Category Archives: Communication

A 5-step process for handing-over work to other people

We all have things to do. Some of us have lists and lists of things to do. But that doesn’t mean everything on the list should be done by us, ourselves, alone. Before you take any action, slow down, look at your to-do list, and consider the following process for handing-over work to other people…

 

STEP ONE: Figure out what is for you and what is not… Ask 3 questions

What must I do myself?

  • These are the things that it would be wrong to give to anyone-else. This is your core functional and personal business. You can’t hand-over a personal medical check-up to someone else and you shouldn’t be handing over strategic decision making either.

What could I give to someone else?

  • Strictly speaking, this is everything left over after the first question. But its worth asking again as it gets you thinking about why you could hand it over. Sure, I like the grass to be cut in nice straight lines and sure I enjoy making that report, but I certainly could ask someone else to do these things.

What should I give to someone else?

  • Depending on your vision of work, your answers may vary. If you are the “Tim Ferris type” you might think that everything that could be handed-over should be handed-over. If you are feeling guilty about workload, you might feel that you should be doing it all yourself. This question is about the reasons why handing-over work could be the best thing for you, for others and for the organisation. Of all the things you could hand-over to others, what things should you give away so you can focus on bringing more value to the organisation? What jobs will give someone else the opportunity to grow and bring more value to the organisation?

 

Possibly, as you tried to answer these questions, you were thinking: “But there is no-one else!” and so the answers went as follows: Everything, nothing, not-applicable.

To really use this process, you need to forget all of this during step one and just move forward. Imagine a perfect world where you were surrounded with opportunities to hand-over work. Now go back and answer the questions!

 

STEP TWO: For whatever tasks you have decided should be handed-over to someone else, define the competence required for the job

Now you have listed tasks/jobs that you ought to give to someone else, answer the following 3 questions for each of them:

  • What knowledge is required to do this job?
  • What skills are required to do this job?
  • What attitude is required to do this job?

 

This step is all about defining requirements for the job. There may be other requirements like time, resources, specific environmental requirements… but right now, we are trying to imagine what competence someone would display in doing the job. Don’t worry yet about who does or does not have this knowledge, skill or attitude. Just name it.

 

STEP THREE: Think about the right people for the work

This is usually the point where people say again “But there is no-one!”. And telling you again to “imagine a perfect world” is too much to handle. So let’s get realistic about people with the following 5 questions. Answer them as they appear. Don’t get stuck on asking whether those people want to do the work or not…

  • Of the people who work for you, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of the people in your immediate surroundings, team or department, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of people in any part of your organisation, who could be good for this and why?
  • Of anyone else you know outside the organisation, who could be good for this and why? (yes, ANYone!)
  • Of anyone anywhere currently unknown (!?) who could be good for this and why?

 

Reading these questions, some people will find them ridiculous. But taking the time to ANSWER them often provides new insight. You might realise that this thing should never have been on your to-do list in the first place. Or that its time to recruit. Or that you have a bigger network than you thought. Or that your lower-level tasks can actually be awesome motivating work for someone else…

 

STEP FOUR: Take care before you take action

If by now you are ready to hand-over work to someone, just take a moment to define the risks associated with that:

  • How could this all go wrong? How likely is it that it will go wrong?
  • What will be the impact of this work not being done well?

 

Be careful with these questions. If you are into controlling everything or worried about letting people down, its very easy at this point to just think: “The risk is too high – I’d better do it myself”. But by now you should have realised that doing everything yourself is not the best solution ..or simply not possible.

 

STEP FIVE: Hand-over the work in the right way

Now it is time to actually give this work to someone else, take one last moment to consider the following 3 questions:

  • When is the right time to hand-over this work?
  • What support do you need to help you get the support you need?
  • How will you communicate the job hand-over?
  • How will you follow up on the work?

 

If you have followed the 5-steps and actually answered all the questions above, you might have realised a few things about yourself, the people you work with or your organisation. You might even be ready to hand-over some work.

 

Good luck!

 

 

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You can make comics for learning too!

Brian Melvin has filled his room in the last #ATD2015 session (W315)And once again, I cheated. Backdoor. Feel bad for the queue. But I’m here, so let’s go!

According to Melven, we have a choice for presenting information to our people: Words or images. Images work better. But we aren’t all graphic designers, so what do we do?

