Monday, December 24, 2012

The best vow for 2013

Yesterday evening I was watching the Spike Lee documentary on Michael Jackson. I'm not the biggest Michael fan, but started exploring music in the eighties, so I was definitely influenced with his music.

When I was listening to "The man in the Mirror" yesterday evening I realized the important message in it. Of all the vows we'll make on New Years evening, there is only one important condition :

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change

We all have a huge potential inside us. We just have to go for it, pick up responsibility and push through, even when things are not going our way. Believe in yourself, release your own potential and make all your vows come through. 

And for the Michael Jackson fans, I just included the videoclip :

Merry Christmas and a Fantastic 2013 !

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Getting connected - a story about authenticity

If you want to be successful you need to get connected to people around you. 
  • The sales person needs to get connected to sell his product
  • The CEO needs to get connected to his staff to inspire them with his vision, strategy and drive his business
  • The teacher needs to get connected with his students
  • The mother and father need to be connected with their kids
The era of the lonely cowboy who didn't need anybody else to be successful is over. 

But how comes some people get connected and others don't ?  

I believe the answer is AUTHENTICITY ! 
  • Authentic people are people who are honest. Honest to themselves and honest to their surrounding. 
  • Authentic people dare to speak up and give an opinion. 
  • Authentic people are assertive. This means they have respect for themselves and for others. 
  • Authentic people tell about their believes
  • Authentic people choose the people they want to connect with. They don't need to be connected to everybody. They get connected to people with similar believes and values. 
  • Authentic people are genuinely interested in other people. 
  • Authentic people speak about their successes and failures and they learn from these events. 
What can we learn from this ? 
If you want to be successful, make up your mind. Be honest to yourself and find people you want to connect with. Don't spoil your energy and time on people you don't like or don't feel connected with. Being connected feeds your energy and business and leads to success. 
One more thing. Getting connected and being authentic is NOT a thing you do sometimes. You do it all the time. Every day of the year. If you don't do it all the time, you are not genuinely honest and you will fail. Live it and get connected !

Friday, December 14, 2012

Return on Expectations for Learning & Development

December is for many companies the month of making new ideas for the next year, budgeting and trying to convince stakeholders to get the necessary money to roll out these plans. Learning & Development is no different from any other department in the organization and needs to define (ever smaller) budgets.
While defending those budgets we often get the question "What will be the Return on Investment" of all these plans ? Calculating the Return on Investment of Training is a very difficult exercise and perhaps even impossible. Especially if you are talking about leaderships development, communication skills, ... what will be the ROI of those kind of trainings ? Do we only take into account the direct impact of the training or also the indirect (retention, motivation,

An example
e.g. your organization rolls out a leadership training. You develop the competences of you managers during a one year time span with a mix of classroom trainings, coachings, workshops, ... Perhaps you've even sent them to a development center before and after the training activity. And now is the time to calculate the ROI of the program. You can measure if any of the managers left the company, (at that moment you need to know why he left the company), does his team deliver better results due (to what extent is this a result of the training ? ), ... you see, it'll be very hard to calculate the result of the training.
The same goes for safety trainings. People well know and understand the procedure. They know how to react in case of fire, but I hope they won't need this knowledge. When will you be able to calculate the ROI of this training ?

The 2 option strategy :
Organizations have two options : they invest in their staff through 
learning & development or they don't

If they invest in learning & development (and they should, since this is an important motivator), they'd better prepare the training very well and be in line with the EXPECTATIONS of the business.

Defining Return on Expectations
A few months ago I wrote an article on the New World Kirkpatrick Model.
I do believe learning & development should sometimes invest more time on the preparation of a training. Asking stakeholders (CEO, managers, employees, ...) the following questions :
  • What should be the result of the training?  
  • What is going wrong today and how do they want it in the future ? 
  • What is the behavior today and how should it be ? 

This requires from learning & development to get connected with the business and align learning plans with business needs. Based on this input, they can define the solution (wheather it is a classroom training, seminar, workshop, reading a book, peer coaching, e-learning, ...)
Not only before the training, but perhaps even more important, after the training they should re-check if they meet up to the expectations of the business and continue supporting business untill expecations are met. You can easily apply the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach by Deming untill business has the right output to further develop the organization. 

Leave your nice and warm office. Get connected with the business. Ask them what their EXPECTATIONS, what they need to achieve their goals and define your trainings, based on these needs. If you do, you will automatically deliver qualitative learning plans and results that support the business. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting Santa angry – how to be bad at giving feedback

A while ago I found this great youtube movie about a group of people who want to record Santa’s worldfamous “HOHOHO”. Look at the movie before you continue this blogpost.

When we look at this movie we see Santa’s mood change from enthousisatic to confused to angry. While he was motivated in the beginning, he is completely upset in the end.

Why ?
Because the other people gave him the worst feedback in the world :
·      Everybody had an opinion (not always the same)
·      They gave him fuzzy feedback
·      No matter what Santa tried, they always gave him negative feedback
·      Nobody actually showed him how he should do it

How we do it in business life
When we are coaching, many people fail at giving good feedback. Feedback that helps the associate grow to better performance. We are facing difficulties to make our point, be clear, stay positive and explain by example.

What can we learn from this ?
Next time you coach, use this step by step approach :
  • Make sure you have a clear picture of the result you want to achieve with the coaching.  (Goal)
  • Involve the associate in the improvement process (does he have any suggestions? what are his feelings with the current performance ? …)
  • Stay positive and motivate him to further improve
  • Never ever confuse him by letting all of your colleagues give feedback at the same time :-)
Good luck and I already wish you a merry X-Mas.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When the light turns yellow

When we are riding our car and suddenly the light turns from green to yellow, many people who are in a rush consider the risk in the blink of an eye and speed up the car to get through before the light turns red. Why, because we want to advance, we don't want to be stopped.

When business is going well (green light), we are cruising and continuing our journey. But when business is getting in rougher times (yellow light) and there is a chance we go down (red light), suddenly we become anxious and start hesitating. We hesitate to take a decision, we hesitate to invest, we are paralyzed by risk ... we do everything but speeding up, although we all know that should be the answer to rougher times. Take action. Go for you goals. Live your dreams.

