Category Archives: From the Road

From the Road

Music You Can Dance to, and Other Hidden Training Tips

Music is a big part of my training experiences. Anytime I’m laying out the flow for a training design, or stepping in front of an audience, I have a song playing in my head. Setting the tone, driving the pace, bringing everything together. I’ve used music as a pre-session and break filler, and even, on occasion, as examples in training (I find the best examples tend to be in ¾ time).

So, no surprise that as I’ve been putting together my REACH presentation on trainer tips over the last couple of weeks, there was a song playing in my head. I was about halfway through the presentation when the lyrics from this song became very clear (not always the case) and triggered one of my favorite sayings from my past: “Most of the significant problems you face can be solved in the lyrics of songs.”

I hadn’t reflected on this sage advice in a long time, so I started to wonder: is this as applicable today as it was in those lovelorn late-teen to early-twenties years? Could it apply to training problems? I decided to put it to the test. For those of you who enjoy a good “hum-along,” here is some advice that I was able to tap out as I considered a couple of common training challenges.

Training Challenge: A participant asks if it’s all right to miss the afternoon.
Response: Should I stay or should I go? If I go there could be trouble.

Training Challenge:
Participants want to stay with their table groups instead of pairing up with a learning partner.
Response: It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two make it outta sight.

Training Challenge: How do I memorize everybody’s name in the session?
Response: Well I remember, I remember, don’t worry. How could I ever forget? It’s the first time, the last time we ever met.

Training Challenge: No one seems to be responding to the questions you ask.
Response: Yeah, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. There will be an answer, let it be.
So next time you feel stuck, it might help to turn on the radio and, “Oh, oh, listen to the music!”

P.S. Can you identify all the songs referenced above? Comment below and log your guesses.

From the Road

Look, Mom! I'm training in short bursts!

Years ago I joined an organization and discovered a character who worked there. He was an interesting blend of wisdom, mischief, creativity, and crazy. You know that type. I’d find him engaged in some strange activity, or distilling some semi-absurd piece of advice, and think, “What in the world??!!?!” I’d walk away and invariably the idea or activity would start to unfold in my mind; and what seemed like utter nonsense started to bloom into genius. So here’s one of his “crazy” ideas.

One day I walked into his office for some reason, and he immediately started in with an idea he was toying with. “People who train in short bursts are vastly more effective at creating behavior change.” I thought to myself, “Did he just say training in short bursts? What in the world?” I listened politely as he went on to describe that breaking training into small chunks and delivering it over a spaced period of time allows participants to assimilate the learning points and have them incorporate the new ideas into their everyday routine. All the while I was generating reasons why the idea was more crazy than practical. And can you blame me? Even the term “short bursts” was a little on the “far out there” side (ok, maybe a lot on the “far out there” side). Some of my other colleagues confirmed my original thoughts when they came up with the slightly mocking slogan, “Look Mom! I’m training in short bursts!”

Fast forward some years. I was working on particularly difficult training rollout design. We were trying to transform training’s image from learning event to learning experience. We need to make sure that leaders, especially the mid-level group, were having more regular learning experiences. I was wrestling with how to do this when it hit me, “We need to take this program and spread it out over a longer period of time. We need to ‘train in short bursts!’” The idea had come full circle. We did it, and it worked.

Since that time, a lot of research has emerged confirming the results we experienced in that organizational initiative. Anders Ericsson, for one, in his research, demonstrates the benefit of breaking ideas and concepts into small pieces (I wonder if he researched in short bursts?).

It’s a funny thing to consider how what once was a crazy, outlandish, radical idea is now one of the best-proven ways to go about training. So now I say to you, “Go forth and train in short bursts!”

From the Road

What Happens in Vegas . . .

Oh, the Vegas Rule. What a simple little phrase: “What happens here, stays here!”

Being raised in Nevada, I always enjoy a solid reference to the state of my heart (feel free to join me in the first verse of “Home Means Nevada” if you’re a Nevadan at heart, or take a short Google field trip to enjoy someone else singing it in case you’re not familiar).

Now that you’re back from your mini parenthetical field trip, what, if anything, does this have to do with training? Well it’s only one of the most commonly invoked ground rules by trainers to insure confidentiality in a class. And I’ve noticed an upswing in the number of trainers who include this rule during the expectations—setting portion of their classes.

