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Feedback Styles Quiz

A quick and fun look at our feedback styles

Following on from our article on great feedback let’s have a little bit of fun with this.

We’ve had a few laughs followed by seriously helpful reflections at previous workshops, exploring some of the classic pitfalls we can fall into when giving feedback.  You can join in too by having a go at this quiz.


Again the point here is that we might not intend to do these things, but when it comes to uncomfortable conversation, we can slip into bad habits.

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Learning Styles

Little geniusHow Do We Each Learn Things?

Each person learns in a slightly different way to everyone else, and many theories have been put forward to explain these differences; in fact there have been over 70 theories postulated!

Each theory has its strengths and weaknesses, with plenty of evidence either supporting or refuting it.  Let’s explore one of the more long lived theories shall we?

One of the most widely used learning theories is the VARK model, developed by Neil Fleming.  This has been widely applied to educational settings and influenced materials used by teachers.  Suffice to say it’s quite popular and it’s likely that we and our children have been taught with this model in mind.

In this model, four types of learning styles are identified: visual, auditory; read-writing and kinaesthetic.  Fleming argued that each type of learning requires a different approach, for example, visual learners learn best with pictures, visual aids and diagrams.  Others will benefit from learning approaches such as movement, acting, experiments or listening to lectures and podcasts.

As this model is so widely used and referred to, it is possible that the use of learning styles could increase delegates’ awareness of their own individual approach and therefore benefit their learning.  But that sounds like a training course on how to go a training course!

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It’s important to remember that when you’re designing any workshop or training course, you’d do well to integrate a variety of exercises that touch upon these VARK learning models.  Nobody learns a great deal from a full day of Power Point slides…

Learning styles are arguably, too simplistic an explanation for learning, which is inherently a complex process.  You’ll often here the term ‘blended learning’ – it means slightly different things in different contexts, but for us it’s about creating a learning journey using a range of different, but blended exercises.

Quite critically, blended learning relies on the skill of the training deliverer to recognise the needs of the individual delegates and to adapt their approach to teaching within that context.

So what’s the secret sauce to effective learning for all?

Quite simply, there isn’t one.  Learning is as individual as the people teaching as those learning.  The best approach going forward is to expect to be flexible, and change the methods of teaching accordingly.

If delegates are included in the process and teachers are willing to be that bit more flexible then the perfect learning situation should be created.  However, this really is an idealised version of learning and how practical and applicable this is in the work place on a daily basis is a whole other question.

Getting in touch with us about learning styles is brilliantly simple – just follow me!

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The Deep End

swim-ring 400x265Throwing new managers into the deep end and what to expect.

The phrase ‘thrown in at the deep end’ springs to mind when describing a new manager’s role. When we promote individuals to a management position, it can be a boost to their confidence and it is intended to represent recognition for their talent and the expertise they have developed.

Certainly clear succession planning and potential to be promoted in the future can often act as a significant motivator to individuals and encourages commitment.

If we do not follow up the promotion with adequate and appropriate support, what was meant to be a complement and recognition quickly turns into a nightmare. We are literally throwing our talent into the deep end without having shown them how to swim.

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Having developed significant expertise in their field, the individual is thrown into a situation that demands immediate expertise – managing others.

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Having the abilities, to influence and develop their team members (all of whom will have different needs) and harnessing the strengths in their teams, are not necessarily natural skills every new manager has.

All too often the emphasis is placed on the individual to miraculously become an expert manager.

The ‘thrown in at the deep end and see what happens’ approach can have far reaching implications:

  • for the individual, it can be disheartening for the team they manage, it can be catastrophic in terms of morale & productivity
  • for the wider organisation, the retention & loss of expertise issues can be damaging.

Simple interventions can often have an incredibly positive impact – helping the individual grow their expertise and enabling them to become great managers.

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Below are a few tips to help guide you when thinking about how best to support new managers.

Coach, don’t boss them!

Be the sounding board and trusted advisor through which the new manager can feel safe exploring their new role.

A great coach asks questions without an agenda. It is not your job to get them to come to your solution. Nor is it your job to tell them what to do. You are going to uncover their greatness by asking great questions. You might help them improve their ideas with a bit of your wisdom.

