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[NEW: PODCAST INTERVIEW] Shifting into Consulting with Anchored in Learning

In June, I had a chance to sit down (virtually) with Vanessa Alzate with the Anchored in Learning Podcast. Vanessa and I chatted about learning and development and what it was like to make a shift to my own consulting practice. The great thing about this business is Vanessa and I work in the same industry, but were able to come together with common interests and passion about the learning and development field.

In addition to discussing all things learning and development, we had to share a moment to talk about dogs and Momo!

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Your Company should not Die with You

Will your business run smoothly after your leadership moves on, retires, or death? It’s a stark reality facing many business owners, large and small. 

In 2006, I was running the administration of a small specialty construction firm my father had started.  He died suddenly in October of that year. His role was to run and manage field operations.  We had no one to fill that role.  I ended up closing the company. 15 staff members lost their jobs in a matter of a week. 

I closed my father’s company for several reasons. The matter of succession; or a replacement plan was one. 

“Your company shouldn’t die with you.” This is what a friend and fellow business owner told me a few weeks ago. He’s right. Dying physically is something we all face (unfortunately). But departments, teams, and staff can figuratively “die” when key leadership leaves. 

Succession planning isn’t just for someone’s unexpected passing. One large reason why employees leave an organization is for growth and professional development opportunities. Having the right personnel in the right roles will keep an organization from missing a beat in the event an employee leaves. 

Do you have a strategy for developing and retaining your high performers? 

Why succession plan? 

You’re filling the gaps. Something my father or I didn’t think about as part of his company organizational plan. Some key areas we could have put our focus: 

Identify organizational needs

What were our organizational needs going to be in terms of future growth and how we were going to hire new team members and develop others to move up within the organization. What will the future of the industry look like and what skills would the team need to meet future demands? 

Identifying high performers

Identifying high performers that existed among our team members 

Filling the gaps

Identifying where skill gaps existed within our current team.  

Professional development

Working with the existing team on projects like stretch assignments or formal training to keep them engaged and challenged with their work. 

The result? 

The long-term benefits of planning for your organization’s future ensure that you don’t have a shortage in your team which could result in not meeting client demands, loss of morale and revenue. A succession plan for your organization creates a flow, ensuring you have a plan to keep the right people in the right roles. Employees know exactly what they have to do to advance within your organization This creates transparency and trust among your team, which makes for a high-performing and strong organizational culture. 

Ultimately, when employees are engaged in their work, the result is better outcomes, better service for the client, and in turn higher profits. 

Would things have been different if my father’s organization had some sort of succession or “replacement” plan in place? I don’t know. I can say the immediate outcome would have been less stressful for me and the staff at the time. 

If you can believe this picture was 22 years ago. My high school graduation. I’ve graduated two other times since then. One of those he had to be there in spirt. I miss our Egg McMuffin mornings dad.

Here more of my thoughts on succession planning here:

VIDEO >> Why succession planning?

VIDEO>> Understanding knowledge gaps

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How a Trip to Japan Changed my Perceptions around Culturally Inclusive Training.

I don’t think culture occurred to me until my family and I went to Japan in 2015. (I have wanted to visit since. Thanks, Covid). Being exposed to a different culture has opened my eyes to different ways of living. I was intrigued by the way people moved about their day. 

Two years after that trip to Japan, I was ready to move there. The only thing holding me back was that it is not easy to transport animals, let alone a bulldog overseas. The culture in Japan is not individualistic. Their ideals center around the “good of the group” and watching people put different thoughts into their day was fascinating and refreshing. 

Temple Garden, Tokyo Japan

Unless you are in the learning and development world, many don’t put “culturally inclusive” training top of mind. The irony is, culture exists in our backyards. Culture can be anything from:

  • Differing national origin (where a person comes from)
  • Differing states or cities 
  • Differing companies or divisions within companies 

In fact, in New Mexico, my home state. We are home to 23 Indigenous tribes. 23! How do trainers, designers, and facilitators support culturally diverse teams through their learning journey? 

