Are You Building Something Worth Building?

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & Management, Your CareerPosted on

Several years ago, someone asked me the question, “I see you working hard and growing your business, but are you building something worth building?”

In all honesty, my initial reaction was defensive in nature. My mind quickly conjured up – Of course, I am! However, before the words came out of my mouth, I considered the source of the question. He wasn’t being judgmental about the life I was creating for myself. In fact, he didn’t even want an answer. He merely wanted me to pause and reflect.

I invite you to watch this quick two-minute video about building careers, companies, etc. Ask yourself a few key questions about why you are building what you are building.

One Sure Way to Maximize Training & Development Dollars

Categories Human Resources, Your CareerPosted on

According to the Association of Talent Development’s (ATD) 2016 State of the IndustryReport, organizations spend on average $1,252 per employee on training and development efforts. This means billions upon billions of dollars globally every year; however, despite the size of these expenditures, many leaders struggle to determine if the investment expended achieves desired learning outcomes and improved organizational performance.

It is almost unimaginable that organizations struggle to determine if the financial investment and time expended in training initiatives achieve desired learning outcomes. However, the reality of the challenges to make connections between training efforts and business results is difficult as many variables play a potential role in influencing learning.

Consider two such examples…

  • If a sales person attends a training program, how much of that investment is truly tied to closing the ‘big deal’ six months later? Was the big sale the result of applying what was learned in the course or merely the outcome of good preparation before the sales call, a superior product or service, or a stroke of good luck? Perhaps all of the above?
  • What about a department that receives an award for customer service? Did that come from phone skills training they received? Or, was it the result of proper staffing, improved technology, or a leader who was doing all of the right things?

The reality is that these examples and countless others point to the fact that it isn’t just training that makes the difference. There are a limitless number of factors that can play into success. Everything from the economy, to the weather, to the marketplace, to the business processes, to the latest hire who joined the organization may play a role in causing or not causing the desired result. Nonetheless, I constantly come across leaders who experience what I call the Return on Investment (ROI) Conundrum.

The conversation usually involves a comment like this:

“I know that training is important, but I think we need to measure more than how many people attended a workshop. We need to determine the impact of the training to see if we made a wise investment.”

Do I applaud the thinking?

Absolutely – this is definitely the right conversation to have.

However, as is often the case, the right thing to do is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Measuring the ROI of a training initiative is difficult. Isolating the effects of the training and quantifying the value is near impossible. Most organizations eventually give up because they lose the will to complete a longitudinal study designed to measure results in a manner that is defendable in front of everyone from operations to finance.

In the end, they throw up their hands and give up completely or develop a poor answer to the original ROI question making some sweeping declaration about the training working or not working without the ability to truly defend their results. Then, two or three years later, they circle back around to the same ROI question and start all over again.

Why do they start all over again?

Is it because they didn’t learn the first time around?

No, it’s because it’s the right question to ask. The problem is that they rarely learn how to go from classroom feedback to application of learning. If you have ever experienced this situation, then you are all too familiar with the ROI Conundrum.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to this conundrum. It doesn’t replace the value of a full blown ROI study and if your organization has the resources and stamina to conduct such a study, by all means do it. However, many organizations lack the resources – financial, personnel, and otherwise – to accomplish such an undertaking.

This is merely one sure way to begin to maximize your training and development ROI.

Create a Process, Not an Event

Too many organizations look at training as an isolated event. An employee is sent to a workshop or seminar with little discussion before the event. No expectations are set; no pre-work is completed. Then, when training is finished, the employee returns to work with little discussion about the training beyond “How was the weather?” and “Did you get a chance to do anything other than sit in the workshop?”

Organizations should look at training and education not as an event, but as part of a learning process that begins prior to the learner’s arrival at a course and extends beyond the completion of the session. An increase in relevance can be achieved by engaging the trainer, the employee, the employee’s supervisor, and the entire organization in the process. Doing so ensures that the concepts outlined in the learning environment are directly connected to the workplace.

The following table highlights activities that all four players can employ prior to and upon completion of a course. These activities represent specific actions that each player can take to enhance learning outcomes and increase the ROI. These examples, serve as a point of embarkation for learning and development professionals as they work to enhance specific learning engagements.

As depicted in the table, a number of key actions can take place prior to the commencement of training. This list is not intended to be inclusive, but provides possibilities that organizations, teams, and individuals can explore to improve training ROI.

