Delivering Content vs Delivering Learning. Are we even aware?

Over the weekend, I had the privilege, once again, to assess our 11th batch of Certified Virtual Learning Facilitator (CVLF) program. I have always enjoyed even looking forward to such events because of the richness in learning that I can obtain from being there. How wonderful to spend 2 days experiencing various design aspects about various topics from the various trainer. Community support and camaraderie are also experiences that I value.

As in any session of its kind, there will always be a highlight takeaway and this weekend is no exception. The insight that came up was concerning the conundrum of delivering content and delivering learning. Let me put some context to this insight.

We have numerous Train-The-Trainer (TTT) programs in our stable such as the Certified Facilitative Trainer (CFT) program, Certified Accelerated Learning Facilitator (CALF) program and Game-Based Learning Practitioner Certification (GBL). Contextually, CVLF embodies our TTT philosophy. Within this philosophy, there are numerous concepts that we adopt. One of the concepts that all our TTT like programs have in common is the concept that in any L&D initiative, especially workshops and training, there are three domains that are dynamically interacting with one another. These three domains are Delivery, Design & Engagement (DDE). All these three domains need to support each other in order for learning to happen effectively.

Among the three domains, we have always believed that design is the glue that binds the others. We have always advocated this point of view such that all our TTT like programs has a huge design element in the content. It is our belief that through a well-thought design, the delivery and engagement will be synced to produce the best learning. Here is where we differ slightly with the notion of a trainer being a subject matter expert (SME). To us, it is not enough for a trainer to be a subject matter expert. The trainer must also be a learning designer.

On this note, there is a clear danger of delivering the content and not delivering the learning. What do I mean by this? Some of you might be saying to yourself “What is Juara smoking? Is he confused? Isn’t the two the same?”. Well, I am not a smoker, I am not confused and the two are not the same.

Delivering the content means curating what topics or subjects will be delivered and how to deliver them. Delivering learning goes beyond just curating the content and the delivery of the content but also curating the method of learning the content for the learner. Sometimes, we don’t need to deliver the content and the learning still happens, deeply. This happens when we are focused on delivering learning and not content.

When we are focused on delivering content, we are on a tight schedule to complete the content at hand. We compromise checking in on how the learners are doing, don’t entertain redesigning the content or flow to cater for those that are lagging, don’t include opportunities for reflective practices and we even disregard community learning and opportunities to retrieve tacit knowledge. We also don’t spend time allowing the learning to stew or even remotely interested in the learner’s point of view, thought and feelings. All these elements are critical to learning.

However, if we are truly interested in learning to happen, we will operate differently; we will design differently, we will curate differently and we will deliver differently. We start looking at our learners and how they are doing before, during and after the session with us. We start by understanding where they come from, and what makes them want to learn or not want to learn. We focus on their progress over the period of the workshop and constantly check on their learning well-being throughout the workshop. We will build in pauses and check in to gauge our learner’s learning. We will create opportunities for all voices to be heard. These are but some learning strategies that can be deployed if we are interested in delivering learning.

Another phrase that is associated with delivering learning is learner-centric while the phrase is associated with delivering content as trainer centric. For both, it is more of a mindset that determines our focus and the actions we take.

As we prepare ourselves for any training or workshop, it is worth being conscious of which mindset are we embodying; as a deliverer of content or a deliverer of learning?

Educational Qualifications as a way to brand yourself

Part 1 of the Branding Yourself as a Trainer Series – the foolproof and proof-of-a-fool ways to get it done

A disclaimer up front: I am NOT a branding expert. When I talk about branding, I am talking as a layman that understands branding not as a branding expert but as a person who ‘cari makan’ as a trainer; an ongoing concern.

This topic of branding oneself is a concern to any trainer that is in the market. If not something that occupies a portion of their work, it is definitely something that has crossed their mind. Why is this so?

Well, as a trainer, we are the product. And with that in mind, of course, we want to be the product of choice to ‘cari makan’. This is for some trainers, an occupation because of the stiff competition out there. The training industry is a red ocean. To survive, every trainer needs to distinguish themselves from others.

What are some of the foolproof and proof-of-a-fool ways to get this done? This will be interesting. Let’s get the can opener and open some can of worms while we are at it 😉. Let’s get started with the first one, the qualification way.

You might ask, why qualification and not credentials?

Well, the reason is that credentials refer to academic or educational qualifications, such as degrees or diplomas that you have completed or partially complete and also occupational qualifications, such as professional certificates, certifications or work experience. For the sake of format and distinctions, I have decided to split credentials into two parts which are qualifications; which includes certification and working experience.

Let’s talk about qualifications.

There are qualifications and there are ‘kualification’. The former is legit while the latter is ‘goreng aje’ or spins, bogus; basically not real. In the training world nowadays, a bachelor’s degree is deemed to be the least of all qualifications. Forget about the diploma ok?

Now trainers are gunning for Masters and PhDs to distinguish themselves. This effort should be encouraged and applauded … when done the correct way. By the way, there is even a set of rates out there that pays trainers according to their qualification; one of the many games we can play in the training industry.

