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  • May 14, 2018 9:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Rhonda Sharpe, Instructional Designer at Educators Credit Union.

                             They say…

    It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.

    They are wrong – It is what you say AND how you say it.

    You may have a very important message; however, if the delivery fails, nothing has been gained.

    As trainers, our job is not to put the audience to sleep (usually) but to engage and excite them into action. Active listening is a key communication skill – but what happens on the other end? Don’t you find yourself having difficulty actively listening to someone speaking in monotone?

    We spend a considerable amount of time selecting the best font styles, the best activities, engaging scenarios when developing our training courses. But how much time or effort do we invest attending to our own vocal skills?

     For many, the answer is not a lot. Speaking comes naturally and most of us in the training field have a lot to say. Have you ever wondered what your audience hears (and perceives) when you present?

    Your voice is an important tool and it deserves to be trained properly. What is it worth to you to have your message and your vocal abilities in sync? Join ATD on Friday, May 18th and invest in your voice!

    About the Author

    Rhonda Sharpe is currently an Instructional Designer with Educators Credit Union. She has a variety of experiences as a  student, project manager, e-merchandising specialist and educator. This has allowed her to develop and maintain collaborative partnerships with diverse audiences in business, non-profit and higher education settings. She applies adult learning theories and project management concepts to ensure timely and accurate completion of  all her projects/presentations/training programs. She is committed to all learners at every level.


  • March 27, 2018 3:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Mark Brewer, Senior Organizational Development Manager at Milwaukee Tool, and SEWI-ATD VP of Special Projects.

    This is generally a good time of year to talk about Performance Management. More specifically, performance reviews/appraisals. Often we are called upon in our profession to develop the training and/or communications for an organization's performance management process, a process traditionally conducted once annually like a Polar Bear Plunge, but with all the anticipation of a trip to the dentist. Our focus – whether training or communication or both – can sometimes be heavy on process, policy and system: how and when to complete the necessary steps to be in compliance with the organization's expectations. In others words: how to fill out that d@#$%d form, and when.

    When we try to quantify something that is inherently subjective we are only being human, but we all know it's a flawed exercise. Assigning a numerical value to measure the relative value of human activity? Don’t think for a minute there’s anyone who doesn’t see the folly in that. But for most organizations it is a "necessary evil."

    In spite of this we hold in our hands the power to influence a constructive mindset about performance management. We can help managers and employees rise above perceptions of the administrative nature of the beast they see and not let that drag them down into a sense of meaninglessness. We can influence them to think bigger, to view this annual event as punctuation on a year-long continuous conversation about development and performance.

    And it isn’t necessary to change or get rid of a cumbersome system in order to help managers and employees think differently about what they are doing and why. The once-a-year performance management process and an everyday performance management mindset are not incompatible. (Anyone who says “I can’t because the system doesn’t allow…” is just making excuses.) There’s always room for introducing and reinforcing the behaviors that make the difference between the dread of a long-deferred visit to the dentist and a happy healthy smile.

    Consider three simple practices:

    1. Everyday conversation

    2. Focus on future

    3. Modeling feedback

    Everyday conversation. Label it “everyday coaching” if you wish but let’s help managers and employees alike recognize that there is an organic interaction taking place with others every minute of every day. No one operates in isolation. Often, performance is a part of that interaction whether it is deliberate or not. Deformalize performance discussions and feedback by persuading employees to see that it is already a part of everyday conversation.

    I hear you: "they aren’t having those conversations." But they are! In subtle, nuanced and completely unintentional ways performance is being discussed every day on the job. We can help people see it. We don’t need to design a training program to help managers have conversations with their employees! (We do, of course, because that’s what we do. How’s that working out for you so far?)

    Show them how to recognize those conversations where they live already, and to “leverage” them. Talking about performance with an employee – positively and constructively – should NOT be a planned event! It can be, sure. But if that’s the only way we view it, it will never become the meaningful continuous performance discussion we all dream of.

    Focus on future. In every conversation, in all feedback, in every performance review, stop focusing on what cannot be changed (the past) and start focusing on what CAN be changed – the future. Yes, it’s intuitive. But performance management processes often force us to look back because the organization must evaluate performance. Past performance.

