Archive for May, 2012

Masking Tips

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Well, there I was on the shoreline, as I described in my last post. In a place I didn’t know, in a mild state of panic, with nowhere to stay and no way of leaving. I had a vocabulary of about twenty Croatian words. I was starting to freeze both physically and mentally.

In Maslow terms, I was back to basics – my physiological needs of warmth, shelter and food were not being met. My only option was to talk my way into someone’s home. As there was only one place with a light on – the shop – I had one opportunity within my one option. Not a strong position. I also felt pretty foolish for having got myself into the position, and have never liked imposing myself on others. Could my position have been any weaker?

I wasn’t confident I could pull it off. In NLP terms, this was me in “First Position”. As I thought about going into the shop, I considered how I would come across to anyone I met – “Second Position”.  I thought of Acres, from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, when he says before the duel “My valour is certainly going, it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were, at the palms of my hands!”’

Finally, I took “Third Position” or the “Meta Position” – I looked at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. I then I realised what I needed to do. I needed to become someone who would always manage to succeed in such a situation – and that person was Michael Palin! He travels the world meeting new people, has a lovely way with people and gets himself into people’s homes and premises whenever he wants.

So I became Michael Palin – initially in my mental approach, and then in terms of my physical behaviours and all aspects of my rapport building. To cut a long story short, it worked like a dream! Anna, the shopkeeper – who also had rooms she let out in the summer – let me to stay and fed me for the next two days.

It is a technique I have used on several occasions since, and one that I have encouraged and enabled others to use - it can bring about strikingly beneficial results.

It obviously had more of an emotional attachment for me than Anna. I went back two years later (this time in the summer!) and stayed with her again – and even though I reminded her of my previous visit she couldn’t remember me. Perhaps it happened every week? The Tourist Information Office in Dubrovnik having a competition to see how many unsuspecting tourists they could get to visit a closed Mljet! …

Which brings me to last December, when I wrote a blog about “Being Santa”. Having got changed from being Santa, I went back to my colleagues and they were talking about how people are different when they are somebody else. It made me think more about Masquerades and being Santa – or being anyone else to be more precise (and so reminded me of Michael Palin).

Whilst I acquired my Santa outfit for fun (£2.50 in a Homebase sale!), I did by accident find an additional use for it. The office Christmas Party. I find Christmas a lovely time of the year, but office parties are not part of Christmas for me – I have never really enjoyed them.

There was one particular year when I really didn’t want to go, so I decided to go as Santa. And it was a very interesting experience. I discovered that I was able to go to it and enjoy it more than I had done previously. On reflection, I realised that I was attending as Santa and not as Paul, and so had a different outlook. Consequently I used a whole different set of behaviours. As a result, every year from then on I went as Santa – and enjoyed them far more.

The main reason for the invention and subsequent popularity of Masquerade Balls in Fifteenth Century Venice was so that people could conceal their identity and hide who they really were. The anonymity they provided to an upper class that was governed by the strictest etiquette was irresistible. They didn’t have to be themselves; they were able to be different people. Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.

This leads me to the questions I want to pose.  Which is the real person? Paul or Santa (or Michael Palin)?

The person when they are wearing or not wearing the mask?

When is a person closest to being their innate self?

I have thought about it many times over the years since my visit to Mljet. What are your thoughts?

Paul

How do you get out of a personal pickle?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

For many years, I had a need to be organised and structured – and still do to some degree – however, I recognised that I needed to develop my ability to work with less structure. This was a personal development area when I undertook my NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner training about 10 years ago. So I took myself off to Dubrovnik, Croatia – a place I  had never visited before – in January with no accommodation booked. I arrived at Dubrovnik Airport at 10pm and only found a room at 2am – the intervening 4 hours was very uncomfortable, particularly the last hour.

But Dubrovnik is a wonderful city with a rich history, and it quickly became apparent that it was well worth the visit. I decided I had quite enough learning on that first night, and would now enjoy the rest of my week. A couple of days later, having read about the beautiful island of Mljet, I decided to visit it – having been reliably informed by the Tourist Office in Dubrovnik that there would be plenty of places to stay and eat.

I got to the harbour and boarded the ferry for the 2 hour trip. I was slightly concerned that there were only a dozen other people on the boat, and most of them were over the age of 60. Looking at their ‘luggage’, it was obvious that they were returning from taking produce to Dubrovnik market. It was a lovely day though, the views were stunning and I soon put my concerns to one side. In fact, I started thinking how good it would be with so few tourists there!

Mljet is a long thin island with one road that runs along the spine of the island. Sobra, the ferry port, is towards one end of the island and Polace – a small village on the verge of the national park and my destination – at the other end. The promised bus was waiting there at the ferry terminal. All twelve ferry passengers got on and we set off. As we drove along the island, people got off one by one. Polace was the penultimate stop, and as we approached I was the only person left on the bus. How wonderfully peaceful, I thought. I got off, the bus drove off and I looked for one of the lodgings. Then it hit me … Mljet was shut.