Know your learners

Comedians and presenters must know their audience to be impactful.  One culturally offensive joke; they can lose all credibility. Learning is no different. Specific colors, language, or cultural references can be offensive or lost in translation altogether. 

For instance, Japan has a high context culture, meaning seniority and authority play a role in their decision-making. Where in the US, communication is much more straightforward and direct. 

A group of learners from a higher context society may rely more on the “respect” and “authority” that comes with being an instructor (Gunawardena, et. al). Learning activities less competitive in nature and benefit the group may warrant more success. 

Avoid Jargon

Every culture and industry has jargon. Jargon is a set of slang or language that has a specific meaning where those outside of the industry or culture would not understand. 

For example, it is common to refer to the Albuquerque area as the “505”. Those who live in another state might have thoughts like: 

  • Is that the New Mexico area code? 
  • isn’t “505” chile you can buy at Costco? 

Jargon can make communication unclear for learners. Worst-case scenario, we may unintentionally use slang or jargon that is offensive to another culture. Ensure that your training materials and communication are free of slang and jargon. Consider a beta test of your materials before course launch. Have a diverse group of peers review the materials to make sure the documents are clear and understandable to your audience. 

Foster a community of practice 

Community of Practice. A group of individuals who come together for the same mission. Communities of practice benefits learning because everyone learns from each other. 

All learners have different “know-how.” We can all contribute to a community to make it better. How does one build a community of practice across cultural boundaries? 

  • Investigate how students might learn best and feel safe to learn
  • Offer support and guidance for learners 
  • Whether online or face-to-face set boundaries 
  • Use colors, and both verbal and non-verbal language that is culturally appropriate
Outside Imperial Palace, Tokyo Japan
McDonalds was a must try!

Source: Culturally Inclusive Instructional Design, 2019

[VIDEO REPLAY] From Snore to Score & Hit the Ground Running!

I had the opportunity to make several presentations to both a group of real estate educators and education directors in early April.

Hit the Ground Running: Using Clear Learning Objectives to Add Value to Your Courses

Keep students running towards your classes instead of running for the hills! Clear and measurable learning objectives will add more value to the courses you design. Clear learning objectives will help the instructor determine if course goals have been met. This workshop will help you identify learning problems to improve your course learning objectives, examine learning domains and appreciate how learning objectives will add value to your courses.

From Snore to Score: Add Value to Your New Member Orientation

Does your new member association orientation need a boost? Real estate agents have the privilege to help promote the American Dream, homeownership rights. Help use your orientation to demonstrate what the privilege of helping consumers peruse owning a home and how the local association adds value to that process. Use new member orientation to help build relationships with members to improve member retention; and examine course practices that will add value and engage members in the orientation process.

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3 Vital Skills for Leaders During Times of Change

Change. “To make different in some particular.” (Merriam-Webster).

Most companies have to address corporate change in some regard. Globally, most of us have experienced change, some significant in the past 12 months. Well, 13 but who is counting!

Much of this has changed the trajectory of many business models and shifted the way many of us do business. When one thinks about common traits that leaders have during times of change, communication, transparency, and teamwork come to mind. 

Communication. “A process which information is exchanged between individuals.” (Merriam-Webster).

It is no surprise that communication is at the top of the list of traits employees value during corporate change. Communication helps employees feel valued and part of the change process. Even if working with distributed teams, leaders can make an effort to communicate with their teams. Examples include:

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings. Go for lunch, grab a coffee and discuss relevant topics.

Schedule regular team meetings. Even short and informal in nature, these meetings are opportunities to “check-in.”

Stop in their office, say hello, and have a conversation. Seems simple, but we all get busy.

Transparent. ” Visibility or accessibility of information during business practices.” (Merriam-Webster)

Transparency is should not be confused with confidentiality.  Lack of transparency especially during times of change builds fear and resentment. When employees are fearful and resentful, productivity and morale erode. Transparency and communication go hand in hand. Communicate what you can to employees during organizational changes. This will build trust and reduce fear in employees.