So next time your business faces difficulties, don't paralyze, but keep on taking action before your business is stopped.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nu guts, no glory - decide now !

Since 2009, more than ever, the financial crisis has been used too often as an excuse for not taking any decision. There is too much uncertainty, perhaps next year, ... or even worse, managers who hire very expensive consultants to formulate an advise and afterwards they blame the consultant if things turn out wrong. STOP this unheroic behavior ! This behavior will not make the world rock.

Indecisive managers
Employees want managers who take tough decisions, who dare to make a choice. They hate indecisive  managers. Late Stephen Covey described the 7 habits for effective leadership. The 3 first habits are :

  1. be pro-active
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first

I honestly believe you should have the end in mind and set priorities and as long as you do, you can easily take decisions. Does the issue fit in the master plan or not ?
When an employee asks you to take a decision, you look at the facts, discuss how you should tackle the situation and decide. Even if the decision turns out to be not that successful in the end, your employee will appreciate you had the guts to decide.

Especially in rough times, like in times of crisis, people want strong personalities who dare to take decisions. This creates a feeling of higher certainty. There is a clear correlation between motivation and decisive managers.

Entrepreneurial associates
On the other hand, managers want entrepreneurial employees, who take initiative and who contribute to the organization. If you are an employee and you have a great idea, speak up ! Don't expect your manager to have all the great innovative ideas.

The right setting
All of the above sounds correct, don't you think ? Here are some ideas to create the right setting :

  1. don't shoot people who dare to come up with new ideas (although they might sound a little strange in the beginning)
  2. allow people to make a mistake. Forgive them if a decision turns out to be a mistake, as long as they learn from it.
  3. don't overanalyze to postpone your decisions - calculate the risk, start doing and follow-up.
  4. Dare to...
To end 
Awhile ago a saw an interview on youtube between Richard Branson and Seth Godin. In the interview Richard Branson explains his vision about entrepreneurial mind who dares to take decisions, who might fail, but who learn form it. As said by Richard Branson : "Try everything you can and you'll sleep ok. If you give up, you'll forever kick yourself."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hire for attitude, train for skills

What is the most important in a candidate when you recruit ; Attitude or Skills ?

Too often I see companies (small and large) looking for the perfect match. But does that perfect competence match exists ? 
Because of the high expectations many vacancies remain available for a long time. Ok, I agree, there should be some match between the candidate and the job vacancy, but I don't believe the match should be 100%. Most skills can be developed if the person really wants to. The right training, coaching and some investment can do a miracle. 
Attitude on the other hand is much harder to develop. An introvert will not easily turn into an extravert. A solo player will hardly become a true team player. A psychopath will most presumable not become little red riding hood. 

But still, many organizations hire people, based on competences instead of attitude. They believe they can change attitude by installing strict and clear guidelines. I don't believe this. 

Competence development costs time and money, but it is a truly good investment which results in motivation, long term relationships and personal & professional growth.

That's why I say : Hire for attitude, train for skills !

Monday, November 19, 2012

VOV Conference - Spotlight on Learning

Last Friday, I attended the VOV ( conference about Learning & Development trends. There were some really strong speakers like Herman Vandenbroeck (Vlerick Management School) and Jan Bommerez. I would like to share some of the ideas mentioned during the conference.

The beyonders :
What is a beyonder ? A beyonder is somebody who can make the difference. He has some strong characteristics like

  • a strong vision and remaining authentic
  • positive bias : dare to make mistakes, and learn from it
  • stimulates different thinking and being : external auditors might make us follow rules and makes us think like everybody else in our organization. This kills creativity. I do believe his statement and luckily I've met some good auditors in the past who liked us questioning the rules to further improve processes. 
  • has the courage to be a minority of one: create your opinion, think, advance, make the next step, be the sheep that steps out of the flock and try to convince other sheeps to follow you.
  • has flow because he's working in his passion : remain authentic at any times.
Some nice quotes :
  • when we are in a meeting, we should ask ourselves 'we are all expensive workers, but are we using our brain to the limit or are we waisting time ? If so, stop the meeting, get out and do something useful !
  • Don't create an illusion of learning. We need more than talent. We also need discipline to make the next step and step forward.
About the meetings, there is a really nice youtube movie by DHL. Spread this movie in your company and you'll save tremendous amounts of money.

How can you make a caterpillar fly ? - Jan Bommerez
Jan gave us some really strong thoughts that made us think about how we could advance. What are our responsibilities. I would like to share some :
  • The future will be soo different, that the most important competence will NOT be learning, but it will be how to forget what we don't need. 
I believe this. We are overloaded with information through all kind of channels. It will be a huge challenge to skip what we don't need and to discover the treasures in this huge mountain of information. 
  • Being smart has nothing to do with positive thinking, but it has to do with HOW we look at things. Don't think in problems, but in opportunities. (Jay Abrahams)
  • Be a prepared mind : always be prepared to see the unexpected. 
I like this quote. To me it means that out senses should always be as sharp as a knife. Don't expect the events to remain the same forever. Things could change. A low performer might improve one day and become a great performer. Believe in this potential.
  • Organisations are killed because of the conversations that don't occur. 
This quote is all about assumptions. We think out colleague thinks something, but we've never asked him... Stop doing this. Be clear and communicate. 

To conclude
I liked the conference a lot. besides the two key note speakers, there were a lot of great people to meet and to share ideas with. Loved it, and I'll be there next time. 

Thanks VOV !

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Are you a dopamine dealer ? - The power of compliments

How often do you receive a compliment on your work ? How often do you give a compliment ?

When I give workshops with groups to create a better and more positive work climate, I notice people don't give compliments to each other, although the have good impressions about each other. When I ask  them to give one of their colleagues a compliment, you see the person who receives the compliment start smiling like he has never smiled before.

What happens in our brain ?
When we receive a compliment, our brain gets exited and creates dopamine. This dopamine gives us a good feeling and improves our memory.

