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  1. As I prepare for the annual Christmas break, I find myself flipping between 'finishing off' this years tasks, and excitedly planning for 2012 - SOOO many ideas, I hardly know where to start!

    So, in that strange period between Christmas and New year that no-one really knows what to do with, I've decided to set aside time for reflection and actual goal setting. All the business gurus tell us to have clear goals, and indeed you probably set one when you started your current job or business. But what happens when your business is up and running or you are established in your role? Are you too busy dealing with day-to-day decisions and and actually DOING the work? When was the last time you reviewed your goals? Are you still on course? Do they still meet the needs of your customers/organisation? Are they still relevant? Do you need new ones?

    Almost everyone is familiar with SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound), and they can be very useful indeed. But what is your goals are not so easily defined? What if they are more personal? Well, you can still set a fashion. Defining a well-formed outcome can really help you to focus on what you want, why you want it, what will happen if you do/don't get it, and how you will know you have achieved it. They go beyond cold, hard stats and instead tap into the more emotional side of goal setting. Because of this, they tend to be something that you commit to more easily. Both types of goals are defined in detail here.

    As Steven Covey states in his book 'The 7 habits of highly effectively people' - we all need to take time out occasionally to 'sharpen our saw'. So as we begin 2012, take an hour out to focus on what it is that you want to achieve. Review any old goals that you set yourself, and/or set yourself some new ones. Use the SMART criteria where you can, but why not also try defining a well-formed outcome. It may be the most worthwhile hour you have all year!

    Good Luck

  2. What makes a great meal?

    • Is it the meat? 
    • the seasonal vegetables? 
    • the sauces? 
    • the wine that accompanies it? 

    What makes a great party?

    • Is it the venue?
    • the music?
    • the food?
    • the drink? 
    • the company?

    Or in both these cases, is it in fact the right combination?

    What makes great training? And when I say 'great' I mean training that delivers real business results. Not 'just' a great trainer. Not 'just' a great workshop. Not 'just' great on-line resources. Not 'just' action planning. Not 'just' coaching.

    Great (impactful, useful) training is a combination of many things. I was recently speaking to an independent trainer who uses Power Hour materials as PART of his service to one of his clients.

    • He introduces a topic using a live Power Hour bite-size training session.
    • He directs the group towards on-line and self-study resources that are available to them.
    • He then meets the group again to reflect, and draw up some meaningful action plans.
    • Then, he provides personal coaching to individuals to help them to apply their learning and make a difference.

    This is having noticeable personal and measurable business results. Of course, everyone is delighted with the impact, including me who is providing just ONE of the elements that is bringing success.

    So, what's you're combination for successful training?

  3. Prior to stting up Power Hour, most of my experience as a trainer was in manufacturing, supply chain, construction and retail. Good, honest industries that have tight profit margins and rely on things happening in a predicatable manner. through this work I've been exposed to LEAN, TQM and JIT...tried and tested methods that deliver results in demanding environments where the difference between success and failure can be very small.

    As I've moved into other arenas such as financial services, other service providers, telecommunications etc, I've noticed that for training at least, some of these principles still add value. 

    Take Just-In-Time - the basic principle is that you don't hold stock, which reduces waste and the amount of storage space needed, thus reducing costs. It is about having “the right material, at the right time, at the right place, and in the exact amount” (Ryan Grabosky).

    If we train people in the same way i.e. by providing them with the skills they need, at the time that they need them (not 3 months in advance), in a location that is realistic (such as their own working environment), and by the right amount (just enough for what they need to implement), then training has a very real and practical impact. It's all about transfer of learning - Give people what they need, when they need it and make sure that they can apply that learning quickly and hey presto - you see a difference.

    Training for performance management is a great example of this - 3 months before the formal appraisals are due, train  people how to prepare for them. Two weeks before, train them how to run appraisals. It's fresh in the mind, the training is seen as relevant (so fewer people are likley to opt out) and it is immediately applicable to the business. 

    OK, for some areas, this philosophy won't work.... with senior managers who need to develop 'ethical' leadership or learn political influencing for example, as it is almost impossible to identify when the next opportunity to apply the learning will occur. But for many people lower down the organisation, training can be planned in a 'just-in-time' way, and short training sessions, like Power Hour sessions, can really help to make the training manageable.

    Why not check out our 22 topics to see which ones would add value 'just-in-time'?

  4. So much to do, so little time! I often feel that there aren't enough hours in the day (like so many others). But do I really have so much to do? Someone recently pointed out that I, you and everyone else, have exactly the same amount of time, its one of life's great levellers, but some people manage to do so much more with it.

    There are so many distractions today, and I know that I'm guitly of losing focus, or not knowing which of my many tasks to prioritise, so I flit from one thing to another. I'm a self-confessed 'Queen of Faff' sometimes! But, taking my own advice and Planning My Time does actually work....but then I begin to drift. It's not ALL about systems and tools - its also about attitude. There are Time Bandits out there, and this page by Debbie Stone of Fennel Solutions is well worth a read if you find that despite all of your best efforts, you're still not quite as productive as you might be.

