Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Can be a Tough Leader and not be an S.O.B.

Have you ever heard this said about a manager:

"Well, he gets results, but leaves a trail of bodies in his wake"

The thing that drives me crazy is way too many organizations (and people) accept this as OK.

You know, you can get results and treat people with respect - the two are not mutually exclusive!

Here's another Great Leadership 2x2 model to sum up the relationship between results and respect as they apply to leadership:


The great leaders are visionary and set extraordinary goals for themselves and others. They can be demanding, have high expectations, and push their teams to their upper limits. But they do it in a way that a way that makes people feel valued; that their ideas and work matters, and enables people to achieve more than they thought was possible.

And in the long run, they outperform the SOBs every time!

I've heard people describe these kind of leaders like this:

"You know, she was tough as nails and demanding, and I don't think I've ever worked as hard. But she was fair, recognized my good work, and I learned a lot!"

You can get great results - and not have people do a happy dance after you're gone.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Add a Little Hoopla to Your Culture


Guest post from Dean M. Schroeder:

Carl Holte loves Hoopla! Not hoopla as in the form of exuberant celebration, but hoopla as in the name of an improvement technique used at the Web Industries Hartford, Connecticut unit where Carl is the plant manager.

Hoopla is a simple, quick improvement technique that is used at the end of every meeting or event. Participants are asked three questions:

1)     What Went Well

2)     What Didn’t Go Well

3)     What Should We Do Differently

The rules for participants are simple:

        All feedback makes it on the list as stated

        Keep feedback short and concise

        No debating anyone else's feedback

        Everyone has a voice

        Be open and honest

Lists of the responses to the three questions are created, logged, and reviewed by the appropriate people. Improvement actions are decided upon and assigned. The process has proven to be an excellent source of employee improvement ideas. Because its application is so pervasive, Hoopla has helped to foster a candid environment of improvement as an integral part of Web Hartfort’s culture.

Hoopla is also used as a way to quickly get input on the performance of various processes throughout the operation. For example, about once a year, everyone in the facility is asked the three hoopla questions about the employee idea system. In this way, employee ideas are used as a way to improve the system for getting employee ideas.

Carl Holte also hates Hoopla. “Our people have gotten so skilled at Hoopla, that it seems no matter how good a meeting or event has gone, we walk away with a list of improvements we can make.” Then Carl grinned and added, “It seems like the better we get, the more improvement opportunities we see.”

About the Authors:

Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder are award-winning authors, consultants, and educators. They are the co-authors of the bestseller Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations. Between them, they have advised hundreds of organizations in more than twenty-five countries around the world on how to improve their creativity, innovativeness and overall performance. Their first book, Ideas Are Free, was voted the Reader’s Choice by Fast Company magazine and selected as one of the 30 best business books of the year by Soundview Executive Books. On March 31, 2014, Robinson and Schroeder will release their second book together, The Idea-Driven Organization (available on Amazon). Follow them on Twitter – @alangrobinson and @deanmschroeder and visit their website – idea-driven.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Repurposing the Performance Conversation


Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:
 

When was the last time you had a performance conversation that went well? Or better yet, when was the last time you enjoyed having a performance conversation? Let’s face it; both parties of the conversation generally dread performance conversations, more commonly known as performance reviews.
 
So, why not have a different conversation? How about shifting the conversation to focus on the future and how a person can improve through personal and professional development? The conversation you should be having is the development conversation. These conversations are about supporting and empowering your team members, which will allow them to take ownership for their own personal development.

An Effective Development Conversation

To make the transition to a development conversation, you first need to think incrementally.  The conversation should be ongoing and not an event. As a leader, the conversation needs to be part of your monthly 1-1 meetings with your employees, as I discuss in Chapter 2 of “Are You Talent Obsessed?”.

For these frequent, planned discussions to be effective, leaders need to include four critical components to the conversation.

1.     The Formal Development Plan

2.     Plan progress

3.     Potential Roadblocks, Adjustments

4.     Recommitment

This monthly conversation is the formal conversation. But remember that informal conversations are just as important.  When leaders embrace the technique of coaching in the moment, they are building a culture of performance development.

1.            The Formal Development Plan
Before the conversation about an employee’s development begins there needs to be a plan. The plan is developed jointly between the leader and employee so that the employee has ownership for executing the plan and leader can provide the necessary resources to smooth the way for success.