What can we learn from this ? `
Next time you see somebody doing something good, give him/her a compliment. Be sincere about it and observe what happens. You'll be surprised about the impact you can have on that person.

To conclude 
A while ago, a good friend of mine - Cris Van Cleemput - showed me this movie on youtube. Look at it and see what a compliment can do

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Feedback is breakfast for champions

Feedback is sooooooooooooo important if you want to grow, excel or further develop. Both giving and receiving feedback can be very powerful, but for some reason many people are really bad at it. I would like to share my opinion on this topic with you and some useful insights to improve your feedback skills.

Giving feedback

  • Be clear about the message. Don't cover up negative feedback with an endless long introduction with compliments. You only give these compliments to sleep better at night and temper your conscious.
  • Don't think your associate did a good job, but tell him he did a good job ! Many people are apparently afraid to give positive feedback. If somebody did a good job, tell him, and you'll see a smile on his face. If you don't tell him he might avoid the effort next time. 
  • Don't wait for the annual appraisal to give feedback ! OK, the appraisals are a formal moment to give somebody feedback on his work, but during the year you are also allowed to give feedback to your staff !
  • Not only bosses should give feedback ! Upwards feedback can also be very strong. Ok, I agree you should be carefull, especially with negative feedback and OK don't compliment your boss every day or he might think you need a raise. But when you have honest feedback for you boss, give it to him in an authentic way. 
Receiving feedback
  • Listen carefully when somebody is giving you feedback, you might learn something ! Both negative and positive feedback can be great learning moments. Be open when somebody has the courage to give you feedback.
  • Don't turn on the defense mode when you receive feedback. If you turn on the defense mode, great feedback will turn up into a fight and that's a waste of energy as we know. 
  • Accept compliments. Compliments give us energy and make us aware we are doing the right things right. 

And most of all, don't forget the words of Ken Blanchard 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How KBC, BNP and Alcatel Lucent use Social Media in Learning & Development

Yesterday (23 October 2012) I attended an interesting seminar about how organizations can use Social Media in Learning & Development. The event was organized by VOV ( Below, you find my take aways on this event, including two testimonials by KBC, BNP Paribas Fortis and Alcatel Lucent and the outcomes of research done by the Brussels University.

Why did I attend this event ? 
I frequently use social media like Blogger, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Youtube and when my kids ask me what sound a whale makes, we search youtube and get an answer in the blink of an eye.  And still, there is quite some unknown territory out there for me too. I do believe the use of social media has great added value if it is well used.

Before you continue this article, you can view this youtube movie on social media and its impact on society :

Getting started with social media in Learning & Development :
First of all, I believe we should only use social media if they contribute to the objective of the learning event. We should not use it, because we want to be fashionable.

On the other hand, social media give us sooooo many opportunities to take the learning event to a higher level. Some ideas can be the use of blogs to provide new updates after the training, start up a linkedin community with participants of a certain training to stay in touch...

Case KBC :
KBC developed a specific program for the introduction of their youngsters. An important element in this youngsters program is the development of a virtual community via Linkedin. This community was launched with a get together where all participants got a good explanation of the purpose, how to start & use the group, ...
Important element in this case was a clear WIIFM (what's in it for me) for the participants. All communications about exams in the training program, content, ... was only communicated via the linkedin group. This forced people to visit and use the linkedin group frequently.
A nice side-effect of this group was that people found each other via the linkedin group and arranged lunch to get together on top of the training to exchange ideas. The fysical contact remained valuable for the participants.

Case Alcatel Lucent :
Knowledge is of 2 kinds : we know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find info upon it. Technology and social media can help us to bridge this gap.
There are 3 important questions we should ask ourselves :
  • Do we know what we know ? 
  • Do we know what we should know ? 
  • Do we know where we can find the absent information ? 
An average employee in an organization spends 1 day/week to find necessary information to get his job done. (Laurie Buzeck - Intel).

If you want to start up a learning platform with social media to create a forum for collaborative learning. Before you start up such a platform you need 2 important elements : yellow pages with information of everybody and 1 single workspace.
Besides you need clear specs like how to :
  • find and publish information
  • get in touch and communicate with others in the group
  • Share & build information
  • most of all : a user friendly environment
Once they released the learning platform people just started using the tool. Alcatel didn't have to promote it. It was promoted mouth to mouth because people immediately saw the advantage of it. They started groups on the platform, discussions and shared information. Alcatel allowed them to add both professional and non-professional information (e.g. photography). All of this added to the corporate culture and contributed to the learning at Alcatel.

Once Alcatel installed the tool, the results were amazing :
  • After 1,5 years more than 90% of all employees worldwide use the learning tool
  • 71% find it more easily to connect with others
  • 55% finds it easier to collaborate
  • 60% finds it easier to contribute content to the system

Case BNP Paribas Fortis :
Opposite to the other cases, BNP has (only) a tool for corporate learning and no tool for collaborative learning (like the above mentioned tool). Due to budget limitations, BNP had to be very creative to make learning effects last.

Together with a team of ambassadors they created some really good add-ons. First a large group attended a training on leadership. After a certain period, they asked the ambassadors to tell in a short movie how they used the learnings, what were the obstacles & experiences they perceived, ... These movies are now a very solid knowledge tank for further learning events.

All 3 cases are very different and interesting. All organizations were facing different challenges and it is due to curiosity of a limited group of people who started exploring the possibilities of social media as add on for learning & development that the rest of the orgnanization benefits from it.

What can we learn from this ? 
You don't need huge budgets to start using social media. Just think about it, but don't think too long. Start using it and integrate it in your learning strategy.

Good luck !

Friday, October 5, 2012

Motivated at the age of 90

Today I visited the 90 year old legend of my home town (Brasschaat - Belgium). It was again a great experience.

my kids in "De Zoete Inval"
Flor is 90 years old and runs a candy store - De Zoete Inval (The Sweet Invasion) like no one else could do. Flor started his candy store in 1944 and up till a few years ago he was open 7/7, no staff, just Flor. Today he is "only" 6 days a week open. I used to go to this candy store with my parents and today I took my kids.

