>Are you warmed up?

>Well, this week’s Q&A post is all about doing an energiser before training or a workshop. Looking at the world of sport gives an example overview of why we should do this. Before any sports-person embarks on their competition, they prime their bodies. They go through intense training several weeks prior to condition their bodies in the right way. On the day itself, they body needs to get the adrenaline flowing so your reaction times are quicker and sharper. The body needs to be in a state of readiness so it can take on its challenge. During the competition, the sports-person paces him/herself. They know full well that their body can only handle so much, so they have to make sure they’re not over-stretching themselves. And once completed, they warm down. The body has just been through an exertion of energy and power it doesn’t normally have to sustain. The warm down helps the body to say, it’s ok, you can relax now.

So, if you question the need to do an energiser before training/workshop, think of this example. The key is, make sure the energiser/exercise you get the group to do, is relevant to the task ahead of them. Don’t play Lego and have fun, if you’re in a conflict resolution workshop. The delegates won’t appreciate it, your credibility will go down the pan, and your objectives will not be met.

The question for this week then is – What’s the best energiser/icebreaker you’ve taken part in (or if you’re an L&Der, that you’ve designed and delivered)?

>Make training fun?

>Last week’s Q&A post on the use of role plays in training was a nice experiment and turned out just as I wanted. My thanks to all who took part in it. For me, the important thing to bear in mind for future Q&A’s is to not bother with a summary post at the end of the week because:
1) I’m not that important
2) My readers can wean their own conclusions from people’s comments
3) I didn’t actually say anything different

So, on to this week’s Q&A.

If you are promoting training, should one of your key selling points, be “it’s fun!”. I read far too many training types who think that this is a valid selling point. As you may gather, I’m not convinced. I’m not concerned about the structure of the training, or its content, or the style of delivery, my questions this week is restricted to:

When promoting training, internal or external, how does the word “fun” help or hinder this promotion?

>Role Play? No thanks

>This week’s inaugural Q&A post was on the topic of role plays within training. The question I posed was this: “Often in training it’s necessary to practise the skills you are learning. But, is role play the best way to achieve this?”

There’s been some excellent comments from the following people: Rob Green, Wendy Jacob, Matthew Warrener, Sarah Durbridge, TheHRD, Doug Shaw and Mr AirMiles. Here’s a precis of their comments:

Rob talked about it being difficult to get into character for a role play as he’s not facing the person he’s likely to come across. Once he tries though, feedback can be useful.

Wendy was clear in stating “There is no realism in acting out a semi-scripted conversation” and “You can’t plan for every response and scenario and, while I see some merit in discussing on a practical level how a new skill might be used, I’ve yet to experience a role play which hasn’t been a painful experience for everybody.

Matthew made an excellent point when he said “…customers DO NOT HAVE SCRIPTS! We can discuss and debate customer/event scenarios but lets leave role playing to the cast of Fame!“. I couldn’t agree more!

Sarah thought about it from the trainer’s point of view too and talked about role play feeling unreal and embarrassing for the participants.

TheHRD made an interesting observation when he said “I’ve found that in our culture people like to use it…not because they find it real but because they find it helps to practice“.

Doug made a nice quip and said “I have scriptophobia, a fear of role play.

And Mr Airmiles provided a great comment, “There are other ways to practice and apply classroom learning – Micky Mouse Land role plays aren’t one of them…“.

There’s plenty in the comments you can read and learn from, and I’m grateful for the contributions. I have to add my tuppence though. For me, you just need to consider the purpose of using role play at all. If it’s a service based offering you have, create a duplicate environment, a simulation of sorts, where the person can not only practise what they’ve been taught, but become conscious of the environment they’re in, the people they have to interact with, and apply themselves naturally.

If it’s to practise a learned behavioural skill such as Assertiveness, or Feedback, this is much harder to control for in a training environment as the situations you create will never be true to life. You can’t account for emotions, reactions, beliefs, culture, that a person holds within them. In these places I’ve always found it more useful to encourage planning of conversations and discuss those as the preparation can raise awareness, you then have to trust they’ll actually ‘do’ it when they go back to work.