    We can shift the balance. The only reason for examining the past is to inform the future, to change behaviors that haven’t happened yet. Is it not the goal of every manager, every leader, to

    IMPROVE performance? You can’t improve yesterday, only tomorrow. We can cultivate this thinking in just about every sort of training and communication we create. We have the power to influence this.

    Modeling feedback. We’ve all heard it by now: the phrase “I have some feedback for you” seems to trigger the same primitive fight or flight response in our brains that we experienced when the Sabre-Toothed Tiger roared outside our ancestors’ caves. Why? Because we’re trained to assume feedback is bad. Why? Because we seem to get “feedback” only when we’ve screwed up. Instead of training mangers to give better feedback, lets help managers (and employees) MODEL good feedback. Not just in the giving of it, but in the receiving.

    Giving feedback becomes easier and more natural when the receiver encourages it, asks for it, looks forward to it. Managers can create that environment by modeling a positive, constructive attitude about soliciting and receiving feedback themselves. Picture a hypothetical manager saying “See? That wasn’t so bad was it? Now you do it.”

    There’s much we can do from our talent development platform that can call out and reinforce these sorts of behaviors in the workplace, and it doesn’t always have to be in the form of formal training or process. That it bubbles up most often during the annual performance review spectacle isn’t a bad thing. Think of it not as a reminder of what we haven’t been able to do, but as a reminder of what we can do.

    About the Author

    Mark Brewer is a Talent Development professional with over 25 years of corporate experience. After a short career as a high school English teacher Mark earned a master’s degree in Instructional Design at Florida State University and began his corporate career at Arthur Andersen designing operational and interpersonal skills training for the Audit practice. By the time he moved to Motorola University his focus had turned primarily to Management and Leadership development. With Kohl’s Department Stores Mark was engaged in management training, performance management process, talent management and succession planning strategy, and executive coaching and development.

    Currently Mark serves as an adjunct instructor for UW’s Center for Professional and Executive Development and a Senior Organizational Development Manager with Milwaukee Tool. His professional passion is helping business leaders become more confident and more proficient in developing their organizations’ talent.


  • January 29, 2018 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Matthew Meuleners, Leadership Trainer and Consultant at FOCUS Training, and SEWI-ATD VP of Community Relations.


    Career development planning is a hard concept for many employees to wrap their heads around - and the execution of that plan can be even more 
    daunting. As Talent leaders, it often falls to us to coach employees (or their leaders) through the process of reflection and consequently creating the vision required to position someone for next steps. One simple idea I go back to again and again, is the Personal Brand Story.

    What is a Personal Brand?

    It is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. ... Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.

    In most instances, when it’s time to hire or fill a leadership position, we don’t tend to choose the mysterious stranger. Our risk-averse brains tell us to lean towards the familiar, a person to whom we can relate. Not only do we want to understand what we are getting, but we also want to know their story and what to expect – a personal brand offers a shortcut for these choices.

    Image, reputation, brand…whatever you choose to call it, the impression that others in your professional sphere have of you can be a key driver of how they respond to you. But a powerful brand is more than a list of features. It tells a story.

    As a Talent Professional, here are a few tips you can share with employees and their leaders in your organization:

    Crafting your brand story

    • Reflect for value: Think back about each of your significant professional experiences. Where did you start your professional journey? Because of the roles that you filled along your journey, what can you now do? What do you know? What have you seen?
    • Differentiate yourself: What sets you apart from the rest of those who are pursuing the same goals and career? It doesn’t have to be unique to the world, just unique to the competitive space.
    • Transition with intention: Be prepared to discuss the space between experiences. What led you from one job to the next? Why did you make this career move at this time?
    • Project forward momentum: Your story doesn’t end today. Describe where you are headed next from a professional growth perspective. What are you hoping to learn or achieve?

    These best practices can help build a brand story that is both engaging and authentic. 

    Also consider how to use tools like LinkedIn to document your story in real time. Investing a little time in reflecting and updating every few months can save you from the arduous task of trying to remember years of work at a time - typically under a deadline because you are only thinking about this in response to an opportunity that just popped up.

    So, next time you find yourself coaching someone through their next career step, ask them to tell you a story!