How can I describe Flor ? 
Flor is always in for a joke. He is always friendly to everybody and he simply enjoys the small things in life.
He has difficulties to walk, so he has two sticks to stand up. If you want something, he tells you to get it yourself. First take one of his gloves and then you can grab what you want.
He is still very sharp in his head and he'll tell you how much you'll have to pay, without using a calculator.
I remember a few years ago, there was a lady in his store asking advise, because she wanted to start up her own candy store. His reply was frank, but probably true: "don't do it ! there is too much competition from supermarkets and other big stores. People come here because of me, because they grew up in this town". And that's true.
Flor in his candystor (picture Humo 3752)
What can we learn from this ?
I hope, we all find a job that gives you so much energy you can keep on going for 70 years. Happy, motivated, friendly and enjoying what we are doing. I believe we have to search for a job that gives us this energy!

Flor didn't have a PhD, he didn't have a big sponsor behind him. He is just doing what he is good at and what he enjoys.

Thank you Flor for all the sweets we bought in De Zoete Inval. Thank you for being so motivated every day. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are you motivated to get up in the morning ?

How do you feel in the morning ?

  • Option A : Yes ! another day full of fun, opportunities and challenge
  • Option B : Shit, is that the alarm ? I want to stay in bed for another 3 hours...
Living option A 365 days a year is perhaps too ideal. Every body is entitled to have an off-day once in a while. Maybe you had a bad sleep, maybe you are sick that day, I don't know. If you have every week 1 or more off-days there is a HUGE problem. 

And let me tell you something, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT ! Take initiative. 
  • Take initiative to talk to the colleagues you've been avoiding over the last month for whatever reason you've been avoiding him (probably you don't even remember the true reason by now)
  • If you don't like your job, write a CV and apply for a more challenging job, that matches your passions. Talk to HR to find out if there are any other job opportunities within the company. 
  • If your salary is too low, do something to increase your salary ! Salary is a result of responsibility and complexitiy of your job. If you take more responsibility or do a more complex job, your salary will rise in the near future. 
  • Be positive ! People prefer positive people above negative.
  • Chase the dream you've been thinking about for the last 15 years, but you were always afraid to jump. (I wrote a small booklet about this : get your own download here - only in Dutch, but get a booklet of Ship it by Seth Godin to have an English version)
So bottom line : Take initiative and live your life. Don't waste it or wait for your retirement. Do things you believe in and be positive. 

Keep a calendar to evaluate if you had a good or a bad day. A friend told me yesterday he installed this calendar and every day at the end of the day he and his colleague decide wheather it was a bad day - neutral - good day. It had great impact on their motivation. Even on days when everything went wrong they felt good, because they were challenged and had fun. Visualize your fun-days and in a month you'll realize it was not such a bad time after all. 

Challenge n°1 : Anticipate on the brain drain

Brain drain has always been a sensitive subject. Especially when we talk about the most valuable employees in our teams. But before we dig deeper into the subject, we should think about "what is brain drain ?"

Origin and meaning of the term Brain Drain 
Brain Drain is the loss of competences. In the past, this term was mainly used for the migration of highly educated people from third world countries towards countries with higher development standards. The reasons were often higher salaries, better training, ... The result was (and still is) that third world countries loose their best workforce.

Brain drain in our companies
Today our companies are facing big challenges to retain and keep their most valuable employees. The strenghts of organisations are often within the employees. If a high performer leaves the organization, we can consider this as Brain Drain.

Brain drain happens through 2 doors at the same time !
I see 2 important forms of brain drain : on the one hand there are a lot of people who will retire within the next 10 years, on the other hand, we have young employees who more easily than ever switch companies and jobs.

Anticipate on retirement
These people have gathered great experience and know how over the past decades and most of what they know is tacit knowledge. This tacit knowledge is only within the minds of the employees and not written down in manuals, procedures, ...
Many of these "older" employees are often willing to share their expertise, but... you'll have to give them a hand. How ?

  • Train them to map their experiences, knowledge, skills : what do they know ? Often when you ask them to do a difficult handling and you ask how they do it, they answer "I don't know, I just do it...". 
  • Train them to train others : once you realize what you know, you need to be able to pass on this knowledge. How can share my insights with others ? 
  • Give them time to transfert their knowledge and give them the role of mentor / coach. 
An example :
In one of the companies I used to work for they didn't have any jobdescriptions & competence profiles. Too often these documents are developed outside-in and don't work because of this approach. I wanted instruments that truly work because I believe they are a solid base for many other development processen. I asked the person who was best in the job (often a very experienced person) and the person who could explain it most easily to tell me what they were doing and what competences they need to do this job. This was the first step in the mapping of jobdescriptions and competences. 
I also asked per competence who was the best person in the team. 
Afterwards I developed solid introduction and training plans. Every new hires got a buddy coach and thanks to the competence mapping they knew who to talk to when they wanted to develop a certain competence. 
This resulted in a autodidactic group - they started to train each other and took the group to a higher level. 

Retain generation Y
It is not only generation Y, but we should talk about all generations in this chapter. Studies claim that new generations more easily switch jobs and thus leave companies. This is probably true, and it brings the next question to our attention : why should we train all these new youngsters if they leave us within the next 2 or 3 years. 
The answer is clear to me : if you don't train them they will even leave faster. Generation Y (and younger generations) are eager to learn. They want to develop their skills to grow. A company who doesn't support them in their growth is considered to be a bad employer. 

My advise on this topic is to install solid introduction & training plans for your new hires. Follow up on their personal development and the status of their training plans. And I don't mean to follow up via an IT tool ! Keep the communication personal. Last week I was in a company where all HR related topics go via a help desk who is not even part of that company. People really felt NOT being supported by HR... 

