3 Templates to start your employee development program


Upgrading skills in specific employee groups could be achieved by introducing a new development program. Goals for the program could range from cross-training in key functional knowledge areas to accelerating development of specific groups. Development programs often run over several weeks or months and are attached to pre-defined outcomes to address specific identified learning needs.

Structuring your employee development plan, you will need to pay attention to at least 3 important aspects:

  1. Setting up the curriculum
  2. Preparing managers to be supportive
  3. Preparing attendees to succeed

The overall program

Setting up the curriculum over the development period means you decide how the various learning solutions are scheduled and planned to strengthen and support key messages throughout the time period that your program runs. Each aspect strengthens what had already been covered while adding additional knowledge. Including various learning methodologies (blended learning) enhances the learning experience and keeps it interesting.

Snapshot of a learning program for graduates

Note:

  1. Always start by understanding what you are trying to address before you start designing your development program. What is the learning need? What is the business value of employees having this knowledge and experience?
  2. When does the business need employees with these new skills, understanding and experiences? Is it short-term (within the next year), medium-term (between 1 and 2 years) or is it longer term (more than 2 years)? Knowing the timeframe also helps you decide what to develop internally vs outsourcing the entire program or parts of it.
  3. Who needs to learn these new skills/behaviors? Be very clear who is your target population for this development program (How many years of experience do they have right now? What kind of experience do they already have – functional, geographic etc.).

Preparing managers to support learners

Employees are more motivated and do better when their managers are onboard with their participation in the development program. Be sure to engage with managers before participants are told about the program. Managers need to understand the business context of the development program, why someone on his/her team is included in the program (if they were not nominated by the manager) and how to support the employee throughout the program. Some manages may need training or coaching in this regard.

Snapshot of a manager checklist

Employees participating in these kinds of development programs are often still working in their current roles. Supportive managers not only expect good results in their departments or projects, but also hold employees accountable for completing program assignments. This gives employees the best chance of completing the program successfully.

Preparing attendees to succeed

Development program attendees need to understand more than just the program contents and overview of dates. An orientation session for intended program attendees could help with that. The session gives them an opportunity to understand the business context and benefits to their own careers plus they can ask clarifying questions before committing to invest the time and effort needed to successfully complete the program.

Snapshot of Program Attendee checklist

And orientation session with development program attendees should include at least these topics:

  • A welcome message from an executive, usually the sponsoring executive, explaining the business value of the development program and also career benefits for attendees.
  • A message from Talent Development explaining program expectations, the blended learning approach, deadlines, the team assignment and any other relevant details of the program that attendees should know about at the start.
  • If the program existed before and there was a redesign or some changes were applied, explain how the current programs differs from previous versions some attendees may have heard about in the past.
  • Provide the opportunity for some Q&A

Keeping learners motivated when a development program runs over many months can be a challenge. Helping to keep attendees focused on assignments and deadlines can be easier when you build in challenges which generate leader boards (friendly competition) or where individuals can earn points or badges by completing specific tasks. Adding recognition by the manager/group/department can also be helpful. Recognition can include anything from a small token offered to attendees after completing a specific portion of the program to being mentioned in the company newsletter.

Hopefully these three templates (see download links above) are useful as you review your own planned development program. Do download the 3 files above if you need to see the templates in detail.

7 ways to fix your team


If you shine a light on any team you will notice some areas where processes, communication or collaboration can be better. In many cases a team can function well enough even with a few improvement opportunities. Want to do a snapshot checkup on your team? The downloadable tool below can help you identify any specific areas to focus on if you feel your team performance can use a nudge in the right direction.

When teams fail it is usually recognized as a combination of the team not reaching desired outcomes, team members feeling a high level of dissatisfaction and frustration with team processes and other team members and team leaders failing to accomplish their own goals for the team and for their own career growth.

The 7 aspects of teams shown below are classic areas where low performance could lead to team failures.

7 troubles with teams

Taking a closer look

Step 1

The first column to complete is the scoring column. The question would be – how do I know that my team may be experiencing this trouble? The audit list gives you a possible symptom of observable behavior on either side of the scale: desirable (give this a score of 5 if your team shows this behavior) and undesirable (give this a score of 1 if your team shows this behavior). Should your team display behavior that is somewhere between those two opposites select a score between 1 and 5 that you feel is most accurate to describe how far they may be from either end. Perhaps a score of 3 would be appropriate if you see desirable behavior only 50% of the time.