Of course, these types of educational qualifications as I called them, are deemed as valuable and a disguising characteristic because they demonstrate two things: knowledge and effort. The time invested in obtaining such a qualification is indeed commendable and the knowledge gained is immense. These two elements speak volumes about the credibility of a trainer. Because in training knowledge is highly regarded and character of a trainer is also important. This type of branding carries weight and is very popular indeed; rightly so.

It is so popular that there are trainers that are willing to buy or outright lie about their qualifications. This goes contrary to why the qualifications are deemed valuable; the knowledge gained and the effort invested. This happens quite often for Masters and PhD. Sadly, this is still happening because clients are not doing their due diligence on the trainer’s qualifications.

There is now a growing trend in obtaining an honorary doctorate as opposed to the conventional doctorate route. I am all for the honorary doctorate and in my opinion, is one of the highest qualifications a person can have because more often than not, it is conferred to you NOT by your own submission but by being nominated by a peer or a group of peers. The nomination will take into consideration the immense contribution of the individual in his or her field and also towards society. Proof of these contributions must be documented and defended to the select committee because it is scrutinised thoroughly. It has to pass stringent deliberation because it is a prestige to be conferred an honorary doctorate. It is a long process and it requires due diligence of the highest order. That is also the reason why not many honorary doctorates is conferred in convocations. That is how precious it is.

An honorary doctorate says that the receiver’s life work in pursuit of his mastery has contributed immensely to his or her field and has also benefitted humankind. That is how serious this recognition is. Your sheer life’s work is being recognised and that is why honorary doctorates are conferred to very established and mature individuals. It is worth noting that the convention of using the title Dr. is also very clear when it comes to honorary doctorates. It must be stated as such or commonly in Malaysia the abbreviation (Dr.) is used to denote it is an honorary doctorate.

Because of a few rotten apples that buy these qualifications as a way to BRAND themselves, it is sad, that we now need to be wary of the qualifications of trainers when we should be celebrating their knowledge and effort.

So, do go for those Diplomas, Bachelors, Masters and PhDs but do it the legitimate way. Be in integrity. Invest the time, gain new knowledge, reaffirm our old knowledge and even create new knowledge for others along the way to achieve these important milestones in life.

Brand yourself with integrity.

Tips to Creating Rapport in Virtual Facilitation

Tips to create rapport online

Rapport is the ultimate tool for producing results with other people. No matter what you want in life, if you can develop rapport with the right people, you’ll be able to fill their needs, and they will be able to fill yours. -Tony Robbins-

We have heard the word rapport and how important it is when dealing with people. Be it in sales all the way to the mundane such as asking for direction, rapport is a pre-requisite. There is even a poster we use in our sales training that says “No Rapport No Permission to Create”, which means without rapport we can’t create anything with a particular engagement.

Rapport is defined as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.“ by Oxford Languages. While Merriam Webster defines it as “ a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy”. In both definitions, we see the emphasis on the need for rapport to engage others.

In the world of people development and learning and development (L&D), we are always engaging others. It is said rapport is what makes or breaks an engagement. Therefore, rapport building is a skill that must be mastered by executive coaches, trainers, process facilitators and educators. In my own coaching practise, we are to treat every coaching session, even with the same person, as also a rapport building session. It is something that you do all the time not only when we first engage a person.

The same is true as well when we are facilitating online. In fact, to some, it is even more crucial because of the added element of virtual. To some, it is difficult because the screen is somewhat a barrier that is added onto the engagement which otherwise is absent in the usual face-to-face physical facilitation. It is thought to be such a daunting task that there are many facilitators that refuse or resist doing virtual facilitation. To them, you can’t create engagement because it is difficult to create rapport in the virtual space.

Here are a couple of tips that can help you build rapport when facilitating virtually.

1. It is an ongoing concern
Rapport building never ends. It is a fallacy that rapport is needed to be built only at the start. Remember, what can be built can be destroyed. The same goes with rapport. It can be destroyed by as simple as a word we use out of context. We must build and nurture rapport constantly. The more we do this, the stronger and more durable it becomes. Remember to not lose sight of the importance of not only building but also nurturing rapport.

2. It can be designed
Since it is important to build and nurture rapport, it is therefore important for us to be deliberate about it in our engagement sessions. This can be done by building various activities, touchpoints, engagement opportunities etc. into our session design. Be deliberate in your design. Pepper rapport building and nurturing moments throughout your engagement sessions.

3. Be welcoming
One of the greatest advantages of being in virtual is the ability to let someone into the class one at a time and the fact that you know them even before they walk into the session; at least their name. Therefore, welcome your participant by name in a cheerful and friendly manner. If they have not changed their name yet, it is another opportunity for you to create rapport by inviting them to rename themselves and then greeting them by their name. It goes a long way for people to feel welcomed and more importantly feel they are seen and not just another computer screen.

4. Name before a question
In physical face-to-face facilitation, our body language, movement, eye contact can be a partner to us when prompting responses or even readying someone to engage. For example, I might move towards a table to ready someone on the table to engage with me. This micro duration can be a huge support in avoiding embarrassing someone with a surprise. However, the absence of these physical cues is a huge disadvantage when facilitating virtually. Therefore, I find calling someone by name first, then asking the question helps a lot in preparing the person. Some of us will need some practice since this might not be the common way we ask questions or engage someone.