A few years ago I was training & recruitment manager in one of the biggest companies in Antwerp. A newspaper contacted us to give us the award of "best business school" for engineers. Some of my colleagues didn't want to be in the newspaper with this award because they were afraid of headhunters chasing our best engineers. I persisted and we got an 8 page article in the newspaper bringing the story of how we invested in the development of our employees and the internal jobopportunities they got every time the wanted to move up. We had a job- & project market for our employees. This was the secret why all our engineers stayed. 

So my advise to you : keep jobs challenging and open the dialogue with your employees. 
You might say "this is not new!". You are right ! Unfortunately many companies do not have an active policy on these topics and due to budget savings they have to stop good initiatives...

To avoid brain drain in your company, make sure you have a good mapping of who is competent at what and invest in the professional development of each and every employee. This is the simple truth about retention of good employees !

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Training versus Learning

I truly believe that "learning" is one of the most important competencies for everybody who want to survive the crisis and who has ambition to grow. Training will not be the answer, Learning is the key to success. But what is the difference ?

Training is an activity
Learning is an attitude

What do I mean by this ? 
Training is what we do in a classroom, or via e-learning, a manual, ... Most of the time, it is somebody else who shares his knowledge & experience with us. It is an outside-in activity. Training often results in wallpaper-certificates.

Learning is very different from training. It is an attitude that happens 100% of the time. We learn from what we do. If we fail, we create a learning opportunity to prevent us from doing the same mistake twice. Good learners do this in a conscious way. They take time to reflect on what happened and what they can learn from it. It is an inside out activity. Learning results in knowledge and experiences that help us grow, improve and excel.

In Belgium organizations have to "train" their staff a certain number of days a year. E.g. in Logistics this is 5,5 days every 2 years. That means 1% of the time employees spent on improving their skills (if they attend a successful training. I honestly believe we should spent almost all of our time on learning.

My tips to improve Learning in your organization

  1. Allow employees to make mistakes, if they learn from it.
  2. Regularly ask your employees what they learned that day. This will start up a process where people start reflecting on what they did today and find ways to do it better tomorrow.
  3. Organize learning groups where people can learn from each other. 
  4. Don't focus on the amount of hours your staff attended trainings, but check how many innovative ideas (process improvement, new products, ...) they launched. This is an important indicator that they learn.
  5. If you have a training departement in your organization, change it into the learning facilitation department and allow them to create a learning culture (by facilitating workshops, improve learning awareness, ...)
Become today a learning organization and start you growth and innovation. 

What's next ?
Over the next few weeks, I will publish a series of articles on the challenges for learning & development and provide some practical tips how you can improve your organization.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You can't change the weather

Too often I hear people complain about things they can't change like :

  • the green light turning red just 2 cars before you arrive at the crossroad
  • the weather
  • traffic jams
  • ...
All this complaining generates negative energy. Energy you'd better use to create new things and solutions. 

Somebody told me once: "you can't change the things that are happening around you, you can change how you react on them". Keep this in mind, and try to seek opportunities instead of blowing up problems. 

Even when it is raining cats & dogs, there are new opportunities. You can start selling umbrellas and make so much money you can move to a nice and warm exotic country :-)

So next time you start complaining, think twice and seek for the opportunity, because some things can't be changed and complaining absorbs all your energy.

Getting involvement during coaching

There are a few important ingredients that improve people's learning curve; fun, good instructions, room for practice, competent coach, ... Today I want to focus on an important ingredient that lies within the person who's learning : INVOLVEMENT. People who are involved/engaged, are open for new things, get energized by the learning and want to apply what they learned.

Common mistake :
When people are coached many coaches come up with the ideas and tell their trainee what to do. We call this the outside-in approach. Mostly these coaches pass knowledge, tips & tricks on to the trainee and they expect the trainee to copy paste this knowledge.

The inside-out approach :
A while ago I wrote on this blog an article about the ASTD session of Alan Fine (author of You already know how to be great) In his book, Alan describes how he uses the GROW model (goal - reality - options, way forward) to coach people inside out. Instead of telling people what to do, he asks them questions and triggers them to find the answer themselves (without making judgements! ). This is also what Ken Blanchard meant in his book "The one minute manager meets the monkey". Coaching is about helping people to find the answer themselves. It is NOT about telling them what to do.
From my own experiences I know this is the strongest approach on one condition ; the person is really willing to learn & grow.

You can use this technique both as external coach or as manager to coach your employees. It doesn't take hours to use this approach. It can even be done in 15min time at the coffee machine. Stick to the 4 stages of the approach, and you'll bear the fruits of it.

Questions to use with inside-out coaching & GROW approach :

  • what do you want to learn during the coaching ? 
  • what are the consequences if you don't learn this ? 
  • where do you want to be in ... time ? 
  • what has been happening ? 
  • what is withholding you from making the next move ? 
  • what is the problem you're facing ? 
Remark : for both topics (goal & reality) as a coach it  is important to push your trainee to make things clear himself. You can do this by asking after every answer "why / how / when, ..." questions. This will sharpen the issue and create focus for the coaching. It will make the trainee think himself. 

  • at this stage you open a brainstorming with the trainee. All options are possible to go from reality to goal. If the trainee can't come up with enough options, ask questions, and push him to new options. Don't tell him what you think the options are, because if you would, you start coaching outside in. 
  • Now you choose what options you'll use / implement and define the action plan to go from reality to goal. 
To conclude :
If you use an inside out approach for coaching you'll get more involvement, more results and motivated people, because they'll realize they have the answers within themselves which increases their faith & fire.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

United we stand, divided we fall - music can save the world

How comes so many people don't realize that collaboration is one of the basic rules for success and growth. I see governments struggling to find a political majority, because parties don't want to jointly govern (I live in Belgium, the country with the world record of longest time to create a government = 541 days!). I see companies loosing money by the millions because departments are not allowed to share ideas and work together. Parents splitting up and fighting for the kids because they don't want to live together. 
(source :

But, I'm hopeful. I see many people getting together. I meet people who want to share ideas and build together in a very constructive way. And that is the only way forward. If you want to learn, talk to people and learn from each other. 