Step 2

Look at the column called impact. When you look at the behaviors defined as undesired and also the other column containing desired behaviors, how much does it impact the outcomes produced by your team when those behaviors are present or not present? Maybe the impact is “high” if you consider how many hours are wasted when that behavior is present? Maybe it is only “medium” which means some time or effort is wasted, but not too much. And it could also be a “low” impact if that particular behavior does not contribute highly to the inefficiencies you experience as a team experiencing a particular aspect from the audit list.

Step 3

Evaluate your results by looking at both the scores column and the impact column. The graphic below shows the way to identify which of the aspects to focus on when it comes to prioritizing an area to address:

The download file above gives you an audit sheet to use in order to capture results for step 1 and 2.

How to fix any of those?

Once you have the priorities from step 3, it is time to take action.

For each of the area that can be addressed, there are some ideas of how to address that area for the team.

The download file above has suggestions for each of the 7 areas that can be addressed.

Remember

Every team has good times and bad times. Just because your team just did very well, it does not mean it will necessarily continue to go well. And just because your team failed last week, it does not mean there is no way to make it a high-performing team!

Use the tool above to take a closer look at your team and I wish you success in mapping out your next steps; helping your team be even better than it was before!

Avoid Leader Derailment


The Center for Creative leadership’s (CCL) research on executive success and failure identified the significance of “derailers”, and how they differ from just mere weaknesses. They studied leaders who made it to at least the General Manager level, but then their careers had involuntarily stalled, or they had been demoted, dismissed, or asked to take early retirement.

A derailer is not just a weakness. We all have many weaknesses that we may never choose to improve, and some weaknesses do not impact our career success in a major way. A derailer is a weakness that requires improvement if employees wish to realize their full potential in their careers and especially as leaders.

Why do leaders fail?

Leaders most often fail due to unaddressed weaknesses, derailers, and if left unaddressed for long enough these become habits that start to shape a leader’s style of interacting with others. The steady number of reported incidents involving significant leadership behavior issues in companies of all sizes and across industries is a strong reminder not to think that it cannot happen in your company.

Most leadership derailers will not cause the fall of an entire organization. But they can certainly lead to a failed career. The question you need to ask yourself is: “What type of derailers would cause a leader in my organization to fail?” Or, as a leader, “Which derailers am I prone to and how can I address them?”

How do successful leaders avoid derailment?

  1. They seek feedback throughout their careers from people at various leadership levels and from various functions both within the organization and external to the organization (as appropriate).
  2. He or she seeks developmental opportunities that can help overcome flaws and ask for developmental advice from other trusted leaders, coaches, or confidants.
  3. They seek extra support and coaching during transitions and especially when a possible “trigger” event occurs, which they do not cope well with.
  4. They remain aware that new jobs require new approaches and behaviors and successful leaders not only recognize this but reach out to ensure they have the right support and advice to successfully navigate through a transition into a new role.

How can the organization help to avoid a leader from derailing?

Organizations can take actions to ensure that leaders are aware of weaknesses which could derail them in the future and the following cautions can help with that:

  • Consider career paths that include time spent in various different groups, business units, or functions instead of a career path that simply moves in a straight vertical line within the organization.
  • Encourage and promote feedback to employees that focuses on “how you did it” instead of “what you did” only.
  • Beware to not consider one failure by a leader as a sign that he or she is completely “off the track” and using it as a critical development need to address instead.
  • Avoid moving managers to new roles too fast and instead allow them to remain in a role long enough to experience the consequence of business decisions and learn from it. A strong culture of learning and “failing forward” is a great environment for leaders to address high-risk weaknesses at an early stage of their careers.

Identify possible derailers – Self Assessment for leaders

This self assessment can be done between a leader and his or her coach to open up conversations about “what can stop me from reaching my leadership goals and ambitions?”

An honest look at the listed factors can help a leader identify perhaps the one or two behavioral traits that could possibly derail him or her in the future. Working with a coach, a leader can explore different ways to handle some of the situations which they had not handled well in the past.