5. Be early and generous in your acknowledgements
Acknowledging someone is a sure-fire way of creating rapport. However, that acknowledgement must be sincere and true. Do this as early as possible once they have entered your virtual room. I find that if we look for it, there are actually plenty that we can acknowledge someone for especially for the positive actions that they took. We can acknowledge someone for asking a question or commenting on something in the chat window. We could acknowledge someone for coming in early or on time. The simplest thing that we can do in a virtual session is acknowledging someone for switching on their video or even for muting themselves. Acknowledgement can also act as a reminder for others to model positive behaviour without reprimanding negative actions. Who doesn’t want sincere and honest acknowledgement, right?

6. First to say hi, last to say goodbye
Being on time and ready to greet someone is one of the simplest ways to create a positive first impression that leads to great rapport. Everyone loves the fact that the host is at hand to receive them. The same goes for virtual sessions. You being early speaking volumes on the importance of the session and the participants to you. When you allow your audience to wait for you, you are giving them an opportunity to draw some negative conclusions about who you are and who they are to you. Build a wonderful first impression that leads to great rapport at the very beginning of your virtual session. Be the first in the room to greet them and the last person to say goodbye to them.

7. Two ears and a mouth
There is a famous adage that says “There is a reason why God made two ears and only a mouth; is for us to listen more than to talk”. Well, as far as rapport is concerned, this is true 100%. Listening is an act of giving; giving time, attention and care. Listening also delivers a message; a message that says you matter, you are important, I want to understand and I am here for you. How can all these not build and nurture rapport? This is why in virtual facilitation, same as physical face-to-face facilitation, listening to your participants is very important and must be done more than you talk. Thank God for the practice of enquiring that makes listening easier to do. Therefore, ask more questions to understand when you are curious. After the question has been asked, pause to listen to the wonderful answer that reveals to you the person more and more.

As we start practising and thinking of other ways to create rapport online, always remember what Tony Robbins says about rapport, “Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world, to make him feel you understand him, that you have a strong common bond.” It is the glue to any engagement. Ignore it at your own peril.

Building a Healthy & Robust Community of Practice

Intent & Characteristics of a Community of Practice

If I were to look back at the progress neOOne has made these past 11 years, I would attribute it to three major factors which are, clarity of intent, faithful to a principle and the support of a Community of Practice (CoP). The first two are intrinsic while the last one is extrinsic.

It is extrinsic that requires careful consideration, unlike the intrinsic elements which are fully within our control. So, what is a CoP and what is required to build one?

By definition, a CoP is

“ a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to mutually grow, develop and advance in a shared domain. Community members have a shared domain of interest, competence and commitment that distinguishes them from others. This shared domain creates common ground to achieve the common objective of inspiring members to participate, guides their learning, and gives meaning to their actions.”

Therefore, according to the definition, the intent of a CoP is to mutually grow, develop and advance in a shared domain.

Within this definition, there is three main characteristics of a healthy CoP. These three characteristics are what is needed to be present in a healthy CoP and can help guide us in building one.

The first characteristic is “ a shared domain of interest”. For me, it is a prerequisite to becoming a member of a CoP. Without this primary characteristic, it will be difficult to be in a CoP. This characteristic can be used as a selection criterion for the members of the community. This doesn’t mean as a member of a CoP, you can’t have individual views and opinions. In fact, the diversity of thoughts, ideas and approaches within the shared domain of interest is encouraged for each member of the CoP to benefit fully from being in.

The second characteristic is “competency in the domain of interest”. Each member of a CoP has their very own competency in the domain of interest. This factor creates a mood of collaboration among the community. Members will inadvertently create symbiotic relationships with each other within the community rather than outside of the community. This is due to the given fact that they can trust each other due to the shared domain of interest as well as the open knowledge of each other’s competency.

The third characteristic is “commitment to enhancing each other’s development”. This commitment allows the free flow of information, insights and wisdom within the community. A sense of contribution also arises in the CoP. It is common to see the free exchange of ideas, input and knowledge in a CoP. When this characteristic is strong, you will see the CoP will grow mutually. This can be most rewarding.

As a CoP embodies all these three characteristics, authenticities, trust and genuine support will naturally develop within the community itself.

These characteristics can be created and built by anyone who is interested in building a CoP. These are not characteristics that come together coincidently. These characteristics can be nurtured deliberately.

There are five keys to building a CoP. These five keys can be represented by the acronym S.C.A.L.ESelection, Collaboration, Application, Learning, Engagement

Selection

Paramount to building a CoP is its membership. Therefore, the selection is an important task. It is vital that the members of the CoP have all the 3 main characteristics of a great CoP; a shared domain of interest, competency in the domain of interest and commitment to enhancing each other’s development. These characteristics can be detected by the CoP builder or nurtured before initiating into the CoP. Formal CoP will have built these characteristics into the joining criteria formally. However, for non-formal CoP, the builder will need to carefully sense who are eligible to be in the CoP. If the selection is done well, the CoP will grow healthy. Therefore, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to the membership of a CoP.

