Set Impossible Goals and Achieve Innovative Change

Do you want to have impact? Achieve big changes for your company or industry? You need to set an impossible goal.

How Do I Set an Impossible Goal?

optimistic thinkingThere are two keys to setting an impossible goal, empathy and optimistic thinking. Both of these need to be done in a place that is beyond your comfort zone and fall into the extremes of your thinking. Empathy is what will help you feel the pain of the struggles of the problem you want to solve. You need to be able to dig deep into the problem and understand it and feel the pain of it. With that passion for the problem, you next rely on your optimistic thinking. This lets you dream big to brainstorm solutions and believe they are possible. Use this to set your impossible goal.

This thinking is what will breed innovation and change. If you can engage in this thinking as a part of a team, you will be able to harness the different strengths across the team to optimize your ideas and solutions. To learn more about developing a team click here.

How Do I Achieve the Impossible

While the brainstorming happened in the extremes of your thinking, the planning needs to move towards your comfort zone of thinking. You need to start by considering the solution(s) from a perspective of being possible. Analyze the solution and figure out how to make it happen. Now you may not be able to come up with a way to make the solution happen in its current state but this will help you find parts of it that are possible or see places where it is possible if you scale something down. As you discover these possibilities, spend more time fleshing out the goal and set measurable objectives.

Now you want to move to the middle of your comfort zone and plan how you will achieve the goal and objectives. At this point, you want to be realistic about your resources and time. Taking these into account, layout specific plans to achieve the goal. At this point find a way to step away from you optimistic thinking and come up with everything that can go wrong. Identify potential obstacles and develop contingencies to meet them.

Present these plans to people who were not a part of the brainstorming and goal design. These may be stakeholders, company leaders, clients, depending on the situation. Get a sense of their buy-in. This process provides a “reality check” and makes sure that the plans to achieve the goal are realistic given the resources and time schedule you have. If necessary, adjust the plans to make sure you have the necessary buy-in and support.

Now it is time to put things in motion. Throw all the passion that you had in the brainstorming phase into the implementation and take the steps necessary to implement the plans you have set. If you have done a god job presenting your plan and getting buy-in others will be throwing their passion alongside of yours. And the result…you create change and innovation.

Remember to find the problems and to brainstorm outside of your thinking comfort zone and then do your actual planning and implementation based in realistic thinking.

Interested in learning more? Check out these links.

Does Training Need to be Concerned about Diversity?

A couple of months back, our department was updating a photo on the dashboard of our LMS. Our company is over 80% white males but the previous picture included a mixture of males and females both white and Latino that showed more diversity that the company. While discussions were going on, my boss paid a visit to a branch and ran into some new employees that were just getting into our LMS for the first time. Interestingly one of them noticed the picture and commented that while it showed diversity, there was no one “like him”. This was a great reminder that an understanding and use of diversity is important to training, just as it is to all areas of a business.

Employees want to feel connected. Employees want to see people who are “like them” when they go through, training courses and materials. Seeing other people like them help them feel more connected to the company.

Empowering a diverse workforce also can develop creativity and innovation. Honoring diversity develops an openness to others and differences which leads to idea sharing, new ways of thinking and innovation which is a business advantage.

Building a diverse workforce helps the company connect with a diverse client base. Just as employees are drawn to training that involves people “like them”, customers are also drawn to a workforce that has people “like them”. Building up this diversity can increase your client base and build your bottom line.

The conversation we had about what picture to use on the dashboard of our LMS was an important one, one that can have consequences that are company wide. A picture that may just make one employee feel more connected can lead to so much more. What conversations are you having about diversity in your training department?

Looking for more information, check out these resources:

Feeling Down? Reclaim Your Joy at Work

Most people have experience a season when they were not satisfied at work. Maybe it is caused by a project you are not excited about, a co-worker that is difficult or possibly your general health is down. Regardless of what it is, the result is lower job satisfaction and a lack of joy at work which become a downward cycle. No one wants to stay in this place, so here are some strategies to turn that situation around and reclaim your joy.

