Eight Glimmer of Optimism & Hope in a Field Plenty of P.A.I.N (Pessimism, Anger, Insecurity and Negativity)

-My experience of being vaccinated-

We can’t ignore that the 3rd MCO has brought much PAIN (Pessimism, Anger, Insecurity and Negativity) to all of us, so much so that we find ourselves in a toxic soup. There is no blame here. The situation does warrant such a reaction. Our reaction is indeed predictable based on how we see things. This is the good news and this is also the bad news.

No one is at fault for not being able to see something that is meant to be transparent. We see through our situation because we are in it fully. The is no opportunity for us to step out and neutrally look at our situation from afar. More often than not it is due to practical reasons such as don’t know-how, not enough time, no support system to allow such a thing or simple an ecosystem that doesn’t allow or even worst perpetuate this habit in looking inward.

There are many ways for us to be able to step back, look neutrally at our situation and re-evaluate it. Besides a support system or ecosystem that allows it, one other potent facto to install this stepping back is having new experiences. This was exactly what happened to me recently when I went for my Covid 19 vaccination.

The whole experience was perspective-changing so much so that I left with a general sense of optimism and hope with a generous dash of gratefulness. These feelings are not only the direct result of the vaccine itself but a lot to do with the result of my experience of getting the vaccine.

Firstly the organization and management of the whole experience is not only smooth and well organised but was also pleasant at the same time.

Secondly, the mySejahtera apps is a gem and whoever was involved in developing it must be commended. It created the perfect support for the whole experience. Who says we don’t create great things?

Thirdly, the volunteers were well trained. They were pleasant, empathetic and caring. They see me as a human being who needed support and not as just a number. Who says we don’t have great customer service?

Fourthly, the volunteers were from all walks of life, age groups, profession, race etc. There were represent various branches of the civil service and security forces as well as civilians. Just name a variable, there will be a fit. They work side by side and know what needs to be done. The spirit of Muhibbah and professionalism does exist.

Fifth is the timing is spot on. I arrived at 9.20am for my 9.30am appointment and went through various stations with a 15 mins self-observation at the very end and left the centre at 10.30am. Who says Malaysians are always are sloppy when it comes to time and are always late?

Sixth, Malaysian can queue!!!!! Everyone was patient, courteous and followed instructions to the tee.

Seventh, the instructions were clear and not only the verbal instructions but also the signages and the AV instructions. Who says Malaysians don’t know how to give great instructions?

The eighth glimmer of positivity from the whole experience is the sense of pride that can be felt from everyone in the space; from the police officers outside directing the flow, to the volunteers manning the interviews and briefing, to the medical staff that administer the all-important dose, to the various personalities on the video screens and to the people that came to be vaccinated. This can be seen especially so at the exit with people helping each other to take photos of at the photo opportunity booths; everyone smiling and light.

These are the eight glimmer of optimism and hope that I badly need in this time of P.A.I.N.

I choose to step back and reassess my situation and count my blessings. This doesn’t mean I negate my situation or ignore or even dismiss it or even in denial of it. Actually, I am doing the opposite; I am embracing it fully. Just like cooking; salt and sugar go hand in hand to balance each other.

Let us not be unbalanced and only see and feel the P.A.I.N of situation we are in but also taper it and make it more realistic by also seeking, searching and celebrating those glimmer of optimism and hope in the P.A.I.N of things.

ps: oh yes! The vaccination is FOC. Who says nothing is for free?

“It is not the WHAT. It is the HOW that matters.”

– My sense-making of a current unsavoury issue –

“It is not the WHAT. It is the HOW that matters.” is a saying that I have heard throughout my life, becoming more and more frequent when I got into training. But what does it really mean? How does this simple enough saying can make sense of what just happened recently with the debacle of one particular politician cum non-executive chairman of a local GLC?

This particular situation, the unfolding of events in this unpleasant issue is in fact the perfect backdrop to appreciate the above saying. Let’s first examine what it really means?

The WHAT in this saying refers to the message, the intent or let’s generalize it as the content of what is to be said or done. The HOW in this saying refers to the mechanism, the way or what was done to deliver the message, the intent or the content.

Let’s take communication as an example. The WHAT could be apologizing while the HOW is what was said to convey the apology. In training, the WHAT is the intent to make improvement and the HOW is the way the feedback is given. In parenting, the WHAT is to make the child realise it is a dangerous act while the HOW is the way it was delivered.

For me, contextually, the WHAT is the transaction while the HOW is the transformation.