I walked up and down the sea front. It was around 5pm and getting dark. The warm sunny day was turning into a cool, clear January evening.  The only lights that were on were in the small shop. None of the other houses had any signs of life. All the shoreline restaurants were obviously closed for winter. The next ferry back was early in the morning (presumably to take people to the market!), with the connecting bus passing back through Polace at 4.15am. There was no way of getting off the island that evening. For someone who needed structure, I was in a real pickle.

What would you have done?

I will tell you what I did and how I did it tomorrow in my next blog post.

Paul

 

Creating a Strategy (3) – Aligned and Fit for Purpose

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

If Part 2 was the engine room, Part 3 is all about the different lubricants to keep the engine performing. Engine oils and other lubricants are constantly being improved. If your engine can be improved by using these improved lubricants, you should use them. Whilst I am a dvocating a 5-year strategy to give stability and focus to the vision, I also advocate constantly reviewing it to make sure it’s relevant.

Sections 6 – 9 in this post need to be revisited and amended at least annually. It’s a case of carrying out your MOT – Maximising Our Training.

If you are managing a Learning and Development unit, I’m guessing that you have a finite budget? I’m also reasonably confident that you will have more requests than you can meet with this finite budget?  In which case, you need to maximise those resources.

To deliverer optimum value from your budget, you need a process or processes to ensure that:

  1. only those who really need the learning interventions get them,
  2. where a course is involved, it is run at maximum occupancy, and
  3. those who undertake such interventions have demonstrated that they have the new skills once they return to the workplace.

Section 6 – Organisational Needs Analysis

Based on my previous arguments around whether this Strategy should be a ‘Training’ or ‘Performance Improvement’ Strategy, it should come as no surprise that I advocate a Performance Needs Analysis (PNA) as opposed to a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). Very different entities. I have previously discussed a model for an effective PNA, and this section should summarise the process your organisation will use in relation to assessing its performance needs.

Section 7 – Prioritisation of Needs

Then comes the thorny issue of deciding which, and how many, of the needs you can address. My experience is that the organisation likes the L & D function to undertake this activity. My advice would be not to! The client side is responsible for prioritisation, the L & D side is responsible to effective delivery. If you have a finite budget and some needs cannot be met, who gets the (thorny) stick if L & D have undertaken the prioritisation? Yes, you do!

You should suggest an objective prioritisation process, and work with the client side to ensure that it happens, but not undertake it.

Section 8 – Addressing Needs

This is about getting the right people into the position for the correct needs to be met, and then checking that they have in fact been met. Key aspects of this process should be:

  • The person requiring the performance need (or their manager) giving a clear explanation of the need.
  • The manager explaining why they cannot address this matter locally (through coaching, shadowing, etc.).
  • The manager showing clearly how by addressing this performance need, organisational performance will be improved.
  • Agreement from local senior management that this is a valid need.
  • The delegate creating an action plan at the conclusion of the intervention.
  • Within three months of the end of the intervention, sign off by the line manager that the person’s need has been met – and they can now do what they couldn’t do before.
  • Or re-submission of the need for a further intervention if the manager cannot give this sign off.

This can all be included in one process, and if you would like to see how, please let me know and I will send you further information.

By undertaking Sections 6 – 8, you will ensure that relevant needs at
organisational, team and individual levels are included.

Section 9 – Collaboration

In the past few years the world has seen the formation of a number of strategic alliances between passenger airlines. If you buy a car, there are many makes, but in reality there are only three or four producers in the world with each make falling under one of the larger umbrellas.

Who could you collaborate with to save on design time and maximise places on courses by sharing capabilities? Running programmes more regularly will benefit your organisation, it is easier to fill events to capacity with a larger pool of potential delegates and people will learn different ideas and skills from other organisations. If this works for you, you should include you organisations approach to collaboration within this section.

Section 10 – Design, Delivery and Evaluation

I would advocate a separate Design, Delivery and Evaluation Strategy – and for some organisations it will make more sense to have three separate Strategies covering each of these aspects. This section should make reference to their existence and where they can be located.

Section 11 – Sector / Organisation specific considerations

It may be that your organisation needs one or more specific sections – this is where to add them. An example could be a section on Diversity and Equality, where you might include:

  • A statement of commitment to diversity and equality.
  • The reasons for addressing this aspect separately.
  • How diversity training will be included in programmes.

Section 12 – Monitoring

For some of us, perhaps getting a strategy up and running has been a challenge, and now it is done it can be put to one side and other matters can be focussed on. If that’s the case, what was the point in doing it? If it is mapping out a course we see as being the right direction, we need to keep making sure that we are on track. It needs refreshing and renewing.

