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  1. Last weekend, we went to the Circus. It was a great afternoon's entertainment and no animals were harmed in the making of the show (it was an animal-free zone!)... but a couple of the people almost were!

    The skill of the performers is amazing. They make everything look so easy. The whip-cracking guy did quite a few tricks including tying a knot in his whip with a simple flick of his wrist. It looked so easy (and just a little unimpressive) that no-one clapped. So he did it again, and again and again. Clearly it isn't easy at all, but we didn't realise that.

    The high wire act was very impressive - two of the guys actually did a backwards roll on the wire...in perfect synchronisation! But although we were impressed, I'm not sure we truly understood how difficult this act was. When one of the performers fell whilst skipping on the wire, it became very evident how close to edge these performers are every single time they perform their act. Don't worry - he caught the wire, hoisted himself back up and did the trick again to a thunderous round of applause.

     high wire

    It made me realise that being brilliant (or even good) at things isn't always fully appreciated. As managers, it's easy to take good performers for granted. (In the same was as schools seem to heap praise on more difficult/less able students and just leave those who consistently perform and behave well to their own devices). It's only when those top performers don't perform that we truly appreciate what they do day in, day out. After the high-wire man fell, I bet there was a heated debrief after the show to discuss went wrong. I wonder if they have similar debriefs on the majority of days when everything goes well?

    It takes effort, commitment and continuous development to do things well all the time. Because some people (whether in a circus or a more usual work environment) make it look easy, it often goes un-noticed. A once a year 'pat on the back' at the annual appraisal isn't enough. Good performers need to be appreciated, encouraged and thanked on a regular basis. Giving (positive) feedback , having regular one-to-ones, and celebrating success is just as important in performance management as the annual appraisal, giving negative/constructive feedback and creating performance development/improvement plans. A 'little and often' approach to performance management is far more effective than more traditional approaches.

    If your managers need help we have a wide range of bite-size training sessions on performance management that may just help get you started.

  2. I noticed a tweet last week that suggested that people don't buy training... they buy aspiration. Because I was delivering that day, I didn't get chance to investigate further. However, I understand that training may sometimes be a 'reluctant' purchase...like a maintenance contract on your PC: We want what it will do for us, not what it actually is. We train people so that bad things don't happen or to improve the current situation.

    In the same way, people don't like buying training materials (even when they are great value). Maybe they see it as a failure on their part. Maybe the feel they ought to be doing it themselves. Maybe the topic is genuinely very specific to them and off the shelf materials are just too generic. maybe they can't justify the expenditure. Maybe they are worried about losing control. I get it. I really do.

    However, designing great training (and associated detailed training materials) is time consuming. If you earn £30k per year, your salary alone is around £15 per hour (and then there are all the other benefits to consider), so a conservative estimate is £20 per hour. You spend 3 days (24 hours) designing a piece of training (which is again, conservative). The direct cost is £480. But what about indirect costs? What about all the other things that aren't getting done whilst you are engaged in design?

    Sometimes it makes more sense to buy in training materials and spend far fewer hours tailoring it to your organisation... especially when you can buy licence free editable materials from just £50. Doesn't it?

    Training materials

  3. It's a tough one isn't it?

    Of course, there are certain aspects of everyones job where training IS (and should be) compulsory. Anything that covers working safely or is critical to core processes is quite rightly considered non negotiable.

    But what about other skills, like communication, managing people and personal effectiveness?

    Over the years, as a society, we've become more choice driven. Overall this is a great thing. We are all adults and most of us are capable of making good choices for ourselves. Sometimes we don't. Maybe this is because we don't like some of the options, we don't see the value or it's simply not a priority. How many times have we seen the senior manager opt of out performance management training because they 'know how to do it'? But they don't know how to do it well, and this has ramifications across the organisation.

    Maybe it's just because we are comfortable where we are. It's nice in our comfort zone isn't it?

    Over the school holidays my kids were more than happy to stay at home all day playing Minecraft, watching Horrible Histories and jumping on the trampoline. It was nice and comfortable for them. Familiar. It took no effort. When I suggested doing something different they were often reluctant (unless it was expensive and involved the chance of ice-cream of course!).

    Increasingly bored and frustrated, I took a more assertive approach. I took away their choice. "This afternoon we're going orienteering" I declared one day last week.

    "But WHY???"

    "It's boring"

    "I don't want to go orienteering"

    "Why can't we just stay here?"

    But go we did, and by the time we were hunting for our third marker, Minecraft, TV and boredom were forgotten. They were racing around, smiling and laughing, fighting over who got to read the map to find the next marker, and when we had finished they were surprised that it was over so quickly. They didn't want to go home, so we extended the visit to include half an hour on the playground (also deemed 'boring' eariler in the day).

    As with many things, it was the getting started that was hard. Once they HAD started, they created their own momentum.

    orienteering_map

    Isn't that often the way with training too? People find any and every excuse not to go unless their job literally depends on it. But when they do (reluctantly) attend, the vast majority of people find it useful and enjoyable.

    So whilst the adult in me says that people should be free to choose whether to attend training and which training they want, another part of me knows that often people don't know what's good for them until they have the benefit of hindsight.

    So how do we get the balance right? Answers on a postcard (or orienteering post) please!