Streetwise Leadership – Tip #1 of 10…


It’s been a harsh 24 months for some of my clients.  Key learnings keep repeating, so thought they might be useful to you.  I promise, the key points will be short, and include critical ‘what to do about it.’  These items have caused my clients such issues as stress, loss of time, a demoralized workforce and more (yeah and losing scads of money).  These are powerful derailers for leaders. 

Streetwise Leadership #1 – Listen Proactively (sometimes called listening between the lines*):

When an employee is motivated enough to actually tell you something, the last thing you want to do is shut down that motivation. What if you could harness that motivation?  Here are some tips:

  1. Listen for a few minutes.  If you only want to invest 5 minutes, tell them upfront and then listen attentively for the 5 minutes.  I had one guy tell me that once he gave an employee who had been trying to talk to him for a year the 5 min she needed.  The whole relationship changed.  If they need more time, use #2. 
  2. Hold them accountable for what they are saying.  Easy ways to do this: First, ask them to, without sacrificing their regular work, write it down (use this for notes at the next meeting, if it happens, often there is no second conversation – I call this the perfect BS filter).  Second, ask them, “If you were in my position, what would you do, and how would you do it (this drives bigger picture thinking)?”

The key learning here is not that you gave someone some time, or held them accountable or they felt engaged.  What you have is the opportunity to hear what’s important.  Because in those 5 minutes, you hear what is going on and you get to ask the question, ‘Where does this come from?  What causes this to arise?  Is it important?  What do I need to do to drive engagement of my strategic agenda?”

There is a lot of research to back this up, take a look at this Deloitte Survey (If anything, just read the last two bullet points of the last page).  The full link is below if it got lost above.  

One of my clients has actually started leaving her office and going to see employees, managers and others to see how things are going.  Results – amazing! 

And by the way if you don’t listen well; get some coaching and learn, it is an acquired skill for just about everybody. 

Streetwise Leadership #2 – Teach Respect (there is a hidden agenda in this one and you will see why you care.).

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 



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October 23, 2012 · 1:37 pm

Telling results – Management view vs. Employee view

This one page summary says a lot about what employees are looking for vs what management feels they need to supply.  If ever there was a clear request for good leadership and a clear defintiion for what that means in today’s world – its right here.  Now the challenge – how do we deliver that when we are stressed and the pace is fast.  It takes work, and is possible!

Here is the link if it gets lost above: 

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August 17, 2012 · 8:58 pm

Building a Business Case for Training – GVASTD SIG Corp Dev & Learning Council Meeting

You might think when training professionals representing legal, construction, service, actuarial and technical training get together to discuss business case challenges, we would find differing needs.

Not at all!

The topic at hand – ‘Building a Business Case for Training,’ was both thought provoking and serious for a group of people faced with using training as a strategic advantage.  There was a passionate and creative discussion for an hour and four interconnected bottom line insights emerging from the group.

Insight #1 – The organization’s leadership and support structure (e.g. annual reviews and performance management systems) must be actively engaged and participating or it is difficult for employees to understand ‘why’ this is important.  A clear case for effective leadership and alignment of training with the public message of the company.

Insight #2 – Stop training everybody.  There are people who are interested in growth and advancement – support them with the appropriate training curriculum, job growth challenges, pay and recognition for delivering greater value to the organization (use the structure from #1 above).

Then there are folks who like what they do, are interested in improvement but not advancement.  They need a different path to success.  Help them do their job better and don’t ask them to lead (it’s a waste of time, money and energy).

And then there are folks (yes trainers, I know this is hard to believe) who just want to show up, work and go home.  We cannot change them.  Focus on the people who will add value.

Insight #3 – Stop calling Soft Skills training ‘Soft Skills.’  It’s just too squishy for many professionals.  Ideas emerged about names to engage, such as changing ‘Active Listening’ to ‘Strategic Communications’.

Insight #4 – Stop calling it ‘Training.’  Get creative and collaborative in various ways that get people engaged in active learning.  The word Training itself has baggage.  Leave that by the curb.

And finally, we had thoughts on delivering cost effective learning in addition to the traditional methods:

  • Small discussion groups (with a facilitator to keep things positive and focused) work well when a mix of leaders and learners are together (for learning), or a discussion with smart people sharing experience can be very useful to build on and share best practices.
  • Use virtual meetings (keep them short, 1 hour max); web conferences do work, and we trainers need to do some handholding for a while.  We have to make this method easy to use.
  • Get people into social networking to learn and share ideas.

Next meeting’s topic is:  What’s in a name – Marketing the “T” word (“training”)

So here is a leadership tip – are you collaborating with leaders outside your industry for new ideas?  You should.

