Saturday, April 27, 2013

Are you willing to sel-disclose

Are you willing to self-disclose

One of the best books I have ever read on the subject of self-disclosure is The Transparent Self by Sidney Jourard. In it he explains in simple terms the importance of understanding and integrating this valuable skill into all of our communication.

What exactly is self-disclosure?

We all have varying degrees of self-knowledge and understanding. We also have our little secrets about who we are, what we believe, what we feel and when—as well as opinions and values and the varying degrees of comfort of sharing them with friends, strangers or family members.
Self-disclosure is when you are willing to let others into your personal zone of attitudes, beliefs and values that express who you really are and what you really feel or believe.

Simply put, self-disclosure is communicating often-private information about yourself to others.

The thing to remember is that too little or too much self-disclosure builds barriers in relationships, while balanced self-disclosure builds bridges.

Let’s say that I were to share with you all of my fears, frustrations, failures, problems, concerns and shortcomings. I can hear you now: “I don’t need that much information about you to get value from this book. I don’t enjoy pitying others, especially when I paid twenty bucks for this book.”
Or the opposite: What if I shared with you all of my successes, achievements, highs, accomplishments, etc.? I can also hear you now, “You arrogant SOB, who do you think you are, better than me?!”
You see, in both of these cases, too much self-disclosure did not contribute to a mutually beneficial relationship between us.

Balanced self-disclosure is when I share enough (the appropriate amount about myself, given the nature of our relationship) to create a connection where we have some common ground.

For example, let’s say I told you that I have had my share of communication breakdowns with others or that I have said things I didn’t mean. This simple disclosure sends the message that I am no different than you, as we all do this from time to time. If I had said I have never done this, well, you might just become a bit suspicious of me and my motives, thinking, “Man, have you got an out-of-control ego, thinking you are perfect in this area!”

Well, I’m not perfect at all. I struggle every day with creating consistency between my words and actions. There, I’ve said it: I’m normal. I’m just like everyone else and I, too, struggle with communication breakdowns.

My point is that I have tried to create common ground between us, a connection where we are both normal and similar when it comes to this issue. With this simple self-disclosure, I have prepared the way for a sort of bond between us where you will tend to be more willing to learn from my mistakes and counsel. But, what if I had gone on for a few pages, sharing story after story where I have screwed up in this area. Again, I can hear you say, “How do you feel you have the right to write a book about this stuff when you haven’t even figured it out yourself?”

Bottom line: Self-disclosure takes courage, understanding, compassion and a willingness to be real and vulnerable. (From Blah, Blah, Blah)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Is employee training a waste of money?

Is employee training a waste of time and money?
It Depends . . .
Tim Connor

Here’s the bottom line in advance – Most of the training done by organizations is a waste of money and time. (Not being negative here – as I can always use more business.).   

However, having said this – this doesn’t have to be the outcome.  Employee development programs (training) can and do work and are effective at improving employee performance for many organizations but why the difference or inconsistency?  Because some managers ‘get it’ and most don’t.  Get what?  Read on. . .

During my career I have trained thousands of people in hundreds of organizations around the world and although I did my very best to share relevant and appropriate information I have always wondered – did anyone ever consistently use the ideas, techniques and approaches I shared?

This nagging question for many years has caused me to do extensive research on the effectiveness of employee development and use of resources and its short vs. long term success given the tremendous amount of money spent every year by companies to give employees the skills and attitudes they need for enduring success and effectiveness.

When it comes to employee development programs of any kind there are three issues that must be taken into consideration; information acceptance, retention and the training approach or methods used to improve or change behavior.  I will not delve into the first two as it would take several thousand words to cover all of the aspects of both of these.  What I want to focus on in this article is the third area – training methodology.

There are four approaches or levels of learning you must grasp when it deals with employee development when you consider the results you  want to achieve.  They are – awareness, understanding, integration and mastery.  Let’s look at each of these in detail.  But, first let me ask you a question. When you invest time and resources in training what do you want the results to be – knowledge or action? Or put in another way - do you want employees to just hear the message or use consistently it consistently in the performance of their daily roles and responsibilities? If your answer was the first – move on to your next task.  If it was the second – read on.  Here are the four levels in more detail.

-The awareness level.

At this level of learning employees have an awareness only; of techniques, tactics, skills and approaches to be more effective in their roles.  However, at this level they lack the clarity and understanding to embrace the new learning in a way that will allow them to put the information into practice in an effective way and for the long term.  At this level, behavior will not change and you will have essentially wasted corporate resources and the employee’s time. They will be alert and attentive during any training session, but when the learning session(s) are over they will lack the knowledge necessary to know how, where, when and why to use this new information.  The awareness level can be described as sharing information only.

