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  1. Earlier this year, I shared advice to help learners get the most out of training. In this blog, I thought it might be useful to spell out what this means for Trainers!

    1. It's an old cliche, but please remember that the more you put in, the more you will get out. We learn far more when we are actively involved rather than passive observers. We defintely don't want silence in the 'classroom'! > Lesson for Trainers: Build in lots of opportunity for interaction. Giving a presentation is NOT the same as training.
    2. Training is for you, not the trainer. Yes, we have a framework but we will be driven by YOUR needs as much as long as you tell us what they are! > Lesson for Trainers: Tell people what you plan to cover and ASK delegates for their personal objectives. Tailor the content of the workshop to suit.
    3. Training is NOT assessment. You are here to learn, and try out new things. Some will work, some won't. That's fine, and isn't it better to do these experiments when there are no negative consequences? > Lesson for Trainers: Provide a safe environment. Make sure feedback is welcome and open. NEVER 'report back' on delegates without getting their permission AND telling them what you will share.
    4. To grow and develop you must be prepared to come out of your comfort zone and try something new. However, we will never force you to come out of your comfort zone so far that it's scary. Feeling a little nervous can be a good thing, feeling terrified is not, and we would never put you in that position. > Lesson for Trainers: Never 'force' anyone to do anything. Build in different ways that people can join in and find something that they feel willing to try.
    5. The event is only PART of the story. If you come along and get involved that's great, but unless you DO something as a result back at work we could have all been doing something more useful with our time. > Lesson for Trainers: Make sure you leave ample time for review and action planing. help people to shape their ideas to ensure they are realistic.
    6. It's OK to reject some aspects of the training. We are all different. we have different abilities, gaps, personalities and challenges. Choose the bits of the training that are meaningful to you, and forget the rest. You can choose what you do with it. > Lesson for Trainers: Where possible, present different ideas, models and view points. In many subjects, there is more than one 'good' way to do something.
    7. I am a facilitator, not an oracle. I stand at the front of the room to draw out all the amazing knowledge and experience that ALL of us have. I may not have the answer, but someone in the room probably does. We learn more when we share. > Lesson for Trainers: Encourage discussion, and don't be afraid to say 'I don't know'. If you don't know and can't find an answer in the room, find one after the event and share it with participants.
    8. Start with the end in mind. Decide what it is that you want to get out of the event - this will start the process of tuning in to the parts of the workshop that are more relevant to you. > Lesson for Trainers: Point out when you are covering topics that people have expressed an interest in, or that you know are particularly relevant to them.
    9. Relax, enjoy, challenge and have fun. Not only will you have a better time, but you will learn more too! > Lesson for Trainers: Use the environment to create a relaxed atmosphere. 'Fiddle toys', music, posters and drinks on the table can help.
    10. Reflect, talk it over and take action. Be realistic about the changes you will make and what help you will need to make them. I would rather people make a genuine commitment to do ONE thing differently, than write down 10 action points which amount to nothing more than a wish list. Talking to your manager or a colleague about what you will do also makes you more likely to do it! > Lesson for Trainers: Stress the need for them to get support in the workplace and to have a discussion with their manager within 48 hours of the workshop.
  2. cheeseI recently read "Who moved my cheese?" which is a classic tale, captured by Spencer Johnson, that describes different reactions to change, and provides helpful messages to get through the times when change is forced upon us. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s a great little read that only takes about an hour out of your day. The book made me thing about 2 close friends in particular: one is very change receptive whilst the other is very change resistant.

    The change receptive one approaches new situations with gusto. He never gives them a second thought and dives in without hesitation. We are constantly reminding him to stop and think; to "look before you leap". He has no fear of the unknown, and adapts to new circumstances very quickly. He is always looking for 'what's next?' Whilst his enthusiasm and optimism are lovely, they bring problems: He tends not to think things through, he doesn't see (and so plan for) problems and danger. He has a tendency to leave things half done as he quickly gets bored and moves on to the next big idea.

    Our change resistant friend is of course, quite different. Any change, no matter how small it appears to us, upsets her. The mere mention that something may change can send her retreating into her shell and brooding for days. She imagines every possible scenario and none of them are good. She finds very creative ways to keep things as they are regardless of practicality or the facts staring her in the face. Whilst this can be frustrating, it does mean that before she takes action, things have been properly considered, alternatives explored and contingency plans made.

    For us, this poses very different challenges: Our first friend encourages us to try new things and takes us out of our comfort zone. He helps us to grow and stretch ourselves. However, sometimes he is reckless and we need to reign him in - to force him to stop and think, and sometimes we have to simply refuse to go along with his ideas. Our other friend makes us think things though and be sure of our decisions. She resists change for changes sake, but we have to make sure that she doesn't end up in a state of ‘paralysis by analysis’. So, there are times when we have to take her by the hand and gently pull her forwards, reassuring her all the way.