The plan should include how an employee’s development goals are linked to the company goals, what type of development and resources will be needed, and the outcomes expected from the training. Creating a three year plan versus the traditional 12 month development plan will demonstrate to employees that the company is making a long-term commitment to their development, which can influence how employees view their relationship with their employer.

2.               Plan Progress
Once the plan has been developed then the conversation moves to the measurement of progress. The progress conversation should include questions similar to the following:

·       What was learned during the development/training activity by the employee since last month

·       What changes has the employee implemented,

·       What is working and what isn’t working for the employee

·       Who can the employee share her new knowledge with that can help to develop another employee

·       What have you as a leader learned from the process

3.            Potential Roadblocks
Identifying potential roadblocks requires both the employee and leader to look ahead towards the future and identify any changes to the employee’s workload, such as a recent project that has been identified and assigned to the employee.

Will the changes impact the progress of the development plan? Are there other options that can be used to provide the necessary development that will help the development process to continue uninterrupted? This could require a shift in how the development is delivered.  It may be that originally the employee was going to attend some classroom training but with a new project attendance may be impacted.  Are there other options that are more flexible, such as online webinars?

Both the leader and employee need to come to an agreement on how the development will be adjusted which then leads into the fourth step, recommitment of resources.

4.               Recommitment
As a leader, the critical role you play is developing the next level of leadership so your organization can be a sustainable and thriving company. And the one area that is solely the responsibility of you as a leader in the development process is the commitment to removing barriers and providing the necessary resources for employees to develop to their full potential.

This last step of recommitment is your responsibility, as well as the employee’s. It is you who needs to recommit the necessary resources for the employee to continue to develop. And it is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership for his progress once the resources are provided.

With a good development plan and frequent development conversations, you and your employees can focus on the future and not the problems of the past. The ongoing conversations will be anticipated and not dreaded. Committing today to repurposing your performance review into a series of development conversations, will lay the foundation for a less stressful and more productive future.


Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive advisor, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA, and she is a Certified Managerial Coach. Her latest book, “Are You Talent Obsessed?: Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high-performers is available on Amazon. To learn more about Beth visit BethArmknechtMiller.com or Executive-Velocity.com.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

30 Thoughts We All Have in Staff Meetings:


Right before the meeting:
1. Arrgh, I’m supposed to be at a meeting in 10 minutes. What the heck is it for, who’s running it, and where is it?

2. Oh no, it's the dreaded staff meeting! I’d better take a look at the agenda and make sure I wasn’t supposed do anything to prepare.
3. Dang – we’re supposed to do status updates. No problem, I’ve got 8 more minutes.

4. I hope there are donuts. Last time there was nothing but bran muffins and fruit. I hate this new wellness stuff. I really miss donuts. Chocolate cover glazed Krispy Creams.
5. I wonder if I can find a box of Krispy Kremes? Are they still in business? I’ll Google it...
6. Oops, now I’m running late. I’ll make up some status on the way there. Hopefully I won’t get called to go first.

During the meeting:
7. Slid in just in time! Better to be right on the dot. Too early means you’ve got too much time on your hands, and too late and you get last pick of the donuts.

8. Oh nooooo– fruit!!  And yogurt! Yuk.
9. OK, who do I sit next to…..

10. Not next to the boss, that’s for sure….
11. Ah, an open chair at the end next to Alex – grab it!

12. OK, I’ve got a few minutes to make up some impressive sounding status…..
13. ….and check my emails….and Buzzfeed….ah, gotta send this one over to Alex 

14. Oh oh, the boss just said something and everyone’s laughing…. I’d better join in.
15. Suck-ups. not. at. all. funny.

16. Hey, incoming, new emails…..and a text from Alex.
17. All right, time to think up a few status updates….they have to be impressive, but not too braggy…. Damn, it’s hard to do this and fake like I’m listening to these other updates at the same time!

18. Oh oh, looks like Dave’s going down in flames! Waaay too much detail, and never, ever admit you’re having a problem!
Pull up, Dave, pull up! Oh no, crash and burn, it’s so hard to watch!
Later in the meeting.....
19. Whoa, backwards freefall! Did I just nod off?

20. Oh oh, they’re all looking at me. Someone must have asked me a question. Fight or flight?! Stall! “I’m not sure I understand the question…what is it that you’re looking for exactly?”
21. Whew, a narrow escape. Boo-ya!

22. And, just in time for my status updates….. here goes nothing, let ‘er rip!
23. So far so good – lot’s of head nods, boss seems interested, in a zone, feeling the flow….

