>Why aren’t we all highly effective then?

>I’m revising a course I’m due to deliver next week called ‘Making a Personal Impact’. It’s aimed at juniors in the workforce to give them more understanding about how to make a better impression and impact so that they get noticed and become able to move up the corporate ladder. As part of the course I’m doing a piece on what it means to be pro-active and as I was searching the interwebs, I was directed to Stephen Covey’s website http://www.stephencovey.com. He’s the author of the best selling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. The book was first published in 1989, has sold over 20 million copies, and has been named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century” according to his website.


Let’s fast forward to the here and now. A lot of authors have written about and blog regularly about how to be effective and the latest ten rules for doing so. I take issue with the continuous rise of such things, least of all because they tend not to be evidence based, more anecdotal, and this means there’s no real fix. The better works try to be scientific in their approach but still fall foul of not following an effective or repeatable process. Anyway that’s not what I’m blogging about.
My question today is around why we’re all not conforming to the multitude of theories in existence that tell us how to be successful and/or effective. Well the answer is pretty simple really. The companies and organisations we work in just don’t support these theories. Business 101 tells us that companies are in existence to make money. In order for that to happen, those same businesses look for the kind of people who are willing to put in the time and effort to make things happen. That’s a broad brush comment which is meant to include all manner of behaviours such as selling, collaborating, seeking new business, delivering on time, etc.
Part of that demand for success means sometimes those businesses have to overlook the desirable qualities that are oft quoted as being the corner mark of an effective person. Do you want a CEO who is able to make hard decisions, communicate them out and keep a business surviving, or a CEO who spends time ensuring staff are being cared for, relationships are well maintained, and may miss opportunities to sustain business success? I’m trying to present extremes on purpose.
The problem is the habits of highly effective people are often in conjunction with other behaviours that aren’t quoted or discussed. Some of these highly effective people are task masters. Some are sticklers for discipline. Some are really picky about details. Some just care about big ideas and big promotions. Some just railroad others into accepting their way of thinking. These are all traits which many executives possess but no-one really takes the time to recognise.
One psychometric tool I’ve come across does attempt to redress this. It’s called the Hogan Dark Side and is developed by Psychological Consultancy Ltd. It’s a good tool which encourages seniors to look at what may ‘derail’ them. What this means is, you may have a trait, e.g. gregarious and energetic, and this may be a great strength of yours. There may be circumstances you encounter which inhibit this strength continuously and make this person derail by forcing them to behave in ways that are uncharacteristic and damaging. For example, they start to go out for drinks far too often, during lunch and then after work, they spend too much time talking to colleagues and socialising rather than doing work, they try to get involved in company social events and miss meetings and deadlines.
But that’s just one tool and it’s not used widely enough to be recognised by the wider working world. My concern is that people go out and buy self-help books on personal success and how to be the next millionaire but they’re not being told the full story of what list of traits are not talked about.
To further this line of thinking, I’m going to make a rather bold statement. We wouldn’t have experienced the financial crisis across the world if all those workers in the banking industries truly exhibited the qualities of highly effective individuals, being genuine and not looking for personal financial gain. Instead, those industries promote and expect behaviours along the lines of: look out for yourself, get a big bonus, don’t collaborate, keep information close at hand, amongst others.
So where does this take us? If a company wants its staff to truly be displaying the qualities that seem to be in high demand, it needs to be explicit about that in a variety of different forms. The company should have a set of values that are clear and understandable by all. There needs to be a behavioural competency framework that outlines what’s expected of everyone in a very practical way. There has to be a clear and unbiased promotion process, succession plan and skills matrix. Review periods have to be mandatory and the opportunities for learning and development made available to every member of staff.
I’m not saying all companies are bad at doing this. If anything the Great Place to Work Survey by the FT shows us clearly that there are a lot of companies striving to get it right and perception from their staff show this to be the case. What I am saying is this needs to be built into every company so that we can have the kind of effective business and quality of workforce that we seem to be looking for.

>What digital means for L&D

>

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how digital has completely changed the world. That’s nothing new, it’s been self-evident for the last 5 years with the rise of social networking sites, brands doing more and more of their business on line, customer contact centres having complete on line presence, speeds of internet connectivity now at 50MB, and much more activity that I’m neglecting to mention.

