Ideas and Insights

  • 06/11/2015 11:30 AM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)
    When we read the topic of this month's Learning Event: 
    Leadership as a Hero’s Journey – Four Virtues for Transforming Uncertainty and Anxiety into Results, this image popped into our heads: 

    Why? It's a classic image (nowadays) representing the start of the hero's journey: the hero in his ordinary world, before adventure's call.

    If you're not familiar with the term "hero's journey," it's a phrase coined by American mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose book The Power of Myth you may have read in one of your English classes, or watched as a PBS documentary.  For the hero's journey, Mr. Campbell describes a cycle found in myths and stories across language and time in which the hero of the myth follows the same basic steps. 

    Map that circle to the plot for Star Wars (Episode 4 - 6), and you'll see that Luke Skywalker's story follows this path quite closely, which both George Lucas and Joseph Campbell acknowledge in the Power of Myth documentary.

    This month's presenter, Eric Kaufmann, applies this cycle to the development of the leader.  And why not?  Often in organizations, leaders are people who have attained some sense of the ordinary in their work. That ordinary has been acknowledged by the rest of the organization, and leaders are then challenged with a call to adventure -- a promotion, for example. Or a new project.  So there they are, standing atop a rise overlooking a vista that they'd walked past every day but never really seen, wondering what happens next.  From that point on (with perhaps a skip over step 3) the leaders will find themselves beset by obstacles and uncertainty, perhaps awash in office politics with allies, enemies, and the occasional test of one's resilience.

    Not sure if Mr. Kaufmann will be including any Star Wars references in his June 24 presentation, but I'll probably be softly humming the Skywalker theme during dinner.

  • 06/02/2015 11:48 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    It's hard not to create an allegory out of the absence of our scheduled May presenter, Devon Scheef, and her topic of Knowledge Sharing.  Ms. Scheef is someone who has developed an expertise in the topic, and quite suddenly, unintentionally, she was unable to join us.  President Elect Jeffrey Hansler stepped in to take her place.

    And here's where the metaphor comes in.  48% of managers and supervisors are eligible for retirement this year.  Does each of those managers have someone who is able to step in and fill their shoes?  

    "Why haven't two decades of sustained knowledge-sharing efforts been more successful? " asked Beverly Kaye, Ilana Maskin, and Devon Scheef in their 2011 article: "Knowledge Transfer as Wisdom Sharing."  The article points out all the repositories of expert knowledge, from databases and wikis to communities of practice, lack a human element.  For his part, Mr. Hansler was prepared with sheets of presenter materials and leaders notes.   

    The meeting participants we interviewed believed Jeffrey did just fine.

    "I really liked the risk profile," shared ASTD-OC Past President Rhonda Askeland. "Identifying the potential knowledge pits was helpful and something I will share with my clients."

    "I gained insight about limitations of information shared based on people "staying in the box" of what they should/could share." added Rhonda.  "It was also helpful to reinforce the internal/external knowledge sharing paradigm."

    Angela Vanhorn walked away from the event inspired to demonstrate and model the value of sharing and mentoring in the workforce.  She saw that doing so would "create engaged employees who will collaborate and relate their ideas and wisdom."

    As always, our community shared their wisdom during the meeting.  "Participants shared several creative ideas that appeal to the audience’s “human side,'" said Angela. "Which can be utilized when presenting or facilitating to a diverse group of participants."

    Which brings us back to the allegory that so neatly leapt into our lap -- good documentation may be a fine starting point for the person taking over someone else's role, but it's the combination of that knowledge and experiences that provides for better learning opportunities.

    Did you attend May's Knowledge Transfer Learning Event?  Share your insights in our comments.


  • 05/22/2015 4:07 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    My mother retired years after her 65th birthday. When she did, she took with her well over 30 years of knowledge on the "Proper Way To Get Things Done" - techniques that were a combination of job knowledge and the relationships she had built with vendors and with her coworkers. I'm significantly biased, but those were some pretty big shoes to fill.