Follow this process:

  • Get your story and characters straight.
  • Decide what kind of style you want. Today, we are looking at comic styles.
  • Find someone who can draw something. Melven suggested not going to a design agency, but just getting online and finding freelance people or student that can help. It’s really not that expensive to get a character like the one below gin 15 or so poses you can use in your materials) for about $200
  • Script out your story and get that script sign-off BEFOREHAND you go to the drawing board
  • Put a storyboard structure in PPT.. keep it simple, just a few boxes
  • Add some text!


  

Other (book) references that may help you on your visual journey:

Step-by-step guide to making infographics

Having snuck through the back doors I am in the 2nd ATD2015 session to be sold-out (ask me which was the first 🙂 where our speaker Mike Parkinson is here to help us do a good job faced with two simple truths: Most of the information we process and things we do happen intuitively. And visual cues always win.

(My apologies In advance for the lack of visuals in this post … jump to the end if you are impatient!)


A successful graphic is defined as one where the target audience gets the intended message (quickly). If you (or your subject-matter-expert) doesn’t like the graphic, that doesn’t matter. As long as the audience gets it.


To make good info graphics, we need to first have a good conceptual approach to communication: Think of your audience, define your message and then explain or prove your point.


As any presentation skills trainer (hopefully) knows, a good message has to have a blend of benefit and required action. For example: “Define a good message to be sure your audience gets the point.” (See also my little video on: “Creating Strong Messages“)


And that’s why you need to know your audience. Example: I buy a drill because I want to make a hole. But someone else might buy a drill to be sure that he never has to ask his Dad for a tool, because that would show dependence on a parent (!)


If you have your message clear, you need now to answer 2 more questions: “What do you mean?” and “How do I do it?” According to the speaker, these 2 questions are basically always the same. And that’s what we need to put in our infographic: First chunk the information, then assemble it in the right order, then visualise it.


To chunk the information, look at your message (its “what” and “how”) into the smallest possible parts. Then you need to assemble it into to a story. This doesn’t have to be a full story. Just a simple pitch which puts things in the right order. At this point, we haven’t yet visualised anything. We are just trying to get the right things in the right order.

When it comes to visualising your message, we need first to know what “kind” of message we have:

  • Process graphics tell us what has to happen in which ord
  • Graphs and charts tell us how number fit together
  • “Dashboard” images, analogies and metaphors tell us the state of something


OK, now we have our message, which is relevant for our audience. We have chunked it down into parts and made sense of the story. And we know which type of infographic it is.


We just need some images and a little creativity.
..and maybe some of these resources: 


…and now, for that magical moment: My first (prizewinning!) infographic on … wait for it … how to make infographics, made with penultimate (without a pen!) on my iPad in less than 5 minutes following speaker Mike Parkinson’s process.

 Edit 

 

Communication – diverse references

After a fun 2 days full of communication exercises and learning with IT consultants last week, I delivered the following references to the participants. Maybe there is something in here you can learn from?

General references

Basic communication

“Advanced communication”

Commercial communication

Presentation skills

Assertiveness/Stress

  • Book on “ego states”, how you build your own “story” and all things “transactional analysis psychology”: TA Today
  • 10min video on “ego states” – how your perception of the other person impacts your ability to behave in the way you want

Thanks for reading!

@dan_steer

Connie Malamed on how to really make your point with visuals

Humans have selective attention. And they have a bad capacity for processing information. But: If you can get their attention and help them process what you show, humans have excellent long-term memory. Professional Explainer Connie Malamed is here to give tips on how to use visuals to really pass across your message.. Welcome to ATD TK15 session W400.

According to our speaker, there are 3 basic (good) ways to pass across information: Story, graphs or data representations, and diagrams.

Stories are good for creating emotion. If it really IS a story. A real story has a situation, complication and resolution, with a character/protagonist that achieves a goal. That IS the story: How the protagonist deals with the complication. During the session, Connie showed us some beautiful examples of comic book style stories.

Graphs are an excellent way to show data. If you get it right. According to Cleveland and McGill, our understanding of data changes dramatically depending on the type of graphic used. Humans can deal with position and length easily, but not so well with volume.

Malamed says that, although very fashionable, info-graphics are actually pretty bad for recall. They look nice, but they don’t serve the basic purpose of a data-driven graph. If a graph is to get and keep attention and create recall, it needs to SHOW the viewer the shape of the numbers. Personally, I found Zelazny’s book on charts quite handy.

Diagrams are also really good, if you use the right one.

Our speaker noted 5 different types of diagram and gave some basic rules to follow.