Pre-Session

The credibility of the instructor is important and, because of this importance, a trainer should not wait until the commencement of training to begin the establishment of the one’s credibility. An instructor could send a personalized pre-workshop email explaining his or her credentials and convey the importance of the session to the employee. The instructor can also examine the list of workshop participants to see who will be in the room that day and identify ways to enhance relevance through stories or examples, while considering communication behaviors to better meet the needs of the audience. A session filled predominately with engineers might benefit from certain examples and illustrations compared to those that might resonate with an audience composed mainly of policy makers. Conversely, a session consisting of people from a certain geographic location or possessing a shared experience might react positively to certain communication behaviors.

Organizations can contribute greatly to training ROI by establishing a development framework for their employees. Attending a training course is an investment and should be made based on the needs of the organization and the individual both today and into future.

One of the best ways to do this for an organization to establish a career development framework that identifies what training an individual should receive throughout his or her career and make investment decision based on the expectations outlined in the framework. As organizations send people to training, they should also research available training programs to identify both the best training courses and training institutions to deliver the learning. Decisions should not be made based on anecdotal evidence (the guy down the hall went to the course and loved it) or simply on where the course is held or the date it is delivered. For training dollars to be best invested, organizations need to research courses to find the best fit.

Lastly, senior leaders should reach out to those going to training to emphasize the organization’s support of the employee’s learning and reinforce that an investment is being made and the organization is looking forward to the individual returning and applying what is learned within the organization.

If the training program has pre-work, an employee’s supervisor should review the work to ensure it is complete and to discuss the employee’s expectations for the program. Additionally, the supervisor should talk about the benefits of the program with the employee. There should be no doubt in the employee’s mind that the supervisor supports the training and expects that the employee will share what he or she learns in the course upon returning to work. Where appropriate, the supervisor can draw from personal experience if he or she attended past sessions of a given course or ask others to provide insight to the learner.

Employees must play an active role in preparing for training and this is not limited to simply clearing one’s calendar and turning on the out-of-office notice in the email system. An employee should complete all course pre-work, invest time to document program expectations, and meet with his or her supervisor to discuss the upcoming training. Additionally, employees should consider how to best share the learning after returning to work. It is often a good idea for the employee to identify a colleague or a group of people to teach what is learned in the course and making a firm commitment to do so prior to departure will go a long way to improving ROI.

Post-Session

After completion of the session, the instructor should continue to provide support to the learner. Instructors could provide additional job aids that reinforce the learning. Instructors can augment their efforts by assigning specific homeworkassignments, sending out follow-up notes that encourage learners to keep their commitments, and soliciting success stories to share with others. If feasible, the instructor or training institution should establish an alumni group that remains connected after the course through an on-line presence that the institution provides or by using various forms of social media.

Organizations that send employees to training can perform a number of post-session roles to increase application and drive ROI. At a minimum, organizations can require employees who attend training to share what they learn in a written format. Many organizations require some kind of trip report. These can be a good idea, but often lose their value when an employee simply provides the training location and dates and then copies the learning objectives from the training materials. What would be more valuable is if the organization expected the individual to identify the three most important things learned in the course and two specific behaviors the employee will do differently because of the experience. This concept can be enhanced if the organization deploys a lessons learned system to capture and share knowledge acquisition so that others looking to attend future training events, or simply tackling daily work issues, can benefit from those who attended previous courses. Additionally, organizations should look at the reward and compensation systems they have in place. Employee behaviors are often the result of the systems, structures, and processes the organization has put in place. If the organization feels that employees are not using what they learn in training, they should examine what the organization is doing to drive, or not drive, the right behaviors. A system of awards, recognition, and expectations, if properly implemented and evaluated, can positively influence training ROI.

The employee and his or her supervisor can conduct post-session actions to reinforce the learning. Learners might choose to write up their key workshop insights and share them with colleagues. They can also teach what they learned in the workshop to their co-workers and complete a method to track implementation of what they learned. Meanwhile, the learner’s supervisor could briefly review weekly progress, host sharing sessions if multiple ‘graduates’ exist in the organization, and set a firm date on the calendar six months after completion of the session for the learner to formerly report out how the program has influenced work performance and any lessons learned through the application of what was taught.

Each of these actions and others like them will take additional time and effort from all parties, but they will also have the potential to positively influence the learning. While pre-session actions work to build trainer credibility, enhance content relevance, and serve as a motivation catalyst, the post-workshop activities keep the content in front of the learner and raise expectations for all team members.

6 Money Questions Wise People Can Answer

Categories Inspiration, Your CareerPosted on

Imagine the life you want to live.

Consider your goals and your aspirations.

Think about what you love to do.

Reflect on what truly matters to you.

When you think about these things, what comes to mind?