    A lot has been said about organizational brain drain over the past few years, and a lot of the focus has been on the Baby Boomer generation retiring.  Here's an interesting realization: brain drain doesn't just occur when the Baby Boomers leave -  it occurs when any employee leaves, especially with the rapidity that knowledge is created and altered in today's work environment. When the average length of time an employee holds a job these days is between 2 to 5 years, and as technology and networks shift just as swiftly, organizations need to place a priority on capturing and maintaining all their intellectual capital.

    Consider this: what would happen to your department's workflow if your LMS Administrator were to leave?  Or your Training Coordinator?  Let's say only one person on your team is able to facilitate a course -- what happens then that person leaves (our Total Trainer design team can serve as a case study for this last "what if").  These people might be retiring Boomers, but they just as easily can be Gen X'ers or Millenials seeking a different challenge.

    Intellectual capital is not limited to one generation, and its importance is not limited to those employees with significant tenure.  While presentations such as Devon Scheef's May 27 Learning Event may be couched as a preventative for the loss of legacy expertise, it would behoove all of us to consider applying her approaches with the mindset that each employee is host to a unique bit of wisdom critical to the operation of the company, and to find a way to build a community that embraces the ready sharing of that wisdom.

  • 04/30/2015 10:53 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    When Ferril Onyett and Mazen Albatarseh tackled the challenge of delivering impactful training to 150,000+ employees across the globe, they walked away with a case study that focused more about the analysis of their dispersed workforce needs, and less about the solution. 

    Their solution: to train Taco Bell's front line employees, which turns over at an astronomical rate of 140%, the company uses eLearning combined with on-the-job observation.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  Google "training dispersed workforce," and the use of some form of eLearning resource -- be it an online library or an LMS – will appear somewhere on the blog posts and web sites that populate the search results.

    What resonated with our members, however, was the approach that Ferril Onyett (Director, People Development and Global Learning) and Mazen Albatarseh (Director of Management Systems and the Customer Engagement team) took to hone their program.  Turns out, they were using eLearning before. It just wasn't effective.

    "The most important take away for me was seeing the way that the Taco Bell team had graphed the behaviors/experiences of the customers, the front line workers, the assistant managers, and the managers into one document,” shared Laurie Reinhart. “This helped them clarify exactly what was valuable and what added no value in terms of what the company was requiring of franchisees.”  Laurie appreciated that methodology so much that: “I have adapted and applied their grid-based analysis to the development plan for my own consulting group."

    A key component of that grid-based analysis was a focus on Taco-Bell's customers.  Mazen took great care to show that everything, from the training of the front line employees to the training of the restaurant managers, was tied to the customer experience.

    Mary MacKey appreciated "how they detailed each step of the process for each level of participation (manager, team member, and customer and showed the relationship among them all) – work as a team.  This was a good reminder to focus on in some current projects."

    So if Taco Bell was delivering eLearning before the time period addressed in their case study, and continued to deliver eLearning afterwards, what differed?  Training's focus on the essentials. 

    “The response from everyone that there are approximately 1000 acronyms and 200 some-odd amount of things a manager needed to do was a loud cry to how out of control things can become if you don’t look at the big picture," commented Mary.  While neither Mazen nor Ferril did anything to assure us that the number of acronyms had diminished (indeed, Ms. Onyett added a new one during her presentation), they stressed multiple times that the key measurements that both the company and training were focusing on totalled 26. This reduction of information overload most impacted the new hire training program, reducing the time spent in front of eLearning content more than 60%.

    Ferril and Mazen’s story showed that the key to training a dispersed workforce has less to do with the solutions you provide than everything else that comes before it.

    "Hearing their story reinforced the importance of one's credibility and track record within the organization," said Laurie. "Because they had an established record and enjoyed the confidence of the organization's leadership, they were able to adapt their approach when they needed to do so."
  • 04/20/2015 8:08 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)
    This month's Learning Event topic brought to mind ATD-OC's inaugural Training Manager SIG meeting, in which the Training Director (and department of one) of a local retailer was sharing her challenges in reaching out to a workforce scattered throughout malls and outlet stores across the nation.

