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  1. Firstly, let’s clarify what I mean by a case study. I’m not talking about a retrospective account of something you (or someone else) did not demonstrate good practice. Leave those for the marketing people. I’m talking about a fictitious scenario that people analyse, discuss and make decisions about.

    case study work

    Out of all the tools in my trainers kit bag, this is definitely one of my favourite – even for bite-sized sessions. Here are 10 reasons why:

    1. They appeal to everyone – no-one ever said they hate case studies, and everyone engages with them at some level. Whether you have more reflective learners or those who want to get stuck in, case studies allow everyone to contribute.
    2. They require very little introduction – with no complex instructions to explain, people instinctively know what do, so can get stuck in straight way.
    3. They are flexible – you can spend as little as 10 minutes on a case study or half a day, depending on complexity and number of issues being explored.
    4. They allow exploration of different perspectives - You can revisit them at different points and look at them through a different lens each time.
    5. They are versatile – you can use to introduce a topic, bring together learning at the end, or explore something specific in the middle of a session.
    6. They are multi-faceted – you can explore one topic, or dig deeper. This makes them equally useful for beginners or experts. Different people pick up on different things.
    7. They allow you to tackle real problems in an anonymised way – everyone will recognise the situations, but no-one has to admit to having experienced the issues themselves, which makes them easier to talk about.
    8. They can provide a running theme for a workshop, or even a whole programme! I have used complex case studies (drip-fed throughout the day) to build on learning and cover multiple topics.
    9. They can provide a (sneaky) way into role plays – tell us how you would handle this can easily become “show us how you would handle that”
    10. They build a bridge between theory and practicality – examining how theory looks in the fictitious scenario makes it easier to identify what it will look like in THEIR world. This also makes practical action planning, and transfer of learning easier.
    11. ... and who doesn't love a good story? 




  2. In my previous two blogs on leadership and management in more traditional v tech/knowledge-based industries (which you can read HERE and HERE), I discussed how leaders and managers in different types of organisation have very different remits, and so need to have very different styles and skills.

    It’s not that one way is right and the other is wrong. Leadership/management style is either appropriate or not for the industry you work in.

    And this brings me (finally) back to the original question “How has Management and Leadership Training changed in the last 25 years?”

    When I started my career, it was in a regulated industry in a traditional business. People (generally) liked to be told what to do. Yes, they liked to have a little flexibility to add their own style, but generally, having a checklist explaining what was acceptable, what wasn’t and what good looked like was appreciated. It still is. Experienced people are still generally respected, and traditional training – both on and off the job, being guided by an expert still works. These people can’t learn at their desk. They often don’t have a desk. Many don’t have easy access to tech. Training needs to be formal and planed in advance BUT that doesn’t mean it’s all chalk and talk…’traditional’ training is much more interactive and much more respectful of the experience in the room that it was 25 years ago.

    In the creative/knowledge-based industries, leaders still need to be made aware of the boundaries they shouldn’t cross, but so much more is self-discovered, so much more is being created as we go. Training has to be much more reactive to give people (and the business) what they need rather than being able to create development far in advance because roles (and so training needs) are not so clearly defined. Learning is much more in the moment because the pace of change is so much faster. There is no single expert to turn to – everyone is an expert at something, so L&Ds role is much more about connecting people together in a meaningful way.

    And that’s where I think too much generalising about leadership and management training is dangerous. Too many people seem to suggest that a more traditional approach is not effective. Naturally, it’s not effective in a creative, tech-centred, knowledge-based business. Of course digital learning, peer learning is the right thing to do. It fits how the business works. However, a self-serve , on-line, peer-discovery approach to L&D will be less effective in more traditional industries. For safety and/or regulation requirements, people need to be signed off. Even in terms of process and behaviour, there needs to be a consistency across sites, and that means formal training – they can’t just do what they think is best. The consequences could be catastrophic.

    So the difficult thing for trainers is that there’s no single right way to approach L&D, it very much depends on your industry.

  3. In my last blog, I reflected on how my recent experience with a young, tech-based business in Bulgaria demonstrated how a different type of management and leadership has evolved from that I grew up with. I’ve generally worked in more traditional environments, so although I was aware of this different approach, I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

    My work with these bright, young leaders highlighted that increasingly (and especially in more creative, knowledge-based industries) leaders have all arrived in their position via a different route. First-line leaders have skills and abilities that would have only been associated with the most senior people a generation ago or in more traditional businesses.

    tech workers

    They also have skills gaps and blind-spots. Without many years’ experience, they are brilliant in some respects yet may flounder in others. However, due to the flexible and agile nature of their roles ‘traditional’ management skills are less relevant (not unnecessary – just less important). With multiple lines of reporting, lack of standard operating procedures, few tried and tested processes or even set job roles, this type of leader needs an entirely different type of management and leadership development, focusing on:

    Managers of knowledge-based workers don’t always have the answers; they haven’t always done the exact same job themselves. Unlike their counterparts in more industrial or regulation-led businesses, they are less likley to have worked their way up through a structured career path. Instead they have adapted to the changing needs of the buisness and seized an opportunity. As such, their role is less about being the expert. Instead, they need to know how to unleash their team members’ creativity, and provide just the right amount of support and guidance to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. They are all about making the idea work, and ensuring expectations are met. Of course, these skills are important in more traditional industries too, but they are front and centre in every-day operations.