-The understanding level

At the understanding level, employees get it.  They see the relationship between the information they have learned and its value, but they still lack the ability to consistently apply (integrate) what they have learned in their roles and responsibilities.

-The integration level

Knowledge if it is not used, applied or integrated into current mindsets, activities, responsibilities or approaches is essentially useless information.  Without a doubt the biggest challenge in any training initiative is to ensure that the new learning is used and used whenever and wherever appropriate for the long term.  The lack of application of new knowledge/skills/attitudes generally occurs when the following ten requirements are not followed in any training (employee development) program.

Here are the ten requirements.
  1. The program must engage the participants and cannot be a one way dialog or approach.
  2. The program must permit the employees to practice while they are learning.
  3. The program must allow time for group interaction in small work/discussion groups to relate specific applications to their role and responsibilities and their actual or current challenges and opportunities.
  4. The program must allow adequate time for topic questions and practical discussions.
  5. The program must take into consideration that everyone learns in different ways.  Some people need to hear it while others need to speak it and some need time to process the information at their own learning pace.
  6. The program must take into consideration the ‘real world’ issues that the participants deal with on a routine basis.
  7. The material must be reinforced in a variety of ways.  This reinforcement must be immediate and ongoing, repetitive and various methods must be used such as; regularly discussing the new material, assignments, follow-up exercises, review of the material using manuals, electronic media such as weekly or bi-weekly webinars and/or telephone conference calls and various evaluation techniques.
  8. The learning must be periodically inspected to ensure that the learned skills are being implemented and used where and when appropriate.
  9. Management must participate in the actual learning so they know what their employees are learning.  Without this knowledge it is impossible for them to coach, inspect and hold people accountable to their learning over time.
  10.  The program must provide opportunities for everyone to develop personal ownership of the material.
- The Mastery Level -

Mastery is the highest form of knowledge and wisdom applied.  This is where wisdom becomes the standard for learning and skill and attitude development and consistent use for long periods of time.  Mastery occurs when knowledge becomes wisdom and wisdom is utilized at every opportunity when a situation or circumstance warrants.  Very few participants in a training session for any number of reasons achieve this level of knowledge or information application.  Generally speaking people who achieve mastery in their chosen field or endeavor have made mastery their goal and they have followed through with discipline, persistence, planning and an ongoing learning mindset. 

There are generally seven laws when it comes to learning.

These must be understood and integrated into any learning experience if you want to have a successful long term outcomes and behavior and skill modification.

The Seven laws of learning;

1.  All discovery is self-discovery.
2. People all learn at different rates.
3. People all have unique learning styles.
4. People learn when they are ready to learn not when you need them to learn.
5. People who are experiencing a great deal of stress or tension will fail to learn what you want them to and when you want them to.
6. If material is not presented or tailored in a way that is comfortable for the learner’s personality style they will fail to integrate the skills, techniques or attitudes into their roles and responsibilities.
7. Everyone’s personal perceptions either contribute to or sabotage their ability to learn and grasp new concepts, ideas and information.

o So, there you have it.  But here’s the problem.  Most organizations want to achieve the integration or even the mastery level of learning for employees but they fail to grasp that these two levels of learning require;       
  A serious commitment to on ongoing learning process. This takes ongoing and consistent time and resources. You will never achieve long term results with a quick-fix approach.
  The ability to put strategies in place for inspection and to hold people accountable. Most managers are too busy to be involved in the learning process.  They just want to delegate it.
   Ongoing coaching. Many managers either do not have adequate or acceptable coaching skills so they fail in this area.

I’ll leave you with a simple question – Are you expecting long term employee effectiveness from your training investment while you are not following any or all of the suggestions, no - requirements in this article?  If you are, you will continue to throw more money at your problems or challenges, but fail to achieve the results you desire.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tomorrow is Yesterday before you know it.

Tomorrow is Yesterday
Before You Know it.
Tim Connor
Let me begin with my favorite quote from my mentor Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.”

I love this quote as it is so profound and yet so simple and true. In fact I have it framed on my desk as a constant reminder.

Yesterday – a distant memory.  Tomorrow filled with promise, opportunity and whatever you choose to bring to it.  Yes, we create each of our tomorrows and as a result all of our yesterdays regardless of whether they are filled with wonderful happy memories or grief, sorrow and any other negative emotion.

I will guarantee that you have read something somewhere that stresses the importance and the gift of all of your present moments.  But, here’s the problem – most people know that’s all they have and will ever have, but research  indicates that the average person spends over 90% of their waking time focused and thinking about the past and/or the future.

Why is this?  For years I have studied brain function and emotions and there are physiological reasons for this behavior, but I won’t bore you with years of brain research other than to say that we can change these patterns of thought, but we must want to and know how to and then act.

