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Open or Closed? A Leadership Debate

Open or Closed? A Leadership Debate

Management best practices over the years have encouraged a wide range of approaches for manager-employee interaction. Years ago, managers used a closed-door approach to focus on important projects and priorities. And, God knows, in this world of distractions and multi-tasking mania, we could use a bit more focus these days!

In more recent years, managers have used an open-door approach to encourage employees to share insights and ask questions. The thought, of course, was that an open door would foster better communication. But, at what price?

Research tells us that every time you stop what you’re doing, it takes three times the length of the interruption to return to the level of productivity you were at when interrupted. If managers minimize interruptions, they can complete important projects and priorities—on time and on budget.

What if managers used a screen door approach? The screen door presents an initial barrier that you can see through, but not necessarily walk through. When the screen door approach is used in organizations, it is done in connection with the use of other management activities.

What can the screen door approach do for workplace productivity? 

  1. Prompt a clarification of what is urgent and what is not. Have your team develop the list of what constitutes “urgent.” When something is urgent it means they open your screen door; what is not urgent means they save it (or better yet, solve it on their own).
  2. Encourage employees to save non-urgent topics for a touchbase meeting. Managers should schedule time each week to meet face to face with each direct report, a minimum of 15 minutes.
  3. Demonstrate prioritization and focus, without competing interests.You want to give team members your undivided attention and this can best be done during touchbases. Trusted employees can solve problems and handle situations without your involvement.

 Is your door open or closed? Would you trust employees with a screen door approach? If you’d like more information on skills development for your management team, we’d like to introduce you to the principles of practical management.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavioral change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com. Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company

Gaming in Training

Gaming in Training

When training facilitators use games in the classroom, participants explore learning and engagement in fun, competitive ways. Games in a classroom also teach principles of strategic thinking. Check out these top reasons for using games in training:

Soft Skills Learning
Soft skills are taught based on practice and storytelling. In the classroom, we recommend teaching participants to script and role-play using real-life examples. The facilitator will act as the client and participants will role-play scenarios that they experience every day on the job. This experience allows for an immediate answer and the opportunity to ‘learn on the fly’. The game must be related to the participants’ work environment. In fact, the more realistic the scenario is, the more your participants will be engaged in the training.

Educational
The game activities should be taken serious with an educational goal in mind. This is an opportunity for participants to learn a new skill, and have fun doing it. The first step is identifying what skill you want them to improve. “Knowledge Drill Cards” is a use of games in the classroom. It is as simple as putting the skill you want developed on one side of a card, (ex: product, service, question) and putting the answer on the other side. Participants quickly go through the flash cards with effort to remember the answers. Speed and repetitiveness are essential in this game.

A Safe Environment
Most training professionals have experienced a classroom setting where not everyone feels safe participating. They are afraid to raise their hand for fear of giving an incorrect answer. They may feel that they are outside of their comfort zone. Games help create a safe environment in the classroom. Participants don’t feel as though they are put on the spot when making a mistake in a game, because after all it is “just a game”. Using games in training helps engage people that are usually more reserved in a classroom setting.

Increase Motivation
The more interest a participant has, the better they will be at it. Everybody likes to have fun and play. Participants become competitive with their colleague—and want to win, therefore, they want to learn. Games in training should offer an appropriate amount of challenge to maintain motivation. Adding rewards to your training enhances the motivation even more. We recommend offering a small gift for the team/person that wins.

Using games in training is an effective technique to get participants to become more engaged and have fun while learning a new skill. If your learning and development program has not yet adapted this approach to learning, it’s time to bring innovation to your classroom experience.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

In Search of Answers

In Search of Answers

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Training is about exploring change. It’s one of the most powerful ways to change the course of your business including everything from employee engagement to financial performance. If searching for the best training solution for your business were a treasure map, what would it look like?   

The first key is to find the right mate, or partner. When choosing a training solution for your business, you’ll want to evaluate partners on four cornerstones of compatibility. For each attribute, ask yourself how the partner will fit with your business’ priorities and needs.

Program
The training solution you choose should be flexible and offer building blocks for cohesive expansion across the organization. You’ll want adaptability and creativity, including pricing that can flex with your budget, scope and timing. For impact, the live classroom will deliver the best outcomes for your investment. Most importantly, solutions must be inclusive of the training tools and materials—license free.

Skill Practice
Children will learn and absorb a great deal of information simply by listening and observing. Adult learning, however, requires repeated skill practice. Increase the skill practice and you’ll increase skill improvement. Skill practice should be present in the classroom and post-classroom. Best practices include brainstorming and role-plays, large and small group projects, individual and team assignments.

Facilitator
Interview your facilitator(s). Too many clients tell horror stories of partnering with a training company who dazzle them during a presentation and proposal, only to hear from training participants afterwards that the facilitator was grossly incompatible to the organization’s vision and principles. With today’s technology, video screenings offer a guarantee that you’ll be more than happy with your facilitator.

Recommends
A good training partner has referring clients on speed-dial. You’ll want to speak directly with references to hear about their experiences with the program, skill practice, and facilitator. Will it require time and coordination? Absolutely. Gaining insight from current and previous clients helps to ensure the training solution will be compatible and impactful for your business.

What is your plan to enhance employee training and development this year? Are you focused on onboarding? Ready for a strategic look at skills training by position? Is it time for leadership development? A three-year action plan is a great place to start. Ask us how to get started.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

Being Mindful About Training

Being Mindful About Training

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Learning and development is a mind game. After more than a century of Psychology research, the facts haven’t changed. Most people retain a mere 50% of instruction after day one, 25% after day two, and less than 10% after day three. Nothing is more frustrating to organizational development leaders than these stats.