This is a short section to write, covering:

  • Who (or what meeting) will monitor activity against the Standards of Performance in Section 4?
  • How often will performance be reported on (quarterly suggested) and who to?
  • Who will review this Strategy?
  • How often will it be reviewed and updated (at least annually)?
  • Who (or what meeting) will the updated Strategy be presented to?

It takes longer to undertake. It entails considering and documenting:

  • If the organisation’s Statement of Values has changed, this document needs to reflect it (Section 1)
  • Have the strategic objectives changed, and so need updating? (Section 2)
  • Do the Guiding Principles require updating? (Section 3)
  • Bearing in mind the above amendments, do you need amended Performance Standards? If not, do the measurements of success need updating due to the current levels of performance? (Section 4)
  • Do the responsibilities need updating? (Section 5)
  • Sections 6 – 8 then need amending in light of all the above information.
  • Is there anyone else we could collaborate with to deliver a more effective service for the organisation? (Section 9)

And that’s it – Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy successfully completed!

Paul

Creating a Strategy (2) – the Engine Room

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Having firmly laid the Foundation Stones for the Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy within sections 1 – 3, sections 4 and 5 deal with Standards of Performance and Responsibilities in delivering the Strategy. This is the engine room of the Strategy.

Section 4 – Standards of Performance (Success Criteria)

This section deals with what you are going to deliver, and how your unit’s performance will be assessed. You need to make the Standards both specific and measureable, yet also relevant for the 5-year lifespan of the Strategy.

This is where you really show whether you are a “Training” or a “Performance Improvement” unit or department. Are your standards of performance going to be “Output” focussed or “Outcome” focussed? Your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment, as I have previously described it.

Here are some examples of Standards of Performance that you could consider using:

  1. Number of days training and development invested in staff per month (i.e. a 5 day course for 12 people equates to 60 days investment)
  2. The % of managers undertaking at least one Leadership or Management Development Course each year
  3. Rating of internal interventions by delegates – % of delegates indicating that the learning event will be of direct benefit to them in their current role
  4. Rating of all interventions, 2 – 4 months after a learning event – % of staff indicating that they have improved their performance as a result of the intervention
  5. The % of managers stating that (your unit) has delivered an improved level of performance, as measured against the previous year

For some of these standards (such as 1 & 2) it may be that your target is the same throughout the 5 years, assuming you are not anticipating any significant changes in your organisation’s staffing levels. For others (such as 3 & 4) it may be that you want to increase the performance percentage for each year of the strategy’s lifecycle.

What would these Performance Standards indicate about the particular unit? If I saw statements 1 and 2 above as the style of Standards of Performance being used in a 5 year Strategy, my initial impression would be that this unit is very “Output” focussed and has little focus on improving performance. The unit is being measured in a relatively simplistic manner. It appears to be a “Training” function.

If, however, I saw statements such as 3, 4 and 5, I would get a very different first impression. These Standards are very “Outcome” focussed, seeking to demonstrate the value of the function to the rest of the organisation. The Standards are more difficult to measure and are more testing to achieve – in order to achieve them, they require more detailed communication and more effective relationships with other parts of the organisation. They indicate that this is a “Performance Improvement” function and that across the organisation there is a more mature culture.

Remember that what is measured generally happens. The measurements you select will become important. If you measure relatively unimportant activity, it will become important – and that will be detrimental to both you and your organisation.

Section 5 – Responsibilities

It is helpful if everyone is aware of their responsibilities in relation to the Strategy. The responsibilities need to be discussed, negotiated and agreed from the outset. Getting clarity and sign off at this stage will save you time in the future.

These are the roles I suggest that you have responsibilities listed for:

  • Staff
  • Line managers
  • Senior Operations managers
  • Members of (your unit)
  • Head of (your unit)
  • Head of (overall part of the organisation within which your unit sits)
  • Senior Leadership members
  • Chief Executive / Head of the Organisation
  • Board members (where appropriate)

Here are a couple of examples of what you might list under two of the above groups.

All members of Staff are expected to:

  • Take responsibility for their own learning and development
  • Learn from their workplace experiences
  • Identify, through the PDR process, and address, with the assistance of line managers and (your unit), their particular learning and
    development needs
  • Make use of self-help facilities
  • Keep up to date with the organisation’s policy, practices and procedures

Senior Leadership members are expected to:

  • Set and review the strategic direction of the organisation
  • Set an example by being effective in managing staff
  • Value and action their own training and development needs, and those who they line manage
  • Monitor and quantify the improved performance delivered as a result of staff undertaking learning and development activities

If you would like examples of the responsibilities that you might list under the other suggested roles, just let me know - I will be happy to send you some.

The third and final part of the TPI Strategy template will be the focus for my next post.

Paul