Music is an important channel to speak up and say what lives among people in the street. 
In the 1970's Brotherhood of Man wrote the song "United we stand divided we fall". Later Punk group Sham 69 had a big hit with the song "If the kids are united, they well never be divided". About ten years the Dutch/Belgian punk group de Heideroosjes used this in their song "Time is ticking away" They wrote 

I don't need many friends
but those I have are real
Together we're down for life
United we stand, devided we fall
All for one and one for all

I strongly do believe that collaboration is the way forward and ingredients for this are trust, empathy, forgivingness, putting things in perspective ... Big words and even bigger challenges, but once you apply it, you feel the benefits and start growing. 

Did you know, the most successful companies are made by teams. They help people to meet and collaborate. They support teamwork. 

My advise to you :
Create structures where people can really work together, share ideas, innovate. Invite neighbors for a BBQ party, connect with friends and most of all be open to others. 
So next time you are in a hostile meeting or you end up in a out of control discussion, just stop the fuzz and play one these songs really loud and sing along. 

In case you need a heavy tune : De Heideroosjes

For the quiet version : Brotherhood of Man

Friday, June 1, 2012

Getting the message across

There has never been as much communication as today. The communication wheel spins 24/7. With our cell phones we can dial at any time of the day, receive mails, text messages, twitter, read the internet, check people we don't know on Facebook, network via linkedin, we read newspapers and watch TV (including all the commercials with information on products we'll never buy)... and at work, we attend endless meetings, read 'important' messages from the boss,... and we are supposed to absorb this information. Let me be clear "it is impossible to absorb all that information !"
99% of the information that has been sent out gets lost or doesn't have the supposed impact.
Maybe you get irritated by all these messages and maybe you just want to hear the bottom line of the messages. Believe me you are not the only one.
So next time you communicate to someone, say what you have to say, be clear and to the point in your communication. Don't cover bad news with a long positive introduction, or the bottom line of your message gets lost.
My tips if you want to get the message across :

  1. say what you have to say
  2. be clear & to the point
  3. be clear to whom you want to communicate
  4. think twice before you communicate
  5. be focused when someone wants to tell you something important

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reduce waste in Training & Development

Learning & development often costs quite a lot of money. It is normal that CEO's ask for a return on investment when they spent money on learning & development initiatives. In one of my previous blogposts, I described the New World Kirkpatrick Model. This model already gives great ideas to better align the business expectations and training plans and puts focus on Return on Expectations.

But, there is more to improve the quality of trainings. I believe there is too much "waste" in learning & development. In this blogpost I give an overview of possible wastes and provide alternatives to improve the quality of your service.

For this blogpost I was inspired by an article by Bradley Staats and David Upton. It was a case study on how Wipro implemented the lean principles to improve their administrative an knowledge work. (Holland/Belgium Management Review – Nummer 141 – 2012 – p 56-65 – Bradley Staats and David Upton)

The 7 wastes according to Toyota
Toyota Lean Specialist Taiichi Ohno defines 7 important forms of waste in organizations :
  1. Overproduction : manufacture an item before it is actually required. The answer to this is Just in Time Production. 
  2. Waiting : Whenever goods are not moving or being processed, the wast of waiting occurs. This means that much of a products lead time is tied up in waiting for the next operation. 
  3. Transporting : transporting product between processes is a cost incursion which adds no value to the product. Excessive movement and handling cause damage and are an opportunity for quality to deteriorate. 
  4. Inappropriate Processing : use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If you use too complex, too expensive tools to get the job done. 
  5. Unnecessary Inventory : excess inventory increases lead time, consumes productive floor space, delays the identification of problems and inhibits communication. 
  6. Unnecessary / Excess Motion : this waste is related to ergonomics and is seen in all instances of bending, stretching, walking, lifting, and reaching. 
  7. Defects : Quality defects resulting in rework or scrap are a tremendous cost to organizations. 
These principles are holy rules in production factories all over the world. Production always seeks ways to lower costs and improve efficiency. So why are these rules not applied on learning & development ? 

How can we reduce waste in Learning & Development ? 
 If you look at the above list, you can easily detect waste in learning and development. 
  1. Overproduction : why do we send people to a 2 day course, if they only need 10% of the content of this course. This is often the case when companies send employees to e.g. a course "Advanced Excel", while the employee only needs to know how to create & use a pivot table. There are good tools & providers who supply individual, tailored trainings at a low cost (e.g. where you can say which specific module in excel should be trained). My advise : be creative and only produce what is really necessary to the business. Maybe you might find the course useful, but it is of no use for your customers in the business. 
  2. Waiting :  don't wait for the annual appraisal to add training needs to you individual training plan. If an employee has a specific training need at a certain moment, deliver an appropriate solution at that moment, so he can proceed on his work with the new knowledge. 
  3. Transporting : The biggest chunck of trainings are still classroom trainings. I believe we should analyze the training material and check what can already send before the training. People don't need to go to a classroom if they can get a part of the training by e-learning (e.g. theoretical information, concepts, ...)
  4. Inappropriate processing : make requests for training as easy as possible. Don't use 24-step procedures with approvals by team leader, manager, HR, VP and CEO. Believe that if people request for a training they really need it for their job. They won't enroll for a training they don't need. So make it as easy as possible to enroll for trainings. 
  5. Unnecessary Inventory : In the past I've seen organizations with fantastic Learning Management Systems (LMS), with gigantic training catalogues. There were even sooooooo many trainings in this catalogue that nobody could find an appropriate training any more. Some of the trainings were even out-dated. My advise : Make a clear overview of trainings you provide, easy searchable and frequently updated. 
  6. Unnecessary / Excess Motion : make sure training facility is nice. Don't put people for a training somewhere in a back room without daylight. 
  7. Defects : If you provide a technical training, make sure all the equipment is state of the art and works well. If possible have a back up plan at hand, because waiting because of a defect tool during a training, reduces the success of the training initiative dramatically. 
Conclusion :
Above I only mentioned a few suggestions to reduce waste in learning & development activities. Go search actively for waste reduction. Dare to ask why you do things in a certain way for years and dare to change the procedure if necessary. 