    First and foremost, the presenter had to rely upon a shifting roster of store managers to deliver her training -- she simply could not be in all stores in a reasonable span of time to deliver the training herself.  Her solution was a "training-in-a-box" deliverable, where each store would receive the training material, along with a manager's facilitation guide.

    From this solution came other challenges: consistency, and ensuring learning effectiveness.  

    I would imagine Taco Bell's OD department (two of whom will be presenting this Wednesday, April 22) had similar problems, if at a greater scope.  

    The management and professional development of geographically dispersed teams has been a growing challenge since the latter half of the previous century.   As technology has lessened the impact business has on a growing organization, as more and more companies have expanded their reach from regional to national to global, communication breaches the spans between teams at the speed of thought.  Yet physical interaction remains limited, and meaningful communication becomes hampered without the most deliberate of asynchronous explanations.

    Solutions abound, creating additional challenges of adapting to technology, budgeting time and resources, and the challenge of an ever-changing environment. Do you deliver eLearning to ensure a consistent message is shared across the organization?  Do you rely upon web meetings to help facilitate that interpersonal dialogue that eLearning lacks? Do you collaborate in the cloud? Or do you rely upon your organization’s leaders to deliver the “Training In A Box” packages that you design?

    From what I gather from the description of ATD-OC's April 22 lunchtime Learning Event, there's no one way. The training team at Taco Bell continuously adapts its strategies to figure out the right blend of e-learning, virtual sessions, and classroom training (yes, there's still a place for classroom training).   It'll be interesting to learn more about their methodology of when to shift gears, of identifying which blend works for which team. 

    Who wants to ask them about including informal/social learning tools into the mix?

  • 04/08/2015 6:35 AM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    Coaching is a process. This was one of the key take-aways from last month's Learning Event, which was part experiential learning, part best practices identification, and a little bit of lecture. It was also an opportunity to observe coaching in action -- presenter Steve VerBurg did an admirable job gathering the pooled knowledge of the ATD-OC attendees and transforming them into learning opportunities for everyone involved.

    Which was a key lesson of the session. Knowledge, Steve shared, consists of about 15% of what the coach is responsible for. The remaining 85% consists of skills and attitude. The inspirational coaches with whom we each have worked, or are working, have displayed characteristics that focused on skills and attitude more than on knowledge. Dr. Cynthia Boccara took that message to heart: "I'm 'Dr. Data' - I love knowledge. I'm finding that it's an impediment to me. I get locked in that analysis and more data and research. And I see myself spinning, and I keep thinking that I need to know more. This [session] is one more reinforcement that it's not the knowledge, it's the attitude and application that actually creates the success."

    "Steve VerBurg aptly pointed out that Attitude is the one component that leaders and trainers have within their control," shared Brenda Wells. "And that so many of the skills and competencies that we wish to exploit positively begin with the proper Attitude: patience, mentorship, empowerment, trust, credibility, to name only a few."

    Steve shared a few key models with the group that evening, but the key take-aways seemed to come from the participants' analyses of how to apply those models. "I am always impressed with the amount of experience and wisdom in the room," shared Brenda. "Besides the amazing number of insightful and helpful tips offered to gain performance improvement, the spirit of collaboration and support was clearly present."

    That sharing came in the culminate activity of the evening, where Steve presented five categories of coaching techniques, and challenged us to share what we've experienced that would fit into those categories. We've posted the images to the right -- click on each image to see the details (we're particularly proud of how we were able to include ATD-OC as a coaching resource -- ask us how in the comments, if you'd like more details behind these lists!).

    As you can see from the list, the methods by which a leader can coach an employee are plentiful.  Our attendees would point out, however, that those techniques fit within 2, perhaps 3 of the seven coaching process steps, and by themselves would not succeed in improving employee performance.  

    Michele Schwab appreciated the Coaching Process Model.  "It breaks down a very big process," she said.  "I believe many of us walked away from the session understanding that each step is important to achieving better results."  Perhaps an equally important:  "I can easily reference the nice clean structure [of the coaching process] during future coaching or "coaching the coach" opportunities."