    READ PART 1 (more traditional industries) HERE

    In my final blog, I’ll discuss how this has changed management leadership training.

  4. Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited to Bulgaria to support a growing team and help them to define ‘what good looks like’ and how to develop leaders for the future.

    For the first time in my career I was the oldest person in the room! One of the delegates asked me (as we anjoyed a drink after the workshop) "How has Leadership and Managament TRaining changed since you started your career?" I thought this was a great question, and I intend to answer it, albeit in a round about way.

    To give you some context, generally, I work with quite traditional organisations (manufacturing, construction, finance), but this client works in a highly technical and more creative sector, and most of the people employed there are very tech-savvy and brilliant in their own way. The traditional ways of working do not apply: People are given responsibility based on ability and attitude – not years of experience. This is quite different to how things used to be: generally, you couldn’t even be considered for a Team Leader role unless you had served 3 years, and no-one would be considered for a senior role unless they had a minimum of 10 years’ experience, no matter how good they were.

    In some ways, this was good… people with responsibility had lots of experience to fall back on. In other’s it was not – you could be held back due to some arbitrary rule, and of course, years’ service discriminates against women.

    However, it did make management training and leadership development quite easy. As a rule, we knew where managers were at each stage of their career: what they had done (and not done); what skills they would have developed already and ones they were unlikely to have; the level of decision-making they had experience of; and what responsibility they had for people management. In traditional industries such as manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, health-care, this still (more or less) applies. Jobs are more clearly defined, decision-making authority clear and reporting lines fixed. There is a hierarchy, and everyone knows what they are (and are not) expected to do. Information and responsibility still goes up and down the line, with good reason.

    Management and Leadership training in this sector still needs to focus on the more traditional skills:

    It’s not that ‘people skills’ aren’t important – of course they are! BUT focus on process and efficiency is more so. Leaders in this type of industry are reqiured to make the process work and ensure standards are met. Contrary to what many articles will tell you, it’s not out-dated. Not if you work in a traditional, process (or regulation) driven industry. It’s highly appropriate, so this is where the focus of core management and leadership development should be in my opinion.

    factory team

    Next week, I shall share my observations about how this is different in the knowledge-based/tech/creative industries.


  5. around the world

    Sadly, it's not me that has been racing around the world - but 5 (now 4) pairs of intrepid explorers as part of a BBC programme. I don't usually watch 'reality' shows, but this one had me hooked from the start, as it quickly exposed how differently we handle uncertainty and pressure.

    The person who has been on the biggest learning journey is Alex. Probably becuase he is the youngest at just 20. All of the others have life experience to fall back on. It seemed that Alex had probably led a very easy and sheltered life.

    So even when travelling through Europe, he was out of his comfort zone: Without his phone, where normal routines didn't work, where he had to think for himself and adapt quickly, he complained, he sulked and basically struggled. His Dad (and travelling partner) was clearly frustrated at his immature attitude.

    In terms of the brain's social needs (David Rock) - all 5 elements had taken a hit: His Status (initially he was very image conscious), Certainty (for sure), Autonomy (he could no longer do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted), Relationships (him and his Dad weren't close) and sense of Fairness were all challenged. The Impact of Change was huge, and he struggled - which meant his dad struggled too.

    The thing is, he had no resilience. In his cosy little world, it looks like he'd never had his relisilience tested; I suspect that he'd never had to dig deep and get himself out of a difficult sitation. The easy option was always the preferred option, and resilience is something that can only truly be developed through experience. Yes, we can raise awareness and get into good habits, (which is what my Power Hour Module on this aims to do) but it's only when we put our resilience to work, that we can strengthen and develop it.

    And boy, in 6 weeks has Alex's resilience developed!! He is diving into new experiences where he previously backed away; he's being assertive, taking the lead and seems willing to fail. He's now (generally) enjoying the trip, and is a totally different character. His dad is (quite rightly) proud of the man his son is becoming.

    Change isn't easy - especially when you have limited life experience and haven't developed resilience. Organisations and middle-aged managers need to realise that, and demonstrate a little understanding and provide help. Those who are younger and experiencing uncomfortable change need to be brave, to trust those with experience, to take the help that's offered, and to try. 

    Bite-size training on Change and Resilience won't magically transform your organisation, or the people in it - but it will make things just a little easier for all concerned.