Clarify their responsibilities, and their authority…

Just like any employee, new managers need clarity in their role. They need to know exactly what is expected of them, both tangibly and behaviourally. Clearing up any confusion on how the new manager’s success will be measured will remove the inefficiency of confusion and ambiguity.

Along with that, they need to know what decisions they have the authority to make on their own. Assigning responsibility without authority will lead to frustration every time.

Back them up

Every new manager makes mistakes, it’s your job to accept those mistakes, limit the damage from those mistakes and to make sure that your new manager learns from them.  Be the leader you want your new manager to turn into.

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Building Trust

Totem-Trusting-2-400x265The Art of Building Trust

In a previous article we explored the importance of trust in the work place and the dangers that can arise if we don’t trust our colleagues.  With the support of a very popular book, we offer some insight to business partners and mangers in building trust in the workplace.

Working with professional services firms and support functions within any sort of business, we find a common challenge: How can we be better business partners?

Whether you’re building relationships with external clients, or supporting teams within a company through service provision of HR, IT, Finance support etc – we all need to be great business partners.

The Trusted Advisor book gives a great introduction as it helps us understand why we call one person a supplier – yet call on someone else in the same position or profession a friend, confidant or – you guessed it, trusted advisor.

In a nutshell we need to listen, ask questions and advise effectively.  Sounds ridiculously simple?  Well, yes it is – but we all know common sense is rarely common action.

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It makes sense because if I’m going to trust you, confide in you and think you can help me, I must believe that you’re in it to help me, not yourself.  In spite of the common sense this seems to tap into, this is the number one area where people fall down.  We’ve all got our to-do lists, priorities, objectives and we come to every meeting with an agenda – so how can we possibly demonstrate that we’re in it for others?

Here are some tips on how you can do it better…

Drop your Agenda

Or as one of clients puts it – “suspend your agenda.”  Put your own agenda to one side.  You might be here to win a sale or to get agreement on a project you want to go ahead with – but what do they want?  What does the other person in this conversation need from you?


And that means actually work hard to understand what they’re saying and what they mean.  This is different to “waiting to speak”!

Ask questions

Ask to clarify your understanding of something – “do you mean…?”  Ask to explore something further – “what might that look like?”

Advise effectively

In the book, the authors talk about this as – explain each option, give the pros and cons of each option, make a clear recommendation with a rationale.  If you have asked questions and listened well, this should be easy for you to do.

Be more curious

We’re often asked how we know what questions to ask – whether that’s in a coaching context, consulting situation or everyday conversation.  This book nails it by simply explaining why we need to be more curious.  Of course there’s not much in the way of practical tips on how to be more curious – as it’s simply seen as a yes or no mindset.  Are you being curious right now or assuming you already know everything you need to know?

The powerful point here is that we can choose at any moment to be more curious and ask more questions.

The Trusted Advisor is a great read and is available from all good book stores.



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70 20 10 In Practice

70-20-10-TotemWhat does it really mean and what does that mean to me in L&D?

This model or set of principles seems to have been a little misunderstood.

The CCL shared the 70:20:10 model as a description of what happens in the workplace.  It was not in itself a guide for what we should be doing in L&D or a target for how we should spend our time and money.

The  research suggested that in reality, we learn 70% of everything we know on-the-job and 20% from asking others.  It makes sense – how do we do things around here?  Where’s the coffee machine?  How do we file our expenses?  What’s Joe like in IT?  How do we tend to manage customers who ask for too much?  What is our usual approach in this business of managing teams?

We learn by doing, asking around, observing how others do it and seeing what feedback we get on our performance and behaviour.

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A lot of the time we don’t even realise we are learning – it’s just all going in, giving us points of reference for when we’re in a similar situation.

Our manager and our peers are our L&D team – they are delivering learning for us all day every day.  So what does this mean for learning professionals?  Should we give up?  Of course not!

What is required is a different way of thinking about learning.  The age-old “I know more than you do on this topic, so you sit there and I’ll impart my knowledge” does not and will not cut it.