  • Do you want to retire early and travel the world?
  • Are you interested in opening your own business?
  • Would you like to take some time off from work to pursue an interest or spend time with your family?
  • Do you have a wonderful novel in you, but no time to write it?

Whatever you desire, your ability to pursue your interests is fueled or hindered by your financial situation.

I’m not saying money is everything. It isn’t. However, it sure comes in handy.

Take a few minutes to answer 6 money questions. Use your answer to put yourself into a position to live the life you want to live:

1. What is your number?

In his book, The NumberLee Eisenberg asks readers to think about the lives they want to live and the amount of money needed to sustain themselves. If you decide to go without a pay check, either in retirement or somewhere else in your life, you need to know how much money you need to sustain yourself. One way to think about it is that if you need $40,000 (USD) per year, then you need to have $1 million working for you, assuming it is generating a 4% return.

2. What should you be saving?

If you answered the first question saying you need $1 million at age 62, that means you should be saving some serious money. At 30, you need to put away $14,000 per year, assuming a 5% annual return, to hit the million by 62. If you are 40, double that amount – put away $28,000 per year. Of course, you may find yourself with the ability to put away less money early on in your career and more as your career progresses. The key takeaway is to start putting money away as soon as possible, and make saving a habit.

Keep in mind that inflation is going to play a significant role in the future value of your savings. $1 million may sound like a lot of money to you, but inflation will prove otherwise. If you are 30 years old today, you might be surprised how far $1 million won’t take you when you are 62.

3. What’s your relationship with money?

Are you the type of person who has the first dollar you ever made or does money fly out of your bank account the moment it arrives? Some of us learned our spending habits during our upbringing, others seem to be pre-wired to save or spend. Whatever your relationship with money, you need to consider if the current relationship will serve you well in the short- and long-run. If not, consider revisiting it.

4. What are you spending your money on?

Take a look at how you spend your money. Do you have an emergency fund? Are you paying down debt and saving for retirement? Your answer to question #3 (above) will suggest how you see your relationship with money; but, your answers to these spending questions will allow you to see the ramifications of that relationship.

5. What is your budget?

There are a number of ways to determine your budget, but they all come down to putting numbers on paper. Take a look at your last couple of months of spending. What was your income? What did you spend and where did it go? Did you cover just the basics or did you eat out, buy new toys, etc.? Was there anything left over at the end of the month? If you don’t have a budget, start small – build a budget for yourself for the next month, try to live within that budget, assess how it went and adjust going forward. Make it both realistic and challenging.

6. What should you prepare for that you can’t control?

Lots of things can happen that can knock you off of your plan. You can become ill, end up in a car accident, lose a job, etc. Be proactive and plan accordingly. Get a will, buy some life insurance (ideally term), and have a plan in the event of medical costs. Make sure you have the right amount of car and home owner’s insurance. Don’t spend and save wisely for years only to have a significant event knock you off of your feet.

Admittedly, I’m not a financial planner. I simply pose these questions to get you thinking.

I encourage you to own your finances and live the life you want to live!

Best- Patrick

Understanding Another’s Perspective

Categories Inspiration, Your CareerPosted on

Imagine two people are sitting at opposite sides of the same table. Between them sits a beautiful bouquet – in a simple glass vase. The assortment of flowers and greenery is simply amazing.

Each person is asked to write a description of the flowers. Later the descriptions are compared. They appear to be very different – near opposites.

Where one wrote of roses, the other described carnations. Where one discussed the vibrant yellows, the other listed muted pinks.

How can this be?

The answer lies in the reality of perspective. Both described what they saw from their unique perspective.

The next time you and a colleague hit an impasse, consider a vase of flowers. Perhaps you are right and the other is wrong. Maybe it’s the other way around. Or, could you both be correct (or wrong), but merely seeing things from different perspectives?

The wise person takes the time to consider the other’s perspective.

How to Achieve the Balance You Crave

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & Management, Your CareerPosted on

Several years ago, my wife and I took a business / personal trip to California.On our way to the hotel, we passed a sign proclaiming, “SUP Rental & Instruction, 7-Days a Week.”

Not knowing what SUP stood for, we asked our taxi driver. He informed us that SUP was shorthand for Stand-Up Paddling and explained that it was popular up and down the coast.

The activity involves standing upright on a large surfboard shaped device as you paddle over the water. Done well, it appears near effortless.

A short drive later, we exited the cab. Armed with the name of several SUP options in the area and every intention of SUP-ing before we left the Golden State.

Then, the schedule got away from us. The work-side of the trip overwhelmed the personal-side and things got out of balance.