  6. The 70/20/10 concept was popularised by Charles Jennings, who noted that executives questioned about how they learned the skills for success in their role, identified that 70% of it had come from on-the-job opportunities; 20% from planned coaching/mentoring and just 10% from formal learning. 

    This is now doing the rounds as a model for L&D departments to aim for. It isn’t. To revisit the original findings, CLICK HERE


    For a start, if you have someone who is new to a role, you wouldn’t expect them to just pick up what to do from those around them. That’s unfair on all concerned. Someone new in a role is quite likely to need quite a lot of formal training and support. Whereas someone who is experienced and competent can be expected to continue to develop and hone their skills through on the job experience.

    But good on-the-job learning doesn’t just happen. You can’t just put people together and hope that the right development occurs. There needs to be a plan: what do people need to learn? How can they best learn that? What natural opportunities are there and can we make sure that they take advantage of them? What opportnities do we need to create?

  7. Happy New Year!!

    I'm not generally one for making New Year Resolutions, as I'm a 'chip away at it' sort of a person. Everything in moderation. Generally, though I do try and focus on things more. For the past few years, I've tried to improve my social life. I've failed.

    And the reason for my failure is that this goal (wish?) isn't within my Circle of Control. Yes, I can try to organise things, but ultimately to have a better social life, I need others to co-operate AND for other events in my life not to take over (work commitments, parenting duties, badminton fixtures).

    There's a lot of things in L&D Manager's Circle of Concern at the moment: Brexit, the economy, the Apprenticeship Levy, going digital, GDPR, zero hours contracts, the gig economy and reduced training budgets... all these things affect an organisation's training strategy. None of them are within the L&D Manager's control. So you can do one of two things: Wait and see and react to what happens around you OR take back control of what you can.

    A great way to take back control is to keep as much training as possible in-house. If you have the materials and if you have people already on your payroll capeable of delivering sessions (effectively costing you nothing), no-one can stop you developing your staff. 

    It's a no-brainer really.

    And our latest offer helps you to do just that: Fully trained (internal) trainers AND a complete training library at your disposal. No matter what happens in Europe or the economy, regardless of whether we have a change of government - you can still deliver training consistently and keep your organisation one step ahead of those who allowed themselves to be a victim of circumstance.


  8. An odd title to be found on a website selling bite-size training materials don’t you think?

    Perhaps I ought to extend the title a little: Bite size training won’t work if that’s all you do. And to think of it, neither will your e-learning, or resources library.

    Much like a cocktail sausage and a vol-au-vent won’t fill you up the same way that a roast dinner will.


    Bite-size training should be seen as part of a learning buffet- one of the many options available to learners in your organisation, but it needs to be supplemented with other bite-size elements to create a satisfying 'mea'l: Bite-size training is part of a blended solution, not a replacement for traditional training. It should be delivered along with some self-directed study, a coaching conversation, e-learning, active reflection, a discussion on social media. Taken TOGETHER these bite-size elements can replace a traditional day (or two-day) workshop.

    Anyone who has catered for a large group knows that creating a good buffet is just as hard work as cooking a roast dinner, so bite-size training (if it is to be a success) isn’t always an easy option. It offers more flexibility (as a buffet does in comparison with a sit-down dinner), and if properly planned and substituted, it can be a satisfying alternative. But equally, one element e.g. e-learning, a 90-minute whistle-stop session, can leave people disappointed and hungry for more if that’s all they can have.

    So make sure that you include some live elements as well as e-learning, some social methods as well as independent ones, and opportunities for deep-dives as well as light touches.

    And remember that we have an end of year on ALL our training materials – Theres 20% off everything in our training materials shop until December 31st. Just use the code 31122018 at the checkout.

  9. This weekend, I went to watch the film Bohemian Rhapsody. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wasn't disappointed!!! Within 20 minutes I forgot I wasn't watching the actual members of Queen, so full credit to the main cast.

    One of the themes that realy struck me was just how much Queen were a team - they referred to themselves as a family frequently - but they were a high performing team.

    • They accepted each other for exactly who they were - no-one tried to change anyone else
    • They respected what each other bought to the team
    • They challenged each other to be even better at what they already did well, rather than focus on areas of weakness
    • They made big decisions together
    • They handled conflict privately
    • They presented a united front to the world
    • They agreed that all royalties be split evenly as the acknowledged that actually, none of them was much good without the others - a real example of the whole being greater than the sum of it's parts
    • They trusted each other

    So many lessons to be learned!

    If we are lucky (as they were) we find ourselves working with people who naturally gel and perform well together. However, in most businesses, teams need a little help to perform to their best ability. There's no magic wand and no guarantees, but our bite-size sessions on building teams are a good place to start! 

  10. For a number of years, I've offered my bite-size training materials in editable format as well as PDF so they can be customised. I've done this so that they can be integrated into a longer programme (Maybe you just need 90 minutes from us and have written the rest yourself), or (more commonly) so that they can be tailored to reference your own examples and use your internal language.

    But what do I mean by customisation?