  • Discard the “Grass is always Greener” view

One of the things that can steal our job joy is looking out at other jobs or situations and thinking the grass in greener elsewhere. There may be some truth to that but remember that every job and company has its issues. It is important to remind yourself of that and focus on what is, not what isn’t. If you can do that, you will have already taken the first step to reclaiming your joy. You will also be able to identify what is taking away your joy which allows you to better achieve success in turning it around. As you look at those things, you can then determine, what is temporary, what is possible to change, and what you will continue to exist and you will need to work with.

  • Make a change at work

When you have identified those things which are issues at work, see what you can do to change them. If there is an environmental issue such as the office temperature, or space configuration, see if it is possible to make a change. If the issue is one of duties, maybe there is a duty you wish you didn’t have or one you wish you did, talk to your supervisor to see there is a possibility to either gain more experience in the duty you want or trade duties with someone to reduce the task that is frustrating. Not every manager will be open to conversations such as these but a good manager recognizes the benefits of a happy employee and if there are changes within their power to make, a good manager will work with you.

  • Find a professional growth activity

As Albert Einstein said, “The day you stop learning, you start dying.” We all need to be learning and growing and being active in professional growth can help recapture your joy at work. Maybe the opportunity is at or through work but there are many opportunities for professional growth outside of work. In the Learning and Development industry, you may look for a local chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) or the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). These are just two of the many great organizations that have opportunities for professional growth through local meetings, online webinars, and research papers.

  • Do something to affirm a co-worker

One of the great ways to find joy is to give it. There are lots of ways to affirm another employee but consider writing a handwritten note to another employee recognizing their strengths and how they impact your work or environment at the company. Douglas Conant, former CEO of Cambell’s made it a practice to write handwritten notes to employees every week as a part of developing a new culture that turned the company around. Just doing something positive that benefits a coworker will help you focus on the positives of that person and reclaim joy.

  • Identify ways that you make an impact

As a part of reclaiming your joy at work, make a list of the activities where you have made an impact at work. This may be specific projects you worked on that were successful, people that you helped or trained to be more effective, or ideas that you have contributed to help the company as a whole. As you make this list, you are affirming yourself and taking away the power of other things and people to take away your joy.

These five strategies will help you reclaim your joy at work. Things will never be perfect, but they will be better. And if for some reason you decide that you need to make a job change, each of these activities will have helped you with that process as well, from trying to work with your current employer to resolve the issue, networking through professional development, making sure when you leave you have left a good impression and left on good terms, and identifying those strengths that you have to offer your future employer.

Looking for some more information on these ideas, check out some of these links:

Build a Team for Success

Whether you are building a project team, a department, or starting a new business venture, building the right team is essential to success. Ultimately, you are building a team that will be able to create and influence opportunities, a team that will have a global view and yet be able to focus on details. The beauty of a team is that you don’t have to have all of these things in one person, but in the combination of people you bring together.

So what are you looking for in a team?

  • Shared Passion – You need to bring together people who share a passion for the goal to be accomplished. This might be a project team that will be visioning and developing a company enterprise system and you want to bring together people who have a passion for connecting people, developing culture, and bringing together resources to increase productivity. This might be building a Talent Development department and you want to bring together people who are passionate about helping people improve their performance. Regardless of the purpose of the team, you want to find people who have a passion for the goals.
  • Strengths – You need to find people who have honed their strengths. If the goal is to move things forward, you need people who have identified their strength(s) and are honing them. These people bring not only that strength to the table but experience and commitment to developing expertise. If you want to create an opportunity, you need people who have a demonstrated ability to set goals and achieve them. Ideally, the strengths people bring will relate to the goals to be achieved or the perceived tasks that will be necessary but don’t discount a person with strengths in a different area. You may find that the unrelated strength becomes the seed for innovation.
  • Differences – You need to bring together people who are different. Bringing together different people will help the team to better identify patterns and see the systems that are relevant to the goals of the team. On a project team, you need to include stakeholders in addition to team members that are expected to drive implementation.

Why is this important?

When you build you team based on passion, strengths and differences, you are setting yourself up to identify the different systems you will encounter, the roadblocks to the goals, and the solutions to drive success.

Developing a team that can see the forest and the individual trees is developing a team that will be able to both vision and implement. This team will be able to see the interconnectedness of the company and who will be impacted by a project and how that impact will play out. A team that represents differences will more successfully identify the fundamental issues and forces that come into play and how they relate to one another. If you can identify these and represent them together, you will be able to see the system(s) at work and identify roadblocks to your goals and identify the places of influence.