Teamwork. “Work done by several that benefit the whole.” (Merriam-Webster)

Communication and transparency will lead to an “all hands on deck” approach to change. Involve your employees in the change process. Discuss with employees how an organizational change may impact their role. Ask employees to help develop new processes as it relates to their role. Involving employees in the change process demonstrates their value to the organization. It also shows that leaders want them to succeed in their roles.

Communication, transparency and teamwork are vital skills when leading through change. Exercise these skills to ensure your employees are involved in the process.

VIDEO>> Culture Club or Culture Clash? 3 Practices that Maintain Company Culture Through Change.

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Replay: Webinar: Culture Club or Culture Clash? 3 Practices that Maintain Company Culture Through Change

Company culture can make or break how consumers and employees view an organization. Many companies have had to address corporate change, but only half of companies surveyed said that their company did a good job at addressing change with employees (td.org, 2020).

This webinar and discussion with participants discusses:

Global changes over the last 12-months that have shifted the way many businesses operate,

How mobile learning and data analytics may change the way employees learn and develop, and,

How five generations of workers in the workforce impact the way an organization operates.

Watch as the story of the evolution and eventual downfall of Kodak is discussed and how Mental Models, Psychological Safety and Stable Adaptability could have changed the companies trajectory.

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Leadership versus Management. What! There’s a Difference?

There is a difference between leadership and management. Oftentimes, managers are thrust into new roles, tasked with leading a team. That new manager may be able to manage a process well, but do they have the skills they need to be an effective leader? 

What is a manager anyway?

A manager is someone who manages a process. An individual who oversees metrics and production needs. Managers may oversee tasks and jobs within a specific role or department.

And a leader?

A leader is someone who sets an example for others. A leader may have a bigger picture vision of the work that takes place in an organization.  A leader inspires, motivates, and helps to move managers and others move towards a specific mission. Leaders are people that can inspire change within the organization. 

Do managers need leadership training?

People are not machines. Most managers when entering into a new management role may know how to manage the work process well. What they do not have are the skills they need to lead their team

Leadership training is not one-size-fits-all.

Leaders need different skills at different stages in their careers. New managers may not have much experience leading a team or thinking of corporate strategy and mission.

Seasoned managers may be set in their ways and may need help seeking out new and innovative ways to motivate their team. Five generations exist in today’s workforce, each with different needs.  Both leaders and managers need to know how to create a cohesive team despite the diversity.

If you are considering implementing a leadership development program for your organization; what are ways that your managers can practice their new skills as part of the training? Instead of a “one-and-done” training, enrich the experience so managers can practice and perfect their new skills. These new skills have a better chance of implementation for the long haul if managers have a chance to use them. 

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SPECIAL BLOG : Unconscious Bias Interview with FranklinCovey

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Pamela Fuller with FranklinCovey. Pamela is a thought leader on Unconscious Bias and the Author of The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias. This interview was a part of a series for the Association for Talent Development, New Mexico (ATDNM) a group that I am actively involved in.

We had the opportunity to discuss topics like:

  • How bias should not be a “four-letter” word.
  • How self-awareness and mindfulness can help to promote new ways of thinking.
  • Promoting authentic environments where people can thrive.
  • Having the courage to take small steps to recognize and make progress towards changing bias.

Thank you to FranklinCovey, Pamela and Justin Boggess, and ATDNM for your help organizing this interview.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the interview and the book!

Need a Training Curriculum that Produces Measurable results? Key Challenges and Solutions.

Does this sound familiar? 

You are the Human Resource Manager of a mid-sized manufacturing company. Your boss walks into your office one morning and says, “We have a problem.” “We are losing money manufacturing our widgets and we need to fix it.” I want you to develop training for our assembly line team.” “They need to be faster.”  

Now, I realize that not every boss employs this technique when assessing if they need training or not. Bear with me. 

Designing an effective training curriculum is not as cut and dry as it sounds. Adult learning differs from children because adults:  

  • Learn to use new skills immediately (or close to it), 
  • Bring prior knowledge, both good and bad to training, 
  • Learn to make an impact on their personal or social situations and, 
  • Lack the time due to family, personal, or work commitments. 