In and of itself this excites me. This has to do with me being a techno geek. Not a true geek that understands jargon, but more to do with being excited about what the technology enables us to do. As was said in a talk I heard recently (by Ian Jindal in a talk about xxx), users of the internet don’t care how it works, they just want it to work so they can get on and do what they enjoy – surfing, buying, chatting, etc.
What is that excites me? I guess just the way technology is advancing so much now that you really can’t imagine life without our mod-cons. I can recall how things used to be done via memo, then fax, then emails, then instant messaging and now real time updates. Other technological advances went from VHS – Videoplus (which I loved by the way!) – DVD players – VHS and DVD in one players and now blu-ray players. Each new thing was more exciting and life made easy than the last. And that trend is only continuing for the better.
So I’m brought back to how it makes a difference in the world of L&D. Well at first glance L&D has tried to keep up with technology. All training executed pretty much through PPT now. Knowledge management systems were being implemented in organisations throughout the 90s. Computer Based Training has been around for many years – technical and behavioural skills. Online learning has been happening for at least the last 4-5 years with more and more people requiring 24/7 access to training materials. Wikis are now being used to be a storage hold of information. Psychometric tests have been available on-line since the turn of the milennia. Looking at this, we’ve done a good job no?
Absolutely we have! But is that what digital is about? I don’t think it should be restricted to it. L&D is one of those professions where if it doesn’t keep up with what technology has to offer, it will fall by the wayside. So what else should we be considering? Well one of the great things about being an online world is the amount of information and data available to us. But why’s that important? You can find information on demographics, political influence, internet usage, community centres, pretty much any statistic you could need, is available somewhere. That’s important to an L&Der because we have to work with current and correct information. It’s what gives us insight into the behaviour of the people we work with which in turn allows us to develop and deliver insightful and effective interventions.
See the essence of an L&Der isn’t about delivering training on Assertiveness Skills. It’s about knowing the behaviours of the person who needs it, what their likely social patterns are driven by, what their work environment means for them, and developing those skills with that individual so they can recognise and make a definite plan about how to be assertive. In part that comes from good questioning and good facilitation from the L&Der. I believe though there’s a wealth of information that digital makes available, that in the absence of that information you could be missing important information which helps you develop your expertise and experience and delivery style.
There’s no replacement for face to face training – regardless of the topic. But we can use a variety of tools at our disposal to engage our audience in a multitude of ways. Create a dedicated company training site, roll out an employee engagement survey, have a Facebook page, Twitter account, yahoogroup. All these (and more) help reach an audience. They also help you as an L&Der be focused on and conscious of trends in the areas you are interested in.
Digital has opened up the possibilities to L&D in a way that like brands have to learn how to engage with their customers, L&Ders have to learn how to hear what people need and want from training. If we’re not listening to those conversations, reading blogs, being on forums, contributing articles, we will lose a rich flow of information.
The best L&Ders are tapped into digital and know they can’t be complacent about such things. Those are the ones you need in your organisation.

>Getting the basics right

>I was able today to help a colleague with an area of work he was struggling with – time management. It’s an oft quoted area of difficulty that junior staff just don’t know how to handle. I was also able to help a colleague think about how to set realistic objectives for team members. What came out from both of these conversations is the importance of getting the basics right. And when I say the basics I really do mean the basics.