If you do reduce waste, your customers will appreciate the learning & development activity more and will be more eager to learn more and faster. 

Good luck !

Thursday, May 10, 2012

ASTD session on Talent Management by David Wee

On Tuesday I attended a session by David Wee (Signapore) on Talent Management. I was triggered, the moment I read the title of his session "Getting 90% of your people to perform like the top 10%". And he accomplished to live up to these expectations. It was a great session, brought with enthusiasm and a lot of passion. I would like to share some of the highlights, but first you can watch a short video of David Wee explaining about talent

About the talent zone & talent ecosystem :
A talent ecosystem is a set of conditions that create room and possibilities to grow talent. As David Wee explains in the above video, both Beethoven and Tiger Woods lived in excellent ecosystems to grow their talent. 

But to create a talent ecosystem, you need to know your talent zone. There are 2 important elements that define the talent zone : Passion (love what you do) & Ability (doing what you are great at).
If we put these two on a diagram, we get the following overview :
  1. If you have to do things and you are really not passionated at all about it and you are not good at it, then you are in the prison. In that situation there is only one thing you should do : STOP !
  2. If you are highly competent, but not passionated, then you are in a situation of Unfulfilled dream
  3. If you are very passionated at something, but you are not good at it, you have unfulfilled potential. In that situation, you'd better find yourself a good coach, read books, attend seminars, ... and practice to grow your ability. Only by doing this, you can get into the talent zone. 
  4. People who are very capable at what they are doing and who are very passionated about it, they live in the talent zone. 
Try to find out where you are on this matrix and define your strategy for the future so you get into the talent zone. Jim Collins already stated in his session that great companies have belief that all people have talents. It is everybody's responsibility to grow towards the talent zone. Employees need to take initiatives to grow, but also the organization, HR, direct management can support the associate to develop a passion and grow the ability to get into the talent zone. 

Building Talent ecosystems
There are 6 important elements for organizations to create sustainable talent ecosystems :
  1. Share deeply belief that everyone has talent
  2. Make the business case for talent : bring stories about people's talent. Leaders should lead by example and invest in talent, they should drive talent management. 
  3. Create conditions that demand the best from people. you can do this by working supporting people to practice their talent, give them self belief and intrinsic motivate them (e.g. give compliments, tap on the shoulder, ...).
  4. Develop people to be the best they can be 
  5. Hold people accountable for results
  6. Give people a purpose to grow others.  
As you see in the list above managers have an impact on growth of talent management of their associates. They need to develop associates and belief the associate will succeed.  This brings us to the virtuous and the vicious circle of talent management. 

Impact of management belief on talent development
In the virtuous circle there is a positive atmosphere. The manager has belief in his people, which makes associates feel energized which leads to great results. 

In the vicious circle, the manager has few or no belief in his people. He sometimes don't want to invest time in them. All of these kind of excuses make people feel disengaged, which lead to poor results. 

It is in other words important that managers create a positive climate where the ecosystem for talent management arises and people feel engaged. Only this attitude can create the positive talent ecosystem to grow organizations through their people. 

What did I learn form this ? 
The matrix is a good instrument to detect what action should be taken to get somebody in his talent zone. Once we have a good picture on where the person is, we can further develop the talent. 
There are different aspects that have an impact on the development of people's talent. I like the concept of a talent ecosystem. It makes us aware there are many aspects that influence the talent development of our associates. All aspects should be respected, to grow talent. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ASTD session Growing by using what you already know by Alan Fine

What made me attend this session ?
There are quite a lot of people who attended classes, read books, went to seminars, perhaps they even have an MBA of some big university or they have 30 years experience, but when you look at what they do with this gigantic pile of knowledge, they only use very few or none of it, although it might just help them to move forward. Therefore I was triggered by the title of this session "getting employees to use what they already know".
So I went to this session and hoped I would get some answers.

Alan Fine is author of the book "You already know how to be great" and a great performer.

How do we stop kids from learning ? 
If you ask a class of 5 year old kids "who is an artist ?" They'll probably all say they are. If you ask them the same question 4 years later, there might be a few artists left and by the time they are 12, there'll probably maximum 1 artist left.
How comes ? In the first years of our lives we discover, we develop our creative skills and we encourage children in their creativeness (all parents cheer when their kid makes a drawing, although we can't figure out what they drew :-) ). This is important and stimulates the kid to do more.

When they go to school at the age of 6, we shift the focus more towards knowledge absorption (how much is 3+5, what are the letters of the alphabet, ...). At this time, the rationale comes in and we shift from creativity towards rationality.

At that moment we start training our kids Outside in.

This is a funny movie how we break down a creative santa on his HO-HO-HO skills

This is what we do with kids. They do something and we train them to do it else wise, because we believe it should be done else wise.

What we do at that moment is break the kids confidence and replace it with (our) knowledge. This is what Alan Fine calls INTERFEARANCE.

We can compare this in sports as well. If you are a tennis player and you struggle with your backhand, and you start focussing on how bad he is and you try and try to improve it, but you get frustrated. You read books, watch a movie, watch somebody else with a great backhand and try to imitate him, you get frustrated and your backhand will get worse.

This brings us to the equation of


How does this bring us to the key question ? 
How comes people learn, but they don't do apply their knowledge ?

The answer is "We focus too much on knowledge" and there is more than that...
Knowledge is important - no doubt about that. But if we want people to apply their knowledge and to perform, we also need to focus on

  • building their faith
  • helping them to focus
  • light up the fire in them
This is what Alan Fine the Performance Wheel 
Say what you do and do what you say
most people will say that they do what they say and say what they do. But, if you ask others to judge them, they might say something else. 

Why ? Because we are not out own best judges (this can be compared with the blind spot)

So, to improve and to perform better, we need somebody to help us. 

GROW & the performance wheel
The principles of GROW have been used during the week by many other speakers in many forms and applied in many situations. GROW is an acronym for Goal - Reality - Options - Way Forward.

Alan Fine integrates both in the model below and correctly states that to get to the point of moving forward, we need the knowledge, faith, focus and fire. All go hand in hand and we need to pay attention to all of them. 

