walked away with more action points than anyone else!

Think about your own experience. Is there something you believe about yourself, which has been influenced by others? You may find that hard to do, as these beliefs have become a part of you and are shaping your behaviour all the time. However, they are there in all of us in varying forms.

Now, these drivers are not in themselves a problem. We all need drivers in our life, without them we would not achieve anything. It is when these drivers become negative or destructive that issues arise. There may have been times in your own experience where a person’s behaviour has seemed out of control or perhaps it was just that their driver was conflicting with yours.

So what can you do?

One thing you have to accept is that every person’s behaviour makes perfect sense to them at the time. Nobody sets out to make their life difficult and often it is because they feel they have no alternative in the given situation. No matter how bizarre the person’s action seems, it is rarely something they have manufactured.

Now you know that these drivers exist. The best thing you can do is start to identify them in yourself. Realise when you are being driven by an inner desire to react in a certain way and prepare for it. Once you know why you might be acting in a certain way, it becomes a lot easier to adapt and understand the consequences in an effort to minimise their impact.

Next, be prepared to spot behaviour drivers in others. If you can tell that they are being driven by an inner belief, consider how you might be able to have conversations that will provide antidotes. Often we do not consider how we present a message before we do so. Taking a little time to consider how the message is going to be received can really save a lot of time in the long run…otherwise your just banging your head against a wall.


You can find training course materials that help you get the best out of people from our website
www.trainerbubble.com.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ten Rules for a Successful Life

Why are some people more successful than others? Is it just that some people get all the luck and that’s just the way it is? Or is there more to it? Gary Player the famous golfer once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get” and I think this statement has a lot of truth to it. I believe that success is a mindset and if I’m right, then that means that anyone can achieve it.

If you listen carefully to people you will notice that they become very adept at providing reasons for their ‘bad luck’. It’s the upbringing, the schooling, the boss, the partner and many other reasons including the fact that there are not enough hours in the day (eh?). I’m of the opinion that these limiting beliefs are a way of avoiding the simple truth; some people just don’t want it enough. It’s a lot easier to sit in your lazyboy chair and proclaim to the world that you didn’t get the breaks, than it is to get up and do something about it.

Now I’m not saying that everyone should want to be the best at everything they do, but I do think that those people who decide to live life in the slow lane forego their right to complain about it. If you really care that much then it’s up to you to change things.

So for those people that want to get out of the rut and move on in life, I’ve put together ten rules. If you follow them, I see no reason why success shouldn’t follow.

1. Nobody else is to blame for the way you are. Those things that happen to you (good or bad) simply create choices. You are a product of your own making.

2. The world owes you nothing. If you want the stars, buy your own ladder and climb. Nobody will give you a leg-up.

3. Thinking is not doing. Good luck rarely comes to the inactive. Hard work is a dream-maker.

4. Failure is progress. Every mistake is a step closer to success, as long as you learn from it.

5. Focus on the important things in life. If you spend too long worrying about the small things, that’s all you’ll end up with.

6. Take pride in what you do. There’s no shame in thinking positively about yourself. If you don’t love you, nobody else will.

7. Celebrate success. If it goes right, shout it from the roof-tops. You can learn from good stuff too.

8. Take what works and build on it. If you find success in one area, model it and apply the learning to other areas.

9. Stick with it. There will be moments when it all seems too much like hard work, that’s when you’re getting closer.

10. Share your success with others, there’s enough to go around. Successful people work together and build winning relationships.

There you have it, ten simple steps to achieving your dreams. So stop looking for reasons not to succeed and start working towards your goals. I’ve never once heard an elderly person complain about the things they did in life, but I’ve heard a few regrets about the things they didn’t.

Visit Trainer Bubble now, where you will find two great training resources on Success; 'Make a Difference to Your Life'and 'Think Your Way to Success'.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Managing Performance - High Performers

High performers stand out in any organisation. They consistently exceed expectations, and are management’s go-to people for difficult projects because they have a track record of getting the job done. However, managing high performers presents a different set of challenges in itself. Just because you often find your high performers working independently, with little need for direction or supervision, it does not mean that you can just leave them to it.

Just as with average performers, it is important to understand and appreciate the values and motivation of high performers. Only by doing this will you be able to effectively manage their work and ensure you consistently get the most out of them. You should also set clear boundaries and outcomes for the high performer who will need to be clear how they should approach work that they are likely to do quite independently.

Some of the key tips on guiding high performers are…

  • Give lots of feedback as to desired outcomes. Then allow the high performer to work towards these targets without too much input from yourself although still allowing for opportunities to review how they are progressing.

