3 Top tips for L&D and why they work – guest blog by Talya Rabinovitz, Clinical Psychologist

I am thrilled to introduce Talya Rabinovitz, a clinical psychologist with a passion for helping people avoid overwhelm and stress so they can be their best selves at work.

In this blog she will be sharing 3 top tips and the psychology behind them so you know not only WHAT works but WHY!

As a Clinical Psychologist, I was thrilled to sit down with Krystyna from How To Accelerate Learning and unearth the deeper psychology that explains the success of her programs for L&D professionals. If you care about understanding how to create psychological safety so that your L&D initiatives are more effective and engaging, here are 3 things Krystyna is doing that you can borrow…

(And if you need any convincing of the power of psychological safety, consider that it was identified as the number one predictor of team performance in a study conducted by Google).

  1. Keep It Playful 

Play is often dismissed as a “waste of time,” but actually, it can be very effective in regulating our nervous systems. Why do we care about that? Because the more regulated our nervous systems are, the more we stay in our highest brain, where we can problem-solve, collaborate and learn most efficiently and enjoyably. Krystyna weaves play throughout her workshops, whether it’s through a simple game or exercise  – she’s even created The Learning Loop, a game that help L&D professionals learn how to maximize learning. With regards to play it may be seen as childish by some and actually what Krystyna encourages is a child-like approach to learning – maximising curiosity and engagement.

Hot Tip: What can you do to make your programs more fun and playful? 

  1. Pay Attention To Emotional Expressions

Psychologists know to watch our clients very carefully for signs that they aren’t feeling comfortable. This is a great way to get a sense of their internal experience and whether they are in their highest brain, or dysregulated in a fight, flight, or freeze mode. Krystyna is also finely tuned to the emotional states of participants in her training. A perfect example includes watching how people react to being told they need to take part in an “icebreaker” at the beginning of a new program. Noticing the visible discomfort this causes, Krystyna has come up with more enticing and engaging ways of building new relationships and groups, rather than just following a typical formula. She endeavours to make it a much more ‘natural’ experience rather than the ‘forced fun’ of an icebreaker; welcoming people in as they arrive and encouraging them to greet each other and explore the room. There may even be some simple activities to get their curiosity peaked.

Hot Tip: Pay attention to the emotional expression of the people you’re training. Don’t be afraid to test our new approaches that seem more aligned with your audience’s needs. 

  1. Be Mindful Of Your Own Nervous System 

Our nervous systems are finely tuned to pick up how the people we are with are feeling. Think about how you might have withdrawn when you’ve felt your colleague is stressed or arced up, ready for conflict, when you’ve sensed your partner is in a bad mood. We’re wired to connect with each other and that means we are highly sensitive to the state of each other’s nervous systems. Krystyna is intuitively aware that how she is in the room, affects how her participants feel during her training. This is highlighted, as she speaks in a melodic voice and maintains a relaxed, open posture – signs to our nervous system, that someone is safe and it’s ok to get closer to them. This not only feels better to be around, but it also makes it easier for us to learn, as we stay in our most evolved, higher brains.

Hot Tip: Pay attention to how fast you speak and the rhythm of your voice. Play around with your pitch, volume, and speed, aiming for a more melodic, relaxed tone.

To find out how you can increase psychological safety in your work, so that productivity and engagement increase, book a 30 min strategy session with Clinical Psychologist, Talya Rabinovitz at hello@talyarabinovitz.com. You can also download some helpful resources from my website

 

5 easy brain tips #5 for engaging learners

This is the 5th in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. The 5 brain tips can be remembered using the mnenomic CRUMMSS:

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

When we tell stories our brains react not only through the traditional language areas in the brain (Brocas and Wernickes areas) but mumalso in those regions related to the story.

So if the storyteller speaks about baking and aromas, then those regions in the brain related to smell will be engaged. In this way the storyteller can almost plant ideas, thoughts and emotions in the listeners brain by using expressive language.

This work was carried out by a team of scentists at Princeton1, led by Uri Hasson where they observed MRI scans of the listeners and the storytellers brains. They found that the brain activities matched, showing the power of storytelling.

By using positive stories through an organisation, we can influence people to believe it is possible that change can take place and it will give them the same feel good factor that others have felt, even if they have not yet experienced it.

These are the 6 questions you can answer in order to come up with a well-structured story:

  1. What was the challenge (that worked out in the end?)
  2. How did you feel about it at the start?
  3. What help did you get?
  4. What was the outcome?
  5. What did you learn?
  6. What does it say about you?

(Story structure by Larry Reynolds)

Stories can also be used to “prime” people prior to an event. For example before a change programme, tell stories of how other organisations and individuals have come through similar changes with positive outcomes. Prior to a training event let others tell their stories about their experience on the course (a good one!)

  1. David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009

 

5 easy brain tips #4 for engaging learners

MicroSkillsThis is the 4th in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. The 5 brain tips can be remembered using the mnenomic CRUMMSS:

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1279IMG_1185MS stands for Micro skills. Micro skills are small things that the learners can learn to do quickly that will give them confidence and enthusiasm to learn more.

By developing some skills that can be implemented immediately, these skills become almost second nature and automatic. This automatic type behaviour can come from a part of the brain that is very low in energy consumption called the basal ganglia, as well as the long-term memory*.

Moving learning quickly into the long-term memory frees up the higher thinking brain for the new learning and gives the learners confidence.