Collaboration

It is important for the CoP to be able to collaborate freely and autonomously with each other. Therefore, a CoP builder needs to create opportunities to collaborate among the members. These collaborations should be as far as possible self-governing among the parties collaborating, away from any stringent governance of the community. Maturity and a high level of trust are needed in this aspect. The aspect of collaboration must also be a natural and organic progression. It must not be an agenda to benefit only the CoP builder. The organic growth of collaboration will also nurture deep trust. This kind of trust is impossible to be doctored.

Application

Since one of the intents of a CoP is development and improvement, therefore, it is important for a CoP to be a fertile ground for application & deliberate practice. This can be achieved by having opportunities to apply their competency through requests and offers. Members of a CoP are ideal to be a focus or practice group because of the shared domain of interest. This allows robust and potent feedback for improving others’ competency. Members are free to request or offer opportunities to practice and improve. These opportunities can be for formal work or pro-bono. It is a “ willing buyer, willing seller” type of situation. These opportunities can come directly from members of CoP or indirectly through information and the connection of members to other opportunities out there.

Learning

Opportunities to continuously learn is vital in keeping a CoP fresh and relevant. As a builder, this can be achieved through a well-curated learning program that gives opportunities for the member of the CoP to participate and learn from each other. These opportunities must be varied and various so that everyone in the CoP feels Members of a CoP are ideal to be a focus or practice group because of the shared domain of interest. This allows robust and potent feedback for improving teaching others’ competency. Their learning need is taken care of. The learning opportunity can also come and be contributed by the member of the CoP themselves. When a CoP reaches the level where members contribute learning to one another, it indicates that the CoP is reaching maturity and ownership is beginning to be established because contribution becomes intuitive.

Engagement

As a CoP builder, it is important that engagement is continuous, deliberate and purposeful. One of the initiatives to engage that can be done is establishing a communication platform that is well managed. Some schools of thought discourage social interaction within the platform. I find a platform void of social interaction can be quite clinical and does not embody the spirit of a community. At the same time, an over social platform can also negate the intent of the CoP. Therefore, a dose of social interaction is encouraged and must be governed by mutually agreed rules of engagement. The other factor that also needs to be taken into consideration in managing an engagement platform is the frequency of the engagement. A nice balance is ideal; not too active and not too sparse. Engagement is also important in identifying the right individuals for a CoP. This kind of engagement also provides an opportunity for the public to be enticed.

With these five keys, the three main characteristics of a healthy CoP can be nurtured. The three main characteristics will also provide us with indicators of whether our CoP is healthy or not. Hopefully, building a CoP will no more be a guessing game but one that can be done deliberately by using the five keys to building a healthy CoP which is represented by the exitance of the three main characteristics.

Of Self-Motivation and Affirmation

Let’s talk about self-motivation first.

As usual, the very first question that comes up for me when investigating such concepts is the distinction. The easiest way to start looking at distinction is to look at the definition of the keywords/phrases in the concept. In this instance, the word is self-motivation.

Of course, they are numerous definitions out there; each with its own nuances. Comparing these definitions will give us the distinction of the concept.

One definition of self-motivation is “… the ability to drive oneself to take initiative and action to pursue goals and complete tasks. It’s an inner drive to take action — to create and to achieve. It’s what pushes you to keep going on tasks… “ (soulsalt.com)

Another definition is “… the force that keeps pushing us to go on – it’s our internal drive to achieve, produce, develop, and keep moving forward. When you think you’re ready to quit something, or you just don’t know how to start, your self-motivation is what pushes you to go on.” (mindtools.com)

So with just these two definitions, we now know a few distinctions about self-motivation.

·     It comes from within. If it comes from the outside, it is not self-motivation.

·     It pushes you to take action. If it just gets you excited without action, it is not self-motivation.

·     It keeps you going. If it gets to you take action and not continue, it is not self-motivation.

·     It has an objective. If it doesn’t get you to focus on a goal, it is not self-motivation.

There could be other items in the distinction but I feel, for now, these suffice for general use.

Now that we know the distinctions, my next question is how do we get self-motivated?

To answer this question, one way is to look at how we get demotivated. If we can identify how we get demotivated, we can also find a way to motivate ourselves.

Some of you must be asking “But why not look at what demotivates us instead of the how?” The answer is, yes, we can do that too. Once we know what demotivates us, we still need to know how those elements affect us.

So, how do we get demotivated? An interesting question yet the answer is somewhat simple and obvious based on the distinction of self-motivation. For some of us, we will not like the answer while for some, not on we do not like it, we will resist it.

The answer to how we get demotivated is our self-talk! This means we are the ones that talk our self into being demotivated. We talk our self out of being motivated because by nature we are motivated. It is inherent in all of us. It is we who demotivates our self; not other people, situations or even circumstances. These might be the trigger but never the cause. We cause it to happen, nothing more, nothing less. No one is to blame. We are fully responsible for being demotivated. This is the blunt truth. That is why I said earlier that some of us might not like it or even resist it.

