Is your fear serving you well?

I began writing this on holiday, where I often get new insights with the refresh I feel physically, mentally and emotionally. We have been in Madeira, attracted by the climate, the amazing scenery and the promise of delightful walks. So why the subject of fear? Two incidents on the first two days of our holiday that had me genuinely scared.I will recount these briefly to give some context.

“Are you driving a getaway car?” I often ask hubbie, who is not known for his patience in planning our route to anywhere! This was no exception a quick tap into the sat nav, missed turns and before we knew it we were driving down the road shown in the photo below.


Thankful for his steely nerve and grippy sandals we survived to tell the tale. Note to self: if a concrete road has ridges and steps in it – DON’T DRIVE DOWN IT!!!

The following day, we decided to do a Levada walk, starting just up the road with Levada Moinho linking to Levada Nova. We didn’t even have to get in the car, which was a relief. For someone who has just written a book on needs analysis and using data, you may be shocked to hear I had not researched the route very much. If I had I may have read the warnings about steep drops and lack of handrails. By the time I reached the sections with a 500ft drop and no handrails we were well over half way around. No going back……

The picture below was on a relatively tame stretch ……..

Seeing two guys walking a dog, one with flip flops on, strangely comforted me. “ The walk must be easy from here on in” I thought to myself. I am extremely scared of heights and having walking poles helped to some extent, it helped steady me, though I could only use one as the path was not wide enough for two.

With each precipitous section I would steel myself and sing “The sun has got his hat on” (heaven knows why!) and marching tentatively to the rhythm of the song. Other times I would swear…… badly and other times pray.

I got through it, but the feeling of fear has stayed with me and got me thinking. Got me thinking about how at times I have been fearful and overcome that fear anyway. Got me thinking about times that fear has prevented me from being who I really am. Got me thinking about when others have said that I am brave.

So times I have been fearful and overcome it:

  • As a graduate engineer working on partially constructed gantries hundreds of feet up in the air. Had a job to do and just got on with it
  • Same job, getting into small, dark, enclosed spaces (another fear). Had a job to do and just got on with it.
  • Moving from engineering to IT training when I used to get panic attacks just presenting, found my love of helping people to develop. The fear melted when I felt the interaction grow and that I was conversing with individuals not a whole room of people.
  • Speaking to a large conference audience over 200, I survived by doing what I know I do well, having a clear plan, audience participation and a sense of fun
  • Selling over 2000 valentine cards to raise money for tsunami victims (I had only asked for 100!), I found resources I never knew I had.

There are many more stories I could add but all the stories have different learning points about fear and how sometimes it has a point and at other times just holds me back.

‘Feelings of fear are engendered by dangerous situations’ says Frederic Neumann. Fair enough, your fear may have a genuine reason for it. In situations where your life is threatened it’s essential so that you don’t go too far and lose your life. Other times the fear is not rational and hence can be a hinderance.

Here are some of the things I have learned so far about fear:

  • Fear can keep you alert when in dangerous situations and focus your mind on staying alive. In those situations, it has a clear purpose.
  • Overcoming a HUGE fear of public speaking led me to the most delicious career I could have chosen, it was worth it. Removing the fear allowed me to see and experience something I may not ever have thought I would enjoy.
  • I often have exceeded my own expectations, surprised myself, because a fear may have held me back even from believing I could achieve something. So, the fear does more than stop you, it limits further belief in yourself.
  • People have called me brave, for starting my own business, for writing a book, but in all honesty in those particular situations I have not been fearful, so was I brave?

Whatever your experiences of fear, at times I think it helpful to reflect on which type of fear you are experiencing. Is it ‘staying alive’ type or the ‘holding me back’ rational or irrational type? Once we have identified the root, in my experience we can then decide whether it is worth getting over it or just going with it.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be a lot more conscious of my fears, just because of this reflection and hoping that I can be wholly me, no holds barred. There are still a few little corners here and there littered with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’ so worth the effort, I think.

So I am curious……which fears are serving you well and which are holding you back I wonder…… ?

Would you wear a tiara to the gym?

Yes, this was an actual question during a conversation about how in L&D we need to get back to basics.

This is not the first conversation I have had recently on this topic. I have had the absolute pleasure of making new connections recently (Kevin Yates and Amrit Sandhar yes it’s you two!) and I believe it is not a coincidence. I believe there are lots of people thinking the same way…..The topic coming up time after time is how in L&D we seemed to have lost our way. Instead of focussing on the basics (we will look at what those are later) we seem distracted by the new and shiny. I am not averse to the new or shiny at all. I am a self-confessed geek but the new and shiny has to fit the problem not the other way around.