24. OMG, what did I just say? Did that come across as stupid as I think it did? What a dork! Never mind, quick, on to the next update, don’t pause, go, go, go…..
25. Whew. Nailed it. No questions. Left ‘em dazed and confused. Or bored to tears. In any case, on to the next victim - turn quickly and over to you Alex!

26. Whoa, I hope no one just heard my stomach growl! Damn, I’d kill for a donut right now.
27. OK, the end is near and the boss is droning on, time for some nodding, assiduous and ostentatious note-taking, occasional exclamations and eye contact with others.. and a snarky text to Dave.

28. 2 minutes to go, we are nearing the finish line, victory lap, and I don’t have a single action item! Poor Dave – he just got appointed chair of a task force.
29. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….. and the meeting is o-vah! Freedom! Let my people go!

30. OK, time for a little obligatory post meeting hob-nobbing (avoid eye contact with Dave, he's looking for task force volunteers), and then I’m off in search of a box chocolaty-glazed heaven!


For a more serious look at how to have better staff meetings, see:
10 No Bull Tips on How to Lead a Team Meeting

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Obligation to Dissent


Guest post By Jeremy Eden and Terri Long: 

When corporate leaders make decisions about a new idea, something we call “executive exuberance” often plays a deceptive role.  Here is what happens: analyses start to show that deciding to go forward will produce good benefits at reasonable costs and risk.  Though the leader has some issues they want further analyzed, they begin to express some enthusiasm for the idea. Those reading the tea leaves see that the top of the house is leaning toward a yes.  Suddenly, everyone starts to see the data supporting the ideas with a bit more of a rosy glow while the data about the costs and risk begin to be minimized.  Sometimes this is just a case of politically pandering to the powerful.  But far more often, this phenomenon happens subconsciously.  When we want something to be true, the evidence that supports our desire shines brightly at us.  At the same time, we ignore or find justification why the evidence against us is irrelevant.  So as executives start to lean toward a “yes”, they and their teams put on rose-colored glasses and voila, initial skepticism turns into enthusiasm which turns into “executive exuberance”. That exuberance then drives the decision instead of cold, hard facts.  
Companies are full of smart people with strong opinions based on their knowledge and experience.  Some will gloat that “I knew that was a stupid decision” when a project fails but won’t say it before the decision is made when it really counts. Tapping into as much brainpower as possible before a decision is made is crucial to success.  The best antidote to “executive exuberance” is also the best way to tap more of your corporate brainpower.  Leaders must institutionalize the “obligation to dissent”: a duty to voice fact-based objections to a path that others are supporting. 

But declaring that you are obligating your employees to dissent will not make it happen!  Leaders have a special obligation all their own: to provide the kind of environment that encourages dissent. This presents a big challenge to many executives.   You may read that last sentence and think that executives merely have big egos and don’t want to be told that they are wrong.  In fact, most of us are simply wired to avoid conflict, not to open the door and invite it in.  So executives, not just their employees are working to avoid conflict.  Then throw in “executive exuberance”, the hierarchies and politics present in most corporations coupled with the poor job climate, and what you get is beyond mere conflict avoidance, it is “survival of the silent” mode. 
Executives, therefore, need to go overboard in inviting dissent.

For big decisions, a debate team environment is perfect.  Leaders should assign a team of people they respect to argue against the decision to approve the new idea.  Their goal as a team is to win the debate.  This turns a fear of dissenting into a fear of failing the assignment if they can’t find the best reasons for dissenting!  Even if the debate just confirms the wisdom of approving the idea, it will still be valuable in highlighting potential weaknesses that can potentially be addressed before implementation rather than discovered after implementation.
For the lesser, everyday decisions, executives need to foster a culture that embraces an obligation to dissent.  Get employees accustomed to a culture of dissent by starting with the interview.  Ask your potential candidates for examples of when they have voiced a dissenting opinion.  Make it clear that you value that quality in your employees.  If you use a mission statement or other document to discuss the principles you want your organization to have, make sure an obligation to dissent is prominent in that document.  At staff meetings, when you are discussing an idea, ask each member of the team – even the most junior -- to imagine the most likely reason that an idea will fail.  This question allows a safe form of dissenting as when asked in this way, it will seem silly to say that there is literally no reason or circumstance that could cause an idea to fail. 