Both organizations and leaders within the organization need to take responsibility for identifying signs of weaknesses that could derail a leader in future and then commit to addressing the issue before it becomes a derailer. The costs of failure in this area is not only public humiliation for the leader and a public relations challenge for companies, but also has tangible costs when one considers for example costs associated with a high staff turnover, which often accompanies groups where the derailed leader has worked over the years.  

Learning Book


A learning book is a great tool to use for learners who are keen to capture the key points of learning moments. It is also useful for coaches or trainers who may want to make them available to coachees or class participants to help them along on their learning journey. A pdf version of a learning book is available for free download below – letter size, A4 size an A5 size.

To really learn something new, one must chew on it – write it down, read what you wrote and then consider how it changes your perspective or increases your awareness or understanding. The learning book helps learners to capture ideas and thoughts. It gives them a chance to go back and review what they had written before to remind learners of what they had thought at the time and planned to do about their own continued learning.

“Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.”

– George Iles –

There are many ways that someone can learn something. Classroom sessions are not the only option. See the list of opportunities to learn below: (and this list is not exhaustive)

The learning book is a place to capture all new thoughts, ideas, and areas that a learner wants to learn more about in one place.

Feel free to add additional pages that would help guide the learner along a developmental path.

The book is broken down into 3 parts: Prepare to learn, Learning, and Follow-up. In the preparation to learn section, there is space to capture the topics that the learner would like to know more about.

Prepare to learn

Learning

The learning section has a few pages to prompt learners about aspects that may be important for them to remember later. It covers aspects such as areas to research further after the learning event. Or maybe they want to capture the highlights of their learning journey a particular week. Maybe there were a few statements of quotes that they really want to remember – the learning book has a page for that. There is also a page to capture any favorite speakers or writers that they came across and want to know more about.

Follow up

After a learning event or conference, we often have great plans for new initiatives to implement or people to contact – topics to research. And unfortunately, many of those great ideas dissipate when our normal lives resume. The Follow-up section is about capturing the actions you plan to take and it gives you a section to capture dates or months when you plan to work on it.

It’s a great way to help you check back on how you are doing with follow-up activities.

Reviewing your own learning notes from the last few months can help you pick-up again on an interesting point you still wanted to follow up on. Perhaps you had planned to call someone or to do an internet search, but somehow you forgot about it. Having it written down in your learning book and being able to review it, you can pick up on those points and ensure that you do complete the task that you had planned to do.

The download file links below contain *.pdf versions of a learning book for 3 different printed sizes: letter size, A4 size and A5 size (which is half the size of an A4).

Developmental Assignment Template


Developing leaders by placing them on specific assignments is a great way to broaden their perspective while ensuring their highest development needs are being addressed in a structured way. The template (download link below) ensures transparency regarding developmental focus and management expectations of the outcomes of an assignment.

An assignment may require a change in location, but not always. An assignment could also be a temporary changed reporting relationship or being part of a different group or business unit. A different group of colleagues and managers to work with provides an assignee with the opportunity to broaden his or her internal network and learn to build relationships fast. International assignments can add additional learning objectives such as developing more cultural awareness and skills involving collaboration and communicating across cultures.

The example shown, helps to illustrate how one would go about using the developmental assignment template I am sharing above (see download link).

What should he/she learn?

The areas to develop (called Leadership Aspects in the example) would depend on the competencies that have been selected for leadership development and the latest ratings from the performance management process can be used to provide you with the ratings for each leader. This helps you to focus on the development needs with the highest priorities at that time. A conversation with the leader’s direct manager could be very useful in selecting the highest priorities. If the employee had been included in a recent talent review, there may be additional information available to complete the template and select the focus areas for his or her leadership development.

How will he/she learn?

Selecting the development activities, it is important to first understand specifically which aspect of that development priority the employee needs to learn more about.

  • Theoretical (mainly improving awareness)? Then an online self-paced course could be the answer. Or even sending the employee to attend an external class or read a book (or selection of books).
  • Learning new behaviors? Coaching and feedback based on actual examples encountered could be a good approach. You could also do a pre-test and post-test with some experiential workshop or learning intervention taking place between the tests. Workshops which include options to practice new behaviors can be great solutions.

A combination of learning interventions is the best way to address development needs. Look at each high priority learning need and look for ways to combine class-room training, self-paced learning, short On The Job (OTJ) assignments or tasks and perhaps coaching too. Each of the interventions would then strengthen learning and reinforce principles introduced.