Now, back to how do we overcome this? How do we have healthier self-talk?

One of the ways is what we call affirmation. Affirmation is loosely defined as positive self-talk.

There are numerous ways to craft an affirmation.

One popular way is to state the final outcome of what you want. Say, for example, you want to be the best salesperson in your company and right now you are not that yet. So the affirmation is “I am the best salesperson in my company.” This method is easy yet some believe this is not the best way because sublimely you know you are not yet you say you are.

Therefore, the other way is to craft an affirmative statement that you believe in besides stating the outcome. Therefore, the affirmation will be “I am heading towards being the best salesperson in my company.”

Personally, I like this third method. In this method, the positive and negative self-talk is stated to affirm us of what to do and what not to do. Many a time we have a positive affirmation but we still fall into negative self-talk because we are not cautious of what is not. Some feel this way is not effective because we still bring the negative into being. This is true yet it is remedied by the way the affirmation is structured, making sure the positive comes after the negative. Therefore, the affirmation is “I am not the best yet but I am on the way to being the best salesperson in my company.” If you notice, this statement sounds ‘truer’ as we say it. This statement is more believable and that is actually the power of an affirmation. The believability of an affirmation is vital in adjusting our self-talk. The addition of the word but also allows us to negate it, making the first part of the affirmation loses its power.

As an entrepreneur, I would like to share the affirmation that I have been using all these years to keep me going. It is in the graphic above. It has served me well, not only in my entrepreneurship journey but also in my personal life. It is a constant reminder of what not to do and what it is that I need to do. If this can help you, please feel free to use it in its entirety or modify it according to your needs.

May we keep moving forward to achieve what we desire in life.

Enhancing Energy & Engagement in Learning Sessions

When I was a trainer-in-training some 18 odd years ago, I was exposed to various Theory and Methodology of training. At that time, all of us called it T&M for short and indeed the way we were taught the T&Ms were also coincidently ‘short’; as in concise. The T&M condensed in to interesting learning posters. We taught using these posters as hooks so that we can internalise them easier. Boy, did it work. I can still remember and more importantly apply them till today.

There was one T&M called Experiential Learning. It was presented in the form of a learning poster similar to the one here. There are three major points to this poster.

Point 1: RA-RA

This T&M tells us that learning requires energy from the learner as well as the trainer. We were made to appreciate that in order for the learner to have the optimum energy for learning, we the trainer has to be the creator and source of the energy. We were taught to never expect the learner to embody a certain ways of being if we as trainers are not willing to do the same.

Point 2: HA-HA

Once energy is present in the learning space, it becomes more fun. Here, fun doesn’t mean just the humorous, funny, hilarious kind of fun. Interesting is also considered as fun. Without energy, learner will not be having fun or an interest in what is being ‘taught’.

Point 3: A-HA

Now that fun and interest is present in the learning space, learning moments will come on their own. Lightbulbs will pop for learners along the way and relevancy to them is created. Ultimately learners fell the time they invested is well worth it.

Ra-Ra, Ha-Ha, A-Ha Model

According to the T&M, all the above can achieved by the trainer facilitating self-discovery of the learning and not by preaching it into the learners. They learners need to be involved in finding it out themselves. They need to arrive to their very own learning.

Another tip is to deploy the technique show and not tell. Yes, you read it right. It is not Show and tell. It is Show and Not Tell J This technique promotes the trainer as the person that shows the way to learning but doesn’t dictate or tell what the learning is. Show the learner the way to the learning and they will learn themselves.

The last tip in tis T&M is to incorporate some form of reflective practice so that the participants can derive to their own conclusion and learning. These are well documented and proven techniques that facilitates a learner to investigate his or her own learning in a personalised and meaningful way.

This T&M has been one of my go to methodology when I design trainings.

As much as this T&M helps, it also opens up an interesting conversation about learning energy or learners engagement. How do we, as trainers, design and determine our activities to fully support engagement in the learning space? This is an important strategy because learners come with various state of energy.

Let’s investigate this issue further.

First, we need to start at what is learning energy? How does it show up in a space? Is learning energy directly proportional to how active a learner is?

Base on my own experience, I feel there are two elements that represent learning energy; participation and focus. These two elements interacts and creates 4 permutation as shown by the matrix on the right.

Learner Engagement

This four quadrant exist in any form of training.

We as participants also have been in these quadrants before.

In fact, our engagement in the learning space dynamic and we regularly go in and out of a few quadrants in the duration of a workshop.

We, as learners, also start a trainings from one of these quadrant. There were days or trainings that we come in as a willing player. Other times we come in as a silent player. We sometimes start a training with low engagement and at time with high engagement.

As designers of learning, knowing this engagement dynamic is very important. Our focus is of course to move our learners all into the top right (TR) quadrant since that is where learning is exponential because of high focus and high activity allowing learning to be absorbed deeper individually and community learning ignited collectively where learners learn from peers.

In order to create this impact, it has to be deliberately designed.

Let’s first look at the circumstance that surround the participant in each quadrant.