So today I was having a review with Marie Duncan, Head of L&D for Kibble Education. They are a fabulous organisation over 150 years old, dedicated to helping children at risk. At the beginning of November I ran the Learning Loop for a group of 12 trainers and subject matter experts. We were reviewing the impact of the programme and what it has done for them.

We caught up on what has been imbedded and future work. We spoke about conferences and their value, but also how they can lead to a feeling of overwhelm. What do we spend the hard fought budget on and are we really getting value out of what we have? These are key questions on many L&D managers lips.

Then we took a similar path to previous conversations. Is L&D losing its way? What is it about? My opinion on what L&D should be about is:

  • Understanding the organisation and its’ purpose
  • Aligning L&D activity with the main goals of the organisation
  • Conducting a needs analysis when appropriate to inform us of what really needs to be done rather than what presents itself
  • Designing something appropriate using the right tools (not just applying the training ‘sticking plaster’ or the new shiny glittery thing)
  • Delivering something that meets the objectives and improves something in the organisation (not just a warm glow from the glitter)
  • Finding out whether what we did had the impact we said it would and working with the organisation to prove it (with business metrics)
  • Enabling line managers to help imbed the learning

Much of what we hear about are new advances in AI, VR, micro-learning, mobile learning, social learning, digitalisation, is all fabulous stuff, but how many in L&D are measuring the impact of what they do? How many have their finger on the pulse of the organisation, to know what is really going on? Are we swayed too much by what the big kids have in the playground?

Listening to all the new advances can we stay focussed? Is it all a distraction? Not-for-profits, voluntary and public sector organisations are strapped for cash and quite often need to know, in Marie’s words “how to imbed what we are doing well and doing it better”.

I love the Towards Maturity reports, giving us all a good idea of what we should be doing and benchmarking against others. Looking outwards can be helpful but so can looking inwards. Each organisation is unique and really understanding its purpose and how that can be fulfilled is crucial. Not all navel gazing is counterproductive! It is about balance.

So where did the tiara come in? When we were talking about all the latest fads, new and shiny things, one of our key concerns was how appropriate they are to the problem you are solving and just because you have one, “would you wear a tiara to the gym?”

I would love to hear your thoughts about ”getting back to basics” and ask two questions:

  1. Are you getting the L&D basics right?
  2. If not, what is stopping you?

My book “How not To Waste Your Money On Training” addresses these issues and more….. on how to gt it right when analysing needs and determining solutions.

L&D’s relationship with Data

This title has been taken from the Towards Maturity report published in August of 2018. I was immediately drawn to the title and anyone who knows what a maths geek I am will understand why.

I always loved numbers and even just playing with them, multiplying numbers by themselves repeatedly just for fun! Yes I know it’s not normal and I also appreciate that not everyone else has the same love of numbers, in fact quite the opposite. I have several friends who will admit that numbers are almost a phobia.

Reading this report ,it is quite evident that we, in L&D are not great at collecting and using data to its best advantage. Some of the figures that struck me were:

  • Of those aspiring data to affect change only 2/5 were able to say that it helped the, demonstrate business impact (40%)
  • Also only 3/5 were successful in using data to help solve business problems (60%)

Bear in mind that was from a sample size of 700+ and the two figures above were those people who were really trying to use data affectively. This means in reality that there will also be a number of people not even trying so the 40% and 60% are likely to be very optimistic figures.

The most likely reasons cited were:

  1. Data and it’s analysis is complicated
  2. Lack of L&D skills in this area

If I look at the second point first. Why are we not addressing this lack of skills? Is it this phobia of numbers? A fear of what to do once you start collecting? An expectation that things have to change once you start collecting data effectively? Maybe it’s a combination of all three? Or maybe a misconception around what it means to collect and analyse data?

For me it is quite simple (and this may address the first point). In L&D we need to get nosey. When someone asks us to deliver a leadership programme, we need to ask why and how will you know it has been successful? If the first person who asks you doesn’t know, then ask someone else. Is it a real need or a perceived need?

The perceived need may be something like employee engagement scores being low. What we really need to determine is what effect that is having on the performance of the business:

  • High recruitment costs?
  • Lack of agility in the marketplace because there is a high attrition rate, staff not as familiar as they should be about products?
  • Poor customer service because the tools they use have had little investment?

So when you look at these examples, you can start to see it really is not about data analysis, but curiosity, perseverance and a healthy dose of skepticism. If you can pinpoint what the problem is and it is a real business need, then what you need to measure will be very obvious:

  • Reduction in recruitment costs
  • Reduction in time to market with new products
  • Range of new products and uptake
  • Attrition rate
  • Customer satisfaction scores

These are not L&D statistics these are business measures and having highlighted the purpose of your L&D focus, the business will also want to measure it. That is not to say that at times you are not needed to do some data analysis and collection but I think we are over complicating it and not getting to the nub of the problem.