Be sure to document who will mentor or coach the employee. He or she needs to understand the support you are making available to him/her on the journey of learning new skills.

What is the definition of Done?

Spend some time considering how you will close out the assignment with the specific learning needs. Will you want a written report detailing the learning that took place over the assignment period? Or will you want a report and also a presentation? Or perhaps just assign a presentation to be developed whereby the assignee is asked to share his or her key learning achievements with a panel of senior-level stakeholders? Assign the completion activity early so the assignee can prepare for it from the moment he or she starts the new assignment.

Include stakeholders early

Share rating templates with the intended evaluation panel and the assignee before the final event or evaluation of a written report. The transparency helps all concerned to anticipate the level of detail required and where the focus areas will be. This helps the employee prepare from early-on in the assignment to provide the required final product or presentation.

Documenting the learning objectives of an assignment helps to orient and align all stakeholders on how to positively impact the development of that leader – the leader himself/herself, his/her direct manager or supervisor, his/her coach and HR or L&D staff supporting the assignment.

Assigning Roles for Meetings


Picture1

Have meetings felt unproductive and have not been building your confidence in the value they may have added? Was there insufficient time to consider all the options available or making the best decisions following an open discussion? Perhaps it is time to consider assigning roles to those who attend your meetings.

Productive Meetings

The reason why assigned roles work is that meeting participants are often not fully engaged in asking questions, stimulating discussions, summarizing agreements reached, critically review suggestions or ideas, or ensuring that everyone there has a chance to contribute. Having a specific role to play at a meeting helps participants to focus on helping the team fully explore options, evaluate the options, and make high-quality decisions following the discussion.

The roles are specific and defined and it would require specific individuals to act accordingly for the duration of the meeting. Roles vary from being the one to bring up a lot of questions about the issues on the agenda to being someone who plays devils advocate or being the critical one when it comes to suggestions tabled for consideration. Of course, all meeting participants continue to bring their own skills, opinions, and knowledge to the meeting and are expected to contribute those to the discussions too.

How to assign roles

Roles can be assigned before a meeting, the chairperson can ask meeting participants to volunteer for the various roles before the meeting starts or the chairperson can randomly assign roles at the start of the meeting (often done by means of handout out cards which explain the task of each role on a 2×4 inch card).

Task roles to assign

Initiator/Contributor

Contributes ideas and suggestions or proposes solutions and decisions. Proposes new ideas or reframes existing ideas in a different way.

Information Seeker

Asks for clarification related to comments – are they based on verified data? Asks for information or facts relevant to the problem. Suggests when more information may be needed before making decisions.

Opinion Seeker

Asks for clarification related to comments made by meeting participants.  Find out how people feel about ideas on the table.  Include those who have not yet been able to contribute an opinion during the discussion.

Critic

In a constructive manner, verbalizes ways in which a suggestion or idea could have unforeseen negative consequences for other (internal or external) stakeholders in the implementation of such suggestion/idea.

Process guard

Indicates decision-making errors and biases which may be skewing support towards a particular outcome. Points out departures from agreed-on agenda and discussion goals. Tries to bring the group back to the central issues and raises questions about the direction in which the group is heading

Summarizer

Summarizes what has taken place and what decisions have been made to date. Reminds the group of assumptions made along the way during discussions.

Note-taker and timekeeper

Keeps notes of decisions made, and actions agreed to. Reminds the group of an approaching break/end of the meeting.

Dysfunctional roles at meetings

Sometimes meetings are unproductive because one or more meeting participant is engaging in playing a dysfunctional role during the meeting which stifles discussion, shuts down conversations, and focuses the attention in unhelpful ways. Discussing these before the meeting starts could be another way to create awareness of unproductive meeting behaviors in order to avoid them. Sometimes it can be interesting to review a meeting in hindsight to identify if anyone engaged in any of these dysfunctional roles. This would be useful to help meeting participants develop self-awareness related to their meeting participant behaviors.

dysfunctional roles

It can be an taxing task to keep track of progress, keep an eye on the clock while also making sure that actions and decisions are captured while ensuring that discussions make optimal use of the skills and experience in the meeting room. Assigning task roles to meeting participants can give you a much-improved chance of having a productive meeting which ensures full engagement of all those present.