    We all respond to change differently. Our first friend will always dive in head first, our second will always worry. It is in their nature. We can't change that. What we CAN change is our approach to helping them through turbulent times. If you want more information on this, check out our modules on Managing the Impact of Change, Influencing People and Handling Resistance to Change. They MAY just help you and your colleagues or friends to get through tricky times.

  3. Saturday. A huge pile of ironing awaits. Regular readers of my blog will know that it is usually ironing
    my other half that deals with this joyous task each week, but for a whole host of reasons, this
    week it was my turn.

    The pile was twice the height of the basket - not good. Plus, there were SOOO many other
    things I needed to get done, so I approached the task as any other:

    First: Go through and be ruthless...Does this REALLY need ironing? - This halved my pile! Underwear, towels, leggins, fleeces can all just be put away. Hoorah!

    Second: Prioritise.... Does this need to be done BEFORE Monday? - Again, I halved the pile. School uniforms and work shirts definitely have to be done. Jeans, T-shirts and more casual wear could wait if necessary.

    Third: Get on with it...stop procrastinating and make a start! Within an hour, I'd managed all the 'necessary' ironing, plus a good portion of what could wait (if necessary), but I carried on and did the lot. Giving myself permission to stop after the 'Priority 1' items made it seem more manageable somehow.

    When I was ill recently and still had to keep the business running, I realised that I'd gone through the same process, so that I only had to do the work that was absolutely necessary to maintain the business.

    In today's 24/7 mobile, gadget addicted society, people at work are SOO busy - they rush from one thing to another, and it is now normal to take work home and be contactable at all times. Everyone seems to have too much to do. But in order to be effective, we need to seperate the wheat from the chaff and focus our energy on those aspects of work that absolutely, truly have to be done. Our tests for tasks can be helpful for this exercise.

    You can't do everything, but everything you DO do, should add value.

  4. Last week I had the grocery shopping delivered. Lovely driver, who someone was remaining cheerful inspite of the torrential rain. I had asked for my groceries to be delivered in bags - they weren't. I commented to the driver who replied "They just do what they want...putting things in bags takes longer".

    So, the supermarket packers had decided to ignore my request and take a short cut. No real harm done - my shoping was all there afterall... BUT this is a classic case of people acting WITHOUT thinking about their internal customers, and the impact they have on them, and so (eventually) the impact on the external customer. The chain of events had not been considered...

    Because the shopping had not been packed properly:

    • It took me longer to unload it, which meant that
    • The driver had to stand outside in the rain for much longer, which meant that
    • He was getting soaked (which could affect his health, or he could be getting miserable, which would affect the experience of the next customer), AND
    • He could be made late for future deliveries as unloading took longer than expected, which would result in compalints from other customers.


    • Items were damaged as they hadn't been packed properly, so I had to send them back, which means that
    • I didn't spend as much in the store as I could have, which means that
    • Sales and profitability are effected, which ultimately
    • Jeopardises the jobs of those packers!

    So, next time you take a short cut, ignore a request or let a colleague down, think about the chain of events that could lead to negative outcomes for the external customer, AND your business!

    If you want to open the eyes of people within your company to the importance of internal customer service, why not run this excellent one-day Internal Customer Service workshop from Keystone Development?

  5. During my career, I ve done a LOT of work with line managers: You know... those hard working people who get promoted because they are good at their job, and then suddenly seem to be trying to fit two jobs into the space of one (it can't be done BTW).

    They know they should delegate, but they can't quite bring themselves to do it. I know exactly how they feel: As the owner of a small businesses I do all the work. I know what my business is about, what needs to be done, where we are going, how to do it and I like to be incontrol. BUT with this attitude, my business will never grow.

    During a conversation with a friend and fellow business owner Becs McNeill (Social Media Expert), she introduced me to a website where you can find people to do 'small' things for you for just £5. It seems she has a whole army of people doing things for her for £5 so that she can concentrate on growing her business and adding value to her clients! So, I checked it out and I've taken the plunge. I've identified a couple of things that I'm either not very good at doing or don't have time to do, and outsourced them.

    It is liberating! 

    the amazing thing is that I'm still in control, but I'm not having to physically do the work... very empowering! I can't believe that I haven't done this before, but upon reflection I know exactly why I didn't: RISK.

    Its a risk to leave something precious in the hands of another. Its a risk to trust other people to do things the way that you want them done. Its a risk to delegate, and that's why so many managers find it so hard.

    So, here's my advice: Find something that you can't do well, or shouldn't be doing, or where there's no urgency involved. This immediately reduces the risk.

    If you can't do it well, what's the worst that happen?..It still won't be done that well, but at least you won't have wasted YOUR time. If you SHOULDN'T be doing it, then you will be filling that time with something that you SHOULD be doing (even if its not as enjoyable). If there's no urgency to it, you'll probably put it off until the last minute anyway and then get stressed over it. And, if there's no urgency, you have plenty of time to keep sending it back to someone else until its right. 