I think it provides participants some comfort to know that anything discussed with their learning partner won’t leave that room. And unfortunately, all too often it never does. Participants work on tough messages, practice useful skills, and then, “what happened there, stays there.” They treat their application case-related discussions as a guilty pleasure only to be indulged in the secret, dark corners of a training room. And since they miss the opportunity to further grow and develop their skills with a real world application, they are left with vague, but positive recollections of a safer place where all skills were good, and all conversations productive—if only they could transport back to the safety of the classroom experience.

So as much as it pains me to even allow the words to escape my mouth, you need to be actively working on ways to counteract the long-term affects of the Vegas Rule. And make sure you’re approaching it in a balanced manner. Be very clear that while participants won’t be required to “go public” with all of the details of their learning partner discussions during the class, the whole point of the training is to make sure that “what happens here, transfers to there,” wherever their “there” happens to be.

From the Road

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

When people outside of work find out that I spend a lot of time teaching groups, they often ask about the more challenging situations I encounter. “What are the biggest pitfalls? And how do you recover when you run into these problems?” I tell them, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Some time ago, I attended a presentation from a nationally acclaimed photographer about the ABCs of photography. He expressed the idea that photography is a form of communication, and like language, has its own alphabet. While language uses letters to communicate ideas, similarly, photography uses assembled elements to create meaning in a visual format.

In the middle of sharing this deep philosophical explanation about how to effectively communicate through photography, he was interrupted by a question from the audience. “Are you conscious about ensuring all the elements are present before taking the shot?” Interesting question, but not as interesting as his answer. He explained that he used to take a photo, realize it hadn’t turned out the way he’d expected, and he wouldn’t be able to understand why. But since then, he’d learned to bring the photo to a mentor who would then look at it with him to figure out what to do differently next time.

His answer caused me to reflect on my many classroom experiences. I’ve had my share of less than desirable outcomes. And one of the most frustrating things is knowing a class hasn’t turned out well, but not knowing the reason why—especially early on. I came to the conclusion that we ought to be doing the same thing with our classes that the photographer was doing with his photographs. We need to take a mental picture of what’s going on so that we can analyze it and do better. We should take stock of the classroom—prior to running into a problem. What’s happening with the group? What are people doing or not doing? How is the physical space set up? Is it conducive to learning? In essence, what do I notice that cues me to stop and reframe before moving on?

Then we can share these mental photos with mentors. We can compare the not so good ones to the better ones and figure out the difference. Most especially, we can use them to cue ourselves for better outcomes in the future.

Good luck! And remember to post those mental photos on the VitalSmarts Trainer LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

From the Road

Post Training Coaching-From Learner to Doer

Most of us who teach Crucial Conversations love to coach our trainees. Often this happens in the classroom during the training process, but sometimes we get the opportunity to coach one-on-one after the primary learning has taken place. This can be a great opportunity for us and the trainee if we approach it correctly. There are two key steps we will explore here: encouraging the one-on-one process and the actual coaching process itself. Our goal should be to help the trainee prepare to take action in his own impending crucial conversation—transitioning from learner to doer.

If you don’t normally have people contact you for this type of coaching, but would like to offer it, here are a couple of tips. After the acid test activity in Get Unstuck is complete, let the class know you are available after the two class days for one-on-one coaching. Let them know that you have a sign-up sheet handy and that they can book time with you now based on their availability. Reinforce this point at the end of day one, the beginning of day two, and in the wrap-up. Typically, if they don’t sign up in class, they never will. It’s also important to let them know you will respect their confidentiality—assuming you can legally do that—and that they do not have to share personal details with you. Make sure they know your goal is to get them from learner to doer.

Once you’ve begun the coaching process, the next step is to establish Mutual Purpose. What exactly does the trainee expect from the coach? What do I expect of the trainee? What am I willing to do as the coach? Starting with Mutual Purpose allows us to have clear expectations of each other and be clear about what we are trying to achieve. In this process, we also have to make sure the trainee has realistic expectations of himself. A little bit like Goldilocks, the expectations shoule be not too low, not too high, but just right. As Joseph has said many times, “We can’t talk our way out of something we behaved our way into.” If the trainee is expecting a miracle conversation, we need to help him/her be realistic. If the trainee is aiming too low, we need to help him/her use CPR to identify the right conversation to hold.