20150114-170210.jpg

As I write this blog-post, I realise that as a reader it might be tough for you to get some real learning from it. Connie Malamed’s session was quite simply brilliant. But it’s difficult for me to summarise all the guidelines here (live). Look below and you will find a lot of references to help inspire and instruct you.

The basic message is this: How you visualise things DOES make a difference. As a trainer, I pay a lot of attention to my flipcharts, even if they are mostly text based. Connie has got me inspired to go further…

Further references you might like:

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

Forms sells function

“Form follows function.” Designers have said this for years. And in the learning world, it is equally true: The learning initiative or environment (form) must be shaped to achieve its goals (function).

 

But the most successful product developers know another truth: “Form sells function”. The product can be designed to be perfectly functional, but if it doesn’t look beautiful, no-one will buy it. Case in point: Smart watches. For a few years now, it has been possible to buy a watch that allows you to surf the internet, play media and control your smartphone. But they aren’t beautiful, so only the geeks buy them. As Apple brings out its own smart-watch, you can expect a change in this market. Because it will be beautiful.

 

What does this mean for the learning world? If we follow the watch analogy through we see that, yes, effective learning professionals create functional initiatives. But when it comes to something new, do they forget that form sells function? Or are they making beautiful products like Apple?

 

If you are working on a new approach to learning in your organisation, don’t forget that your buyer is not the learning geek who will immediately see the functionality of your new product. The buyer is someone who is used to his “perfectly functional watch” and “can’t see why I’d need a new one”. So you have to make it beautiful too.

 

To make things beautiful, we can learn from both the designer and the marketer. Design creates beautiful objects; marketing creates a beautiful brand or experience. Design makes sure that what is in the box is awesome; marketing gets you to the box. Design ensures that what you take out of the box is durable and effective; marketing creates the unboxing experience.

 

If you are starting the New Year full of functional learning resolutions, please don’t forget to put some beauty in the form.

 

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

 

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ASTD2014 summary: Remember the brain, revamp training and sharpen the saw

2 weeks ago, I was once again on full-DAN-speed at the ASTD International Conference and Exhibition. This time, the stomping-ground was Washington DC with over 9000 attendees coming to hear 250 speakers from 57 countries.

Having attended now 3 years in-a-row, I decided not to spend too much time on learning agility, why mobile is awesome, or why L+D needs to change its approach and pretty-much ignored the fact that its all about going social and that we musn’t forget the 70:20:10 model if we want to unleash learning…  I agree with those messages and I think they are valuable. But there’s only so much you can hear about it in a conference.

(If you want to read about those topics, check out the tabs on ASTD2013 and TK14)

 

 

What I did get out of ASTD2014 was all about bringing more brain-power and general awesomeness to my own training and work/life balance…

 

I’ve been training for over 12 years. My clients say I do a great job and I’m sure I am doing something right. But at ASTD2014, I got some really valuable information about how to improve. Having been back at training work for a few weeks now, I’ve already been putting things (slowly) into place. I find that this has made me feel a lot better about what I am doing and brought a lot more energy to my training process. I have my fingers crossed that it is actually having more impact 🙂

 

 

Don’t forget how the brain works if you want to create better learning.

In previous conference years, I found the stuff on neuro-ccience to be filled with too much data. I can see that there is a lot to learn about how the brain works, but have always left wondering what is the concrete take-away from all that data.

This year, A(S)TD had created a new learning track on “The Science of Learning” – so I figured its not just a trend and I must be the only one not yet seeing the point. I found that the sessions were more accessible and outlined more the bottom-line and key points:

  • Josh Davis told us that if you want to make learning stick, you have to work with the hippocampus. I have been trying to reduce session time on specific topics or activity types to smaller chunks of 20 minutes and have been experimenting with associative-thinking to reinforce memory.
  • Between those sessions, I have tried to create some energy microbursts to refresh people. I used to be a little suspicious of doing random things in a training room (example: Brain-Gym). I thought they had no added-value to the content/topic. But I have seen that a deliberately timed mini-joke moment between activities and a little bit of movement can re-boost participants. Also, instead of simply asking participants to summarise what they learnt in a session, I have tried getting them to close their eyes and imagine saying it to a loved-one. Apparently, this positive emotion will reinforce the new ideas in the brain.
  • I have worked harder to formalise meta-cognition moments in training, sometimes using simple tools like ChatterPix (that I have advertised in my own session on social-media for formal learning) to ask participants to think about how they are learning. I am also experimenting with other memory-techniques related to use of multiple senses.
  • I have worked more on repetition and spacing across several training days to help reinforce the links between learning points. This has been done with formal (but fun) quizzing on content and intro/wrap of sessions that remind general purpose and structure of the training.
  • David Rock mentioned in his session on coaching that having a little more personal reflection time in the learning process helped to reinforce the learning in question. I went back to an old strategy of asking training participants to write a “personal promise” at the end of day 1. They like it (I didn’t think they would).
  • My own experiments with Mind Palaces has proven to be lots of fun over the last week and I realise that I AM able to remember huge amounts of precise and well-ordered ideas and information. I will be blogging on the application of this to training in the near future..