Competence – getting to the top level


According to competence development, there are four levels that a learner goes through on their journey to being consciously competent at a skill they wish to be good at. Knowing which level you are at for the new skill or competency that you are trying to learn is important, but it is also true that until someone gains awareness almost nobody knows when they are at level 1.

image001-11733152243.png

Level 4 is the goal that any learner wants to achieve, and it is that state of skillfulness that does not require effort to execute. Think for example of how you tie your shoelaces or drive your car. If you have been doing it for a few years you can probably have many other thoughts in your head and while you are doing it. This is possible because you have reached Level 4 in the skills required to tie your shoelaces or drive your car.

Going from Level 1 to Level 4

Level 1 means you are not skilled at something specific, but you do not know it. Until someone provides you with feedback in this area or until you are somehow confronted with the fact that you have no or limited skills in a specific area. We do not even think about that area as something we need to work on and we are often blissfully unaware of the potential development need in an area. The main way to move out of level 1 is to ask for feedback and to look for ways to understand how your behavior, actions, communications and way of working impact others.

From Level 1 to Level 2 – Get input. When was the last time you asked a friend, a co-worker or a family member “Tell me one thing that I would have to get better at if I would be a better friend/co-worker/member of this family or better at my job?”

Going from Level 2 to Level 3 – Learn and practice using new ways of doing or thinking. This is where the heavy-lifting comes into play. To make this transition of learning a new skill takes focus, dedicating time in your busy schedule to actively acquire a new skill. This requires a lot of discipline and you will not only need to schedule the time for this, but you will need to practice what you are learning on a regular basis and keep track of your own progress. It is important also in this stage to get input from others so that you can gauge the progress you are making towards acquiring and demonstrating skilfulness in new areas.

Going from Level 3 to Level 4 – It just happens. There comes a day when someone mentions that you have been demonstrating your skills in a new area without you being aware of making the effort. At that time, you will have acquired an unconsciously skilled state whereby you no longer need to focus or concentrate very hard in order to demonstrate your skill in a particular area.

What is the value of using this model?

If you are a trainer, it is important to know at which stage your training participants are because it would drive the kinds of information you make available, the kinds of practice sessions you build into your training class and the kinds of tests you provide for them to measure their progress. A pre-test or exercise can often help determine the level of awareness and knowledge that training participants have in the skills area(s) that you will be focusing on during the class. For example, a trainer may use more assessments to increase awareness if the class is at level 1 or the trainer may use more practical exercises and instructional sessions if the person is at level 2 or 3.

As a mentor, it is important to understand not only the goals and development needs that a mentee would like to work on but also what his or her current level of competence is in that particular area. This knowledge helps you to provide helpful guidance to help him or her reach the next level of competence.

As a leader of a department or a function, you will likely have people within your group or team that are at different levels of competence. Situational Leadership will be required from you as you assign tasks, delegate or provide feedback to each person focusing on the level of competence that he or she is at for that particular skill set that is needed.

Having a framework and process for moving from unconscious incompetence to being consciously competent helps mentors and learners. It is easier to select the right developmental tool or resource for development when it is clear which level of being skilled the learner is at. And the starting point is most often the results from 360 reports for leaders or communication and collaboration style feedback tools and exercises.


Note 1:
In February 1969, management trainer Martin M. Broadwell called the model “the four levels of teaching”. Paul R. Curtiss and Phillip W. Warren mentioned this model in their 1973 book The Dynamics of Life Skills Coaching. In the late 1970s, this model was used at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch. He called it the “four stages for learning any new skill”. Later the model was frequently (but incorrectly) attributed to Abraham Maslow, although the model does not appear in his major works.

Leadership Behavior Scorecard


The behavior of leaders is a very powerful indicator of how a company truly operates from a people perspective. Which aspects of the business are mostly focused on by leaders? How are decisions made and communicated? Most change initiatives include specific behaviors which leaders need to role model in order to ensure a successful outcome for the initiative.

The typical approach to measure how leaders are behaving is to obtain input from those around each leader – those who interact with the leader on a regular basis.  The groups of people asked to provide ratings for each leader could be:

  1. People who report to the leader
  2. People who are colleagues of the leader
  3. People who are more senior than the leader
  4. If appropriate – external parties who interact with the leader on a regular basis.