Sukh Pabial’s consistently insightful blogs have given some suggestions on this.  See this one for a list of interventions that could be helpful alternatives to the traditional classroom learning:

It seems to us there are two big questions to deal with with:

1) If the manager is delivering learning all day, every day – are they teaching people good stuff – or bad stuff?

2) What does that mean we need to do in L&D?

We can answer the first question using employee engagement data and looking at the performance of teams.  If speaking to a member of team fills us with enthusiasm and confidence then I’m sure the manager is teaching good stuff every day.  If the team sound disengaged and frustrated – and we hear complaints about that team across the business, I can’t imagine the right attitude and behaviours are being role modelled.

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If we’re happy that managers are developing the good stuff, why mess with it?  The role of L&D is then to offer further support to what is already happening on the job, through skills and knowledge development.

The challenge is usually that the majority of managers are not developing the good stuff.*  The role of L&D then has traditionally been to give people an alternative view: “Here’s some good stuff you could do.”

But this will most often be drowned out by the manager,* who is still offering on the job learning (whether intended or not) that lacks support for or directly contradicts the messages L&D are giving.

So perhaps the most straightforward role for L&D is to support managers – so that they can role model great performance and great character.  That might start right at the top, so that the role modelling of the good stuff filters through, or it might start at one level and move in both directions.

Either way, let’s find out what the managers think and how they consider things could be better.  Then let’s support them to develop the skills and habits required to deliver just that.

* We don’t want to shoot the manager – click here to find out more.

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Finding Your Inner Emoji

emojipeopleWhat will be the impact of this curious language?  🙂 

The fastest growing language of modern times is not English or Mandarin – it is the language of emoji. The emoji, taken from the Japanese word for e-character, has only been around for a few short years, but is increasingly adopted as a universal method of communication.

The reasons behind its popularity are not surprising. Emojis represent concepts and emotions much more simply than words and take far less time for the brain to decode.

Pictures transcend language barriers and allow us to communicate quickly about things that are important to us. In a modern society characterized by increasingly short attention spans, the emoji can be an answer to the question of how to do or say more with less.

Indeed, the rise of the emoji actually takes us back full-circle to our anthropological origins, where our ancestors made survival decisions based on instant visual stimuli.  So what might this mean for a learning environment? 😕

The fact that using visual images helps learners to process information more quickly and/or easily is nothing new. Whilst words are technically also images, reading is a translation process and so takes much longer for the brain to process than a well-chosen image.  In fact, according to research by 3M we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

However, the emoji reminds us how powerful very simple images can be in putting an important message across quickly and to a mass audience. We see with our brains, via pattern recognition, which is why we tend to be able see very familiar patterns such as faces in everyday objects.  So, the image that we are projecting does not have to be very precise, it just needs to trigger a pattern recognition in the brain.

The challenge for most learning providers is that as a younger workforce moves into the marketplace, we’ll need to communicate with them in a way that we’re not used to.  How many workshops have you designed using emojis?  😯

Whilst the effectiveness of the emoji in personal, informal communication is relatively well understood, its application as a tool for business is less so, but help is at hand.  Many large brands have begun experimenting with emojis as a marketing tool, as emojis can help brands humanise themselves by adding an emotional layer to their communications.

For example, Domino’s have created a service that allows a customer to order a pizza by texting a pizza emoji.  The World Wide Fund for Nature also used the panda face emoji to raise awareness about endangered species, and this was designed to encourage those who regularly use emojis of pandas to donate to its conservation efforts.

The key challenge will be how to translate the work being done with emojis in a marketing context, to work being done in an L&D context.  It’s quite clear that emojis offer the L&D world a way to increase engagement and trigger deeper emotions and conversations, but only if they are highly relevant to your message and your target audience.  😎

As the world’s understanding of Visual Literacy grows, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the rise of this new form of language.  As the age of our workforce changes and the young people of today bring fresh forms of communication into the workplace, it would be wise for us to be already able to speak their language.

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HR and Social Media

social-mediaA summary of HR & Social Media from our recent walkabout to the CIPD conference.

Having spoken to a lot of people at the CIPD Annual Conference last week who were disappointed to have missed certain sessions, I thought I’d share summaries of those I went to…

“Social media is an opportunity to amplify your leadership message.  If you’re not there, perhaps your message is dampened.”