In the main, I don’t believe role plays have a place in training any more. There are better and more effective ways at embedding learning – skills practice, simulations, video feedback, are all  If you do choose to use them, just be very clear about the objective. They’ll work fine as thought starters, but won’t help to truly practise skills.

Thanks to all above for contributing this week.

>Role Play? I’m just not into that

>Seeing there are plentiful blogs to welcome you, get you kick started and provide ample advice on setting realistic resolutions for 2011, I’m going down a different track. I’m starting a weekly posting on something within the L&D world which would be interesting to open up to you all. In effect, I want you to write the blog.

The idea is simple enough. I pose a situation, you respond and I’ll try write a post to collect thoughts on (potentially) solving said situation. I’ll tweet it out once a day until Friday.

Often in training it’s necessary to practise the skills you are learning. But, is role play the best way to achieve this? I’ve never been a fan of role play. But before I get into it, let’s have a quick thought about why they’re used. Effectively they’re used to help people take a look at how they might use a learned skill and receive some feedback on it. That’s about it really. Like I said, I want your help in writing this, so let me know your thoughts, and on Friday, I’ll pull them together.

>A Call to Arms

>I’m watching a YouTube video of Donald Clark delivering his keynote speech at the ALT conference this year (It’s an hour long). I want to pick a fight with Donald as I want to show him that there are some L&Ders out there who aren’t as bad as he makes out. Unfortunately in the main he’s right.

So I have to take issue and blog hoping a message gets delivered.
All you trainers out there – YOU ARE IN AN AGE OF CONSTANT LEARNING – THAT INCLUDES YOU.
What am I talking about here? The trainers who are sticking to their stock and trade and acting like the expert. Get off your high horse, pretentious, misguided sense of expertise and learn how to deal with human beings. There’s an excellent post I read last night (written by Joe Gerstandt and courtesy of the HRD) about how Diversity and Inclusivity professionals are still trying to deal with employees as resources and forgetting that we have learned so much about the human condition that we can engage with people in so many different ways, but we’re just not getting there.
The tone of this post is angry, and it’s ‘cos I am! Dammit I try so hard to raise the image of L&D and what the profession is capable of that I don’t want stock and traders to be ignorant to what they should be capable of helping organisations achieve.
So this is what it comes to. If you’re an L&Der and are either on the road to turning this into your profession, or indeed are claiming this is your profession, take a long hard look at your style of delivery. Are you facilitating? Truly are you? I would bet that I could observe any training session and within the first 5 minutes tell you whether or not the trainer will be a good facilitator. Arrogance? Damn straight it is. I have stupidly high expectations of what excellent training looks like and I will not stand for anything else, least of all from myself.
Want to step up to the mark? Make sure you get involved with the likes of Roffey Park or Ashridge Business School. Those are the Oxbridge of L&D professionals. To be truly excellent in our profession, any L&Der who is worth their salt should attend a workshop or training session or learning event with either of those companies.
Sorry but I don’t buy Reed Learning or Hemsley Fraser as being that good. They’re good for certain things, but they will not cater for a holistic approach to L&D development.
I won’t go into what a facilitator should be doing within a training session, but if you have doubts of what I’m talking about, or don’t agree with my assertion then I’ll also bet that you’re not being as effective a facilitator as you think you are. As an example though, when I deliver sessions, about 50% of what I talk about is the actual content of the session, the other 50% is normally me connecting and forming relationships that enable change.
This is a call to arms. Calling all L&Ders. Forget your own sense of importance and step up to the mark. Show the businesses and organisations you work with or for what excellent training looks like. Make sure you are constantly learning. Make sure you get critical and direct feedback about your delivery style. Make sure you leave your delegates with no doubt that you have given them the tools to be successful. Make sure you provide world class learning solutions that are engaging and evocative.
I’ll lead from the front. Any of you I ever come into contact with from this point forward, if I’m not upholding this call to arms, then shoot me down.

>’Ers’ when presenting are NOT evil

>I’m designing some presentation training that’s actually pretty advanced stuff. I’m looking at things like how to understand the psychology of your audience quickly, spending time to rehearse in front of a highly critical group, how you develop your ideas, what presentation aid you should be using. This is exciting stuff and I’m looking forward to rolling this out.