Now, is it true the WHAT matters less than the HOW? This question has bugged me for a long time. Isn’t the message important? How can the HOW be more important when the HOW doesn’t exist if the WHAT is not there in the first place? Well, to me, inherent in the saying is an assumption that the WHAT has been determined and now the time has come to ensure the HOW carries the WHAT. That is why the HOW now matters since the WHAT is handled. What is not being said is that, just because your WHAT is handled, you don’t need to care about the HOW.

Now let’s examine the HOW of the WHAT. Remember, that the WHAT has been determined since without the WHAT handled, the HOW does not come into play.

So, why is the HOW so important to the WHAT? Well, remember about the WHAT being transformational? That is why the HOW is so important. It is because the HOW is the conduit or tool that affects the receiver of the WHAT. Without an effective HOW, the WHAT doesn’t land of effects the receiver the way the WHAT is intended.

Another factor is that the HOW is directly connected to the attitude, being, worldview and mindset of the source. It is through the HOW that people are affected or transformed.

People as the receiver gets the WHAT pretty straightforward because it is transactional in nature. However, the characteristic and personality of the WHAT is determined by the HOW it was delivered (the transformational part of the equation).

Let’s take an apology as an example of a WHAT. We get the message that it is an apology yet because of the HOW the apology is delivered, we feel (the transformed bit) it is not sincere or even serious because the apology is done (the HOW) nonchalant, as a matter of fact, condescending and comical. To make it even worst, the HOW reflects the character of the person delivering the apology. IT speak about him being insincere, indifferent and void of empathy because a person that is sincere and empathetic doesn’t behave in such a way thus will deliver the apology in an empathetic and sincere way.

When there is incongruence between the WHAT and the HOW the WHAT suffers; the message doesn’t come across well and the intent is not reached. That is why the HOW matters once the WHAT has been determined.

Therefore, to now be specific, the termination of his Chairmanship is not about the message he delivered but his character is not befitting of the situation and of leadership. I dare say, the way he delivered the apology has demonstrated his truest character; an arrogant-unempathetic person. He is terminated for being bongkak; that is actually what it was, nothing more, nothing less.

It is a reminder for me to be wary of not only WHAT I am delivering but also HOW I am delivering it since the people are affected not just by the WHAT but also by the HOW. The congruency of the HOW to the WHAT is important.

Choosing A Client

Doing presentations to potential clients is part and parcel of being a freelance trainer. The conventional view says that it is at this occasion that the client will evaluate or assess your training proposal. I beg to differ. I believe there is no way a training proposal can be assessed well on that occasion and I believe the client know this too. This is done and should be done before the presentation. In that case, why the presentation?

The occasion is actually an opportunity to size you up; to have a feel of who you are and what you are all about. It is to assess and evaluate you as the provider. The technicality of the training is already done prior to the presentation.

Because the context of the presentation is assessment or evaluation of you, it is no wonder that it can be nerve-wracking especially when we are in need of work.

Intuitively, I have always felt there is more to this for us trainers.

As time goes by, I realised that these occasions are not only an opportunity for us to be assessed but also for us to assess the client! Yes. It is also our right as much as the client’s to do our due diligence whether the client is someone we want to work with or not.

I notice that this context changes my level of confidence and certainty as a solution provider during these sessions. Automatically, the nerve wrecking-ness of the situation disappears and a new sense of purpose emerges. At the same time, I see these sessions as a sharing session to look for a certain type of client that we want to work with.

This new situation immediately begs an answer to the question “What are the various types of clients to choose from?”.

Based on our experience, we came up with a matrix describing various types of clients.
On the x-axis is L&D Practitioner. The L&D Practitioner label indicates how much of an L&D practitioner is the client. This includes the client’s depth of knowledge, competency and practice in L&D. The further to the right, the more of a practitioner the client is.

On the y-axis is Autonomy. This alludes to how much autonomy does the client give us to design, develop and deliver the work. Does the client allow us, as a solution provider, the freedom to advise and suggest the most appropriate and effective solution for their needs? This particular element has a direct correlation to other elements such as trust, certainty and vulnerability level of the client.
This matrix gives us 4 types of clients. All the quadrants are eligible to be chosen; not one is better than the other. It all depends on your preference.

Each quadrant has its very own personality. The key for us as a provider is to be aware of what we are getting into when we choose a certain type of client because each one has their very own expectation of us.

My favourite clients are the partners; MUTUAL partners and TRANSFORMATIONAL partners.

A MUTUAL partner is a partner-client that adds value to what you are doing. They are committed to co-create with you. Both your and the clients enrich one another throughout the relationship. For me, these partner clients are a joy to work with.

A TRANSFORMATIONAL partner is a partner-client that have a high level of trust in your ability to lead the project. They are also hungry to learn and transform from the relationship they have with you. They are there throughout the journey learning and contributing as we go along. For me, these partner clients are the most rewarding to work with. In the long run, eventually, they will become a MUTUAL partner.