The performance wheel and the Inside out approach
The inside out approach aims to bring people in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as "FLOW". Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Everything you do feels natural. 

When we learn we'd better be in a state of flow. We need a healthy balance between perceived skills and perceived challenges. If there is too much perceived challenge, but no perceived skills, we will feel anxiety an worry. If on the opposite, we feel ourselves very skilled, but not challenged, we will be bored.
If we are learning or if we training others, we should pay attention to different elements. The learner should feel a healthy balance between skills and challenge. This means he should grow step by step. As a trainer or facilitator, we need to encourage learners, give them faith, light up the fire & passion and give them focus. 
As a trainer or teamleader/manager, you can grow people, by helping go through this process. But this means also that you'll have to tell them about blind spots they might have, give them direction, encourage them. 
Today we train children at school and employees at work by giving them knowledge. To get more results, we should be focussing on all elements and help learners to grow through their state of flow. 

What did I learn from this ?
  1. Learning is more than gathering knowledge (=teaching). Learning is growing through gathering knowledge + getting inspired/passionated + getting more faith + keeping focus. 
  2. We should be aware that our perception of what we say = what we do is not always correct. Ask people around you what they think about you and how they perceive you. This gives you a better view on your idea about yourself. 
  3. Alan Fine is a great speaker who inspires many others and I can recommend you to attend one of his seminars or read his books. (thank you Allan !)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ASTD session Ken Blanchard on Great Leaders GROW

I am a huge fan of Ken Blanchard books. He always manages to bring a clear story, easy reading and with a strong message. So I had to take the opportunity to attend his session at 2012 ASTD. It was amazing to see this 75 year old man talking for more than an hour with so much passion, so much enthusiasm.

What is GROW about ? 
GROW is an acronym which stand for

  • Gain knowledge 
  • Reach out for others
  • Open your world
  • Walk toward wisdom
Ken Blanchard gave us 4 questionnair to evaluate ourselves on these four levels. The results can feed discussions you can do with groups. 

How do you do the questionair ? On each statement you give give yourself a score between 1 and 5. 1 means completely disagree - 5 means completely agree.

Questionair one : Gain knowledge
  • I know my own strengths and weaknesses
  • I know the people I lead on a deep level
  • I know my industry extremely well
  • I have a high level of mastery of the principles and practices of leadership
  • I have a detailed written personal development plan
Questionnair two : Reach out to Others
  • I am always looking for ways to invest in the growth of others
  • I have ongoing mentoring relationships with emerging leaders
  • I frequently see and seize teachable moments
  • I frequently share what I'm learning with others
  • I have developed a high level of mastery communicating my point of view on leadership
Questionnair three : Open your world
  • I constantly look for opportunities to grow at work
  • I constantly seek new experiences outside the workplace
  • I have a mentor(s) who helps me grow
  • I am always looking for additional opportunities to lead
  • I see every day as an opportunity to learn and grow
Questionnair four : Walk towards wisdom
  • I consistently tell myself the truth regarding my leadership
  • I actively seek feedback from those I know to be thruthtellers
  • I have a group op people I trust to give me counsel on important questions
  • I have mastered th art and discipline of asking profound questions
  • I am fully committed to a lifelong pursuit of wisdom
What did I learn from this session ? 
I was very happy to hear what he said. I truly believe in the GROW principle. Yes it is important to constantly gain knowledge and reach out for others. People should open their world and and find a good personal coach who helps them to walk towards wisdom. 

Too often I see people stay at their desk all day long developing policies and strategies without having any connection with others in their organization. They don't want help from others, because the know what they are doing - or at least they think they know it. 

SO what should we remember ? 
  1. Constantly seek for new knowledge
  2. Reach out for others, try to teach and share your knowledge with others
  3. Open your world, discover new opportunities
  4. FInd yourself a good mentor, somebody who gives you advise to further develop. 
If you do so, you'll grow as a leader and as a human being. 

ASTD Session From good to great by Jim Collins

This morning I attended Jim Collins ASTD session, based on his famous book "From good to great". I was a great experience to hear Jim bring the story.
In this blogpost I give you a resume of the session and a little extra.

What did Jim Collins say ?  
The key question in his book is "What makes the difference between a good and a great company, what makes the difference between a good and a great leader ? "
Great leadership is more than personality and charism. Offcourse, many great leaders have these abilities, but they are not great just because of that. There are quite a lot of leaders who have these skills and how fail constantly.

An important key characteristic of great leaders is modesty. Modesty in combination with an enormous will to serve and to achieve goals. Today's crisis is a first crisis. If we don't start to act, another crisis will come. And that crisis will be caused because of a lack of level 5 leaders (see below).

But what makes leaders GREAT leaders ? Modesty and an enormous will are not enough. We need more that this.

There are 3 important elements that all level 5 leaders (great leaders) have :

  1. fanatic discipline : they work every day to reach their goals. They do - what Jim Collins calls - their 20 miles march every day. They don't make 40 miles marches when conditions are good, but the work constantly and build their dreams. 
  2. empirical creativity : they try new things and look for better ways, but they do this based on empirical study. They don't guess, they don't put all their chips on one number on the roulette table. They investigate and look for empirical data before they decide. 
  3. productive paranoia : Productive paranoiacs understand that the only mistakes we can learn from are the mistakes we survive. Therefore, they build cash reserves and buffers for worse time. 
How comes there are so few great leaders ? As a little kid, we were creative and later on we were trained to be fanatically disciplined. But while we were trained to become fanatically disciplined, they stopped our creativity. To be great, you need both !

What is the role of luck in all of this ? Isn't success and greatness at least partly because of luck ? NO ! It is a result of WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR LUCK !

A little extra 
A while ago I saw a movie on youtube about the best sushi maker in the world. It is an old Japanese man who owns a restaurant in a metro station. His restaurant has 3 michelin stars and the man must be 80 years old. Look at the movie. To me, this man has all the characteristics Jim Collins talked about. He is modest, walks his 20 mile march every day and is a pure empirical creative person. WOW !