In my book  “How not To Waste Your Money On Training” I show people simply how to “find the story in the data”. Using a simple example of a scoring grid, I show how you can, using a spreadsheet and playing with different graph types, discover little parts of the truth about what is going on. It takes a click and a small amount of curiosity. If you want to try it out then just use this example, using Excel to play around with different types of charts:

  • Bar chart
  • Pie chart
  • Stacked bar
  • Spider diagram

For each format ask yourself “what do I see now?”. Using this approach of curiosity and play I discovered:

  • A bar chart gives a good comparison one person against another for each part of their role
  • A spider diagram shows how well-rounded each team member is in their own right. Some are not rounded at all! Tracy seems the most well rounded.
  • Stacked column shows the teams strengths and weaknesses:
    • Who is the strongest in sales skills?
    • Who is the weakest in product knowledge and working independently (why might this be? Manager poor at delegating?)

So I would urge you L&D, before spending a lot of money on data analytics experts, get nosey and do some detective work yourselves. Keep it simple and dig into what is going on beneath the surface. Don’t just take one persons viewpoint or use just one method, mix it up and start finding the story in the data!

My conclusions from the report and my own anecdotal research suggests that:

  • L&D does not have the skills required for data analysis (I had better get that book finished!)
  • It is not as complicated as you think
  • It is about asking the right questions and finding the story in the data
  • We don’t always need data analytics experts to do this!

 

 

 

Standing amongst Giants – Ignite Lab at CIPD L&D Show

Ignite CIPD session - 34

Yesterday I had the honour and privilege to stand amongst giants in our industry. The place was Olympia, the CIPD L&D Show and it was the final session of the day – the IGNITE LAB. For those not familiar with this format, each person presents 20 slides in 5 minutes, with the slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds.

Having settled on a topic, “How to be Agile in L&D”, I created some hand drawn slides and I pretty much thought it was going to be a doddle. The nearer it got to the day and the more I practised, the more I realised how hard it was. Give me a day or half a day to facilitate some learning and that’s not a problem, but 5 minutes to just present! It felt very unnatural and forced and the nerves were starting to kick in.

As the line up for the IGNITE LAB was revealed, we engaged  in an exchange on Twitter where we shared similar feelings and the nerves were apparent.  Some suggested they were going to use prompt cards, which I had ‘discarded’ as an idea, but when Julie Dryborough assured me I could “distill” the essentials in this way (I was waffling quite a bit in my practice runs), it convinced me to to do the “practice, tweak, repeat” advice offered by Niall Gavin.

Having tweaked, distilled, honed and transferred my notes to prompt cards , I was set. It felt much more comfortable knowing I would have the right words to fit the 15 second maximum for each slide.

So here is how it the event unfolded for me (in order) for me:

Niall Gavin – opened beautifully, with a heart-felt (see what I did there?) story relating to redundancy. No cards just him some slides and a great story.

Sukhvinder Pabial – followed. Confident, articulate and ever the professional, spoke about marginal gains and how we in L&D could take the lead front eh British Cycling team to improve L&D’s performance.

Krystyna Gadd – once I was up there and looking into the whites of their eyes (there were so many lovely people that I knew there!) I couldn’t look at my prompt cards. The slides progressed and it all came flooding back to me. Note to self next time – ditch the cards and fly solo!

Andrew Jacobs – popped his IGNITE cherry and did a sterling job beginning with learning not being built on firm foundations

Marco Faccini – amazed us all that he had rewritten his presentation that afternoon, making it real and showing us the money!

Amanda Arrowsmith – was unfairly plagued by the PowerPoint gremlins and Julie Dryborough volunteered to advance them but not before “ghosting it”. My hat goes off to  Amanda who was neither shaken nor stirred by all that seemed to happen (or not) – a veteran deliverer presenting an engaging and memorable session!

Blake Henegan – rocked his first IGNITE, challenging us to be kinder to ourselves by reflecting and connecting more and thus reducing overwhelm

Julie Drybrough– wowed us on creating a thriving culture by lighting up the shadows and understanding our git self. Sounds like good advice!

Phil Wilcox – what an amazing ending to the session with a poem about “Who am I?”- you are officially awesome Phil, be you!!

What was lovely, was being amongst these L&D giants, sharing our vulnerabilities, cheering each other on and applauding the achievement of “just” speaking for 5 minutes though 20 slides… easy eh….. we did good!