A COMMENSAL client that knows what they want and that is all there is to it. You as a provider is just there to carry out their agenda the way they want it. There is no room for innovation or creativity what more experimentation in the work. This would be the ideal client for trainers that provides off the shelf solutions; a one fit all type.

A TRANSACTIONAL client more often than not has a lower level of commitment to the effectiveness of the solution. They are more interested in you conducting the program and finishing it. As long as you do what is deem to be needed is all that they care about. They are all about getting it done. Again, this would be ideal for trainers who are not really focused on learning impact and are looking for one-off gigs.

The question “How do you choose a job?” has been asked of me a couple of times. My answer has always been “Depends on whether we like the job and the client or not.” For us in neOOne, being selective of our clientele and the job is fundamental. It is important for us to be vested in the work more than just delivering it. We want to be able to create an impact and feel proud of what we are doing. However lucrative or easy the job is, if it is not going to create impact and leave a sense of pride, we will not take it. We also want a client that can be a partner to us; enriching each other along the way in all aspects of the work.

Each to his own is what I would say. Choose your job and client wisely because we do not have endless work to do. There is only so much work we can handle. Therefore, isn’t it prudent for us to be selective in what we spend our time with?

If a human is a sum of all his experience, then a training provider is a sum of all his work and clientele.

Criteria in Choosing Trainers

How to Choose A Trainer?

A perspective of a practitioner.

Recently, I have gone through an intense period of mentoring trainers from various level of experience. Many of the newer ones have one thing in common, which is the curiosity on how to position themselves and what game to play in the L&D eco-system.

These curiosities, for me, point to the desire to know what it takes for clients to choose them over another. The simple question that needs to be asked is “How do people choose trainers?” This question was a fundamental question Yasmin & I asked ourselves at the inception of neOOne. It is also a topic that I have always wanted to share.

This question of “How to choose a trainer?” was pivotal for us because the answer will lead us to know how to design ourselves so that we become the best choice for our learners. We came up with these criteria based on our own experience, understanding of the landscape and feedbacks from stakeholders. Albeit all these inputs were rather limited at that time because we were new, yet we knew we had to start somewhere. The criteria were rather short and over the year has been edited it as we grow in the industry as providers as well as a consumer.

The latest criteria we came up with has grown over the years. One of the main input to the criteria was our own experience as learners attending various training and workshops. We become a good consumer of our own industry for a couple of reasons namely:

  • Practicing integrity – how can our conscience be clear if we promote people to learn and preach people to learn and benefit from people learning when we ourselves are not?
  • Staying ahead of the curve – with the fast pace of L&D, staying relevant what more staying at the tip of the spear, a passion for life-long learning for us to acquire more knowledge, new insight and competencies.
  • To be a server of value to our learners – how can we serve left-over learnings? Just like food, should we be serving fresh and healthy food? In L&D to truly be in service of learning, we need to constantly learn and innovate our offerings. Our mentor, Gail Heidenhain, is fond to remind all of us, Accelerated Learning practitioner, that we are running the same content 2 years in a row, we are not doing justice to our learners. This trend we also see in many of our idols such as David Sibbett, Kelvy Bird, Capt. Dr. Shan etc.
  • To support our peers – we feel as a collective, the best way to support one another in this industry is to be the best learner for our peers. As the saying goes, treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • To benchmarking ourselves – being scrutinized is a good thing. Unfortunately, there are not outlets we can utilise to scrutinize our very own training. That is why it is important to have a community of practice that can do this for us. Another easier way is to attend other training & workshop to self-benchmark ourselves in terms of content, design, delivery and engagement.

In addition to our own experience as learners of our industry, a few months back, I made a small survey among my peers in L&D to find out their criteria in choosing a trainer to learn from. The finding validates what we have suspected and at the same time game a delightful surprise that many practitioners out that also share most of our view.

Below are the criteria for choosing a trainer and we have abbreviated them to 6Ps. Mind you, these 6Ps are not arranged in any particular order of importance. In fact, to us, all the 6Ps weigh the same; they have to be considered in choosing process.

