I recently came across this video on Digg and I had to share it. Its about 5 dangerous things that we should let our children do and it really makes alot of sense.  Its great for everyone to look at because it gives us another perspective on learning and seeing things.  Check it out here http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/202 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. 

Happy New Year!  The year is a day old, how many have blown their resolution?  Com’n, lets get those hands up.  Don’t feel bad, you have alot of company.

How often do we set out with the best of intentions, only to have our plans foiled by some evil does in finance?  Or the HR person reminding us of a policy that could impact our well laid plans?  So we decide, “Oh, the hell with it” and scrap the idea.  Explaining to everyone that it wasn’t going to work out or maybe just blaming it on the executive team saying, “You know how it is with the suits; if it makes sense, they don’t like it”.

Kinda sounds like some poor planning.  Forgetting to plan for disasters or diversions can hurt, but so can not budgeting time or planning for problems.  Budgeting time is often where great ideas fall apart.  Try breaking goals into smaller chunks so they aren’t as intimidating.  Focus on getting to the next step, not just the ultimate goal.  Going a year without being late to a meeting is really hard, going a day without being late is alot easier. 

So maybe this years’ resolution needs to become today’s resolution.  If you blow it, there is always tomorrow. 

Hiring people is a tough job. 

I have hired quite a few people in my career and there is no exact science to it.  Thats why we have the HR department.  But the HR department can only help you so much.  You need to be clear about what you are looking for in an applicant.  Hiring managers is a great example.

We have all seen poor managers that are really “nice” people.  They are alot of fun to hang out with and have no problem just doing all of the work themselves because “its just easier that way”.  But they struggle to make that jump from co-worker to supervisor. 

Or the new manager that takes their new title and runs with it, focusing more on their new title and less on their actual responsibilites.  I bet we all have quite a bit of experience with those managers!

But what about the manager that was really good at their previous job and they got the management job because of how well they did their old job.  Is past performance always an indicator of future success?  Nope! 

So what do you do?  This comes back to good ol’ fashion mentoring and training.  First, make sure that you have a very understanding of the position that you are hiring for.  Is the applicant clear on what is expected in this role?  People will tell you anything you want to hear in the interview so plan to review the responsibilites after you have made the hire.  And then plan to spend some time with this person as they aclimate to thier new job.  Give alot of feedback and don’t assume anything.  Point out the good stuff as often as possible , it makes it much easier to hear the not-so-good stuff. 

And of course, use other resources.  Get other peoples’ input on your applicants and new hires.  A new hires’ success is a reflection on you, so don’t just look at them as someone taking work off of your plate, rather, as someone that represents you!

I got a new job!  To tell you the truth, this was not one of my smarter moments but I simply had a gutful of the ………nevermind, I just decided to quit.  Had nothing lined up, I just quit.  I have never done that before.  I did give notice but I was feeling like there was little point in me coming in everyday.  I was being viewed as a Powerpoint person rather than as a training professional that might actually have some good ideas on how to diseminate information.  And life is too short to not feel valued so I told them that they needed to find someone better suited for what they needed. 

I was on “vacation” for 5 weeks at home driving my wife nuts but I was fortunate enough to land a great new gig at Blackboard as a Training Consultant.  So that is why I have been a little quiet as of late. 

Anyway, I am building up a head full of steam and getting ready to spew some more thoughts on management and the training of adults. 

I am an educator. I am very proud to call myself that. I have worked in training and education for 10 years. I have seen it from many different angles and they aren’t all pretty. But watching the lightbulb turn on and seeing someone “get it” is a truly beautiful thing.

Education involves the imparting of knowledge. Could be teaching a child to read or it could be teaching a grown adult to use a stamping machine. It is assisting someone to get to a new place in their life and that’s a pretty cool thing.

But I feel compelled to point out that those who stand in front of a group of people and talk from a power point is not necessarily teaching or training. When I step before a group of people at a training session, not only am I about to impart some new information, but I am also going to put it into a context that will help them understand it. I am going to embrace my responsibility to the learners in that group to help them understand the information and review it with them. Otherwise, what is the difference between me and a book, or reading that power point on their own?

Whether we are teaching second grade or working with a group of accountants learning some new software, we realize our responsibility to our audience. Incidentally, those of you who are working with second graders or anyone else within our school systems, you truly are the rock stars and you have my ut-most respect. I will take the group of accountants any day over a group of kids. Back to my soap box, what differentiates us from presenters is that it is not a one sided experience. There is interaction. There is involvement on both sides. We prepare for our interactions and we analyze the process to see what we can do better. We continually strive to help the learner retain the information quicker and more efficiently.

I am sure that we have all seen someone trying to call themselves trainers when they are really just presenters and I would be willing to bet that it sounds like nails on the chalkboard when you hear it. Someone recently said that to me and I couldn’t help but get a little indignant towards this person.  I once mentioned the silly notion that people learn in different ways and the importance of addressing those ways and this person looked at me like I had just grown a third eye.

I am very proud to be a trainer. I take it very seriously. Its not about the glory and the money because there isn’t much, it’s about watching for the light bulb to turn on.

I just reviewed a power point presentation that is being delivered in a training session next week by a member of the management team.  He has one hour to talk about marketing and somehow he figured that he couldn’t get his point across with less than 152 slides.  No joke.

Corporate America discovered PowerPoint and has become incredibly lazy. Just let the slide do all the talking. No need to think about how its being said, as long as its on the slide we’re covered.   I cringe when ever I come across a slide that is loaded so much content that the font has been reduced to a size 12.  And in this case, all 152 slides are using….well, I will let you guess.

Guy Kawasaki, former Apple evangelist and current venture capitalist, had a great posting on his blog awhile back on PowerPoint.  Check it out here. His rule on PowerPoint applies primarily to pitching to a VC, but he points out the basic issues that we so often see in training environments. I am not sure that I think we can limit ourselves to 10 slides during training, but the point is valid.

Another great resource is Presentation Zen. PowerPoint is a graphic display of our presentation and is worthy of the attention of a designer.  And if we don’t have access to one, then we must be mindful of what we are putting on screen. Its not about cramming as much stuff on the slide as possible, its about making the most impact.

“Come on team, lets knock one out of the park!” 

Sound familiar?  This is starting to sound like one of the buzz phrases from the 90’s like “synergy” or some crap like that.  So what does it mean?  What are we really saying when we are told to “knock one out of the park”?

Recently, I heard a relatively new and inexperienced manager implore her team to do just that, knock it out of the park.  Nice way to motivate, but the problem with little phrases such as this is that it feels like eating a chinese meal, an hour later you are hungry again and wanting more.  Why is that?  Because it doesn’t give any real direction.  When managers drop this line, they fail to define how they want it to happen.  Or they are masking the reality that they are micromanaging but by asking everyone to knock it out of the park,  the manager is hoping that everyone feels part of the solution.

People need to be empowered to hold the bat and take a swing.   Yes, some will fail, but that is truly how we develop our people. And even though its like helping our children to ride a bike; we hate to see them fall and skin their knee, it is part of the process and we need to let it happen.  We aren’t protecting anyone by not allowing them to try.

No one will push themselves if they don’t have any ownership in it.  Why would anyone try for the fence if someone will come along and claim the ball as theirs?  And if you have never been told what to watch for and how to hit it, then can you be expected to succeed?  Pretty easy to encourage you to achieve greatness but even easier to pick you apart if you haven’t been told how to get there.

So next time you are trying to rally the troops, think for a second about your role.  Have you coached your teammates on the finer points?  Have you defined the goal?  And if they fail at bat, the question isn’t just “what could they have done better?”  The question is also “what could you have done better?