Many trainees leave our classrooms feeling a bit overwhelmed. They are unsure where to start or which skills to apply in their own crucial conversations. As you already know, it is impossible for even the best learner to leave the classroom as a master of all the skills. As coaches, we can help our trainees by determining which skills have the greatest application right now. This allows them to focus on learning and applying a manageable amount of what they learned and then add additional skills in the future as their confidence builds.

Please share your ideas below.

From the Road

How do you hold a Crucial Conversation over e-mail?

In a perfect world, Crucial Conversations would always be held face-to-face. The benefits of immediate feedback and nonverbal communication makes dialogue much more rich and accurate.

However, today’s global and distributed workforce doesn’t always allow for face-to-face interactions. When you’re in Singapore and need to communicate to co-workers in Germany, Brazil, and the United States, the distance, time zones, and different cultures can create huge barriers to dialogue. The next best option to face-to-face interactions is to use video conferencing for a virtual in-person meeting. Even a phone call preserves some of the nuances of conversation.

When those options aren’t available, you can still use many Crucial Conversations skills in e-mail communication. Because you won’t be able to use Learn to Look to notice when safety is at risk, you may need to work harder than usual to establish safety during high-stakes e-mail conversations. This is an ideal time to use contrasting statements to clarify your good intent up front. This will ensure the e-mail recipient understands you want to be helpful or gain understanding—not questioning or accusing them.

When you use STATE skills in e-mail, be sure your facts are clear. Then be very tentative with any story you tell. Be sure you own the story as your perception, not as an accusation or a conclusion. When you Ask for Others Path in an e-mail, be specific about the response you want.

For example, let’s say you’ve been collaborating with someone on the other side of the world on an important report. You drafted a summary of the report and sent it to your co-worker. In response, you received a complete rewrite with a single-sentence e-mail that said, “This may work better.” This isn’t the process you agreed on, so you need to address the apparent disconnect. Your e-mail might sound something like:

“I got your e-mail with the rewrite of the report. I just want to check in with you on the process we’re following. I’m not unhappy with any of the work you do; I’ve enjoyed collaborating with you a lot. I just want to make sure we’re seeing the process the same way. I thought we had agreed that I would write a first draft of the report based on our collective research. When I sent you the draft, I was expecting to get your comments. Instead, I got a complete rewrite of the report. I’m a little confused by this and am wondering if we’re seeing our roles in this process differently. I’d really like to talk with you about this rather than exchange e-mails. Could you give me a couple of times that would be good for us to talk about this in person?”

If it’s impossible to talk in person, your question might be, “Could you share with me your understanding of our roles in creating this report?” Then you can get the other person’s perspective and go from there.

Two-way communication is always best. But when you have to use e-mail to address difficult issues, be sure to use Crucial Conversations skills to help move toward dialogue.

From the Road

Influencer 2.0 Source 1

The U.S. Women’s Ski Jump team made their Olympic debut in the 2014 Socchi Games. While they did not medal (the three members of the team placed 10th, 15th, and 21st), they had thousands of fans cheering them on, including the youngest member of the U.S. Women’s Ski team—twelve-year-old Zia Terry.

Two years ago at the tender age of ten years old, Zia was made an honorary member of the U.S. Women’s Ski team. How did this precocious youngster ascend to such a lofty honor? She jumped. Literally. Zia became a YouTube sensation thanks to her GoPro helmet-mounted camera recording her first ski jump on the forty-meter hill. The video includes an inspiring one minute and forty-nine seconds of Zia’s charming, courageous self-dialogue as she prepares to jump. It has received over 2 million views on YouTube, 1.3 million of which came within the first ten days of the video being posted.

When asked about her interest in ski jumping, Zia referenced the U.S. Women’s Ski Team website, saying, “I’ve been following my dream, like I saw on one of their web pages. It said, ‘follow your dream, not mine.’ That’s what I’ve been doing.

David Maxfield, who lives not far from Zia in Park City, UT, saw this engaging example of a brave young girl trying something new and knew we needed to include it in the new version of our Influencer Training course—Influencer 2.0. You’ll find her video in Source 1, illustrating the strategy of increasing personal motivation by “Just trying it.” Take a look at the video now and consider what you may want to “just try!”