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Trust and how it keeps you from having to keep playing Executive Whack-a-Mole (session with Bob Whipple for GVASTD)

GV-ASTD* met on March 8th, 2012 for a very interesting and engaging session by Bob Whipple, the Trust Ambassador – Stop playing executive Whack a Mole.  As always, Bob Whipple gets you to think, see outside your box and explore some ideas in the other zones of your reality – and he is always entertaining!

He started with, so what’s different today for leaders than just a few years ago (he asked the audience)?  Globalization, cell phones… Bottom line, as a leader, ‘You are always on.’  So then, more importantly, what is the role of ASTD?  The group answer – To see reality, see things differently.

What does the leader need to do?  First, build a good foundation that includes Values, Mission, Strategy and Behaviors.  They must set the vision and then incorporate ‘change cycles’ to achieve the vision.  But the leader today is caught in the trap of ‘always on’ and is just solving problems instead of doing the right thing.  Like building a better culture and leading with trust.  And that requires investment in thinking time, me time.

The long term truth is that investing in the culture and people helps to take care of things in the future.  This solves a myriad of problems.  Trust is essential to establishing a good culture.  What is Trust (he asked us again)?  Respect and faith emerged as real needs for Trust.

According to Bob, the first law of trust is, ‘Trust others more.’  We then did a very illuminating exercise around the value of trust in categories like Problem Solving, Communication, Customer Retention and others.  We then explored the ingredients of trust and then the types of trust (people, products, organization, systems).

Building trust is like a bank account; you can make deposits all year and lose it all in one withdrawal.  To protect the account of trust, leaders need to exercise Reinforcing Candor.  This means responding well to things you may not want to hear.  Does not imply agreement, but this means respecting the other, then trust does not diminish during issues.

Then there is Trust and Accountability.  Accountability should be a positive thing vs. a negative thing.

And then we were way out of time, although we could have spent the rest of the evening exploring the nuances of leadership and trust.

Thanks Bob!

Bob may be reached at

*GVASTD – The Genesee Valley American Society for Training Development www.gvastd.orgImage

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Engaging Learners – eLearning Special Interest Group… what we talked about

So last week 14 of us from GV-ASTD sat around a large table at the TLC Learning & Conference Center* and had a good 90 minute face-to-face discussion (I just love the irony of eLearners and face2face!) about keeping learners engaged in eLearning.

Anyway… I filled two pages in my diary with notes, ideas and more.  Some key points include:

  1. Find ways to serve up what the learner needs when they need it (the 45 minute on-line course was seen as completely useless in most cases – digestible chucks is what people need now), brevity and clarity are king (the message has to be boiled down nowadays)
  2. Good intros in eLearning are important – have to let the learner know what problems the program will solve for them at the start
  3. Use of small scenarios, short testimonials, clicks on the screen, drag and drop, fun and humor were ID’d a a good way to engage learners and help them apply content (one comment was, ‘keep it human’)
  4. There was wide agreement that using social networks to engage distance (and local) learners in future discussions was a great was for follow-up, more learning and the developer can gain feedback and improve by participation!
  5. Use tools that enable the learner to have a sense of control during the course (jumps, repeats, branching)
  6. One click access to job aids, process support and other material that makes the learner more effective and turns the ‘eLearning’ into a sort of Performance Support System vs just a ‘course’ (now we’re cookin’) and exponentially increases the value of the training team (build the whole package)
  7. Engaging ‘Super Users’ through social networking expands the program, includes others and provides critical feedback to the entire community within the scope of the program
  8. Some mentioned resources during the session included:
    A whole new look at learning –  (watch the adult video on the page)
    Neil Perlin’s Blog on Mobile learning:
    Cathy Moore – Save the world from boring eLearning:
    Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid eLEarning Blog:

Next meeting – Mobile Delivery – stay tuned for details

Listen well, be kind, grow others… Bob

* The TLC Learning and Conference Center is located inside the Transfiguration Church facility at 3760 Culver Road in Rochester NY.  Seats 2 – 15 comfortably and is available for any group to use.  Contact here

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In this world of learning… Making your content useful!

There  is much data out there, but I wonder how much is really useful? Here is a tip:

1. Number your points so they are easy to follow (this works for 75% of the population)
2. Always explain your own TLAs (three letter acronyms)
3. Usually three points are plenty for one topic

Use the Einstein theory -‘Everything should be made as simple as possible.’ Ask yourself, if it takes 20 steps, is it really too complicated? Break it into chunks.

Learning should build the bridge of wisdom between knowledge and strength.


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