Be especially on the lookout for those who sit quietly in a meeting and then come to you for a private meeting afterward to voice their disagreement with a decision.   Allowing employees to dissent in private exacerbates the culture of “survival of the silent”.  It also is extremely inefficient as you then need to get the right players together to discuss again a decision you thought was already made.
Most importantly, all your good intentions of asking for dissenting opinions will be lost if you ”shoot the messenger”  when someone does dissent.  Make sure that as a leader in your organization, you embrace conflict by reacting positively to the concerns presented by the dissenter.  This does not mean, of course, that the dissenter always “wins”.  The “obligation to dissent” is about sharing important facts, not just opinions - as best summed up in the mantra “everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts” (thank you Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan!).  Ensuring that everyone is using the same, correct, set of facts, whether they are weighing in with a yay or nay will help you drive sound decisions.

Lastly, if you do get wind of a team member saying “I knew that was a stupid decision”, tell them that they had an obligation to dissent at the time.  The ultimate consequence for those who do not fulfill their obligation? They are off the team.  You need everyone to fulfill the “obligation to dissent” to reach the highest levels of success.

Jeremy Eden and Terri Long are the authors of Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits and co-CEOs of Harvest Earnings, an advisory services firm that helps companies to engage their employees in growing earnings and improving the customer experience. They have helped companies like PNC Financial, H.J. Heinz, and Manpower to reduce costs and increase revenues by millions of dollars. Jeremy has decades of consulting and performance improvement experience in business including at McKinsey & Co. Terri was in the corporate banking world for eighteen years before joining Jeremy over a decade ago. They are based in Chicago.

Monday, April 7, 2014

17 Ways to Teach Managers how to Coach


 
Welcome to the April 2014 edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!
For this month’s Carnival, I asked our community of leadership development experts the following question:

Wouldn't it be great if we could teach managers how to coach? What one book, website, or other resource would you recommend to a busy yet motivated manager who wants to learn how to be a better coach?”
The following is a collection of their responses. Bookmark it, print it, and share it with others. Pick one resource that you didn’t know about and review it yourself. We can all learn something new when it comes to the art and science of coaching.

Thank-you to all that contributed to this list! Please take a moment to visit their blogs, as they are all outstanding writers and should be a part of your regular leadership development reading.

The list is not ranked – they are in order of submission, first to last:

1. “The book I recommend for leaders on the art and science of coaching is  The Coaching Manager by Hunt and Weintraub”, writes Beth Armknecht Miller, CEO of Executive Velocity,  “This book provides a great process for leaders who want to become effective coaches in their organizations with real world examples and should be a “go to” guide for all leaders.”
2. S. Chris Edmonds, from Driving Results Through Culture  recommends his March ’12 blog post titled, “Coaching - Not Conversion,” because “holding others accountable requires a series of coaching conversations to set the context for the desired behavior and gain commitment from that player to change their behavior. One discussion typically won’t convert people to desired ways - it takes coaching.”

3. Jim Taggart of ChangingWinds offers up a dynamite book on mentoring: “Of all the books I’ve read on coaching and mentoring over the years, the one that stands out for me is Chip Bell’s Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning. Dating back to 1996 when it was first published (with subsequent updates) Bell’s book, while practical, also has a philosophical underpinning. Bell uses his SAGE concept to explain the importance of learning how to effectively mentor. In essence, the mentor is a sage, one who helps guide and teach another individual. As Bell states in the opening section: “This book is about power-free facilitation of learning.”
 4. Tanmay Vora from QAspire recommends this interview with Marshall Goldsmith and Chip R. Bell on the art of effective mentoring. "I interviewed Marshall Goldsmith and Chip R. Bell on Topic: The Art of Effective Mentoring. Their interview is a fantastic resource for leaders to clarify the foundation of coaching and mentoring. Mentoring means starting where the protégé is, not where the mentor wants him or her to be."

5. Joan Kofodimos from Anyone Can Lead recommendations Biggest Coaching Mistakes Managers Make. “I find that managers have many misconceptions about what it means to coach. In addition to teaching managers "how to," we can also help by clarifying "how not to" coach.”
6. Michael VanDervort, from The Human Race Horses Blog recommends the Spiritual Workout website.  "It's an interesting website with some creative workplace ideas, and well worth checking out."

7. Jon Mertz, from Thin Difference, recommends the book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard Rumelt. "Strategy development and execution are key elements in leadership and will inevitably arise in conversations with managers and other leaders. This book highlights what makes a good strategy work and what dooms a strategy."