But, in the midst of this, and in the reading around the subject I have to dispel some myths. What irks me – massively – is the way presentation ‘gurus’ / trainers / experts claim you can deliver a perfect presentation without any hiccups.
STOP RIGHT THERE BOZOS.
Let’s take a step back and re-frame what we’re trying to achieve. Someone is trying to develop their presentation skills because there is a need to deliver messages to a group. There will be varying levels to which the message needs to be delivered, but in essence what we’re trying to achieve is getting the person to be able to deliver that message in a way which means that the audience are receptive to it.
Well I tell you what – I can bet my bottom dollar that’s not where a lot of presentation trainers are starting from. They’re typically starting from – you’re broken, let me fix you. The absolute incredulity of it all. The trainer will often have had no experience of their delegate before, but they can fix them so quickly?
I laugh in the face of this audacity. Presentation training is about getting the presenter to understand their own state of mind, how to accept their foibles, and then how to not let those be an issue. I’ve seen presenters who are very nervous. So much so that they physically shake when presenting. With careful development over a course, and coaching, I’ve been able to help them accept that being nervous is fine, and shaking is fine, they just need to be in a different state of mind and not focus on those nerves.
It’s not easy, and that’s why I’m such a harsh critic when I watch programmes like Apprentice or Dragons’ Den where these people are meant to be at the peak of presenting excellence. But equally I do not allow myself to fall into the same traps. I’m incredibly critical of my own presentation abilities. I actively seek feedback which picks up what I need to do to improve. I do this because I have to be able to understand a full range of emotions and anxieties that come with presenting.
So, don’t fall over yourself, or be critical of others if they say ‘er’ or any host of other behaviours that you may think are negative. First, observe. Not just the presentation but the whole person. Then question to understand what they’re trying to achieve and how they think they’re going about it. Then demonstrate what the behaviour looks like. Get them to practise again bearing in mind the feedback. Be critical and supportive. Ultimately you want to find their motivation for doing well. Once you’ve identified that, you need to build on it.
This really isn’t easy. The psychology and training into helping develop presentation skills is of vital importance. You can’t be fixed of your foibles, nor should you be sold this. You can learn how to deliver a message authentically, and this is what you should be sold.

>Assertiveness is not trainable

>Yesterday I was doing some training in Assertiveness. It’s a topic I personally find really hard to connect with and deliver training on. The main reason for this is there is no way of knowing if the training has been effective or not. I have little doubt about the content I am covering, I have done all the expectation gathering at the beginning of the session, I’ve facilitated complete discussions, but I’m always left feeling flat because there’s no way of testing it.

And I don’t like doing role plays. Role plays have their place in training. I will use them when I think there is no other alternative. But you can’t role play being assertive. It just doesn’t work. You can display the behaviours you think you want your delegates to display, and you can get them to mirror you, but it’s just not the same.
With many other behavioural training, you can readily identify how far someone has come on their learning and understanding of the topic. But with assertiveness it’s really hard to tell. Why?
Because each person’s set of values determines when they think they have been ‘violated’, I can’t peer into your soul and identify ‘yes, you should have been assertive in said situation’. I can raise your awareness on the topic. I can help you identify your ‘bill of rights’. I can help you learn techniques about responding to challenging and difficult people. But I can’t know if you’ll do it.
Attending training on the topic will only ever serve as an awareness raiser. You will never know, without certain follow up activities, if the person has taken their learnings and used them effectively. Those certain follow up activities are dedicated and committed follow up training sessions, one to one coaching (either from line manager or from A N Other), reminder messages about the learnings and follow up discussions. That’s a lot of activity which the best willed L&Der in the world will want to do, but in reality won’t.
Also, being assertive is often part of other things a person wants to achieve. They have too high a workload. Unreasonable requests are put on them. They are a go to person for problems. They are seen to be highly effective at what they do. Yes, being assertive in part in these situations will help, but the skills needs to be used in conjunction with other activities – open discussions, time management, presentation skills, facilitation skills, delegation skills. As such, when talking with delegates about why they want to be assertive it’s because of something else they’re trying to achieve. This is just one piece of the puzzle.
I have tried time and again to come up with activities that can truly ‘test’ whether or not someone has learned the requisite skills and can then be assertive. I’ve not found an answer yet, and I’m still on the hunt.