    So I've taken a chance. I'm a trainer not a graphic designer - so I've outsourced the design of our new promotional material. If I did it, it would take me days (days when I could be doing what I'm good at), the quality would be poor (which reflects badly on my business), and then there's the cost saving...£5 or me 'losing' a days income? It's a no brainer.

    If you need help identifying what YOU could delegate or outsource, download our free key points sheet. If you know a whole group of people who need help with this, talk to us about delivering a bite-size session on delegation.

  6. During these school holidays, I enrolled my children on a swimming 'crash course'. Now, they could both already swim (my son about 10m and my daughter 50m), but I thought that a) it would help pass a week of the extraordinarily long school holidays, and b) improve their confidence and technique... and it did.

    Both have improved, and I can only put it down to the fact that learning is focussed (one thing only is covered each lesson), applied repeatedly, reinforced and built upon. In their normal weekly lessons, the quality of the teaching is just as good and they put in just as much effort...but more things are covered and then for 6 days they don't swim - they don't apply and practice what they have been taught. 

    Now I'm a big fan of day long workshops, and still run them on a regular basis - there are a LOT of benefits in working with a group for a full day. BUT, the one drawback they have is that delegates often leave the workshop overwhelmed with new ideas and plans, they rarely experience proper follow up, and so they don't make as much progress back at work as they could and should. With a bite-size session, you focus on one thing, so that one thing is easy to apply, and it doesn't feel overwhelming.

    If people attend one bite-size session a week for 8 weeks, they are far more likely to apply 8 learning points and action 8 things than if they attend one 8-hour workshop. It reminds me of the Sad Tale of Del the Delegate. So, if your measure of success for training is application to the job, I think that this is by far the best option.

  7. I've just returned from an excellent short break at Center Parcs with my family. Completely, water-logged (thanks to the pool and flumes), worn out and yet energised at the same time. One of the draws of Center Parcs, is that there's so much to do, and every year we go, we try and do something new.

    This year, we did two 'experiences' at the Outdoor Activity Centre. The first involved adult and child archery. It was led by a nice instructor (let's call him John) who told us how great he was with kids, and how everyone loved him and how good he was at his job. We had a good time and John provided help so that we all improved by the end of the end of the session. He was indeed a good instructor. However, he had told us he was great, so I felt a bit short changed.

    When we did laser combat, with a lovely American Instructor (let's call him Brad), we learned nothing at all of the instructor. He focussed entirely on the group, and on making sure that we had a good time. He was very enthusiastic about the activity, helpful, and gave tips so that people could improve. Brad was a good instructor, we had an amazing time, and we left the arena feeling that he was awesome!

    Maybe it's to do with the old 'under promise and over deliver' philosophy, but the fact that John TOLD us he was great (and then was simply 'good') and Brad SHOWED us he was great left us with different impressions about our experiences. It made me think about the way that we show our expertise in business. Yes, you DO have tell people what you can do, and if you don't blow your own trumpet, then who will? Well, the answer is the people who use your products/services.

    Marketing is good, but delivering a great product/service is even more important. If you do that, your customers/clients will do the marketing for you!

    And on that note, I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has recommended Power Hour to their colleagues, contacts and associates. We really appreciate the kind words.

  8. We all experience it everyday. Bland customer service: Service that just reaches minimum standards, but no more. In fact, the UK is brilliant at it... but it's not good enough. Having taken two cars to two different dealerships within the last week, the difference between minimum standard and outstanding couldn't be more blinding (check out the 5 F's as a starter for 10). The sad thing is, whilst in some ways there is a HUGE difference between the two, the fact is that the things that make the differences are so small.

    This is why I think they are crimes of customer service.

    They aren't things that are difficult, costly or time consuming. Anyone can do them, but sadly it is the exception, not the norm, and those that do stick in the mind for the right reasons. So what I am talking about?

    Crime #1: No acknowledgement - A nod, a smile, a "I'll be with you a moment" immediately shows me that I've been noticed, I matter, and I'll be seen to. When it takes anything more than a few seconds to acknowledge me, I wonder if a) I'm visible and b) whether I matter.

    Crime #2: Not Using Basic Courtesies - Saying 'please', 'thank you', 'I'm sorry for your wait' etc show respect for me and my time. A 'professional' approach without these makes me feel like I'm being processed. I'm not a number, I am a person.

    Crime #3: Not keeping me informed - If there is a delay, a problem or a setback tell me, and I will understand, and may even sympathise. You will have a friend. Keep it from me, cover it up or (worst of all) make it out to be my fault, and I will get annoyed. I will become your enemy.