Most of the time a workshop starts with a big picture view of a theory or model, which may be a logical beginning but it could also be quite overwhelming for the learner. Giving them some quick-to-apply new skills can boost their confidence, calm their fears and speed up the learning.

Examples of useful microskills could be:

  • On an IT course – getting the learners to practice using the help facility so that they can access tips quickly
  • On a finance course – some really easy calculations that they do in pairs
  • Health & Safety course – use a spot the difference picture to spot hazards in pairs
  • An assertiveness course – start off with some simple rapport skills like matching and mirroring
  • A presentation skills course – practice the introduction of a presentation in a line in stages – name and title, then purpose of presentation, then the outcomes. Build on each stage.

*David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009

5 easy brain tips #3 for engaging learners

  This is the 3rd in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. In the next few blogs I will be revealing this fab graphic by Karen Foundling on the whole series

IMG_1212IMG_1279UM is for “Use Metaphor“. Emotions can run high during any change programme and a workshop can easily turn it into a whinge-fest. Allow people time to express their emotions using metaphors and limit the time for the whingeing.
Recent research from the CIPD*, shows that using uncertain rewards in learning can help increase adults emotional response to the learning and can be used to enhance the learning experience. Games with random prizes can play a significant part in retaining the attention of your learners
IMG_5004

In his book, David Rock1 talks about the limbic brain (in charge of emotions) and how emotions can effectively overrun if you let them. Also suppressing them can actually increase the intensity of the emotions, as can talking about them freely. The surprising thing is, that if you talk about your emotions symbolically, with very few words it can help to keep them under control. What he alludes to is using metaphors can be a good way of expressing strong emotions, without getting overly emotional about the situation again.

For example if someone upsets me today, I could describe the feeling as a real “kick in the stomach” rather than going on endlessly about how it made me feel.

Thoughts for line managers:

Look at clean language for coaching your team members. It is a way of eliciting responses, without imparting your own judgments on an already emotive situation.

Examples of clean questions are:

Team member: “Today has been absolute hell for me!”

Clean response: “So this hell, what is that like for you?”

This way you carry on with the metaphor the individual has begun with.

Team member: “Today is going to be a complete waste of time now!”

Clean response: “In order for this day to be of use, it has to be like what?”

*CIPD Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and Learning Feb 2014

5 easy brain tips #2 for engaging learners

 This is the second of my series of blogs from a session I ran at the CIPD NAP conference. The five tips can be remembered by using the mnemonic CRUMMSS.

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1186R for Rewards. There has to be some reward involved for people to make the changes to their behaviour that the organisation needs. Just holding on to their jobs may not be enough.

When there is the promise of reward, dopamine is released into the bloodstream and this keeps learners engaged. You can put your brain into the right chemical sweet spot by thinking about the rewards and also using humour.

Both dopamine and adrenaline, are neurochemicals which are produced when excited. Fear just yields adrenaline. The expectation of a negative event also reduces dopamine. Too much adrenaline causes negative effects. So getting the right balance between excitement and engagement is crucial.

IMG_5003Recent research from the CIPD(1), shows that using uncertain rewards in learning can help increase adults emotional response to the learning and can be used to enhance the learning experience. Games with random prizes can play a significant part in retaining the attention of your learners. If learners do not know what the prize is, then they are more likely to be emotionally connected to the game.

Rewards for your learners could be: stickers, points, sweets, a certificate, being on the winning team and getting a cheer or even a treat from a pound store! It does not have to be expensive.

1. Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and Learning Feb 2014

 

5 easy brain tips to drive employee engagement through L&D programmes

 Last week I was at the CIPD NAP conference and facilitated a session with the title above. The five tips can be remembered by using the mnemonic CRUMMSS.

  • C – choice
  • R – Rewards
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1187

 

In this first blog of the series, you can learn about the first of the five tips – CHOICE

C stands for CHOICE. Even when employees think they have no choice while going through major change, they can always “Choose their mood”.

IMG_5001You may know that it is the prefrontal cortex that is key to new learning, but when our limbic (emotional) systems get over aroused, we suffer from a lack of prefrontal cortex function.

Having some control gives autonomy and keeps the prefrontal cortex function. Even the smallest amount of choice can influence the limbic system arousal. It does not even matter if the control is a shift in perception rather than actual control. You can in fact “choose your mood” and therefore you introduce choice. This is called “reappraisal” or sometimes, it is what we call reframing.

David Rock1 talks about four types of reappraisal:

  • Reinterpreting – Experiencing or thinking about something that is far worse makes your problem seem smaller
  • Normalising – Accepting that what you are experiencing in terms of anxiety, feelings etc is absolutely normal
  • Reordering – The problem does not sit well within your values but you put a positive spin on the reordering of your values
  • Positioning – Same as the NLP definition – imagine you are another person or a fly on the wall observing your situation

Practicing reappraisal can help you to keep cool under pressure. This strategy, through research has been shown to have very few downsides.

On occasions people may really struggle to find a positive spin on a situation and so it may be useful to use another reframing technique:

  1. Content (or meaning) reframe
  • What else could this mean?
  • In what way, could this be positive?
  • What other meanings could this behaviour have?
  • For what purpose does this happen/does this person do this?
  1. Context reframe

In what context (or situations), can this have value or be useful?

Almost all behaviours are useful in some context.

For example, the assumption could be that something has no value, your job would be to discover the value or usefulness by asking,

  • When would this behaviour be useful or viewed as a resource?
  • Where would Z be considered of value?
  • When would it be useful to do X?
  • When might it be helpful to ….?
  • Where would …. be of interest?
  1. David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009
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