Launching a new program such as a new induction training program to a company is going to face roadblocks. You need to be able to understand all the ways this new program will interact with the company. This may interact with how employees spend their time, what goals it helps them achieve, company culture, just to name a few. With that understanding of where it connects, you can identify the roadblocks, whether they are environmental or attitudinal. Looking at the system of implementation and roadblocks, you then are able to identify points of influence and see how you can strategically manage those to optimize success.

Bringing together a team with passion is a team that will have the dedication to persist to success. Bringing together a team of people with strengths means that those people will have credibility and can be influences. Bringing together a team of differences means that the team will be able to identify the fundamental parts of the systems involved, the potential roadblocks, see where the points of influences and have the foundation for innovation.

In addition to my experiences this post was inspired by two recent talks I heard. One was given by Dr. Carol Ann Sharicz on Systems Thinking 101 given at a local chapter ISPI meeting and the other is a TED Talk called Be an Opportunity Maker given by Kare Anderson.

Why the Former Teacher May be Your Next Star Employee – Part II

In last week’s Part One post, we started looking at how the skills of former school teachers transfers to the Core Competency Model™ put forth by ATD and common job description skills. In that vein let’s continue to look at those.

Managing Learning Programs

  • Provide vision and strategies for learning program design
  • Provide project management for learning projects
  • Manage outside resources
Public school teachers are given a framework for what learners need to accomplish by the end of the year, but from their, they provide the vision and work out the strategies to achieve those goals and make their vision come to fruition. On top of this, teachers are working with a diverse population and manageing the learning programs for each learner they work with. They manage other school resources, parents and school volunteers, and other outside learning resources such as field trips, SMEs that they bring into their classroom, and learning competitions that their students compete in. Just putting together a field trip is an example of their project management skills. They deal with volunteer resources, budgeting for the trip, managing transportation and determining the content that will be delivered and how it will be structured. This can also involve the creation of other materials to supplement or extend the learning from the field trip experience.

 

Coaching

  • Coach employees to improve job performance
Teachers are involved in coaching students, parents, and future teachers. Teachers constantly work with students to engage them in examining their learning progress and establish goals. They review these goals and provide accountability for the student. Many parents are looking to teachers for ways to help and support their children and teachers coach them through this and help them understand their child and their child’s needs and work with them so that parents can determine the best strategies for helping their child. This can be coaching parents in how to help with homework, or how to question their child while reading together or how to oversee their child’s project. Additionally, many teacher have taken on the role of being a mentor teacher to a colleague or a student teacher. This is a very formal coaching experience that the teacher provides and is formally assessed by the school district or a local college.

 

Knowledge Management

  • Develop a culture of learning
  • Facilitate collaboration and social learning
A classroom community has a culture of learning and the teacher is right in the middle of it. The utilize strategies to bring together learners to work on projects and learn from one another. Teachers leverage a variety of resources, identifying the sources of knowledge and bringing students together with the necessary knowledge. They foster curiosity and a love of knowledge by engaging learners and helping them see the benefits of growing and learning together. Teachers act as facilitators, moderators, and social directors for their classroom and understand how to leverage these to promote optimal learning success.

 

Performance Improvement

  • Evaluate training needs
  • Design and develop training materials
  • Implement performance solutions
These days every teacher has at least one student with special needs, whether they are gifted or receiving educational support services. These are the students where a teacher applies more than just instruction, but brings their performance improvement skills into play. They need to take the extra time to understand the special learning needs for this student and determine what solution will best help them to excel. This might be a technology aid solution, involving them in a mentorship program, or modifying their environment to increase success. Teachers are not just designing instruction and facilitating it, but they are working with the whole learner and determining and implementing performance solutions that go beyond training the learner.

 

Because teachers are in charge of a small community, they end up involving themselves with all aspects of training and development. In addition to being the instructional designer and trainer, they also serve as the project manager for classroom events and project (and sometimes school-wide initiatives), the coach for anyone they bring into the learning community, and the person who looks at all aspects of a skill deficit and not only reaches out to training, but utilizes a toolbox of performance improvement techniques. While the teacher may less familiar with corporate culture, that is easily learned and the wealth of skills they bring to the table mean that the former teacher is primed to be a superstar in the learning and development world. Instead of hesitating, companies should embrace the former teacher and leverage the wealth of abilities they have to offer.