Process of assessing leaders

The process of assessing leadership behavior typically follows these basic steps: Collecting ratings, consolidating the ratings, providing feedback to leaders and using the results to plan further actions as needed.

201906 process

The mechanism needed for this exercise needs to be developed, reviewed and agreed and then introduced before the process starts. Once the key behavioral elements are defined, create a way to capture feedback from others about leadership behaviors.

The resource above can be downloaded. It is a set of behavioral statements which can be shared with those who need to provide ratings and comments. The scores or ratings relate to actual behavior observed against desired behaviors for each leader that they interact with on a regular basis. Some people automate their chosen feedback gathering using a free tool like http://www.surveymonkey.com

Process notes:

  • Behaviors used for ratings have to be very well defined so that they can be observed and does not require someone to guess at the intentions or motivations of the leader. A behavior must be observable or produce visible results.
  • Ask raters to add comments to help you interpret the scores. This understanding enables the creation of realistic follow-up actions after the results are available.
  • Ratings should not be requested too often – raters get “survey-fatigue” and your results become less meaningful.
  • The objective is for the tool to support the leaders by providing helpful and actionable feedback. The tool also helps to understand how the change initiative is progressing towards desired milestones.

You will notice in the shared resource (tool) example that leadership behaviors were defined in 4 categories: Commitment Behaviors, Communication Behaviors,  Teamwork/Collaboration Behaviors, and Safety Behaviors. Your categories will be determined by your own change initiative and you will need to also define the specific behaviors that are desirable for leaders given your project. Simply use the downloaded excel sheet and type over the category names and behavior definitions to create your own Leadership Behavior Scorecard.

Important watch-outs:

  • Be careful when you consolidate the results from various raters. If you had agreed to keep rater identities confidential, summarize the results by subgroup. Provide an average per subgroup for each of the behavioral elements. Do not provide a subgroup score if there were less than 3 raters.
  • Follow-up actions should also include recognition/appreciation for those leaders who are role modeling the desired behaviors in the organization.
  • Consider using some examples from the higher ratings to create case studies to the organization. It is easier for leaders and employees to understand how to apply desired behaviors when they receive actual examples that illustrate how decisions were made or implemented using the desired behaviors. An example makes it easier for others to follow.

The tool is relatively simple to use, but it is vital that it is designed well and introduced correctly into the organization. Assessment tools can be seen as a negative element if the objectives and the way results will be used are not communicated appropriately.

Organize your message


speech

Many of us have heard about the power of three items or 3 key messages, but most people have not been shown how to use this in practice. While it is easy enough to make a list and restrict it to 3 items, picking 3 items that make sense from a logical perspective takes a little more thought. Our minds are highly responsive to patterns. Knowing that we will hear 3 key points and then having somebody deliver the 3 points in a logical fashion is something we are more likely to remember afterward. It comes across as more credible when we are able to recognize a pattern in the delivery of the key points.

Maybe you are coaching someone on how to deliver more impactful messages. Or perhaps you are preparing your own answers to questions in a group setting or you are planning a short speech on an important change initiative or project update? This resource can help you. It aids in formulating your thoughts in a logical way, which enables you to deliver a message that is easy for your audience to interpret and remember.

3 Step process to deliver powerful messages

model org message

The three key ideas you wish to communicate or the three top reasons why you suggest a certain course of action cannot be random or they may still fail to be memorable. The 3 key concepts should be structured in a way that would make sense to others so that they can easily be recalled after people hear them.

Grouping the 3 points in a logical way:

  • Three linked ideas like quality, time, money/costs; good, bad and ugly (see the specific example in the downloaded document )
  • Forward or backward motion – tell the story sequentially either from the present into the past in 3 steps or from the past into the future in 3 steps. For example: in the past, we used one process which worked, but since then many things changed to where we are today (with challenges and in need for things to change) and in the future, we will have additional challenges which simply requires us to make changes now. (You can fill in the details of your own message to explain the situation when you choose a structure that moves forward or backward in time).
  • Perspective – the 3 concepts move from a big idea to a small idea or from small ideas to big ideas/reasons. For example (out of) from this small team which will be impacted by the change to the bigger team and then to an even bigger group of people who may be impacted. (see the specific example in the downloaded pages)
org message structures