Understanding Learner Circumstances

Typically, the bottom left (BL) is the quadrant that represents participants that doesn’t want to be in the training or know why they are there. This leads them to be low in focus and not very active. They are just waiting till the end of the workshop and counting the minutes. Some of us describe this quadrant as prisoners.

The top left (TL) is the quadrant that represents participants that are naturally active. However, they are also like the BL quadrant, unsure of why they are there. Their kind of learning energy is very active. This group obviously are engaged yet in terms of learning, they might need some support. The good news is this group are open to what they will get in the training. They only need a little bit of help clarifying why they are there and what can they get out of the workshop.

The bottom right (BR) is the quadrant that represents participants that are clear of what they want out of the workshop and therefore are focus on the learning. Even though they are focused, they are not naturally active in the workshop but are engaged with the learning. The reason why they are not active could be shy, don’t know how to be active, are not risk takers, introverted etc. There is learning energy however it is a passive kind of energy. This quadrant is perfectly fine and they will derive learning from the workshop. At the same time, they could learn and contribute more to the learning of others if they are more active. We could see this quadrant as untapped learning resource; would be a waste to not utilise them to be exponent of learning.

The top right (TR) is the quadrant that represents participants that are active and have clarity of what they want from the workshop. That later is why they are focused. The reason for their active involvement could be due to their personality, extraverted, excitement for learning etc. Their active nature also contributes hugely to the community of learners in the workshop making learning exponential by creating multiple source of learning. As a designer, you would want to design your activities and processes to move all the participants into this quadrant.

Now that we know some of the circumstance that makes a person be in one of the quadrants, we can now design processes and activities to move them from the quadrant with low engagement (BL)  & low focus on learning (TL) to the quadrants with high engagement (TR and BR). Ultimately, moving them into the most optimum quadrant in terms of engagement and learning; the top right (TR) quadrant.

Let’s now look at some strategy in designing processes and activities to achieve higher engagement in our workshops and trainings.

Designing Engagement

We are all aware, designing involves not only the session but also the pre and post session. In some circumstance, these two phases can be even more important than the learning session itself. There have been instances that the failure of designing a Pre-session has been the downfall of a learning session. The same is true where there have been instances the success of a learning session is credited to the initiatives that was design for after the learning session.

PSP Model

Taking the awareness that design doesn’t just apply to the learning session alone, let us now look at what can we do in our design to increase engagement in reference to the quadrants the participants are in.

Let’s start with what can we design for the bottom left (BL) quadrant. This quadrant is relatively small for paid public programs because the participants are already ready to learn prior to stepping into the training. That is why they sign-up in the first place. Of course they are still possibilities of learners being in this quadrant for a public program when they are ‘forced’ by their company to attend. However, the same can’t be said for an in-house program. The probability of this quadrant being bigger is always there because of poor onboarding, a sense of being ‘forced’ to attend, part of their KPI or PDP etc.

This quadrant can be mitigated prior to the workshop with a thorough internal selection process as well as a comprehensive onboarding initiative. This is an ideal example of how important a pre-session initiative is so important to the success of a training session. Saying all that, there are also interventions that can be done during the session itself for example context set, session framing, what’s in it for me, Focus Intent, Socratic method, levelling down exercises can increase relevancy and focus. Activities such as scheduled sharing, solo-pair-group work, designated & rotated roles & responsibility can increase activity and participation.

As for the top left (TL) quadrant, reflective practices, guided journaling, buddy work, group work etc can support the learners in this quadrant to increase their focus in the session.

The bottom right (BR) quadrant is not a critical quadrant to work on since they are focus on their learning. It is only that they are not as active and this can be an opportunity loss to the whole class. Their wisdom, learning and comprehension could be valuable for the rest of the learners. Therefore, it will be great to increase their level of participation through solo assignments, buddy work, compulsory presentation etc.

Engagement by Design not by Chance

In conclusion, a trainer needs to be aware of the circumstances of the learner and using design , manage their level of engagement. It is never the job or responsibility of the learner to be engaged. It is always the trainer’s responsibility to design an environment that increases their desire and motivation to engage with others. There is no room to blame learners because they don’t know any better. It is up to us as the owner of the learning space to create engagement.

Is Luck really Luck? I think NOT!

Monday Musing: Over the years, neOOne has been described, from time to time, to be lucky; being at the right place at the right time, in the 11 years of our entrepreneurship journey. The word LUCK is a very interesting word for me and I have a POV of it.

My examination of the word LUCK started in my first year of university way back in 1987. Even though I took engineering (yeap. believe it or not), my interest was diverse. It was in this period that I got introduced to some of the management & leadership gurus such as Drucker, Carnegie, Maxwell, Covey, Kotler, Iacooca and Peters.

It was Tom Peters that got me thinking about the concept of LUCK. In one of his books, he wrote that the harder we work, the luckier we will get. This got me to examine it and throughout my life, I’ve constantly discovered other similar truths about LUCK be it in personal growth, philosophy, neuroscience, biographies etc.

In essence, there is no such thing as luck. It is just a concept that exists to make us feel good about missing out on opportunities that we were not prepared for. It is a remedy for our procrastination and an excuse to justify our lack of preparation, planning and execution.