Some Advice for Teachers Looking to Transition

Like I said in the beginning of last week’s post, the key for the transitioning teacher is to effectively communicate their skills in corporate language. The Core Competency Model is a great place to start to understand how the corporate world talks about learning and development. Adopt the terms and framing when marketing yourself through your resume, cover letter, and during interviews. Being able to talk like a corporate instructional designer will demonstrate that you have done your research on the field you are transitioning to and allow you to communicate the vast array of skills you have to offer that will enhance the potential employers company and improve their bottom line. You can make the transition and you will find the employer that has the vision and insight to hire you, their next superstar!

Looking for more information about becoming an instructional designer, check out these other posts:

How to Become an Instructional Designer

Getting into Instructional Design

 

 

Why the Former Teacher May be Your Next Star Employee – Part I

I recently responded to a post from a person looking for advice on how to transfer from public education into corporate training because she was running into obstacles from potential employers. As someone who made the same transition, I related to her struggles. Many people in the corporate world do not see the connection between the role of a public school teacher and a corporate instructional designer/trainer and discount that experience.

My advice included understanding the way corporate jobs are framed and the terms used in describing the skills needed for a position and to frame her experience in that same way to help potential employers see how the skills are relevant.

Over the next two posts we will look at 8 of the 10 competencies in the Core Competency Model™ from ATD and job skills listed in corporate job descriptions to see why the former teacher might be your future star employee.

 

Instructional Design

  • Evaluate training needs
  • Design and develop training materials
Public school teachers are constantly designing learning activities for their students. Curricula do not provide all the materials and a good teacher is constantly tailoring activities for different learners. They evaluate existing materials and modify to meet learner needs. This is continuously evolving as the teacher evaluates the needs of their class as a whole and individual students. A good teacher is balancing these needs and differentiating instruction for the different needs present in their classroom. Teachers also engage in formal evaluation of learners through regular report cards which are a mix of concrete data and subjective assessment based on contact with the learner.

 

Training Delivery

  • Conduct classroom and virtual training sessions
Facilitation is a core role of a classroom teacher. They are constantly standing in front of learners and delivering material. They also know how to manage groups of learners that are involved in a series of different activities. They are quite accomplished at working with one group or monitoring their activity while making sure that other groups of learners are engaged in their own learning. Teachers are masters of engagement and understand the role entertainment takes in good facilitation.

 

Learning Technologies

  • Experience with Captivate, Storyline, Lectora, and Microsoft applications
  • Design and develp eLearning modules
  • Experience with a LMS
Many teachers use a lot of technology in their classrooms. They may not have specifically used rapid design software, but have used other products such as Hyperstudio, iMovie, or web-based product to design or deliver learning activities. In my days as a teacher, I taught thinking skills and basic computing through the use of RoboLab, communication skills by teaching the students to capture, edit, and produce video to create public service announcements, and a variety of tools to create eLearning modules that guided learners to explore a topic and develop a variety of skills. Additionally, in today’s classroom, a teacher may have experience with a LMS such as Moodle or others. Teachers today can be very tech savvy and even if they don’t know the specific software program you use, they have likely used something similar.

 

Evaluating Learning Impact

  • Use metrics to evaluate learning programs
Teachers use a lot of data when measuring learning and students. They have data from classroom assessments which allow the teacher to evaluate specific students and identify issues with the instructional materials. Teachers also receives data from standardized tests which lets the teacher look at their students in relation to a greater population of learners. Additionally, the teacher has subjective data that has been collected as a part of individual coaching of a learner. Teachers are a great deal of experience working with and effectively using metrics to improve learning.

As you look at these four competencies, you can see that former teachers bring extensive experience designing and facilitating instruction. They have worked with a variety of metric, both creating the assessment to capture metric but also working with metrics that have been collected by other sources. Former teachers can also have extensive technology knowledge and while they may not have worked with the exact programs you want them to utilize, they have likely worked with very similar software technologies and may have used some technology that would be a great addition to your departments toolbox.

