Posts Tagged ‘training techniques’

No sting in the tale

Monday, October 10th, 2011

It happened again last week. Twice in fact. It’s not something I enjoy doing particularly in one respect, but I am aware that many people are impressed, or sometimes fascinated by it.

I can kill wasps by waiting for the wasp to fly in front of me and I then clap my hands together and squash it between the palms of my hands. My ‘skill’ was called into action as we were having a barbeque, the conservatory door was open, it was a warm late summer afternoon and this was a heady mix for some of our local wasps. We also had a guest, Georgia, and the first wasp was taking a liking to Georgia – or her food.

I have had this skill for about 20 or 30 years now. I often get asked how I developed the skill – which seems a reasonable question. It just happened that someone was getting very, very scared by the proximity of a wasp, I had nothing else to use to attack it and so clapped my hands with the wasp between them. End of.  The other question I am often asked is whether I have ever been stung whilst doing this. The answer is no – and I must have done it a couple of hundred times before.

We spent a holiday on a boat with another family in the beautiful Croatia about 10 years ago. Croatia has a lot of wasps and so I ended up using my skill on a number of occasions. Stuart, a member of the other family, was relatively impressed with the skill and having seen me do it quite a number of times decided that it obviously wasn’t too difficult and so he would have a go. He asked for some instruction on how I did it, which I happily gave, and off he went. He only did it once – he got stung! And I can still remember the way he looked at me – as if to say, “You knew that was going to happen”. But I didn’t. He is the only other person I have ever seen attempt it. Is my skill so unique?

I was asked again in some detail last week as to how I do it. Other than to say I wait until the wasp is about 18 inches in front on me and at about chest height, and then I clap my hands together quickly with the wasp between them, I don’t really know what else to add. Do you try to get it with the palms of your hands or the part between the palm indent and the bottom of the fingers I was asked? I don’t really know. As soon as I do it, I know I always remove the wasp as quickly as possible in case there is still a sting in the tale [sic].

The one aspect that is more difficult to help someone learn is my belief in reaching a successful outcome. It is one of the few things I can do (which few other people can do) where I have complete and absolute belief in my ability to achieve it. Stuart didn’t have that belief – I could see he approached it with trepidation, nervous of being stung. He worried about it happening, and it did – he generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. And belief is, I know, the key ingredient of my success.

And as the skill comes so effortlessly to me, I’m possibly the worst person to explain to someone else how to do it. You may have heard the phrase, “Those that can’t do it, teach it”. And I think there is a lot of sense in that saying. If you can’t do something, and have tried all sorts of different ways to be able to do something, you may well be the best person to teach others. In the same way, for example, that the world’s top tennis players are coached by ex-players who were not as good at tennis themselves.

As I look at the wind and rain outside this morning, I expect I will not be using my skill again until next year. But when I do, I know exactly what the result will be.

Can training ever be exceptional?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I saw a question on a forum yesterday that got me thinking. The question was, “I’m interested to know how folk define ‘exceptional training’ – what makes training outstanding, and sets it apart from an everyday training course?”

As a trainer, what have I delivered that has been exceptional? I can think of many sessions that I have been pleased with, and that have gone better than others that I have delivered. I can also think of ones that I have thought have been very powerful in the learning that has been generated for the delegates. But I don’t think any of that necessarily makes them ‘exceptional’.

Then I considered what training I had attended that had been exceptional. What came to mind was not training that had been exceptional, but exceptional learning that I had taken from sessions or courses – and the two, I think, are completely different.

For training to be exceptional (if, in fact, it can be) it will depend upon how the delegates respond to it – and not necessarily whilst they are experiencing it, but how they respond back in their workplaces and lives in the weeks, months and years to come.

For example, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Work Foundation’s Runge Effective Leadership Programme about 10 years ago. There was a session on how to create a Vision for a Company or Department. I cannot remember the name or much about the man who delivered the session. It wasn’t a particularly innovative or interactive session, and at the end of the one-week Programme it wasn’t in my ‘top three’ of the sessions I had attended. When I look back on it, however, I realise how valuable it was to me and how much I have used it since. It has been a foundation, a starting point, for many of my successes since then. But I really couldn’t class it as exceptional training.

Which supports my view that only delegates can really say whether such experiences are exceptional, and they can only really do that further down the line. Perhaps there can be ‘exceptional learning’?

So as a starting point in trying to answer the original question how about this – exceptional learning occurs when 100% of the full cost of the learning event is recovered within 12 months of the event – in other words, the person or company acquires a full return on its investment (ROI) within that time frame. I think that could then be classed as ‘exceptional’.

The first step in seeking to achieve this is for trainers to stop thinking of themselves as trainers, but to think of themselves as Performance Improvers – who can play their part in achieving such improvements by effective training methodologies. By reframing their role, their thought processes are likely to have a greater focus on how they create exceptional performance improvements – which then brings the realisation that it is as much about the part the delegates play as the trainer.

It includes getting the right people on the right events in the first place, and motivating and developing them once they get back to the workplace.

The trainer – or Performance Improver – plays their important part in such achievements, but others also have very important parts. And all must play their parts well to achieve exceptional learning.

Unless, of course, you think differently?


The Affective Domain – a little more detail

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Since blogging a couple of times about matters connected to the Affective Domain of Learning, I have had a discussion with one trainer who informed me that it was not covered at all in their course – I find that concerning.

I believe that a trainer is missing a vital tool if they do not understand and use the Affective Domain. In my blog of 26 July I gave an example of how it could be used in a learning event.

So, what exactly is it? Well, the Affective Domain (together with the Cognitive and Psychomotor Domains) came about as a result of work by Benjamin Bloom and other colleagues

There are five levels to the Domain, and these are:

  1. Receiving
  2. Responding
  3. Valuing
  4. Organisation
  5. Characterisation

As it is a Taxonomy (an ordered list), a person can only progress to a level as a result of having ‘passed through’ the lower levels. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you are watching an appeal programme on TV such as Children in Need or Comic Relief. For anyone who hasn’t seen any such programmes, they tend to be several hours in duration and comprise a combination of celebrity appearances, films showing the suffering of various sections of the world’s population, the presentation of cheques towards these causes and details of how the viewer can also financially contribute.

By watching the programme, you are ‘Receiving’ and so are willing to watch what is being shown. You are at the first level. You may then have a conversation with a person watching with you in relation to what is being shown, which would take you to the ‘Responding’ stage. If, during that conversation, you expressed a view such as, “That’s terrible, that shouldn’t happen to anyone”, you would have progressed to the ‘Valuing’ level. A short time later you add, “In fact that’s so bad, I’m going to ‘phone in and give £10”. At this point you have reached the forth level, that of ‘Organisation’.  When you wake up the following morning you add, “I was thinking about that film last night. I have decided that I’m going to give an amount each month so that I can help a little”. Later that day, you arrange to pay an amount each month – at which point you have arrived at ‘Characterisation’ as you have demonstrated this new value.

When watching such programmes, the celebrities are sometimes – and understandably – in tears or visibly upset when witnessing some of the suffering. Within the Affective Domain they are probably at ‘Valuing’ at that point. Whether they move to a deeper level will depend on whether they do anything with their new learning after the event. Does it change their value system, or, once they return to their home, do they put it to one side and do nothing else with it.

As trainers or training mangers, we need to ensure that what we deliver has the maximum possible effect, and the maximum potential to improve performance. The Affective Domain gives a great framework for planning a methodology that will improve the retention of learning by the affect upon the learner.