    If you attended our March Learning Event, and would like to add your thoughts to what you learned, we look forward to your comments. 

    We also look forward to seeing you at our April Learning Event, which addresses "Training A Dispersed Workforce."  In a business world that continues to adapt and adjust to a global market, with large organizations spread across the nation and the world, the challenges of training both new and existing employees goes beyond the typical issues experienced in a single classroom.  Our presenters Ferril Onyett and Mazen Albatarseh will share Taco Bell best practices to managing this tension and remain agile and responsive to a rapidly evolving business climate.

    See you there!

  • 03/26/2015 11:56 AM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    Laurie Reinhart led ATD-OC's Structured Networking topic for March, asking: Who was the professional coach who most inspired you? What did he or she do that impacted your performance?


    Bucky Elkins

    “I had a manager at Disney who allowed me to be creative and do my own kind of thing. He provided guidance, but then would ask us to come up with what we needed to do.

    It was very eye-opening, and actually, I think it led the down this path to where I am now."

    "My UCLA gymnastics coach, who taught me: ‘Everything we have in life is a choice, and our choice produces emotion, and our emotion produces action.’

    So if we want to act a certain way, we have to choose our thoughts.”

    Stephanie Lang


    Jeffrey Hansler

    “The sales manager who asked me on my first day: "What are you going to do? What's your plan?" And he sat down and did nothing more than ask me questions all morning.

    And from that we developed a plan."

  • 03/17/2015 12:22 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)
    Do a Google image search for "coaching" and you'll find several word cloud images, and a few more along these lines:

    The idea being, of course, that the coach (orange) is someone who helps the employee (blue) to attain greater heights.

    While the meaning is correct, the analogy is poor.  Because the coach is generally the person at the bottom.

    Here's what I mean. Let's go with the climbing analogy, and take a look at a rock wall.Yikes!

    First thing about the coach - he's done this before. So he knows where to put his hands and feet. And he knows that what worked for him may or may not work for you. So he's going to spend his time down here, at the base of the rock wall, helping you plan your approach.  

    While you're starting your climb, your coach has a firm grip on that safety line, getting ready to hold you up in case you fall.  And he's likely sharing advice while you're moving up the wall, reminding you to relax your grip, offering tips on how to keep your balance. Letting you know if your feet are making too much noise. Praising you once you get to the top, or going over your actions should you fall.

    An important component of this analogy is the idea that the climber is in a pattern of growth and improvement.  The purpose of our climber coach isn't necessarily to get you to the top, although that's one measurable goal.  The purpose of the coach is to help you climb the wall again, and to get better at it. To advance from a static climbing technique to a dynamic climbing technique.  To tackle tougher verticals. And to consistently be there, time after time, to help you when you fall, and challenge you further when you succeed.

    Of course, the things we're looking to climb aren't rocks.  They're career paths.  The strategies we work on are a bit more intangible, and the handholds not as evenly spaced. When the business world challenges our teams and organizations with our next obstacles, what approaches should we use?

    We'll discuss a few of the top approaches to develop people in our March 25 Learning Event, "Coach for Performance Improvement (click here to learn more!).  Steve VerBurg, the President of Dale Carnegie Training of Orange County, will talk about the cycle of Growth and Change, and how it relates to training and coaching.  He'll address the top approaches to develop the people who depend upon your skills and knowledge, and perhaps illustrate a bit more why the coach is the one at the foot of the ascent, reminding the performer what it takes to get to the top.

  • 03/10/2015 11:06 AM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)
    In his book "Leading Change," J.P. Kotter says, “Because major change is so difficult to accomplish, a powerful force is required to sustain the process.”

    Last month, Denise Lamonte shared her experiences on what it took to create that "powerful force" through the establishment of a "guiding coalition."

    "The characteristics of people who should serve on a coalition are key in choosing the coalition -- specifically to avoid egos that fill the room and those whose behaviors create mistrust and kill teamwork," Denise shared. "These two requirements are straight out of Kotter, and I applied them diligently."

    It was a message that resonated with more than one of the event's attendees.