For myself, I was a huge technology enthusiast and was always looking at ways to use technology as one of the ways to best achieve the goals and objectives for my students. My love of technology and comfort with it led me down a path of designing and developing eLearning. While that is just one of my job functions, currently it is a focus and it is my roots in technology from my teaching experience that led to my success today.

Check back next week for part two of this series where we will look at four more of the competencies outlined by the ATD.

 

Are You Ready to Move Forward

  • Do you have a plan?
  • Does everyone know the plan and their role in the plan?
  • Can [team member] explain the plan to me?

These are three great questions to lay-out before your team as they finish up the planning process, before they start to implement a project. While they are simple, each questions helps make sure that the team is ready to move into implementation.

 

Do you have a plan?

This first question is designed to make sure that the team is ready to move from planning to implementation. To often, teams of people decide to start developing and implementing a solution without laying out a full plan. People want to believe that the rest of the plan will become clear once they take the first steps. While it may be true that things will become clearer, it is still necessary to start with a plan. Just because you have outlined a plan, doesn’t mean that you will not evolve your plan as more information becomes clear or unforseen issues arise. Flexibility is essential as I wrote about in a previous post, Have a Plan…Have Felxibility. Having goals of the end results of an initiative or what deliverable you will create is essential to understanding what you need to do in order to achieve it. It is also essential to determine the metrics you will use to judge success and implement a proper assessment through knowing the end result and the path to getting there.

 

Does everyone know the plan and their role in the plan?

This question is the glue of a team. Having one person who understands the goals and the plan and is directing others is having a puppet master with puppets, it is not a team. Asking this question does two things, first, it makes sure that everyone is included and involved and secondly, it ensures that each person knows and understands their role is the success of the project. Too often, there is a need to know attitude. The problem with this is that if a person is unclear on their role, they are unlikely to meet project expectations. They will not properly allocate their time or resources and ultimately, their contribution may not represent their best work because it is done last minute. It is also importasnt for people to understand how their piece of the project fits into the whole. Two things happen when a team member understands the entire project, first they feel valued because they are fully a part of the team, secondly, they are able to provide work that is cohesive with others work and with the project timeline. Further, if the project leader is removed from the team, the project will suffer less of a setback if the rest of the team understands the entire project.

 

Can [team member] explain the plan to me?

This question is the meat of determining if the team is ready to end the planning phase. The key here is to ask a team member to explain the plan and outline the different steps and responsibilities. A good team will make sure that each member understands the entire project and can provide at least overview information about the different steps and the contributions of other team members. It is best to ask a team member who has not the team leader, but a contributor. This increases the likelyhood that all team members do understand and provides an overview given through a different voice than the team leader and providing a different perspective. When a team member can provide this information, they are more likely to collaborate with others when issues arise and direct questions to the appropriate team members.

 

While the implementation phase of a project is where the bulk of the time and energy is spent, the planning phase is the most important because it prepares the team for success. You want to make sure that you do not move from the planning phase too soon. These questions help you determine if the project is ready to move forward successfully.

Make Commitments You Can Honor and Honor Your Commitments

One of our most important assets is our reputation and it is important to build and guard your reputation. One of the ways we do this is honoring the commitments we make. Therefore, it is important to consider a commitment before we make it to determine our willingness, ability, and likelihood of honoring it. This holds true for concrete deals like an employment contract and to implied deals made to colleagues or direct reports. As a leader, we need to be very thoughtful about our words.

How to Determine if We Can Honor the Commitment

Assuming that the commitment is being made in good faith and we intend to honor it, the reality is that sometimes our focus is distracted from honoring our part of the deal. To this end here are three things to consider when making a commitment to ensure that you are making a commitment that you can and will honor.

Benefit

Is our goal to help the other person or is our goal to help ourselves? Ideally the deal will benefit both parties, but how we perceive the benefits of the commitment can influence our follow-through. The more we perceive self benefit, whether tangible or intangible, the more likely we are to prioritize what we have agreed to do and honor the commitment.

Timing

What is the timing of the benefit versus our commitment? Do we benefit after all parts of the agreement have come to pass or is our benefit happen before we honor our portion of the commitment. Unfortunately, after we have received the benefit, we are more likely to be distracted by other things and lose focus on what we have promised to do and it is easier for other things to become prioritized after we have already received the benefit.