Use the practice sheet or template (included in the download file above) to learn this approach. It helps you to become more familiar with using this way of organizing your message or your answer to a group of people. Once you get used to how it works you will no longer need the template and you should be able to organize your thoughts while you are in the meeting or in transit to the meeting.

organize your message template

Some ideas of where to use this approach:

  • You are in a meeting and they are going around the table collecting everyone’s thoughts on a proposal (You take a moment to quickly organize your own response using this method.)
  • You have been asked to provide an update at a meeting, which starts in a few minutes. (Remembering this approach you are able to jot down your initial thoughts, choose a structure and then revise your points to fit your chosen structure of 3 points to make.)
  • You are attending a conference and have to introduce yourself or someone else (Using the structured way of choosing 3 key aspects to mention, your answer is memorable to the conference attendees.)
  • During lunch, some colleagues ask you why you support a particular proposal. (You easily recall the structured options and formulate a response consisting of 3 key thoughts to share after you have swallowed the food.)

Listening to long unstructured answers in meetings or trying to make sense out of facts presented in a complicated way in a meeting can be a confusing experience. Using a simple structure with only (no more and no less than) 3 key points, makes it much easier for you to avoid the same mistake. Instead, you can use this approach to deliver a message that they will easily understand and remember.

Let me know how this approach works for you or the person that you are coaching!

Choosing between opposites


man on beam final

In many diagnostic tools for leaders and teams there is a scale which indicates how far the leader or the team is on a ladder between two opposite behaviors or style preferences. This could be for example critical evaluation on the one end of the scale and compassionate encouragement on the other side of the scale. (see example below).

These kinds of results are often used to coach and develop leaders and teams towards a desired behavior or culture.  In many cases the distinction between the “right” behavior and the “wrong” behavior is more linked to the situation at hand, associated risks and/or the person you have in front of you than a simplistic view of correct behavior. For example it may be less desirable behavior to be overly critical in an evaluation of someone who is new to the role and the company or team.  In another instance where the risks are high and the people on the team very experienced it may be more appropriate to perform a critical evaluation in the event of a major failure to achieve desired outcomes than to offer supportive encouragement.

blog scale graphic

This leads to the concept of managing or working with both of the ends of a linear scale. Choosing both sides in terms of developing leaders and teams can help them to have a bigger capacity to choose the right response depending on the situation.  The key is to develop awareness in them. Encourage leaders and teams to embrace more than one behavior or style to respond to specific situations or a tasks.

If we go back to the example above. You may be coaching someone or guiding a class of developing leaders through an exercise and this approach may be useful. Ask them to first of all identify the extreme ends of a scale of possibilities. Then identify for both extremes – the possible positive outcomes from that approach and also the possible negative outcomes.

blog polarity awareness

In a class situation you can also assign it as an exercise between two or more people to brainstorm together.

Once the exercise is complete you can lead a discussion with examples from the class or the leader you are coaching. When may it be appropriate to use one or the other behavior for the best outcome?  You can also choose to ask groups that had completed the exercise to prepare a demonstration (role-playing) to show the appropriate way to respond to a situation based on an example they discussed in the group. Or you may choose to provide some case-studies where the leader or class have to identify which may be the best approaches. These practical exercises will further help your participants understand the choices that they have as leaders when facing different situations and how to at least evaluate the best path forward before they go into action.

As a followup action you can ask participants or your coachee to capture examples they come across in the next few weeks/months where they had to make a choice between two opposite approaches and used the exercise above to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes. When using this approach one will will not necessarily avoid mistake or guarantee the most effective approach. The process of pausing and considering options will make the leader or team more effective over time and will improve decision-making.

Some examples you could consider for the exercise above:
  • Working independently vs working in groups/teams
  • People focused vs Task focused
  • Having a structured (fixed) approach vs a creative/open approach
  • Formal vs Informal approach to others
  • Monitoring others closely vs holding them accountable for outcomes created

This approach does not invalidate the tests which offer leaders and teams valuable insights into their own typical approaches and style preferences. This is merely another way to approach the outcomes from those tests to help develop more adaptable leaders and teams, which is highly needed in the current environment where change has become a constant and successfully working across borders, cultures and generations have become essential.