Let me just say that there are billions of neural connections in the brain and trillions of chemical reactions that take place every minute in your head and you don’t have to be consciously aware of any of them.  They happen automatically.  Just think you have over 80,000 heartbeats every day and do you spend one second in awareness of them?  No, but you become vividly aware when they stop.

We all have formed numerous mental habits of thinking over the years and these habits drive our thinking, actions, decisions and behavior.  So, if you are a worrier it’s simply because you have formed the habit of focusing on worry.  If you are a dreamer you have done the same but in a different way or direction.  One is negative and one is positive but they both focus on the future.

If you are filled with regret, grief or disappointment you are stuck in the past.
If you have an issue with patience –you are stuck in the future.  Almost every emotion or feeling is focused on what lies ahead or what is gone – the past.

And, let me tell you - all of this mental energy is wasted.  You can’t change or relive the past and you can’t control or manipulate the future no matter how hard you work, how much you plan and no matter how many goals you have.

Life is lived one moment at a time and at some point these moments for all of us will end and at that point all of the worry, plans, stress, anxiety, dreams, hopes, regret, anger, sadness and disappointment will no longer matter.

Let me leave you with a question – are you spending most of your waking time focused on the future, the past or now?

“You can never ride on the wave that came in
and went out yesterday.”

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect
 Tim Connor

I am sure you have seen ripples in a stream or lake.  These are caused by some external factor like wind, a passing boat or a school of fish. But ever noticed how far they travel before they sort of disappear into the rest of the water?
As a sailor I can tell you my boat has been rocked for several minutes due to the ripples of another boat that was hundreds of yards away from mine.
So, enough of the analogy, what’s this have to do with the purpose of this week’s article?
Trust me there are ripples to every event, decision, action, word spoken and even not spoken. These ripples can last for years and touch many people in the process.  And yes, there are both positive and negative ripples as we go through our days and years.
One of the many definitions for the word Ripple - a series of repercussions or consequences.  So is this starting to become a little more obvious where I’m heading?
Let me start with positive ripples.  When you smile at someone, a stranger or a friend there is a better than average chance that they will smile at the next person they see.  Share a friendly hello with someone and they will likely do the same with another person who crosses their path and so on.  So your simple smile might eventually indirectly touch thousands of people, most of whom you do not know.
Share compassion, understanding or a listening ear with someone and they are likely to do the same when the opportunity appears.  Another way to describe this is to “pay it forward’ – you may be familiar with this term. 
Regardless, the point is that there are always consequences to our actions, decisions and words. So let’s dig into the main point I want to make – that there are consequences both negative and positive that touch others in some way that you may never be aware of.
I could give you numerous business, relationship, financial and health examples, but here are two common ones.
You make a rash and quick career decision to change employers due to your need for increased income.  The position you accept is not ideal in many ways but it does pay more.  Consequences? The ripple effect . . .
-Increased stress from working all day in a job that doesn’t feel right for some reason.
-Less patience with family due to this increased stress.
-Increased potential for illness due to this stress.
-Negative thought patterns on a regular basis.
-These thought patterns will increase the potential for conflict.
-Increased conflict has a negative impact on relationships.
-Over time you may start to feel guilt, resentment and even anger.
-These feelings can impact the way you drive, what you eat and how you treat others.
So, you accepted a position to solve a temporary situation but this decision is impacting many other areas of your life on a consistent daily basis.
Second example – You decide to purchase something you want but don’t need thereby leaving your resources a bit short for other more important items or financial requirements.
-You buy a new toy (boat, technology device, condo, - whatever) that you really don’t need but for some reason; (ego, insecurity, the need to feel successful, to impress others again – whatever) but now money becomes tight.  People do this every December – buy presents on credit then have to spend months paying off these bills and for what – to buy stuff for people that often don’t need or even want what you buy them.
So as you try and recover from this purchase and try to enjoy it you start to feel remorse, guilt or even self-anger at your lack of common sense or financial maturity. Think these thoughts will manifest and spill over into your relationships?  Your financial pressure? Your sense of responsibility being hurt in some way? Or, just having to make excuse or justify your purchase to family or friends.
I don’t know if you can relate to either of these two examples but I’ll guarantee I have you thinking about the short and long term consequences of poor decisions, bad choices, inappropriate words etc.
Everything has consequences.  Some consequences are positive while others can be negative.  Some can be short term while others can take their toll over years, but let me repeat – every choice, action, decision and behavior does not just sit there in the present it lingers for hours, weeks or even years thus – The Ripple Effect.
The answer – accept the fact that there will always be ripples no matter what you do or say, but you can positively impact them with better choices, wiser decisions and more mature actions and thoughtful behavior.    

“Pure motives do not ensure perfect results.”