PRACTICE IS POINTLESS

Practice is pointless unless…

Yes. You read right. Practice is not effective towards mastery.

We have been conditioned to think that practice is the way to mastering something (such as skills) with quotes especially the popular quote “Practice Makes Perfect”. Some people even modified this by changing the word perfect to progress. Yet, both are misleading.

Practice makes perfect

Not many people know that there is a second part to the above quote which will give a hint why the quote is misleading. The second part also gives us the hint towards what is effective.

The second part of this quote was revealed to me by my late mentor, Mark Hemstedt in a Mastery class that he did years ago. He repeated it when I was being trained to train the trainers of the Malaysian National Service. And this concept was again iterated to me by my design mentor Ken Ito when he headed a design team I was in that was tasked with crafting the pre-national service module.

The second part of this quote is better to read with the first part for us to appreciate the whole quote in its entirety. The two-part quote reads; “Practice makes perfect, therefore, be careful what you practice”. 

Practice makes perfect, therefore …

This quote reminds us that there are different types of practice and that not all practice creates the desired outcome (effective). If we practice what is bad, we will then be very good at it while if we practice what is good, we will be good at that. Therefore, the epiphany is that we must be aware of what we are practising.

The awareness concept in practice leads us to the concept that what makes practice effective is not just any practice but it has to be a deliberate practice where we are aware, mindful and conscious that we are practising something. If we are not conscious or not deliberate in our practice, we might very well end up creating bad habits which are not effective.

So, based on this, it is not practice that improves and make us better or get us to mastery but deliberate practice.

In that case, what is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice is a process and takes the form of a loop. In deliberate practice we first must have intent; why are we practising. Next, we must have the action that we are practising; the what. The next step in deliberate practice is feedback from practitioners that appreciates the same distinction and context as what you are practising. Last in deliberate practice is debrief. From the debrief, a new intent is established and the loop continues.

Deliberate Practice The path to mastery

Out of the 4 criteria of deliberate practice, I feel the last two; feedback and debrief needs a little bit of unpacking because the other three seems to be straightforward and self-explanatory.

Let’s now unpack feedback.

The one query I always get is why must feedback be given by those that appreciate the distinction and context of what is being practised? Can’t feedback be given by those that do not have the same distinction and context as you? Of course, you can. However, the fidelity of the feedback is less. The fidelity of your feedback is determined by two factors; the quantity and quality of the feedback. The quantity provides you with the severity or magnitude pointing to a pattern while the quality of the feedback give specificity. The quality of the feedback is influenced by who is giving the feedback. The quality of the feedback increases significantly if the person giving the feedback base the feedback on shared distinction and context. The quality decreases when it is given by someone who doesn’t know or privy to the distinctions and context of the practice.

Feedback Fidelity

Let’s take for example a chef that is trying out a new dish. He can get some feedback from the customer no doubt because ultimately they are the end-user. However, in improving the dish, the chef will have better input if the feedback is given by other chefs. Achieving Mastery of the new dish requires a high degree of feedback fidelity.

A customer might be able to only give feedback that is limited or shallow like nice, delicious, good, I like it etc. However, another chef can elaborate on what is good, what ingredients is missing or need to be enhanced or what is just right. They can even make suggestions of various ways to reach the desired outcome the chef wants from the new dish. There is more depth in another chef’s feedback because they share the same distinction and context of cooking.

Let us now unpack the last criteria; debrief.

The debrief part of deliberate practice follows the conventional, established phases of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle – reflect on the debrief, make sense of them and decide on the next course of action. Once the debrief is done, we then set our intent and the loop of deliberate practice continues until the desired outcome is eventually met.

As we head toward mastery in various areas of our life, we need to remember and apply deliberate practice and not just practice (or even worse – practice for practice sake) so that we can be effective in our journey.

The Nuance of Being a Winner

“Focus on Winning not on Winners” is a saying that has such a profound message about the attitude of winning. 

Why focus on winning and not winners? Is it true that we should not focus our sights on the winner? Are they not what we want to be therefore shouldn’t we focus on them? These are valid questions to ask about being a winner. Let us take a step back and examine what has been the norm and how what we have been exposed to as a culture of winning might have just taken a wrong turn despite the best of intentions.

Now, how many of you, like me, over the years have joined and been part of what is contextually a marketing network? It could be a product or service and I do include insurance and unit trust in this category.

My experience in this endeavour has been a positive one. In fact, in hindsight, I can trace back what I am doing right in terms of competency and maturity having its roots to the days I was involved in Amway. It was my training ground for better things. So this is not about dishing network marketing. I choose it as a prevailing example of good intent taking a wrong turn when it comes to nurturing a winning culture.

So, in network marketing, it is the norm that winners are highlighted and celebrated in a HUGE way. Don’t get me wrong, they should because of what they have achieved. Almost all leaders in this sort of endeavour use these winners as inspiration. Again nothing wrong with this. They should be an example and inspiration. Now, this is where the turn happens.