In the probation period of any new joiner the onboarding process should ensure a range of things are happening so that person is able to be effective in their job. A lot of that though has to do with the essentials of the job role. We can expect someone to hit the ground running when joining, but if we’re not giving them the right start, how can we expect them to succeed? A person can only be pro-active so much before they’re just facing obstinance and challenges.
So what is this onboarding process all about? Research has shown that an effective onboarding process increases the amount of discretionary effort an employee chooses to exercise. Discretionary effort is defined as the amount of effort an employee chooses to exercise over and above the bare minimum. So, the better the onboarding, the more engaged and productive the employee. Therefore the onboarding process has to be robust, inclusive and wide ranging.
What you’ll find is these suggestions seem to cover trivial things but you’ll be surprised how much of a difference they truly make.
Here are my suggestions for an effective onbaording programme:
Week 1
– orientation of the building including things like facilities department, toilets, canteen, vending machines, exits and entrances to the building.
– meeting everyone in your department and going for a department/team lunch
– meeting people from other departments who are key to their role
– all the technical stuff (PC, phone) set up and ready before they arrive
– showing them things like file structures, networks, intranets, extranets, wikis, etc
– give them an overview of the organisation structure
– meaningful tasks to start getting on with
– arrange a buddy
Week 2
– setting objectives for the probation period
– introducing them to other departments and getting them to arrange their own meetings
– assigned work relevant to their role
– explain company history and values
– talk them through HR processes and L&D plans
Week 3
– weekly meeting to discuss progress and review their learnings to date
– buddy lunch
– arrange possible shadowing of other team members
Week 4
– weekly meeting
– explanation of competency frameworks
– explanation of different business units, how they contribute to the company and how you work with them all
– evaluation of how they are adapting to the work environment and coaching to improve their effectiveness
This is what should happen in the first month. There should be a lot more that happens which you will need to identify. But if you can get these basics right then things such as performance reviews, giving feedback, coaching, all become easier because you’ve already covered these aspects. Conversations can then centre on actual job role, tasks, development, etc.

>L&D to the rescue!

>In one of my earlier posts I mentioned something about a crack L&D team. From a meeting today I have been inspired to talk more about this ninja trained team of L&D professionals.

So first thing is to be clear about what is an L&D professional. In my experience it’s someone who has been exposed to a wide range of training topics and can deliver training on those topics. This takes time. It’s not enough for an L&Der to be a time management trainer. A trainer is someone who does exactly that – trains. An I.T. trainer is pretty restricted to I.T. training. They will be knowledgeable about their specific topic and be mostly restricted to that. But in essence, they are not developing a behaviour, they are developing a technical skillset. Because of that, they will be restricted to being a trainer; unless they of course venture to the L&D side of things. Oh and don’t let the title confuse you. An I.T. consultant isn’t an L&Der. They’re just a fancy trainer.

The other thing to be wary of is to be fooled into thinking that a good trainer can make a good L&Der. No sirree. It is very possible to have someone train well but not make a good L&Der. They can present the information well, answer questions thrown at them, even make it amusing and relevant to your work. But that’s not what L&D is about.

L&D is about a culture of learning and development that is facilitated by the L&Der. That sounds good but what needs to happen? Well you have to have someone who has experience of the learning and development cycle and knows how to make it a reality. That is someone who knows how to carry out a learning needs analysis, how to design an intervention, able to deliver the intervention and finally understand what evaluation is needed to measure the success of the intervention.

In order for that to be a success the L&Der has to have an infectious personality. The last thing you need is someone who believes in L&D but has the personality of a dead toad. I’ve known people like this and for all the money in the world they will never be like Jonathan Ross. So this L&Der must be someone who is able to do the following things well:

1) develop your business acumen – quickly. L&D can only be effective if you truly understand what are the important factors in business success? What is the company strategy? What do the different departments do? What processes are already in place that support L&D? Who are the key supporters of L&D? Who are the ones who just need to be introduced to L&D to be your supporters? Who are the cynics that you need to build rapport with? What are the objectives of the business? How can what you deliver help the business?

2) build rapport with a wide range of people. This is important in so many ways. You’re only going to have a successful L&D function if the business knows who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, and give you the support to do this. As an L&Der it’s vital to be able to deliver an intervention that is received well by the people you’re working with.

3) be knowledgeable about a range of L&D interventions. The beauty of being an L&Der is that you’re not limited to delivering training courses. You have at your diposal other interventions such as workshops, meetings, focus groups, PR & marketing, lunch and learns, and the list can go on. A good L&Der will know how to use a different intervention in order to meet different needs.

4) be a good facilitator. This key skill of an L&Der was taught to me by my first boss. Facilitation skills can help with everything from project management to meeting management to delivering a programme. It’s highly important to be able to understand the subtle nuances of being an effective facilitator and to be able to adapt this skillset for any daily interaction.