8. Mary Jo Asmus recommends her own program: Aspire Collaborative Services has taught hundreds of individual and groups/teams of managers to coach others with a hands-on, real-world program taught by seasoned executive coaches called Coaching for Breakthrough Performance”.
9. Tim Milburn, from Lifelong Leaders, recommends the book Coaching for Leadership, edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Laurence Lyons, & Sarah McArthur (3rd Edition). "It is a fantastic collection of articles by some of the best executive coaches out there. It helped me understand different coaching styles and best practices within this ever-expanding field of coaching."

10. Randy Conley, from Leading with Trust, recommends the website CoachWooden.com. “John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, was more than just a basketball coach. His coaching, teaching, and leadership principles can be applied to any leader, manager, or individual contributor seeking to achieve their maximum potential.”

11. Jim Concelman, from Development Dimensions International’s Talent Management intelligence just wrote an article on this topic titled,  The Problem You May Not Know You Have: Your Experienced Leaders Could Be Ineffective Coaches. In it he shares, “Experience can teach many things, but experience alone cannot teach leaders how to be good coaches. Learn what separates the "great" from the "mediocre."

12. Robyn McLeod, from The Thoughtful Leaders Blog, recommends the book, Power Questions, by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas. “This book offers insight to how asking the right questions can strengthen relationships, shift perspectives, and open the door to developing others. Questions are an essential part of any coach’s toolkit and a manager who can developing great asking skills is well-positioned to coach others.”

13. John Hunter from Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog suggests The Leader's Handbook by Peter Scholtes , “not due to specific advice on coaching but in order to gain insight into how to view the results of complex human systems without leaping to false conclusions.  Often I think coaching mistakes are made because we do things like select those to coach based on what we call "performance" but is really just random variation viewed through our desire to find patterns (and assign specific causes where they don't exist).  The book is what I would use to guide the coaching - using it as the textbook to improve their management and leadership knowledge and practice.”

14. Jill Malleck from Epiphany at Work recommends the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. “This book gives managers the tools to communicate more authentically and with both gentleness and directness. I especially like the pieces on observing without evaluation, identifying and expressing feelings (with a list of feeling words) and making direct requests.”

15. Anna Farmery from The Engaging Brand recommends the book Brief by Joe McCormack"I read many books for The Engaging Brand podcast and therefore to choose only one is extremely difficult. I have chosen Brief because of the essence of the message - brevity can be so much more powerful for leaders".

16. Wally Bock from Three Star Leadership recommends the post Coaching and the 21st Century Leader. “Helping team members grow and develop will become a more and more important part of your job. Whether you call that mentoring or coaching, there are skills to learn and practice.”

17. Dan McCarthy, from Great Leadership, recommends the book Effective Coaching by Myles Downey. "While I've read a lot of books on coaching, this one is the one that I've used the most. It's straightforward, practical, and loaded with tips and tools".

Do you have a favorite coaching resource that's not on the list? Please add it as a comment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

False Positives

Guest post by David Small:

I’ve been coaching elite athletes and soldiers for the more than a decade now, and recently I learned a lesson about false positives. I’d like to give you four tips to serve your team with honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable.

For two years I worked with a professional ice hockey club in Europe. In my first year with the club we won a championship and everyone really believed that every player gave their all to win. In my second year we had a new head coach in the club who wasn’t getting the best out of all the players. One player in particular came to me angry one evening after the coach had just praised him for doing a “great job” in the practice and last game. Frustrated, the player stormed into my office and said “this is the only coach I’ve ever had who can make me feel terrible when he’s giving me compliments.” Surprised by his comment I asked him to explain. He went on to tell me that he knew if he compared his performance this season, to last season, he was far below what he expected of himself. He knew that he was making mistakes and could be playing better, but the coach kept telling him what a great job he was doing. Every time the coach told him this he felt like the coach had given up on him, and that he couldn’t be any better. He felt demoralized and like he couldn’t trust the coach.

How often do we have members of our team that we say “good job” too, even though we know they could be doing better? Did you know you could be doing more harm then good by not pointing out their shortcomings? Here are four tips to build up your team without giving them false positives.

1)  Don’t shy away from conflict or awkward conversations. Sometimes our success in life is based on the number of uncomfortable or awkward conversations we’re willing to have. Maybe a team member isn’t performing to their ability or the standard you expect. You need to talk to them.