    About the Author

    Matt Meuleners has more than 18 years of experience as a Talent Development professional. He is a leadership trainer who is known for his ability to drill into an organization’s challenges. As Executive Partner with FOCUS Training, Matt focuses on corporate leadership and new product development. His specialties are: Training program design and delivery, consulting on leadership development and training, development of corporate mentoring programs, training audits, presentation skills coaching.

    Matt holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, School of Business Administration.

  • November 21, 2017 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Andy Marris, Learning & Development Manager at MRA, and SEWI-ATD President

    Brainstorming imageWhen someone uses the word “brainstorm,” what comes to mind? The Google Dictionary gives an idealistic definition… “a spontaneous group discussion to produce ideas and ways of solving problems.” If one truly considers the reality of how this “group discussion,” typically plays itself out, however, one is much more likely to have the perception that brainstorming is a well-intentioned ideation session that instead degenerates into one of dominance, condescension, and ironically, very few good ideas. Once again, the age-old axiom is proven true… “The road to hell is paved by good intentions.”

    Comments such as, “That will never work,” “That’s a stupid idea,” or “We tried that already,” are commonplace in brainstorming sessions. Comments like these unfortunately lead to some of the best ideas remaining between the ears of previously scolded participants. Moreover, introverted contributors may have wonderful ideas, but are often overshadowed and even dominated by the most boisterous participants in the room, as well. These issues end up leading to a few, rapidly-offered ideas, that were not necessarily well-thought through, and the group ends up going with a mediocre idea because it was the best one of a bad lot. Sound familiar? There is a better way!

    The Nominal Group Technique (NGL) is not new, but it is astonishing how many business professionals are unaware of the concept. In MRA’s Supervision Fundamentals series, NGL is repackaged as the “Circle Six” technique (the number doesn’t actually matter—MRA Minnesota classrooms have six chair tables, and when read aloud, it sounds like an alliteration, hence, “Circle Six”). It is the best way to capture a large about of terrific ideas, and as the famous scientist, Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to get a great idea, is to have lots of ideas.” Here are the simple (yet profound), steps…

    1. Leader appoints someone in the group to capture the ideas on a notepad, flipchart, or marker board (the scribe)

    2. Leader posts the question to be solved (such as “How can we generate more revenue in 2018?”)

    3. Leader gives all participants 2 minutes to ponder the question and write down all ideas that come to mind – with a few rules…

    a. No talking; Just thinking and writing as the ideas come

    b. No self-deprecation; Write all ideas no matter how silly they may seem

    c. Take the full 120 seconds; sometimes the best ideas come when there is no pressure to perform (think Archimedes in his bathtub… Eureka!)

    4. Once time is up, the leader asks each participant to simply read the top line item on his/her page, thanks them, and moves to the next participant – with a few more rules…

    a. No commenting in any way (positive or negative) or face removal from the group – Even a positive “Good idea,” comment tells other participants who didn’t hear such praise that their idea was not as good-which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

    b. Leader only thanks participant for his/her contribution, being careful not to comment, either

    c. Leader contributes last each time around the circle, so as to not encourage “group think”

    5. Scribe captures all ideas in writing

    6. Leader goes around the circle until everyone is out of ideas on their lists and all “pass”

    7. Leader reads scribe’s list to group, so it hears the ideas a second time

    8. Leader gives group 2 more minutes to think and write down any additional ideas that were triggered by the list – Sometimes the best ideas come as a piggy-back to another one (even one that would have been labeled a “stupid idea” on its face)

    9. Leader and scribe repeat steps 4-7, continuing the moratorium on comments

    10. Group then multi-votes on what they think the best ideas are, giving a 5 to the best idea, a 3 to the second best, and finally a 1 to the third best idea

    11. When the votes are tallied, great ideas rise like cream to the top, and often the participants are excited and engage on how many great ideas were generated

    There are several reasons NGT works so well. First, it truly values everyone’s ideas and contributions. It also eliminates the killer phrases that shut down well-intentioned brainstorming sessions. People that need time to process, have it, and those with a quick answer are still allowed to do so, writing the idea instead of blurting it out. Giving the process a second round usually produces less total answers than the first round, but it often produces some of the best ideas the group is able to generate. At a recent training filled with analytical engineers, the group went from one mediocre idea to 47 outstanding ones, just by implementing the NGT technique.