Because of this, a training curriculum needs to be developed in a way that engages learners while making the best use of their time. Training has to in ways, unwire prior thinking and help develop new habits. 

READ>> Does Your Brain Get in the Way of Change Management?

How do you create an active training curriculum that creates change in your organization? 

What’s the problem? 

“We have a problem.” “We are losing money manufacturing our widgets and we need to fix it.” I want you to develop training for our assembly line team.” “They need to be faster.”  The words our panicked boss used when describing the problem to our frazzled Human Resource Manager. The Boss sees HIS problem – losing money. But, is that the core problem? And, can training fix it? 

Many organizations see training as the simple solution to an issue.  But, our Human Resource Manager may need to do some investigating. They may need to look beyond “scratching the surface” to gain a big picture understanding of why widget manufacturing income is down. A simple assessment of the situation will help to develop training that addresses the core issues of the widget assembly line. 

Observations

The Human Resource Manager in our example might observe employees in their work environment to see their work process in action. Can the Human Resource Manager and Boss take an afternoon to observe the widget assembly line? Consider questions like: 

  • How does the assembly process flow? 
  • What does teamwork look like? 
  • What does the timing look like? 
  • What are external constraints? 

For example, if you observe that workers cannot perform their role because the machine often breaks down; training is not the proper solution.  

Interviews

The Human Resource Manager and Boss may choose to discuss the issue with the widget assembly team. These interviews may shed light on inconsistencies in processes, which in this case, training would be a solution. If the widget assembly team can train using the same processes, that would result in an increase in speed.

VIDEO>> Identify Your Problem

Who are your peeps? 

The Human Resource Manager and Boss have to know their team. This will help them build a training program that maximizes the widget assembly team’s time. For example, if the widget assembly team works non-traditional hours, when is training going to be scheduled? Does the widget team have access to computers? Consider if your team will have to take time out of their schedule and if the training is being structured in such a way that it will be appropriate for their skill level. This will help structure learning activities that are appropriate for the delivery of your program.

Video>> Understanding your Learners

What’s the point? 

Learning objectives tell the learner exactly what they will gain from training. Objectives will help you measure learner knowledge. Learning objectives measure knowledge – skills – attitudes. 

Knowledge 

Bloom’s Taxonomy or the “cognitive domain” (Morrison, et. al, 102)  measures learner recall of a subject. 

Example: List the steps to turn on the widget machine. 

Skills

Another way to develop objectives is to use the “Psychomotor Domain,” which uses physical activities to develop skills. 

Example: Create a new widget and score 8 out of 10 on the widget performance checklist. 

Attitudes

The “Affective Domain”  measures emotions or attitudes. 

Example: Support practices that promote proper widget assembly.

Keep them awake and measure their success

35% of training managers have made learning engagement a priority (LinkedIn, 2020). When people think of adult learning, they think of lectures where students sit in a large lecture hall or room and listen to a teacher or professor talk while the learner takes notes and absorbs the content like a sponge. (Right, doesn’t happen). 

Active learning allows learners to experiment and perfect what they learn.  Again, rewiring the brain with new ways of thinking. Since our Human Resource Manager and Boss are conducting this training on the job, activities that align with the learning objectives might be: 

  • Working in teams to develop a list about how to turn on the widget machine. 
  • Practicing how to turn the widget machine on and off. 
  • Practicing in teams how to create a new widget, debrief, practice again to perfect the skill.  

After the training class,  the Human Resource Manager and Boss should have a plan to go back and observe the widget assembly team’s progress. They need to make sure the team is implementing the knowledge and skills they learned and practiced during their training course. Data collected over several months will show an improvement in the revenue and attitudes of the workers.  

This is a lot of work for our Human Resource Manager and Boss to take on as they have other duties to carry out. That is where I can help. If you have an organizational challenge and you are not sure if a training course can help, contact me!