  • Let the high performer know the boundaries within which you expect them to work. It’s ok for them to strive to do things differently in order to be more effective, but this should not be at the expense of processes and procedures.

  • High Performers want to be inspired by the leadership, not managed. Try not to micro-manage their work and get in the way of their progress.

  • Encourage the high performer to work with others. Not only sharing their expertise, but also understanding the challenges others face. A high performer should be prepared to collaborate with others to drive results.

  • Be prepared to challenge high performers - You can do this by providing new opportunities or projects to get involved in. This will help keep them engaged with the organisation and reduce the chance that they will get bored.
 
  • Praise, but don’t over-praise. Of course the high performer needs and deserves praise. However, if this is overdone it can lead to the high performer over-valuing their worth and becoming complacent. It can also build feelings of resentment within the team, which leads to poor performance in others.

This is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for 'Managing Performance', which you can purchase from our website at www.trainerbubble.com


 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Interview Skills - PRICE model

Effective interviewing is vital part of the selection process.  This means that we need a consistent approach that is both professional and efficient.

One reason that consistency is important is that we must ensure that all candidates we interview are given a fair opportunity. 

We believe that one way to achieve consistency is to use a structured approach. 

The approach we recommend is ethical and fair and you will be using it in a way designed to put interviewees at ease so that they feel confident to talk to you. It is also very effective at collecting quality information to help you make the best possible decision. This approach is called the 'PRICE' Model.

Prepare

The key to effective interviewing is good preparation and planning.  Skip this stage or prepare inadequately and it is unlikely that the interview will be effective.

As a minimum you should be setting the criteria you expect successful candidates to meet and the questions you need to ask to help you assess whether they meet those criteria.

We also advocate preparing a question plan to use as the basis of questions you will ask all candidates.

Rapport

At the start of the interview the aim should be to establish the right level of rapport with candidates.  It is important to remember that you are using the interview to obtain good quality information from candidates.  Put them at ease and they are much more likely to talk freely.

Interview

Think of an interview as a structured conversation. The role of the interviewer is to give direction to that conversation by asking appropriate questions.  

The aim should be for the candidate to do most of the talking and the interviewer to do most of the listening during this phase.

Close

Candidates must be given the opportunity to ask any questions of their own. Remember, they will also be using the interview to assess whether they want to work for you. 

At the end of the interview the interviewer should explain the next steps in the selection process and when and how the candidate will be contacted.

Evaluate

After the interview the interviewer needs to evaluate the information collected against the criteria established during the preparation phase.
 
This is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for Interview Skills. Find out more about this and many of our other great training course materials at www.trainerbubble.com.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Communicating Change


Good communication is crucial when implementing a change. The most common error made by organisations communicating change is that they ‘tell’ people what the change is and how they should go about implementing it.

Effective communication is the central factor in managing change.  Openness and honesty, seeking feedback, recognising people’s contribution, delegation and teamwork are some of the main characteristics of good communication.   Effective communication is essential to build trust, motivate your people and establish confidence, particularly during times of change.

Principles

  • Be as open as you can and tell the truth - this is your most powerful tool
  • Build a powerful and compelling case by being:

Brief                - Well articulated

Clear               - Qualitative and quantitative

Credible          - Prepared with the facts

Compelling     - Create activities through effective communication channels

  • Be creative - you need your audiences’ attention before you get their intention
  • Tune in to different stakeholder groups’ needs and preferences
  • Focus on the benefits of change

Benefits

Some of the benefits of effective internal communication are:

  •  Good communication processes help people to understand where they fit in the big picture, or, in other words, how their job and team contributes towards achieving the organisation’s goals.

  • Good leaders are often good communicators - great communication skills and practice helps leaders set direction and maintain morale. They appear credible to their team.

  • People who know how their job contributes to the organisation’s goals know what’s important about what they do and can direct their efforts accordingly.  They also feel better motivated to do a good job. Hence they’re more productive.
 
  • They have more opportunities to speak up about concerns, as well as ideas and suggestions.  A more trusting relationship can be created with colleagues and managers, given persistence and time.

  •  Since your people are the organisation, if they’re well informed and motivated, it stands to reason that the company’s external reputation can only benefit. 

  • It also stands to reason that good communication can help you manage the negative impact of change.

  • Change is never easy to deal with, but good communication makes it easier for people.  They understand what’s going on, why, and (as far as possible) how it will affect them.  It won’t make them like change, but people will feel more comfortable, and better able to continue with their day job while change happens.

This is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials 'Planning for Change'. You can find out about these and our other training course materials at www.trainerbubble.com