    Famous comedians often get the request from a well-meaning fan to “say something funny.” Without a prepared response, they often fail at the request. Seasoned comedians have a comment ready when the request invariably comes again. In a similar way, the NGT allows people to have the time and the freedom to come up with great ideas, without the risk of being put on the spot or insulted. Try it at your next “brainstorm,” and you’ll be amazed at what the team uncovers.


    About the Author

    Photo of Andy MarrisWith more than 15 years of business management, marketing, and leadership experience in the sports broadcasting, financial services, health care, information technology, and human resources industries, Andy Marris draws on his knowledge and experiences to help managers sharpen their leadership skills and business acumen. As a former graduate- and undergraduate-level business and marketing instructor, Andy discovered his passion for adult learning through fun, interactive, “real world” education. Andy's love of leadership development led him to his current role as a full-time talent development instructor in MRA—The Management Association's Institute of Management. Whether he is working with first-time supervisors, or seasoned leaders seeking continuous skill-set improvement, Andy makes the learning experience one that is measurable, memorable, and motivational.         

    Andy holds a masters in business administration and a bachelors in organizational communication.


  • October 31, 2017 12:29 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)

    On November 1st, R.W. Baird, in collaboration with SEWI-ATD, will host an exciting event: Bite-sized Micro-learning . In this article by Asha Pandy, you'll discover 5 great examples of using microlearning-based training effectively.

  • October 12, 2017 7:16 AM | Mark Brewer

    Written by Guest Blogger, Mark Brewer, Experienced Talent Development Professional and 2018 SEWI-ATD VP of Special Projects.

    Do you listen to yourself?  Our family of professions is sometimes (rightly) accused of using jargon, HR-speak, Consultant-speak or psycho-babble. I suspect it doesn’t exactly open our clients’ hearts and minds to us. I saw an example this week. A bullet in a training slide read “Cognition precedes behavior.” The audience was a mixed group of managers from a variety of professions.  One of a hundred bullets on dozens of slides, I’m betting that one flew right over their heads.  Not because they aren’t smart enough to get it, but because the author made it unnecessarily difficult to get it. A simple and important idea fell by the wayside.  Why throw up barriers?  I’d like to think I would have gone with “Thinking precedes action,” or maybe even “We think before we do.” But I’m better at critiquing others than myself.

    Big words don’t impress. They build walls. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.  Just use little words please.

    (Oh yeah, and turn off the lights when you leave!)

  • September 12, 2017 8:19 AM | Brian Mason (Administrator)

    Today we continue the theme on budgeting. 

    How do executives see the learning and development budget? Is it a cost, an investment, or a combination of the two?

    Find out here what Jack and Patti Phillips recommends to do when the "gorilla" shows up and you're in a precarious position.

  • September 09, 2017 3:09 PM | Brian Mason (Administrator)

    Please join us September 14th for The Next Big Thing!, a mind-expanding event where you'll hear from experts in the talent development field who share some leading-edge applications and best practices, as well as their thoughts on technology and learning in the future.  Register here!

    In preparation for the event, review the top facts you should know about training reinforcement from the makers of Mindmarker, one of the applications you’ll see at The Next Big Thing!


  • September 06, 2017 5:43 PM | Brian Mason (Administrator)
    It’s tough to ask for money if you can’t clearly articulate how it fits into the overarching learning strategy. Before building your budget, account for the various projects, deliverables and initiatives that are in progress and on the horizon along with their anticipated ROI. For additional tips, review the Chief Learning Officer article here
  • September 04, 2017 8:32 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)
    You might see the mindfulness boom as a fad or as a corporate revolution. Although it’s a practice commonly hyped for having the ability to improve leadership skills, some research suggests that leaders would do well to consider the intricate connection between mindfulness and broader emotional intelligence competencies as they seek to develop in their careers.

    In the Harvard Business Review article, "Without Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness Doesn’t Work," Daniel Goleman and Matthew Lippincott expound upon how they believe this to be true.

    Want to learn more about Mindfulness & Learning? Attend our October 6th event, hosted by Wheaton Franciscan.

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