 

 

Over the summer, I will be working on turning formal learning (training) into story-based sessions. And revamping my materials.

As you know, I’ve experimented a lot with social media for training – this year I again presented this topic at ASTD. I told the participants I was an “experimentor” and that even when I didn’t know what results I would get, I was willing to try. * After ASTD2014, I have plenty of new ideas and I’m looking forward to taking the time this summer to get started on revamping my training activities and materials…

  • I found both Katie Stroud’s session on “Converting Learning in Story” and Anders Gronstedt’s session on “Transmedia Storytelling” to be really inspiring. I already tend to use little chunks of personal story in training to get my point across. In the future, I will try to fully integrate a thin-red-line of story into the learning process (see Katie Stroud post) and then think of different ways to bring this across via diverse training activities. I think using a blend of media before, during and after training, as well as actual story-telling, participant discussion around stories/characters (and maybe even sock-puppets!) might bring added-value by working on emotion, creativity and memory.
  • I have already used video to introduce training or to share a key learning point (example: Awesome Communication tip number 1) and I am satisfied with the results. I plan to further revamp my training materials in 2 ways using video + the Aurasma augmented reality app : The first thing is to take the time to create short videos that summarise main learning points and make these augmented-reality-scannable in my materials (as I showed in session ASTD2014 M115); my second idea is to ask participants to make these short videos themselves during training and then integrate THOSE videos into their own materials using Aurasma. Personalised video-enhanced training materials??!! Awesome! I will blog on this later.
  • I have always made an effort to focus my key training messages on the 3 most important questions. Following Sally Hogshead’s fun session on personal branding and personality, I think I am going to look for ways to get participants to be more mindful this themselves and to look at how they can communicate and position these key messages for themselves and others during and after training. I want to find some way to integrate that into their own personal materials and learning/memory process. Instead of them focussing on the facts of what has been learnt, I will encourage them at all times to rebrand their learning points. Blog to follow…

 

* As a side-note, it turns out I am more than an “experimentor”. Read this post on creating your own personal anthem to find out what Sally Hogshead taught me at ASTD.

 

 

Finally, I am thinking more about work-life balance and trying to “sharpen the saw”.

One of the things I like most about the A(S)TD conferences is the key-note speeches. Many people find them less informative than the concurrent sessions, but I like them. Even if this year we had the special surprise of an American military general talking to an international audience about “killing the bad guys” (!!), the main points of Huffington and Caroll’s keynotes were excellent. I am trying to keep them in mind back home in Sombreffe:

  • As a hyper-connected super-speedy worksaholic guy, I sometimes get swept away in the digital movement of information and constant actions. Arianna Huffington told us her burn-out story and encouraged us to shut-down and tune-out if we want to thrive. Having plenty to say myself about burn-out causes, symptoms and positive action, and being already tired from the travel and conference action, I found it very important to listen well to her speech. Despite fiercely blogging the A(S)TD sessions for Kluwer during the conference, since returning I have made an effort to slow-down and do one thing at a time. I’m even getting a little more sleep and garden time.
  • Kevin Caroll was impossible to blog, so no link here! Talking at a million miles an hour, he told us his personal story of opportunity, growth and play. Again, I was inspired. Caroll suggested that if we try to follow our own path, we can only go to good places. As someone who tends to try a lot to please everyone else, I’ve been trying to relax a little more both at work and home. I already see that I (and training participants) are having more fun at work. At home, I make a huge effort to bring play-breaks into my days. More time throwing a frisbee with the girls, more games in the house and trying to turn everything into a little bit more fun. Feels good! And surprisingly, I seem to be getting random opportunities for conference work thrown at me left, right and centre. It seems if you relax a little, the Universe gives you what you want..

 

So voila, my summary of ASTD2014. I’m already impatient for Florida next year 🙂

 

ps – I did also follow an awesome session from Jane Bozarth on the value of showing your work and how to do it but couldn’t see how to fit it in this summary. Love you Jane!