5) always seek current trends. As good as an L&Der may be, they have to seek out what’s hot in the world. This is not only true for skills as an L&Der but also to keep aware of what’s happening in the business world, economy and industry. All these things influence what you do as an L&Der and how successful you are likely to be.

Broadly speaking then these are the key things any L&Der should be able to do. I think I rank fairly well across those 5 points. I’ve still got a lot to learn to be better, and that’s something I’m always conscious of.

>What have I achieved?

>Hi all. So as those of you who either follow me on Twitter or know me personally will know, I (I mean my wife but you know) recently had a baby girl. She’s doing very well and is a wonderful addition to the family. I now have a complete family and this makes me very happy. It also makes me reflect on what’s been happening in my life, what’s currently happening and what is due to happen. Kinda like getting a visit from the 3 ghosts in ‘A Christmas Carol’ but not. Anyway I digress.

Where have I got to? Well in the last 5 years a lot has happened. I got married to Mrs P. We had our twin boys A&K. I have a job, which, for the moment, is secure and not going anywhere. The job also helps keep my family in a secure place for at least the next few years. And now we have our baby girl. And all this by the age of 31 (soon to be 32 I might add).

Whats happening right now? Well a lot of stuff. I have good friends in Jim, Joe and Jerry. This makes me particularly glad because at one point I was at a point where the friendships could have gone dry. This didn’t happen. Mostly because I was given some stern words. And for that I’m grateful.

There’s adjusting with the new family. Any change – no matter how good – means adapting. And this means that people have to accept change and adapt. That’s tough and even though people will be well meaning, it’s change all the same. The silver lining here is that people will have to talk more to understand more. For me, that’s positive.

And then there’s my family. This time at home has been really important for me with my twins. I only really have time with them either when I have time off or at the weekend. But I’ve been able to do a lot with them in this time off and that’s been invaluable. My wife went through a relatively good labour and although the pregnancy wasn’t all pleasant, the joy of the new baby has seen those ghosts laid to rest. I’m thankful to the Lord that I have my family.

And where’s this all headed? Well I have to consider the following things. First, am I being a good husband? That means a lot for the wellbeing of my family. I think I’m doing a good job for the most part. Next, am I being a good parent? This is key in ensuring I remain a positive and happy influence in my children’s lives. Third, am I being a good friend? This is important for my own sense of self and keeping good company. Fourth, am I being a good worker? If I am producing and delivering good work then work will continue to be a place where I can be positive and engaged. Fifth, am I being a good citizen? A community is only as good as the people living there. This will be a continued challenge that I will strive for. And last, am I being a good family member?

What I actually reflect on though is did I lay these plans out in advance 10 years ago? Even 5 years ago? Well, no if I’m honest. I had an idea in mind but no plan. And to be honest (a lot of that in this post) the next 5 years are heading the same way. I have an idea of what I’d like to achieve and for now that’ll do me.

But how does that fit in with achievement? Aren’t you supposed to plan and set SMART goals? Well of course you are. But to recognise what you want to achieve you have to take a look at what you have achieved. That’s what helps you plan for the future. Knowing what has happened so you can have a clear idea for what’s yet to come.

>Business 101

>In a range of interactions today I was made aware of the importance of a little something called business acumen. The bread and butter of any successful organisation is to understand what business acumen is all about. I still don’t know if I get it. Not really. I get enough to understand a range of factors associated with it. You know, things like ROI, portfolio of clients, customer identification strategies, marketing, PR, R&D, finance, cash flow, profit and loss, revenue streams, new business pipeline. You do know, don’t you?

And that’s where things start to get interesting. How many of us actually understand all of that jargon I’ve just thrown out there? More importantly, how many of the fresh talent coming into the workforce understand any of those things? We have high expectations for graduates in particular but anyone starting their career in a company. But what are we doing to help them understand everything that’s expected of them? And I don’t mean the work they’re doing, but the important things of running a business.

So how do you do these things? Well a study by the CIPD showed that most learning and development in the workplace happens via information passed on and coaching done by the manager. In the first instance then, you have to know your stuff. You will always be the first port of call for a new recruit. You’re the one with the answers. You’re the one who can explain the meaning of life. The buck starts with you. It doesn’t end there though.