These winners, unknowing to them, are now not only used as inspiration but also as a benchmark of what is a winner! Therefore, the culture of winning is no longer about winning but is about beating a winner; focusing on the winner rather than the winning itself. Now, inadvertently, winning is about beating or bettering someone else. This nuance is dangerous and base on my experience is a slippery slope that many people do not survive (Notice the no of people dropping from the game).

So, why did this detour happen without leaders realizing it?

Let examine the context of winning. Inherent in the word winning itself, there is a contextual element that has lazily been implemented. The meaning of winning comes with it a connotation of a competition. If it is a competition, then there must be a contest that denotes there is an opponent. If there must be an opponent in a competition for winning to take place, therefore, a least another person must be present and what better way of motivating people to win or creating a winning culture than competing with another winner. Therefore, winning is now being used to mean beating someone else. This is the lazy way of instilling a winning culture and has produced an unhealthy concept of being a winner; in order for me to win, someone needs to be beaten; someone needs to lose.

The above scenario has made wining all about focusing on the winner. However, that is not what winning is all about. 

Yes, winning is about competition but not with someone else. If winning is about someone else, then it is very unhealthy. It is unhealthy because it becomes a destination to reach not a pursuit to undergo. In this winning culture, once you have beaten the other person, the winning stops. Very transactional, not transformational, not continuous.

Winning is about competition with oneself. If this is the context, the opponent is always you. Thus winning becomes a continuous pursuit; a culture. Winning is about setting personal benchmarks and constantly achieving them and repeating the process again. Have you ever wondered why athletes have personal bests? They are obsessed with bettering their personal best; thriving at overcoming self-limits to be a better and best version of themselves. That is what the culture of winning looks like at its best.

If this is the kind of winning culture we have, we are constantly in a mode of improvement for improvement sake. We self-plan, we self-motivate and we keep playing the game for a lifetime. We see it as a never-ending game. Fulfilment is in the pursuit and not achieving a particular destination which by the way is just a fleeting moment.

If we focus on winning, we plan to beat the game. We even go further and invent our own game. If winning is about beating someone, we are not playing our game; we will be playing the winner’s game. We will be to playing someone else’s game. Once we achieve that thing we call a win, everything stops because we have beaten the winner and there is no more game since we didn’t invent the game. The end. How is this empowering?

When winning is about focusing on other winners, people over time get demotivated and eventually drops out of the game. As for those that make it, we have also seen them dropping out once they have achieved a win because they didn’t invent the game that they won thus after winning, they don’t know what else is there. The game has stopped. I am sure leaders in network marketing see this too often. Of course, this is also true in any industry.

Maybe we should start celebrating winning; focus on winning instead of winners if we want to create a sustainable-empowering culture of winning that creates true winners.

Therefore, if you want to build a culture of winning and create perpetual winners, build a culture of focusing on winning not on other winners. Get inspired by other winners, for sure but focus on winning your game and not focusing on beating the winners.

Evolution of A Trainer

aka What does a trainer really need to do nowadays and in the future?

We hear about the buzz of Industry 4.0. Especially for trainers, the question that should accompany this buzz is what are we doing to respond (note the word respond rather than react) to this? We as trainers will also need to evolve because we might still be stuck in a time tunnel not able to grow to what is happening out there.

This was evident when I had a short conversation with someone that is relatively new in training. She actually revealed her lack of understanding of the current state of learning and development when she said learning design is a bonus as a trainer that is a subject matter expert (SME). This is rather sad because this is exactly the time tunnel I was talking about. I say nowadays it takes more than just being an SME to become a trainer; a credible trainer with learning impact that is.

Gone were the days just because you are an SME, therefore you can train. This archaic mindset makes people think training is easy. This mindset is damaging to learning and people development because it disregards the focus on learning and emphasis that learning is all about extracting information from an expert.

I do have compassion for her because she doesn’t know any better and not surrounded by people that know. She jumped into training thinking it is enough to do so just by being an SME. Unfortunately, it takes more than just being an SME to be a credible trainer who is creating a learning impact. At the same time, I am thankful to her because she is a demonstration of what is prevalent out there about what training is. This has inspired me to pen and share my thoughts on the Evolution of a Trainer.

This evolution also is parallel to the evolution of learning & development we are seeing in the workforce. Clients are calling for more innovation in learning to fit to the ever changing work environment such as new generations entering the workforce, decentralisation of the geographical location of work, the speed of business transactions, etc. All these work issues requires different concepts and approaches to learning such as Agile Learning Design, Facilitative Training, Hybrid Learning etc. All these requires learning design. How can we become effective trainers if we are unable to design learning to suit the needs of our audience? There is no separating ‘lagu and irama’. The same applies to training; no separating ‘learning and design’ unless you focus as a trainer is not on learning but on delivering information. If this is the case, there is no room for learning design in training.

Maybe in the future, the word trainer will disappear and what will replace it will be a more appropriate and meaningful term such as a Learning and Development specialist or an L&D Practitioner. This term will truly speaks of the focus of the work we do which is not just in providing learning but also in providing developmental solutions. One thing for sure, the role of a trainer as just a provider of knowledge or even worst the custodian on knowledge is longggggggg gone.