2)   Be Clear. Unclear is unkind. Don’t use phrases like “You can do better” or “c’mon you’re better than that.” Give them real, concrete examples. In the scenario of an athlete I could say, “you need to do a better job not losing possession of the puck in the neutral zone.” Or in an office setting you could say “you’re not putting enough effort into following up with customers to make sure they’re happy.” Give them clear advice.

3)   Be compassionate. Most times your employee will know that they aren’t living up to their own expectations. Yelling and shouting at them won’t help them. Ask them why they aren’t performing. Ask them questions about their personal lives, and be genuinely interested in the answers they give. Maybe there are issues happening at home that are affecting their performance. Don’t let them get away with excuses, but be compassionate to their situations.

4)   Follow up. Don’t just have a five minute meeting and expect the changes to happen over-night. Look carefully for small, measurable improvements, and let the team member know they’re moving in the right direction. Meet again and show them things they have (or haven’t) done to change their performance, and then help them keep taking steps forward.

By just telling everyone they did a good job, the team will eventually stop listening. Make your positive feedback positive, and make your negative feedback constructive. Build a team of people who want to win, and who are going to perform at their highest level possible. Are you getting the best from the people you lead?

Author bio:
David Small is the author of the bestselling book The Wandering Leader. In this book David explains how leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they should get things done. He focuses on seven areas of leadership that everyone can grow in; career, financial, social, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and family. David has been a professional ice hockey coach for over a decade and is an officer in the army reserves. David has guest lectured and been a keynote speaker at leadership events around the globe.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

T.O.I.L.E.T. Training™ -- a breakthrough system to improve workplace learning

As a follow-up to my last post about getting smarter about how we invest our limited training budgets......


PHILADELPHIA, April 1, 2014 -- Rapid Learning Institute (RLI) pulled back the curtain today on its latest innovation in workplace education: the T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™ -- a new platform that promises to reshape how training is delivered in modern organizations.
The T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™ -- which is built on RLI’s proprietary Time Optimized Intensive Learning Experience Technology -- combines state-of-the-art hardware and software to transform the standard commercial restroom stall into a fun and exciting learning kiosk that not only increases the worker’s knowledge base, but also enhances the quality of the break event itself.
“Today’s workers and organizations are under unprecedented pressure to maintain high productivity,” said RLI Research Director Walter P. Hokes. “In this time-stressed environment, training is often viewed as a luxury that employers can’t afford. And yet without ongoing training, organizations fall behind. So we asked ourselves, ‘How can we help organizations deliver effective training without negatively impacting productivity?’”

In 2008, that question led to RLI’s original training breakthrough:  Quick Takes—six- to ten-minute learning modules that can be viewed anywhere, any time, on any smart device.
In 2014, the T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™ takes the concept to a new level.

“The idea of six- to ten-minute training sessions was a paradigm shift that allowed us to think outside the traditional training box,” said Hokes. “We realized that if we could identify small unused blocks of time in workers’ schedules, we could deliver training that would help them be more productive, more motivated and better at their jobs while keeping productivity high.”
To develop the T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™, RLI conducted extensive on-site research at some of America’s leading companies. Adapting a methodology developed by the legendary design firm IDEO, RLI’s technology experts and instructional designers closely observed employees as they went about their day, looking for opportunities to drop nuggets of training into their busy schedules.

“We considered a variety of options,” said Hokes. “Elevator rides. Coffee breaks. But not every building has an elevator and not everyone drinks coffee. So ultimately we zeroed in on the one activity that nearly every worker engages in – often multiple times during the day. And it was just the right length of time.”
In traditional restrooms, opportunities for learning are limited and the aesthetics leave something to be desired. The lighting is bad. The conversation is predictable. The graffiti offers up the same tired jokes day in and day out.

T.O.I.L.E.T. Training™ kiosks significantly upgrade that experience. An eye-level WiFi-enabled tablet device is permanently affixed to the inside of the kiosk door and automatically launches a Quick Take rapid learning module when the door closes. To minimize training distractions, electronic signage on the exterior of the kiosk notifies other workers when the unit is occupied and training is under way.
Inside, convenient literature racks ensure that supplemental learning materials are always at the learner’s fingertips. A white-noise generator simulates the sound of a gurgling brook, enhancing privacy and helping learners focus on the task at hand. A dedicated hotline gives learners instant access to a live RLI customer-service representative or certified trainer should the need arise (upcharge applies for the trainer option).