 
What can be done to increase learning retention? How can organizations ensure their training investments make a difference?

We believe one of the best training practices for increasing engagement and influencing retention is to deploy the principles of adult learning that help to break down traditional patterns and behaviors. Successful training programs need to deliver:
 
Clear Expectations. What are the training objectives? What is expected of training participants during the session? After the session? Whether you’re a corporate trainer, a manager training a new hire, or a product owner launching a new solution, always set clear expectations for the training.
 
Step-by-Step Instructions: Easier said than done, right? In grade school, you might have participated in a game led by your teacher where the class followed instructions to draw a stick figure. But what if the teacher’s instructions didn’t include locating a pencil and paper, and skipped right to drawing a circle? We often make assumptions about an activity or process. For a new employee or someone learning a new skill, the steps are important.  
 
Visual Support: This doesn’t mean creating a PowerPoint presentation with clip art and fun fonts, but rather using a variety of visual elements to create a hands-on training experience. The use of flip charts for small group activities, along with worksheets and handouts will help participants retain information.
 
Interactive Engagement: Learning retention increases with interactive participation. Create an open dialogue where participants can share ideas freely. Include partner or group activities to further enhance the learning. Break up your talking points with an activity that gets people out of their chairs and keeps them engaged!
 
Balanced Feedback: Unlike constructive criticism, balanced feedback focuses on constructive improvement. When participants share a project or deliver to the group, they should self-assess first by identifying their perspective of strengths and opportunities. This is followed by others in the classroom sharing perspectives that create a safe training environment where people always feel their ideas and thoughts matter.
 
Immediate and Repetitive Use: If what was learned in training is immediately used on the job, retention increases significantly; especially if the participant sees a positive and speedy impact as a result of trying something new. Participants’ managers must have clarity about the content that’s been trained and the expectation to reinforce the training with the participant.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

Letter to a Millennial

Letter to a Millennial

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Dear Millennial,

I know you think you are part of the “most hated generation.” I know you’re tired of your baby boomer bosses who have a negative view of you and the way you like to do your work. I get it! I’m a Millennial, too.

Since we are often supervised by baby boomers, the opportunities available to us often depend on working well with our baby boomer bosses. It’s in the interest of both of us to understand what they need from us and what we need from them—specifically, how to work with each other. Here are some tips from my professional experience in working with employee development leaders: 

  1. Be willing to stay with your employer if the work is interesting and the rewards are clear. Some aspects of your job may bore you, but your boss views them as crucial. Completing these kinds of tasks in the way they want, will make them happy and get the job done. But, that isn’t what makes our generation so different. Our boss should respect that we bring creativity to the workplace. Sometimes the work is interesting, but the rewards are not clear. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are curious about rewards for meeting goals.
  1. Communicate clearly the need for reinforcement and balanced feedback. How do we know if we are improving or meeting standards if our boss doesn’t reinforce and provide balanced feedback? We have to communicate that we need reinforcement. We want to know if we are doing the job right, and if not, how to improve.  
  1. Manage your boss’s expectations. Don’t be silent if you feel unsure about your priorities. Manage your boss’s expectations about what you’ll get done and when. Ask, “What do you need from me today?” By asking, you both will have a clear picture of what you are focused on. One of the best ways to create clear communication around expectations is by using an Action Plan. It is a simple plan managed by both boss and employee, focusing on SMART action steps for task or assignment.   

Using these tips should help you work more effectively and efficiently with your baby boomer boss. If it doesn’t work out, it is ok to start looking for a job that fits you. Don’t give up on your personal and professional success. You bring value and creativity to the workplace.

Sincerely,

A millennial, Sarah Oeltjenbruns

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

Managing Conflict: Leader Lessons

Managing Conflict: Leader Lessons

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Faced with conflicts in a workgroup, managers often try to correct perceptions (and misperceptions) by lecturing team members about who’s right and who’s wrong. Or, they call Human Resources and expect them to resolve the personnel problem.

What if managers were better equipped to resolve conflict? What would that look like?

Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For many of us, a large portion of every days is spent at work. In fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.

Here are five lessons for managers seeking to resolve workplace conflict between team members:

Lesson One – The Problem is . . . Me?
It’s far easier to judge others’ behavior than to look at one’s own. Try asking individuals in the conflict to answer two questions in advance of a face-to-face discussion: a) What is one behavior of which I’m proud when I think about my role in this conflict? b) What is one behavior I wish I hadn’t said/done when I think about my role in this conflict? Coming clean about it can set the stage for a more positive resolution with others.

Lesson Two – Respect Others’ Values
What one team member sees as inefficient communication or disorganized processes—another team member may see as a supportive effort to accommodate everyone’s needs. A manager who asks each team member what motivated his or her reason for behaving a particular way may be able to get to an underlying value that the other team member can appreciate and see in a new light.

Lesson Three – Find Common Ground
Team members can work effectively together without making everyone a buddy. To facilitate this process as a manager, you need to be highly observant. Remind your team members of similarities you’ve seen in their approach to customer issues, in work ethic, in communication styles.

Lesson Four – Tackle Problems Directly
When conflicts arise, managers often want to tamp down the frustrations rather than tackling them head on. But, sometimes exasperation can help groups find solutions. A manager, as third party to a conflict, can facilitate the discussion that leads to a solution. But, not if he/she is hiding in the office and hoping the conflict will go away.

Lesson Five – Let in Joy
Workgroups can develop ease and a closeness that makes work better, richer and more interesting. Acknowledging the hard work of being together 8 or more hours a day opens the door for moments of joy. We just don’t grow in isolation; we grow in relationships.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com