We returned home SUP-less.

Time passed.

A bit over a year ago, we learned of a SUP location in our hometown. No, it’s not on the ocean, but it sits on a large lake about 20 minutes from our house.

We vowed to make it happen. Then, life got in the way and the summer pace was busier than planned. Summer 2016 passed without our SUP adventure.

In a small way, the whole trying to make the SUP adventure happen was a nagging reminder of a lack of balance in my life. For years, a little one hour excursion seemed to fall prey to other demands. Granted, if we really wanted to make it happen, we would have forced it into the schedule, but forcing it would have been yet another sign of imbalance.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked to reduce the forcing function in my life. My years in the army, working at a global consulting firm, and owning my own business created a person who was great at forcing things into his calendar. I physically, mentally, and emotionally sprinted from work to many family events. Arriving a few minutes late, my mind often wandered to other pressing issues, instead of fully enjoying the kid’s ballgame or dance recital playing out in front of me.

Two weeks ago, SUP-ing on the lake happened!

We had a great time and, less than a week later, we did it again.

As I reflect on the experience, I think there is something we can all learn about balancing not just ourselves on a board, but perhaps our lives in general.

Consider your life…

You have likely had times when you felt out of control; times when the schedule was packed and the pace frantic. The promise you so often heard of ‘work-life balance’ seemed distant, if not nonexistent.

When was the last time you felt out-of-balance? Last month? Last week? Today?

When I encounter those moments in the future, I’m going to remind myself of standing on the paddle board and cruising across the lake. To help me do it, I’m employing a different version of SUP.

  • S – Set Sights
  • U – Understand Uncomfortableness
  • P – Purposely Practice

S – Set Sights

When we were driving to the lake for our first outing, I recalled pictures I’d seen of people doing yoga on paddle boards. They were so in balance. I saw myself doing that as well.

Then, reality crept in and I reset my sights to something more realistic and obtainable.

I thought to myself, “Instead of striving to do a handstand on the paddle board, why don’t I just try to remain standing or, at least, limit falling off to once every 30 minutes?”

What’s the point?

You have to realistically set your sights on what balance looks like for you. If you are the CEO of a large global firm, don’t expect to be home for dinner every night or attend every personal outing. You will be disappointed, and others in your life will be frustrated too.

Experience has taught me that much of my out-of-balance feeling stems from having unrealistic expectations or chasing an illusive, perhaps unobtainable, vision of a balanced life.

The point is to set your sights on what balance looks like to you, communicate it well to others, and then strive to achieve it.

Consider these questions:

  • What does balance mean to you?
  • If you were ‘in balance’ how would you feel and what would you accomplish physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?
  • Given your current situation, what level of balance is achievable? Are you there? Or, is there room to grow and improve?

U – Understand Uncomfortableness

After about 30 minutes of standing upright on the board, I noticed a slight cramp in my right foot. The uncomfortableness was no doubt the result of trying to maintain my balance and not fall into the lake. Eventually, the pain subsided, as I relaxed and got better at it.

Doing something new can be a bit uncomfortable. We know this is true when we are acquiring a new skill or taking on a challenging project at work, but the same is true when we are striving for balance in our lives.

Some of us are uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to things, but balance requires doing just that. Trying to please everyone is one of the quickest paths to imbalance.

Consider these questions:

  • How uncomfortable are you with disappointing others? How about disappointing yourself?
  • What is the last ‘big’ thing you said ‘no’ to in order to maintain a sense of balance? Did your blow up or did life continue?

P – Purposely Practice

The second time on the lake, we were better than the first. The mystery of what to expect was gone, and a bit of time on the water measurably improved our skills.

The first time, I considered success having not fallen off the board and making it to the next cove along the lakeshore. Our second outing allowed for quicker speed and a longer trek across a portion of the lake.

I got better and more practice will likely yield even greater results.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you willing to practice at finding balance? Or, will you merely surrender at the first sign of resistance and fall back into old ways?
  • What tools and skills do you need to develop in order to better balance your life? Time management? Decision making? Communication? Technology constraint?

I wish you all the best as you strive to get better and find the balance we all yearn to achieve.

Invitation to get started

One of the most balanced people I know is my friend, Todd Davis. Todd is the Chief People Officer at FranklinCovey, a company known for helping individuals and organizations achieve amazing results.

Todd is offering a series of eight complimentary webinars based on his forthcoming book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work.

The first one is September 14.

I highly recommend that you click this link and check out the webinars. You will benefit greatly from hearing from Todd and his insights. No doubt what he shares with you about relationships at work will be key to finding balance in your life.