performance - Symposium Learning

May 18, 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the past months I designed multiple bespoke training programmes dedicated to the role of the Manager in this new brave world of distributed teams.

I have 2 key considerations stemming from the experience

  1. Management training programmes created to primarily fit organisational ambitions tend to receive fewer positive reviews
  2. Managers want a Tool Kit –a short cut on how to use the techniques described on LinkedIn, HBR and other sources readily available.

Usually I am engaged by Lead HR business partners: after the first few conversations I design the programme and get approval by senior management. Once the programme content is generated and the training is rolled out.

Most of my trainings begin with a contracting exercise: as an workplace educator I need to secure that the expectations of the attendees match the content.

Over 80% of the answers to “What you want from this training?” begin with “How to” followed by action words like “prevent, ensure, facilitate.” Managers are asking for bullet pointed actions that can be applied in very specific situations. I often refer to it as requiring “a recipe book” with ingredients and sequential order of action.

Common topics listed by Managers when discussing Hybrid/Distributed/Flexible Teams

  • Practical skills
  • How to use time on site/off site
  • How to foster collaboration
  • How to integrate new staff

Managers are interested on how to convince people to return to the workplace, less how to foster the new culture of hybrid workplace. Managers are struggling in supporting remotely new colleagues and may not find clarification in models of asynchronous communication.

Managers can read the blogpost by Daniel Goleman independently with their morning coffee – but they want to know how Empathy actually manifest itself in a disciplinary meeting over Zoom.

When a learning facilitator becomes too normative however, the manager risks to apply any of the shared tricks out of context and generate resistance rather than results.

The challenge as a content creator is to provide an array of novel examples and techniques that a manager can use and that also fit with the organisation’s ambition of enhancing skills and promoting critical thinking.

I suggest to organisation to run focused Training Need Analysis that detect these demands before the audience joins the Training. Collecting employees’ insight is always a challenge and organisations might need to engage in multiple training analysis– however, it is a wise investment.

Action based learning objectives are best achieved via internal coaching and mentoring or during workshop focusing on experiential role-play. Breakout rooms or small focus group discussion tend to be insufficient to provide hands on knowledge. It is crucial for the learner to know where these insight can be gained.

To bridge the challenge, I ask all attendees to prepare by completing a 10 mins of reflecting journaling and to answers 2 questions

  1. What do you know already about the topic?
  2. What problems are you trying to solve?

The managers who engage gain confidence when their knowledge is validated (they read the same research!) and can present to the trainer real life scenario to be used as foundations for the “how to” guidance needed – generating solutions while engaging with critical thinking content.

January 30, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A selected a Question & Answer featured in a leading magazine and myattempt to provide constructive answers. 

The objective of Q&A? To build a dynamic relation between speakers & audience.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

Answering the question in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic one feels compelled to answer isolation. However, like many others, I do find a sense of purpose in this time of physical distance. The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a people manager was the opening and closing of calls centres in Europe. Closing a centre in Dublin while transferring operations to a newly created centre in Romania was very demanding: to guide a team and give it  a sense of purpose, while making oneself redundant, took a lot of effort and empathy.  I then had to do the same 3 more times. Each time I had to renew my sense of professional drive and find more than financial benefit for the organisation as a motivator

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I feel I have never really received clear and direct career advice – plenty of interesting encounters that have directly, or indirectly, made an impact. I became a Trainer thanks to one of those: as I was looking for the next adventure, the Call Centre manager suggested a course in Train the Trainer. I completed a 3- day course at Jefferson Institute in Donnybrook, back in 1999. It completely changed me: I had found my vocation.

And the worst?

The worst episode relates to my professional dress code: just weeks after I began my journey as a freelance trainer, I attended an event in Bank of Ireland and I stood close to the buffet table. I wore a white shirt and a pair of black trousers – a quite distinctive professional uniform, I though. While there I was asked for coffee: milk no sugar! I answered “I take it just black” and the unfortunate attendee was immediately aware of the mistaken identity and apologised. Since then I  no longer wear white shirts!  and I am confident that his networking skills have greatly improved.

Who do you most admire?

Teachers and university professors. The responsibility they carry is enormous. Knowledge is very powerful and, when mis-used, it can be very damaging – even more than ignorance. Teachers and professors are seen as the foundation of what we believe to be true. Things that we learn in early education will remain with us forever. To hold such a role in somebody’s life is admirable.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?

Might sound a naïve answer, but I must answer: my father. His work ethics and etiquette still guide me today. Those include the simple motto “be on time and do your best.” And when it is time to go home, get changed and go. Very simple but very effective. This helps me today to be present when at work and present when at home. Clear and simple boundaries essential when working freelance.

What practical things do you do to help your personal development?

I attend course every year. Would it be a diploma or a certificate.  My husband says I like my “gold stars” and that I collect them. But as an educator, I believe that to be able to actively learn something new is the best personal development I can engage in. Learn directly how new tools are used and how those effect the learning, how group dynamic in a course can develop. To be a good educator I must allow others to educate me.

What location do you return to for a sense of calm and time out?

The physical location is the library room in my home, in North Dublin. We have space for music, writing, game boards and a beautiful window over a park. We see trees and a lot of sky. My mental location  a view over water. Glendalough, Shannon River or SeaPoint – near the James Joyce tower. Very important mental image in this time of travelling restrictions.

What’s your biggest flaw?

I am relentless. A dear friend of mine once told me that I will never know how to feel content, as I profess that there is always room for improvement.

What aspect of yourself or your behaviour do you privately admire?

Courage – I am a very courageous person. Many aspects of my life have been scary and, even though I felt frightened and nervous, courage and willingness to move forward have helped me to overcome obstacles. This “trained” courage is now integral part of my being.

How about an unfulfilled goal you don’t tell anyone about?

Learning to play the piano. My husband many years ago bought me a keyboard and now it is used by my daughters for their junior piano lessons. I still believe that one day I will learn how to play music and allow myself to express emotions and ideas without letters but my sound.

What are you most proud of in your life?

My knowledge. It is something I actively and constantly work on and it is enough to see the two bookshelves I have in my home to understand how proud I am of what I “know”. I hope I will be remembered as a polymath.

Inspired by “Life Lessons” Irish Times Magazine, Spring 2020