You then need to have in place a process or programme that helps your new recruit gain business insights. Huh? For example, arrange weekly/monthly sesisons where you discuss what’s been happening in the business and why any of that matters. When everyone was being asked to cut back on their spending, were you able to articulate why? When the recession meant redundancies had to be made, were you able to help the team see the business case for this? When Bob took sick leave every Monday consistently for 2 months were you able to discuss the impact of this and give appropriate feedback?

There also needs to be in place a session of sorts delivered by a senior business leader explaining what these things mean to give the business overview. In that session you need to also explain the jargon you use on a daily basis. What’s a TSV? What does cash flow mean? What is a revenue stream? How do we find new business? What does ROI actually mean? And R&D?

Then you’re looking to ensure you keep this activity up. Improve the quality of the conversations so deeper and more significant learning and development takes place. Send them on conferences where they can talk to other people about these things. Send them on an external course to interact with other industry people. Arrange discussions with other business units to help them understand how the business as a whole works.

And when you have all that in place, after about 2 years, they’ll be ready to move on and get promoted. 2 years I hear you scream? Absolutely. If you want your new recruit to be a high flyer, and if you’re serious about their career development you’ll invest 2 years of your own time and efforts to get that person up to scratch. And 2 years is a good target to aim for.

So, are you ready to teach Business 101?

>Funny observations

>Over the weekend the wife and I were in the car and talking about how the kids are learning so many things right now and how it’s all quite funny. What I started to particularly laugh at though was how we describe the things the kids do and what we attribute those things to.

So the kids are nearly three years old. In case you’ve missed the many times I’ve mentioned this they’re twin boys. A is 7 minutes older than K which I’m sure will have great significance in later life. Particularly seeing in Indian culture, you are meant to pay undue respect to your elders. When A learns of this I’m sure he’ll have great fun with it.

They’re currently learning how to use the bathroom. Mrs P described how they are both really doing well cos they can go “wee-wee” all by themselves. I stopped to think – how often do I describe that activity in that way? I DON’T! I then went on to say, “it’s only a matter of time before they know how to do poo-poo too”!! I’m killing myself with the sheer madness and joy of both those sentences!! If my friends or anyone over the age of 13 said anything like that I would have a field day making a mockery of them and here we are, two grown adults discussing activities of our children using words that we would never ordinarily use in everyday parlance! The irony of this against my last post has not escaped me.

Then other things sprang to mind. K has learned to drop his voice to a bare whisper when he wants you to know he’s really upset about something. I have no idea how he learned that. I’m constantly shouting at them and Mrs P never talks softly to them. A has learned to not look at me if he’s being told off and will do this eye blinking thing which is hilarious. And they both know that if they’re bored with what they’re watching – even if they’ve asked to watch it, off goes power.

And even conversations become common-place. How much did they have for dinner? Is it time for them to have yoghurt? Have they watched mickey mouse clubhouse today? Did they do any painting today? On being told by one of them that he got “beats” by his brother – “A, did you give your brother beats?” “Yem” LOL! It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.

Then we attribute these things to the TV. My argument is that’s only part of it. Most of what they learn comes from us directly no matter how much we may think or believe otherwise. History has taught us that the way children develop is hugely dependent on the environment they are in and how that influences us. Do a google search on ‘bobo doll experiment’ or ‘Bandura’ for more about this.

And they’re so observant. If I’ve taken something away from them, think I’ve hidden it, they’ll find it and hide it themselves. I have since lost a number of DVDs and have had no luck in finding these. I naturally attribute that to my finely honed observation skills. Trained in the fine art of not a lot, I’m a master at doing that too. Not these two though, they’ve been trained by the guru of doing an awful lot and have followed in that mould. I am thankful I have instilled in them my trait of being transfixed by the TV when your show is on. Balance is maintained in the house.

And we’ve got sprogg #3 due literally in days. And we’ll go through all this again. And these will be normal conversations. And we’ll be none the wiser that we’re talking complete rubbish!!