Best of all, the T.O.I.L.E.T. Training™ System provides managers with GPS-enabled status updates, allowing them to monitor their employees’ training efforts and intervene when necessary. “This is part of the magic of the T.O.I.L.E.T. Training™ System,” explained Hokes. “Real-time monitoring creates opportunities for ‘teachable moments,’ where managers can actually step into the worker’s training to offer additional support and encouragement.”
Hokes observed: “The traditional corporate restroom experience has been heavily weighted in favor of outputs. With RLI’s T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™, we can change that equation and have workers leaving these encounters with more than they came in with.”

The T.O.I.L.E.T. Training System™ is currently in beta testing, and RLI is soliciting organizations to participate in the tests.  Applications must be received by end of business on April 1, 2014.  To learn more, view an explanatory video at  http://rlin.st/TTVideo

About Rapid Learning Institute:
Rapid Learning Institute (RLI) provides online training and talent development tools for businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions in the areas of sales, leadership and management, human resources, employment law compliance, and workplace safety. Based in Greater Philadelphia, RLI is an operating division of Business 21 Publishing.

Happy April Fools Day - GL.

Let’s Stop Pushing “Development” as a Cheap Replacement for Training

A slightly abbreviated version of this post was recently published in Smartblog on Leadership:

True confession time.

I once worked for a large, global conglomerate that was in a death spiral and struggling to turn things around. The company was harvesting its mature and declining business in order to pump cash into its growth bets.

This company had a proud tradition of investing in the development of its employees. Sales reps were trained in their products and how to sell them, scientists went to conferences, engineers were offered continued training to keep their skills up to date, and new managers were trained how to manage.
There was even a requirement that every employee received 40 hours of training.

A new CFO came on board and decided that training was a luxury that could no longer be afforded. Instead of a way to improve skills and make the business stronger, it was seen as an expense – even worse, a strategically irrelevant expense, like rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

Training budgets and staff were drastically cut. What training staff was left was charged with trying to convince the remaining employees that the company 40 hour training commitment was really a 40 hour development commitment. That is, projects, books, discussions with your manager, just about anything could and should be counted towards those 40 hours.
The Center for Creative Leadership is known for its “70-20-10” model of leadership development. That is, 70% of an executive’s learning comes from job changes and actual work, 20% from others, and the remaining 10% from books, courses, and hardships. We took that research and peddled it as a reason to eliminate ALL training, including sales, product, technical, management, and anything else that took place in a classroom. We replaced it with elearning courses and development plans and told employees “go at it, you’re on your own”.

Cindy McCauley, one of the original CCL researchers behind the 70-2-10 model, wrote recently in an article called "My Love-Hate relationship with 70-20-10""I hate it because people misuse it. I’ve heard colleagues complain that it is justification to cut formal programs. The reasoning: if they account for only 10% of development, why do we need it? (Back to the critical details—some things are best learned in formal programs.)  Another complaint: Attempts to force everything into the 70-20-10 mold, as if one concept should rule decision making about program designs, learning and development budgets, and individual development plans."

I’m not proud to tell that story, as I was a part of peddling that garbage until I had had enough and joined a company that was really committed to employee training and development. The reason I’m baring my soul is that I still see HR and training professionals trying to sell themselves and their employees the same propaganda. Sometimes they are doing as they are told, but sometimes they really seem to believe it.

Look, I’m not naïve, and as a training practitioner, and now a provider, certainly have a strong bias towards the value of real training. I totally get the need to watch the bottom line, and eliminate any form of wasteful spending. I hate wasting money and people’s time on lousy training!
Development is important – it truly is where we learn most of our lessons in life. But so is training. There are key points in a leader’s career – first time promotion – a significant new responsibility – getting ready to move into a senior executive role – major shifts in strategic direction - and others where a good old fashioned dose of training (yes, even classroom, where you can learn and network with others) will accelerate that learning curve.

Sure, without training, people can still “wing it”, try to learn on their own, and sink or swim. Eventually, though trial and error, they may pick it up. But when you are in a leadership position, your mistakes can hurt others, and the higher the level, the more costly those little lessons learned become. Wouldn’t it be worth the cost of 1-2 days of training to prevent a million dollar mistake?

Let’s stop pushing “development” as a cheap replacement for training, if it’s really just an excuse to cut costs, and let’s get smarter as to how we invest our limited training budgets.