People Involved

Who needs to be involved to meet the commitment and what resources are involved? Before making a deal, we need to consider who else will be impacted and what resources we need. We need to consider if we have the authority to make the commitment and will it require action on the part of one or more others. If the deal involves others to approve actions taken or to take the actions on our behalf, we need to be careful when making the commitment because we are speaking for others. We also need to understand the resources involved and make sure they are at our disposal.

What Happens When You Can’t Honor the Commitment?

Even when you have considered these things before making a commitment, things can go awry, but we should be committed to making sure that these are the rare exception, not the rule. If we do find ourselves unable to honor a commitment, we can minimize the loss of reputation by handling it properly:

  1. Take ownership – It is important that we take personal responsibility for the issue. Shifting blame or pretending the commitment didn’t exist will only harm our reputation more. People will resent a leader’s inability to take responsibility and lose respect for the person.
  2. Apologize – Humbling yourself and saying you are sorry can be a difficult thing to do. In a society that espouses, “friendship means never having to say you are sorry” and tells us that admitting fault is a weakness, it takes great courage to apologize. In reality an apology is a sign of strength and good character. We all makes mistakes, but it is a true leader who can admit them and people respect someone who will apologize.
  3. Make it Right – In the end, you need to do what you can to make it right. You may be able to honor the commitment on a delayed schedule or have to come up with an alternative, but you should do what you can to make it right within your ability. Others will respect your effort and it demonstrates that you care about your commitments and don’t take them casually.

As leaders, our words and commitments are on always on display to be evaluated by those around us. We must consider our commitments and be conscious of implied commitments to make sure they are ones we can and will honor. When we are unable to honor a commitment, it is essential that we take ownership, apologize, and try to make it right.

The One Question You Should Always Ask

Whether you are talking to a SME, working with contractors, hiring a new employee or just about any situation you are trying to gather information, there is one question you should always ask:

What haven’t I asked that I should have?

Question_PuzzleOver the years, this question (or a variation on it) has served me countless times. Asking this question draws on the expertise of the person you are talking to. It causes them to analyse the conversation you have just had and compare it to their experiences and knowledge. It usually brings out the greatest gems of information. When talking to a SME, it has brought out time-saving tips and tricks or ideas that are revolutionary and innovative. From contractors, it has drawn on their greater experience on process and we were able hash out details that make the whole process of our working relationship smoother. It has saved time and money. With potential employees, it has allowed them to share the skills, interests and experiences that have not conveniently fit into the questions asked but that the candidate really wants me to know. It has been a way to discover hidden talents and interests so that the best hiring decisions can be made.

The reality is that as much as we prepare for conversations with others, we will not necessarily have the right questions to get all the information and this simple question, often covers that gap. Next time you are collecting information from someone, give it a try. Ask them, What haven’t I asked you that I should have? Experience the difference for yourself.

 

Don’t Get Mad…Get Better

MadBabyI recently had an experience where a participant in one of my training sessions came to me during a break and handed me a piece of paper with tic marks on it for each time I said “uh” during the session. Inside I was feeling defensive and couldn’t help but notice this person using “uh” as he was explaining this was a pet peeve for him and that he had gone to special training to to improve his public speaking. But the reality is, that each time a person finds fault and they tell you, it is a gift and an opportunity to become better.

Here are my 5 Steps to not get mad, but get better:

  • Hear what the person is pointing out, not the tone or the presentation. When we get caught up in how someone says something, we are more likely to get defensive. Take a deep breath and choose not to get mad.
  • Asses what they are saying for truth. Think about the content and find the truth in it. In my example, I presenting round-table and sitting with all the participants and had allowed my language to be more lax.
  • Determine what you need to change to improve for the future. Outline steps you can take to make a change and improve your work, or in this case my delivery style. This particular thing was something I had addressed earlier in my career and recorded presentations so that I could hear myself and become more self-aware.
  • Implement your improvement plan. Take action to resolve the issue or build up your skills and abilities.
  • Evaluate the improvement. Always look back to see the improvement. Ideally, if the person who originally brought it up can give you another honest assessment, ask them. This makes sure that person knows you heard them and care about what they said and took action.

Growth and improvement is key to building our career and our self as a person and other people around us are our best source of information for areas where we can improve. The next time someone points something out to you, don’t get mad…GET BETTER!