This quote from Nokia’s Matthew Hanwell really sums up the spirit of this session.  Rather than trying to control use of this new medium, we are far better to embrace the fact that this is where people are going.

The speakers from Nokia and Random House emphasised the benefits of using social media for business.  For example Nokia has project groups set up on its own internal facebook-style platform, so rather than having to search through email trails to find recorded progress and issues on projects, it is all in one place.  This has made communication more effective and efficient.

Neil Morrison, HR Director for Random House, talked about the value to him personally of sharing his views with the social media world, receiving feedback and gaining further ideas.  This is a great network for all professionals to be keeping in touch with thought leadership and shared goals or concerns.


This comment from a fellow delegate summed up where social media currently sits within the HR mindset – “I thought they’d talk about the issues and how we can control the use.  I’m really pleasantly surprised.”

A comparison was drawn to the fears we had when email was introduced, and even to when the telephone landline was first introduced to the workplace. Ultimately in spite of all our fears and wants to control usage, the telephone and email have stuck and become a critical part of daily business.

How will social media become a part of daily business?  How are we embracing that now in our organisations?


  • Social media is here to stay – the numbers show this is not a fad
  • Our focus on controlling use of it is quite pointless – like trying to control what people say or email to their friends and peers
  • Embracing social media and using it to benefit our business is the most useful response and offers great benefits to individuals and the organisation

Further Reading

If you’re on twitter, you can follow @neilmorrison and @matthew_hanwell to keep track of their views.

If you’re not on twitter, give it a go, or search for HR blogs and see what useful ideas you gain from the experience.

Register at and have a look at a user guide.

You can also read Neil’s own blog reflections on the session and how it really all comes down to trust.

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Choose to Speak Freely

the-broken-chain1-400x265How choosing to Speak Freely could liberate the Business World from Business Speak

We were in awe at a recent conference at the lack of business speak.  You know the stuff – business management language that covers a multitude of honest facts and feelings.

Through speakers that simply shared deeply personal experiences and revelations, the delegates made more rapid progress through their own journeys.

As we see with many communication models, it is when we hit the level of authenticity, honesty and integrity that comes with sharing personal feelings and emotions, that we cut through the business language barrier and connect.  We engage and make progress.

We always find in our internal team meetings, discussions with businesses and coaching sessions with clients, that when we talk about real concerns, we make greater and faster progress.

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How are you feeling now about that decision you need to make?  About that phone call you’ve been putting off for a while?  How are you feeling generally about your work today?  This week?

Who could you speak to about these feelings?  And in my personal experience, whoever springs to mind as the person you definitely could not talk to, they are a great person to start with.  This is not about a moaning session or a lying down on a couch type conversation.  This is about being open in a professional environment.  Sharing things like,

“This phone call I need to make.  I’m having some concerns about how to start the conversation.  I’m nervous that…. What do you think?  Any suggestions?”

“This project I’m working on – I’m so passionate about the outcome that I want to make sure everything is done right.  I’m concerned that not everyone is on board.  At the last meeting I thought I saw a lot of apathy.  I’m now becoming uncomfortable with the idea of leading a project team that’s not interested.  What do you think?”

What are you feeling?

What could you share?

And what we strongly suspect is that it’s fear that holds us back from speaking freely.  The main issue with fear is that it stops us from taking action and from making changes.

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So if we’re happy for things to continue just as they are, we’re probably ok listening to those fears.

What if we’re not happy to continue?  What if we want to see a change?  What if the call to change is so strong, we can’t bear the idea of leaving things as they are?

The phrase “face your fear” can sound a bit scary really.  So perhaps we’re better off starting with, what’s the big fear anyway?  Would I really get fired for pointing out that the business decision we’re about to make could see us losing money?

Would I really be seen as pathetic for pointing out that I’m nervous about something that most other people are probably nervous about too?

What’s the worst that could happen?  And if that actually happened, would that be so bad?

Have a think about what you want to change, what fears may stop you, and what could make it easier for you to side-step those fears.

A really useful read is Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.  In this book she points out that fear is not an insurmountable problem, it is an educational problem and, “by re-educating the mind, you can accept fear as simply a fact of life rather than a barrier to success.”