    When asked what was the event's most important take-away, ATD-OC member Mary Escudero replied: "The success of the coalition was the direct result of choosing the right people. Denise set up her significant criteria and followed them in staffing the coalition and its support organization. When backfilling positions or expanding her team she kept to the same criteria. This created a true team that worked together creatively."

    Donald McGray was surprised to learn that the guiding coalition at St. Joseph's comprised of 10 people on three teams:
    1. An Executive Steering Committee that included the COO, CAO and a couple of Vice Presidents
    2. A Core Coalition of 12 people that included supervisors
    3. An Adjunct Coalition of 23 employees interested in contributing to the change
    And yet, despite the coalition's size and complexity, the three teams experienced a meager 10% turnover over a period of 14 months. 

    Erik EiselTraining and Technology SIG Leader, pointed out that Denise ensured her guiding coalition had a firm foundation. "She basically explained to her colleagues, 'Look, if you want to use Kotter, let's really read him, and figure out how to apply him.' By getting consensus around Kotter, she was able to build a foundation for the entire change process. By adopting Kotter in this way, it prevented this process from becoming ad-hoc."

    Even though this presentation addressed such a large project, attendees felt that there were some best practices they could immediately walk away with. A few attendees commented on the practice of opening coalition meetings with "Good News - an opportunity for people to share with the team what successes have come from their work since they last met."

    Denise is carrying her passion for change management into ATD-OC's new Special Interest Group: Change Leadership. Co-led by Denise and Lisa Kolbe, the Change Leadership SIG will provide an opportunity for participants to learn more about current and upcoming change models as well as deepen the dialogue about their role in managing and leading change. 

    "As learning and development professionals, we live and breath change everyday," says Lisa Kolbe. "By better understanding this from a theoretical level will help us all tailor our learning solutions and OD initiatives for effectiveness."

    "Lisa and I were talking at an MLE during one of the structured networking sessions about change initiatives we were both a part of," said Denise. "We mused about how many of us are involved in these types of initiatives -- and we concluded it was probably a lot. We quickly realized we both had a passion for change leadership and were hungry to learn more and talk with others about their experiences to enhance our knowledge."

    The Change Leadership SIG will explore a wide variety of theories, models, and aspects of the change process through a unique dialogue-oriented structure. 

    "We wanted to take more formally-shared knowledge around various change theories and leverage the opportunity to increase the dialogue and provide opportunities for peer coaching/learning," said Denise and Lisa. "By shortening and focusing the guest speaker’s case study of change we can view real world examples of our featured change theory in practice and increase learning penetration and future application."

    The Change Leaderhip SIG meets the first Tuesday of every other month, with the next meeting in May. See our Event Calendar for details.

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  • 03/03/2015 5:28 AM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

    "The manager’s challenge is to build individual capabilities at the same time he or she encourages individuals to tackle new challenges that build their competencies in preparation for the future." from the  Dale Carnegie Training whitepaper: Talent Management.  

    If your company's performance review period is like mine, you're just wrapping up your mid-year reviews. And if you're company's like mine, you're realizing that performance management is still driven primarily by deadlines.

    Maybe you've grown accustomed to that.

    "Coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others." reported back in 2010.  Wonder if that number's gone up in the past four years, or down, or remained about the same.

    Coaching is widely recognized as an important component of performance management.  Articles in Forbes, Inc., and Harvard Business Review (to name a few) all study how strong performers can grow and improve when coaching is done well, and the impact of coaching when done poorly or not at all.

    Just as equally recognized: effective performance management requires ongoing coaching discussions.  

    The Dale Carnegie Perspective: "Most development occurs on the job and in the context of work activities. It is not limited to off-the-job training."

    This perspective is evident in Dale Carnegie's Growth and Change cycle. It's a little different than the performance management cycle you may have shared with your managers when kicking off another "performance year," but it similarly establishes an accountability between manager and employee for the employee's development.  It also points out where most performance management stops -- at least until new goals are set.

    You can learn more about Dale Carnegie's Growth and Change Cycle at this month's ATD-OC Learning Event.

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