    Crime #4: Not taking responsibility - If there's one thing that winds me up, its being told that 'the company' or 'the system' won't allow something, or that a problem is nothing to do with the person 'serving' me. You represent your company, you need to take responsibility.

    Crime #5: Not being organised - Have everything you reasonably expect to need to handle my enquiry to hand. I shouldn't have to sit around whilst you search for the right form, a stapler or a bag or wait whilst you disappear into 'the back' for ages, with no idea of when you will return.

    Crime #6: Lacking basic competence - If you can't do what you say you will, find someone who can. I'm not talking about people who are new to the job and have been thrown in at the deep end (they can still avoid problems by not committing crimes 1-5). I was recently in a large department store. The young lady serving me had started work just a few hours previously. She had not been given log-on codes for the till or told how to do anything other than take a cash/card payment. She was on a till with just one other person (who was dealing with refunds) at the busiest time. She explained her predicament and I was sympathetic; it wasn't her fault and she was honest with me, but she shouldn't have been placed in that position in the first place.

    Businesses often put young and/or inexperienced staff in the most important front of the customer, without any training or any basic standards for them to meet. The most frustrating thing is that NONE of these 'crimes' are difficult. But because people don't need training in the way that they need training to use a system or fix a technical issue, so they don't get any. It's obvious right?

    Well, from my experience, it's not. Sadly.

    And training people in the basics needn't be expensive - check out our 5 module flexible customer service programme. It's designed so you can deliver it, or (if you prefer) we can deliver it for you.

    ...and if you can think of more 'crimes' why not add them in our comments box?

  9. Ahh, the summer’s here. Everyone tells us so. The supermarket magazines, the ‘seasonal’ TV programmes and of course, the high street. Clothes shops are full of shorts, vests, sandals, bikinis, strappy sundresses and t-shirts. Except, that’s not what we need right now is it?

    The awful weather means that our winter wardrobe is still very much needed…but what if (like) us, you need to replenish stocks? My husband wanted a couple of new long-sleeve ruby shirts to replace ones that had worn through. My daughter needed a coat, and my son required some new jumpers. Could we find them on high street? No, despite hours of looking, we couldn’t.

    The problem is, what we NEEDED isn’t FASHIONABLE at the moment…and this made us very frustrated!

    The same may be true in training. If you believe all the talk on social media, in the professional magazines and latest text books, organisations are only interested in mobile learning, learning apps, engagement and innovation. This is not true. It IS true however that this is what is fashionable.

    I started working with a new (national) client recently whose branches don’t even have computers in them. Mobile learning is still the stuff of science fiction as far as they are concerned. For other businesses (even large ones), innovation and engagement are a pipe dream as they just need to make a profit. These businesses still need ‘basic’ training in how to manage performance, how to have a coaching conversation and how to manager their time and how specify what exactly is expected of people in specific roles.

    I’m quite proud that my business has never been a fashion victim. Yes, we keep abreast of what’s happening, but the business isn’t run for me…it’s run for other businesses who need training basics first and foremost to meet THEIR needs, not conform to the latest big thing.

    We eventually found our much needed ‘winter’ clothes in an outlet shop. Thank goodness some shops look at what’s happening around them and what the public actually need, rather than being influenced by the catwalks of Paris and Milan!

  10. I was born in the 1970s. That makes me experienced enough to know what I'm on about, and young enough to keep up with latest thinking. I haven't yet got 'set' in my ways, but I've a pretty good grasp on what works for me.

    I don't think I'm ready to be tossed onto the scrap heap, as I have got lots and lots to offer. So why do trainers think that once a theory is over 30 years old, is should be consigned to the bin, never to be spoken of again?

    There is much chat on Twitter and in various blogs about dropping the theories from the last century that have underpinned management training for so long. I can't help wonder why. I suspect that it is because AS TRAINERS we are bored with them. We've known them for years, we can explain them in our sleep, and frankly, they just aren't exciting anymore.

    But wait...isn't training supposed to be for the delegates, NOT the trainer? People who are just been promoted to their first managerial position find Adair's Action Centred Leadership a revelation. The Kubler-Ross change curve is a life-saver for team leaders struggling to introduce unpopular changes at the sharp end. Understanding Maslow's Hiearcharchy of Needs (dating from the 1940s!) is helpful when inducting new employees OR selling. I could go on, but I think that you get my drift. We provide training materials especially designed for those taking their first management, customer service or in a semi-autonomous role, and these 'old' theories are referred to.

    Of course we must be constantly searching for new ways of thinking, working and growing; and if someone is attending their fifth management development programme of their career, then they don't want to see the same stuff (although I ask you to consider whether they would be on their fifth programmes if they actually APPLIED what was covered?). But just because it is old, doesn't mean to say it isn't relevant. Many of these older theories form a solid foundation for more recent and less tangible ideas. They are a fantastic starting point for any development programme.