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action by [Jeffers, Susan]

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The Brand Called You

PB 400x265Branding is more important today than it ever has been.

A very clever chap called Tom Peters argues that the interesting developments in brand management are not happening at a multinational scale, but at the individual end of the scale.

Peters suggests that individuals should think of themselves as a brand and that their approach to differentiation in the world should be exactly the same. Individuals should look at themselves and try to identify why they stand out in relation to those around them. If they do not stand out, they should start trying to find ways to do so.

He argues that every individual should be addressing a series of questions to find out if they are selling themselves effectively to prospective employees:

  • What makes you different?
  • What is the pitch for you?
  • What is the real power of you?
  • What is loyalty to you?
  • What is the future of you?
  • What makes you different?

Individuals should start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that distinguish them from colleagues. Peters suggests using a standard model from the world of corporate branding, the feature-benefit model, which ensures that every feature that they communicate to potential buyers has an identifiable benefit. For example, an individual that is able to solve any problem quickly and efficiently will provide considerable value to their internal and external customers. Individuals who do this will quickly gain a reputation, and in doing so, build a brand for themselves.

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So what is the pitch for you?

The first stage in the corporation branding process is developing visibility. However, instead of glossy campaigns, individuals must enhance their profile in different ways. As a starting point, Peters suggests that individuals should introduce themselves to colleagues by signing up for extra projects within the organisation, and getting a reputation for contributing. Alternatively, Peters suggests writing a column in a local paper or teaching a class in a community college.

Peters argues that communicating a brand to others is all about style as well as substance. This involves communicating efficiently with others at all times, whether it is during meetings, giving a presentation, writing a letter or sending an e-mail.

Essentially this amounts to what advertisers call ‘word of mouth’ marketing, and it involves using personal and business networks to cultivate a presence in the marketplace.

Attention Grabbing

Not only should individuals advertise themselves; they should also concentrate on developing power in their chosen area. In other words, they should attempt to cultivate a reputation for using their expertise intelligently. Just as consumers are drawn to powerful product brands, individuals should attempt to develop a powerful brand to draw in external and internal customers and at the same time creating customer loyalty.

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Your answer to the ‘what do you do?’ question will either limit relationships or give them life. It’s your choice. What’s crucial is that you take every opportunity to deliver an ‘elevator speech’ that makes a positive rather than negative impact. Here’s how.

Here are two types of Elevator Speech (ES) that are only going to induce yawns…

‘Hello, my name is Joe Smith, and I’m a banking manager with XYZ Bank.’

Or: ‘Hi, I’m Mandy and I’m an accountant.’

If you forget everything else when crafting your ES – remember to focus on what you can do for the listener. Now, if Joe and Mandy changed their ES to this focus, here’s how they might come out:

‘Hello, my name is Joe and a big part of my role is building local businesses’

‘Hi, I’m Mandy – my job keeps our multi million pound business in the black’

Aren’t those more likely to get people’s interest? Might they prompt a follow-up question from you along the lines of ‘Really? How do you do that?’ They’ve got your permission to tell you more rather than assuming you want to know more.

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When you walk into a situation where somebody is going to ask you what you do, you have time to plan what you are going to say. By planning ahead, you’ll be ready with an impactful, credible and relevant Elevator Speech (ES). Here’s how:

Determine Your Audience

Who exactly are you going to be speaking to? If you don’t know, you need to ask. Will it be board level, senior management, or someone lower down the hierarchy?

Define Your Objective

What exactly do you want to get out of this interaction, meeting or phone call? It could be as simple as leaving a favourable impression, or as difficult as getting a sale on the day.

Define Your Content

Once you know your audience and your objective you can decide what will work best for getting the attention of your listener.

Deliver with Style!

Your ES must roll off your tongue with ease.  Practice saying it.

Decide on a Call to Action!

Finally, think through what you want them to do once they’ve heard your ES. Book you? Meet with you one-to-one? Connect you to someone? Refer you? Ask for further information. Begin with the end in mind.

A customised approach takes effort and preparation. That’s why few people do it. But it is a powerful tool in business and personal arenas.

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