How Do You Want to be Perceived?

October 21, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorAs Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, this is an important question to ask ourselves. Just how DO we, as an industry, want to be perceived?

Almost every workshop we conduct and speaking engagement we lead starts with a group discussion around this question. Answers are charted and discussed. Once the chart is hung on the wall for all to see, we can start to look at ourselves through this lens and identify two things:

  1. What are we doing to support this hoped-for perception?
  2. What are we doing that’s preventing us from reaching it?

Here’s an example: I recently presented a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” to a group of highly engaged learning professionals at a local ASTD chapter. The chart we made included a lot of great words, but the two that spoke the loudest to this group were “respected” and “relevant.”

Our conversation that day eventually turned to the use of icebreakers. The group was fairly evenly split. Some love icebreakers, others don’t. There was passion on both sides of the argument. Eventually I asked the group if the use of icebreakers supported their goals of being respected and relevant.

“No.”

“Yes.”

Eventually someone said, “Only if the icebreaker supports the learning and is relevant to the group.” Finally the group was in agreement.

When we work with trainers and instructional designers, we encourage them to scrutinize everything. Every module, everything they do and say, every exercise and facilitated discussion needs to support their goals. If they don’t, they should be tossed out or restructured.

Making these changes is a difficult thing for people to do. It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs, habits, and industry trends, but it’s a necessary thing.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Melt the Icebreakers Already

June 18, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300I have had the pleasure to present a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” for several ASTD chapters this year. It’s designed for an audience of trainers and those who coach trainers and SMEs.

A common discussion that comes up during this session is around the use of icebreakers and energizers that our industry has become so fond of. (Just google “ASTD icebreakers” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Some people in our industry love them. Some don’t.

During the session I make the case that if we, as Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, want to be respected, we need to value learners’ time. One way we can do that is to not waste it with silly and irrelevant icebreakers.

There’s one particularly awful icebreaker that I’ve suffered several times at conferences. People are to pair up and spend 10 seconds looking at each other. They are then told to turn away from each other and change 5 things about them. For example, move a ring to another finger, take off a jacket, and so on. Then they are instructed to turn back to each other and discover what has changed about their partner.

The point? Change is hard. And here’s the thing: we’re adults, we know change is hard. So how might we make that point quicker? I’d say something like “I think we can all agree that change is hard.”

I suppose I could agree that we need to lighten the mood once in a while. I could also agree that we need to energize learners from time to time. But, as a learner, if you ask me to do irrelevant and/or embarrassing things such as laughing yoga, sharing my favorite Christmas gift as a kid, tell you something unusual about myself, do jumping jacks while yelling “ha,” or recite a nursery rhyme multiple times using different voices and inflection, I may do what I’ve seen others do in these very common situations:

  • Sit there with my arms crossed
  • Roll my eyes
  • Check my phone
  • Walk out

I might also:

  • Question your judgment
  • Think twice before attending another session with you

So, what are better ways to lighten the mood, energize learners, and earn their respect?

  • Explain why they’re there, what they’ll learn, and how to apply it to their jobs. Do this first thing.
  • Acknowledge their knowledge and expertise. Remember: they are not blank slates.
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for not wasting their time.
  • Send them on a break.
  • Listen fearlessly to their ideas.
  • Connect dots.
  • Respect their differing points of view.
  • End early.

There’s always at least one person in each session who will defend their use of icebreakers by saying that they only choose ones that are relevant to the training content. OK, I’ll go along with that as long as the activity doesn’t waste time or make people feel awkward in front of their peers. Unfortunately, most of the ones I’ve seen don’t meet those criteria.

So, what are your thoughts? Are icebreakers ever OK with you? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”