    ...and if you find yourself being busy but not achieving very much, this excellent summary of a study into Focus and Energy by Bruch and Ghoshal, by Sheridan Webb at Keystone Development, is well worth a read. 

  5. A few weeks ago I got my son's school report. I was very pleased with it and with all the effort he had put in throughout the year. However, I must especially commend his teacher who managed to come up with at least 30 different ways of telling us that our son talks a lot.

    From 16 months old, he's been talking in sentences and he only stops when he's asleep. But although this can be wearing, it is how he learns. He genuinely is spongelike and takes in everything that he hears. He learns by asking questions, by providing a commentary on what he's doing, and by listening to other children. Of course an auditory learning style is not that uncommon, and I'm delighted that he hasn't been told to shut up in the classroom. To do so would be limiting his learning.

    This is one of the key reasons Power Hour is a live training format. So far we have resisted the temptation to put our learning online. That's not to say that e-learning isn’t useful: Of course it can be incredibly useful for certain people and with certain topics.

    However when people talk about flexible learning, all thoughts tend to be about online methods. But with most online learning you have a solitary experience. For those with a visual learning style it may work very well, but for those who are more auditory and like to talk, or those who are kinaesthetic and like to touch, feel and do, the impact is going to be limited.

    So when planning development for an organisation, make sure that live training remains part of the mix. It may feel a bit old hat, it may not be trendy, but there's a reason that it has been around for as long as it has – and that is because unlike any other medium, live training allows you to engage with all of the learning styles not just one.

  6. Recently I had coffee with someone I met through networking. We soon discovered a small group of mutual acquaintances and naturally we discussed our opinions of them. In most cases we had similar views but in one we had very different perceptions.

    I had always found this particular person likeable, easy-going, and friendly. My friend however found them aloof, rude, and slightly offensive. I couldn't believe that we were talking about the same person! I began to re-evaluate all the contact I've had with them, whilst at the same time defending this person to my friend.

    The fact is no one sees us exactly the same way as someone else does. We all have different personalities, likes, dislikes, values, beliefs, expectations, and feelings. we react to things in different ways, and we express ourselves differently. The thing is, we make judgements about other people based on our own values or 'moral compass', and this is why we often see people (and in particular their behaviour) quite differently.

    it also explains why friendship groups develop – we naturally gravitate towards people who are 'like us'. People 'like us' are easy to understand, communicate with, and work alongside. It takes more effort to get the same results when working with someone who is quite different to us. In fact we often interpret different as difficult, simply because we don't instinctively understand them. It takes more effort to work with that person.

    In our latest Power Hour - Handle Difficult People, we aim to help people understand those differences, and provide practical advice for getting around them, and having more productive relationships. The key as always, is understanding. If you understand what is driving someone's behaviour, you are more likely to be able to react to it appropriately, and get the best out of that person and that relationship.

    if you want to find out more, why not download our free key points sheet for a little taster? And next time you find someone difficult, try to pinpoint exactly what it is about them that is particularly different from you, and make an effort to acknowledge and respond to those differences.

  7. I recently met with someone who asked my what inspired me to start Power Hour, and why I charge such a small fee for (in his words) high-end materials. My response was instant: I don't see why people should be denied training due to lack of funds.

    In the current climate, training and marketing budgets are still being squeezed. Marketers have quickly realised that social media offers many of the benefits of traditional marketing for a fraction of the cost. How come training hasn't adapted the same way? Informal learning is taking off with some groups (notably those driven individuals who have a clear career goal), but for the vast majority of people who want 'to do a fair days work for a fair days pay', what is there?

    Much training is still 'ego-led' by those trainers (who I refer to as the shiny-shoe brigade), who can talk for hours about how wonderful they are, and are gracious enough to share a few morsels of their experience for a substantial fee. Other training requires a significant commitment of time (by the employee), money AND time (for qualification-based courses) or technology (by the firm), which even large firms simply can't afford these days.

    The problem is, that you can't just stop training either. Ok, you can put it on hold for a short while, but if you stop, your best people will start looking around for jobs in companies that will invest in them. And we all know that it costs more to recruit than to retain. If your people don't leave, standards will start to slip and your company will begin to look very second-rate compared to your competitors, and soon those 'savings' made on training are translating into loss of business.

    So, Power Hour was designed to fill a need, and provide a choice to companies who thought there might not be one. Think where we would be if the only clothes we could buy were individually designed and tailored clothes from a top fashion designer? Many people whould only have one outfit, and half of us would be going around naked! Thank goodness for Matalan, Primark and George. We can all be clothed, at a reasonable cost, and still 'treat' ourselves to the odd designer outfit when we can justify it.

    Thank goodness for Power Hour, that allows us to keep training in the tough times until we can get that eutopia of bespoke, accredditted, fully-funding training.

  8. This story about the rocks and the jar has been around for many years, and the chances are you have heard it. But it's worth reminding people of it from time to time because the message is powerful. Our lives are being run at an increasingly fast pace, and at work we are all expected to keep doing more with less. To be successful it's more important than ever to plan our time, be clear about priorities and manage the 'monkeys' that land on our backs.

    So, read the story and reflect. If you want more help with planning your time, check out our training session and key points sheet. We even have something to help you to manage your monkeys and retake control of your life!