6Ps in Choosing a Trainer

  1. Pedigree of Learning – This goes beyond just the qualification of the trainer. It also involves the origin of their learning. As a personal choice, I would want to learn from the authority or the original source of the learning. For example, in the subject of presencing, The Presencing Institute or Otto Sharma is recognised as an authority. I would want to learn from him or from someone who has leant it from him. If I can’t get to the source, I would learn from a person that is as near to the authority as possible. For me the purity of the learning is important; how genuine is it. In my bucket list, there are a few more people I want to learn from such as David Kolb for Experiential Learning, Peter Senge for Organizational Learning & Systems Thinking, Otto Sharma/The Presencing Institute for Presencing etc.
  2. Practitioner – I would draw the line and not attend training that is not conducted by a practitioner. I want to learn from people who have practised what they preach. There are two types of practitioners; a past practitioner and a present practitioner. A lot of us put emphasis on past experience but thinking slightly more, a present practitioner is a better candidate, especially if the past practitioner has left practice for some time. Learning leadership from someone who has not lead is a big NO NO. Given the choice learning leadership from someone who used to be a leader is far different from learning from someone who is currently leading a team. Therefore, my preference is for a current practitioner.
  3. Process of Learning – This is pertaining to the design of the workshop or training course. If the training is to provide certification yet there is no robust assessment process, this is to me is highly dubious. I am also rather suspicious of training that promises loads of content in the shortest time possible. Again this will reflect what type of learning design is being used which might lead to the notion that it is not effective due to maybe too much downloading and too little wisdom & practicum. A training course that offers multiple certifications in a short period of time is another example of a process of learning that warrants a further investigation on the quality of the training. Mind you, learning is not just base on the content delivered but also equally important is the mechanism or process of learning that infused the content within the learner.
  4. Perceived Value – Common convention will dictate that we look at pricing as one of the criteria. I must admit that pricing was a criterion that we looked at, in the beginning of our journey. However, along the years as well as through the survey that I did, it is actually not pricing that people look for but the perceived value of what you are offering. Perceived Value is defined as the customers’ evaluation of the merits of a product or service, and its ability to meet their needs and expectations, especially in comparison with its peers. This is actually what matters. Don’t just automatically go for a cheaper option and dismiss the more expensive offering. Ask yourself why is the price low? Choosing the cheaper one over the more expensive one will only work with the assumption that what is offered is of equal standing. However, we know very well that it seldom happens. I find asking what is missing such that the cheaper one is cheaper help my decision making. This is a better way of thinking versus the assumption that the cheap and the expensive have the same offering. There must be a reason why they are priced differently. Could it be because the trainer is not familiar with the topic, not enough experience and wisdom in training or subject, dated content, not a practitioner, the learning process is outdated, no customization of training design etc?
  5. Performance – In this case, a track record of training is important and I am not even eluding to just the number of training they have done but also who and how many their clientele. Again in terms of clientele, more doesn’t necessarily be better. This is an age-old argument of quantity vs quality. Let take an example of a trainer that has been engaged by a few clients multiple times for over 3 years versus a trainer that has trained a lot of clients but only once? Which might indicate quality? Well, some might argue this is not possible for all subject matter because of certain subject matter is just impossible to have repeat roll-out. Granted. This is the precise reason why just looking at clientele as a gauge of performance is not the best approach. References are a great way to overcome this. Scrutinizing the trainer’s track record is also another excellent way. One other way that I would caution about is the trainers rating based on feedback as an indication of performance. This is because it all depends on the feedback matrix used. If the rating is based on feelings – we call it a smiley sheet (Kirkpatrick Level 1) – then it is a poor indicator of performance.
  6. Personality – This might be trivial to some but not to me. The trainer’s values and demeanour are also important to assess. Is he someone respected by his peers, does he contribute back to the learning community, is he easy to work with, how is he conducts himself etc. all this indicates if I can work with the trainer or not. Doing some research in social media can provide you with some indication of his personality such as his activities in the social space, his point of view of current affairs, his philosophy about learning etc. Increasingly, I find clients mined social media such as Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram to understand the trainer better. I personally find my learning is better and deeper when I have a trainer that has similar values as I do. The spirit of the subject is easier to be understood and examples give sync with me.

These criteria of course will only kick in once we are clear we want to learn a particular subject. That is why I did not include the subject as one of the criteria because this condition is a prerequisite. If we are not out the learn something, then this criteria is irrelevant.

For some of us that read this article might find the criteria rather daunting and I must admit it is because the seriousness of growth warrants it. These criteria can be seen as a barrier or as a challenge to aspiring us. Even at this level itself, we already can distinguish a serious practitioner that is committed to his craft or otherwise. Are there ways to hack these criteria? There is and that will be the topic of a future article J. Regardless of whether we are applying a hack or not, the game is still a marathon, not a sprint.

It is my wish to be able to write more in-depth on each of the criteria to give us L&D practitioner more distinction in designing ourselves to be the best nurturer of people’s growth. Maybe the day will come when we are truly seen to be an unconditional nurturer of learners where we put them at the front and centre of our being.