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References:

  • 2020 Linkedin Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn, 2020
  • Active Learning Techniques Versus Traditional Teaching Styles: Two Experiments from History and Political Science, 2000
  • How Learning Works: 7 Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, 2010
  • Adult Learning: Linking Theroy and Practice, 2014
  • Designing Effective Instruction, 2013

Does your Brain Get in the Way of Change Management?

A conversation with a business associate about the brain had me thinking about how our own minds impact change. Change is constant. So much so, there are countless songs that talk about change:

  • “When it’s Time to Change, You Have to Rearrange.” The Brady Bunch
  • “Times They are a-Changin’” Bob Dylan 
  • “Waiting on the World to Change” John Mayer 

(Yes, I did shamelessly reference The Brady Bunch as actual singers). We have lived through changing norms through most of 2020, much of which disrupted the way we shop, conduct business, and function daily.

Change is necessary. Change can be beneficial. At the organizational level, change happens for many reasons. New ownership, entry into a new market, a shift in the economy. 62% of organizations have dealt with transformational change – a change in organizational strategy in the last 3 years (TD, 2020). 

It is the role of a leader to help their organization, team, and employees navigate organizational change. Change can disrupt cultural norms, both good and bad. Change and organizational shifts are times when employees are often scared, concerned, and looking for answers. 

54% of organizations surveyed for the Change Enablement Survey by the Association for Talent Development, stated that their organizations were only moderately successful at navigating change in their organization. 

Most of us are creatures of habit. We like routine and don’t like it when someone “moves our cheese.” There is more to approaching organizational change than the development of a strategic plan and distributing that plan. Your team has to have buy-in. Leaders have to negate fear and concern from their employees. One could argue that much of what happens to make change happen, is in our head. 

Nick Dowling wrote an article in 2014 that explored how brain science can play a role in change management practices. That we all have the ability to change our own “neuroplasticity” – the ability the brain has to change connections and behaviors in response to new information (Briticana.com). How can a little neuroscience and a little “brainpower” impact organizational priorities during times of change?

Transparency and communication. Many times those employees expected to carry out changes to processes are the last to know anything about it. Leaders should be transparent and open about change. In my experience with organizational change, when it is abrupt and in secret, employees become resentful and fearful. It is a natural response to fear change. The more that change can be communicated to employees and the more all those impacted can be involved in the change initiatives directly helps to create buy-in and build a shared vision. From a neuroscience perspective, Nick refers to this as “Self Directed Neuroplasticity” (Training Journal, 48). For short, when one takes ownership of a solution, they are more likely to act (ie: the brain will create a new pathway. 

Leaders need to model the change. How many employees know what is meant by the phrase “do as I say, not as I do?” Probably too many to count. 32% of organizations said that leaders did not model change during times of organizational shift. Old mental models (ie: bias) can also hinder new ideas and can challenge new ways of thinking. Leaders should recognize that change is equally as difficult for them as it is for their teams, be vulnerable with your team. Work with your team to create action steps together to break through established habits and mental models. 

Psychological safety. Safety is basic for most people. When people, whether employees or not, feel unsafe, all other tasks are pushed aside.  Psychological safety is “the belief that one will not be humiliated or punished for sharing information, ideas, or making mistakes (A. Edmondson).” If employees or team members do not feel safe to express their ideas or concerns, or fear retaliation, an organization can forget productivity, profit, and anything else. Leaders must foster an environment where employees feel safe to express concerns and ideas. Psychological safety fosters an environment of trust, safety, and allows creativity to grow.

Sharing a vision. Stakeholders and leaders need to get employee buy-in about the organization’s vision. Employees need a clear understanding of the vision. Employees should be involved in creating a shared vision. A shared vision builds loyalty and helps the organizational team work as one. Leaders also need to live the vision and to help foster the new organizational culture. This creates a community of practice where leaders and their team can come together for a greater cause. 

Have you been a part of an organizational change during your career? What went well? What not so well? I would love to hear from you.

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References: 

  • Change Enablement: Skills for Addressing Change, Association for Talent Development, 2020
  • The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge, 2006
  • Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Amy Edmondson, 2012
  • Britticana.com 
  • Nick Dowling, Change Management, www.trainingjournal.com, August 2014