And we are all available for future speaking engagements at a very modest fee…..lol

Storify of the tweetage care of Donna Hewitson

 

Less bravery L&D and more curiosity I say!

A wPeople - 65hile ago I wrote a series of blogs with a tag of “Being Brave”  but after an LPI meeting this week for Learning Provider Connect, I have had a chance to rethink this “bravery”.

It occurred to me that the minute you start speaking about being brave, to some people it may have the effect of making them fearful. That this very encouragement, could have the opposite effect and instigate that “paralysis” we sometimes experience when we are afraid.

What I have encouraged in the past, is for L&D to be brave and to:

  • Ask more questions
  • Dig deeper and find out more about the organisation
  • Don’t take at face value what the stakeholders see as “facts” – questiPeople - 66on it all!

So what I am proposing, is not in fact bravery, but curiosity! A real nosiness about what is happening, not happening, on the horizon etc.

So what would that look like?

Here is a scenario, that happens all too often:

Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!

Trainer to Stakeholder: Sure I can help, just tell me what you want

Following this might ensue some conversations about the who, what, when and where, but what I am suggesting is an alternative.

“Adopt an air of curiosity”

Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!

Trainer to Stakeholder: That’s interesting, I wonder if I could just have 10 minutes of your time to dig deeper to help you solve your problem and to come up with a solution that has measurable impact?

Stakeholder to trainer: That sounds interesting…. yes of course I can do it now…

Trainer to Stakeholder: So tell me more about what has been happening, I am really interested to know what has prompted this request?

To me the second scenario does not take bravery, but curiosity. So go on L&D get nosey! Find out more about what is going on behind the scenes.  Ask questions… then ask more questions until you really find out what is at the bottom of it. Who knows what you will uncover?

 

L&D – Are you what you measure?

TM blogs #1This is the first in a series of blogs inspired by David Hayden, at the CIPD NAP(Northern Area Partnerships) conference June 2016, in a short workshop. The title of his workshop was “Is L&D prepared for the Future of Learning?” and the basis of the discussion was around key statistics uncovered in the “Towards Maturity” report of April 2016 “Preparing for the Future of Learning”. David presented around an infographic, part of which is displayed to the left. What fascinated me were some of the statistics in this segment.

In the report, the survey showed that 17% of those polled, measure business metrics to improve business performance, but 86% would like to improve business performance. That is a huge mismatch and it got me thinking “Why then, if the will is there, people do not measure L&D’s performance against business metrics?”

So I have a theory and it all stems from “Begin with the end in mind”. It is all very well to have a great intention of “improving business performance” and a whopping 86% of the respondents wanted this, but you have to start off on the right foot. At the beginning you have to do the right kind of analysis to determine the needs and the outputs, making sure that there is in fact a strong link between them. Then you need to:

  • Identify those people who have a stake in improving the business
  • Of those stakeholders, identify where they are on the stakeholder analysis grid, that way you know where to focus your efforts
  • Be part of the business and have your finger on the pulse, so you always get the bigger picture
  • Ask questions about organisational benefits and impact, not just learning outcomes
  • Do a thorough needs analysis (not just an LNA or TNA) to uncover what individuals, teams and the organisation needs
  • Set objectives with the stakeholders and have targets that THEY can measure success against
  • Agree post learning activities and follow up
  • Keep them up to date with what is going on and get them to support the learners
  • Check in at various points and update them on progress
  • Ask the stakeholders how the measures put in place are stacking up

I’ve written before about “Needs Analysis” and spoken about it at the CIPD L&D exhibition in May 2016 – what surprised me was the number of people that are REALLY interested in this topic! The last point in the list, is a crucial one, because another reason I believe only 17% measure business metrics in evaluation is that the best people to do the measuring are those who are most interested in those metrics and have EASY access to them!!! Is that a little too obvious?

Now L&D does not sit in some sort of vacuum or at least it shouldn’t. L&D is an important and necessary part of any successful businesses strategy – and if it isn’t we should be asking ourselves “why?” and “what can we do to become essential and not just a cost?” If you are not conducting a needs analysis that involves the correct stakeholders and using or developing metrics then what are you doing?

This is what David Hayden, L&D Professional at the CIPD said about the statistics:

“The challenge of 17% only measuring demonstrates it can be a massive challenge and rethink on what we measure.  My advice is to start small and build up – pick one or two projects or interventions and work on the business metric links for those – and make it explicit in any pre intervention communication, during the intervention at regular points and in any post intervention communication.  Become known for knowing the business goals!! Be that role model!”

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
― H. James Harrington

If you would like to discuss further with a group of L&D professionals, then come along to our next free Showcase event : “Taking the fear out of ROI”

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