Learning & Development

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE – ARE YOU A NOVELTY LOVER OR DO YOU CRAVE FAMILIARITY?

It’s that time of year when you’ve returned from your Summer break that you’ve been waiting on for what seems like forever.  You’re home but wishing you were still chilling by the beach or visiting magical cities and places without a care in the world.  Crash, bang – you’re back into the throes of work, wishing you perhaps hadn’t over indulged to the extent you did (in my case eaten too many pastel de natas) and wondering how long it is until your next holiday and committing to be fit and trim before you don your beachwear again.

Sound familiar?  Well “familiar” is exactly what I want to talk about today.  Whilst lying on my sun-lounger on afore-mentioned beach I found myself pondering what it was that had me returning to the same part of the world for my Summer break over and over again.  I always considered myself to be someone who likes to travel and see new things and that holiday time for me was about exploring places I’d never seen, attempting new activities I hadn’t tried before and finding new and exciting places to eat, drink and sometimes dance.

I’m not saying that I’ve only ever been to the same holiday destination and nowhere else – I’ve been fortunate to have many great experiences in beautiful places both near and far, but I can’t help feeling more and more comfortable when I return to my special spot in Portugal that holds my heart and brings me back time and time.  I find myself arriving and almost immediately I relax.  The very thought that I don’t have to think about how to find the beach/decent restaurants/local shops feels fantastic.  As soon as I get to the resort I feel like I’ve come home and it feels good.  I don’t need to be a tourist here – I can truly wind down.  Seeing the same faces in restaurants and bars feels comforting. I’ve long since stopped wondering why the same people work in these places for many years – I just now accept they do and am grateful to see them.

And is it just my holiday bookings that this love of familiarity applies to.  I search deeper into my habits and behaviours and find that perhaps I do love familiarity.  I’ve been in my current home for almost 13 years, lived in the same area for over 20 and have been running businesses and working with many of our team for almost the same length of time.  I’ve sadly shopped in the same supermarket for about 25 years (and even had a local branch down on my “new address” criteria list when house hunting – as well as needing to be living near water of some description).  I listen to the same genres of music I’ve listened to since I was a teenager, always shop in the same department store, go to the same gym classes, pick the same colour when buying a new purse, buy the same underwear brand and the list goes on!

But what does this say about me?  Am I so dull or lacking creativity that I take the easy option? Does it say I’m risk averse or that newness scares me?  I don’t think so.  In fact in many areas of my life I’m probably the complete opposite.  What I love about my work is the fact I get to meet so many new and varied clients and don’t have to go to the same place and do the same job every day.  Some days I am coaching, some facilitating large scale events, or delivering a workshop or working in my office on a project or doing some business development – no day is the same and I love that.  The thought of going to the same office every day is awful.  I can also get restless if I am doing the same thing for too long and can lose patience with tasks that require repetition. Oh and I never wear the same shoes more than once in a week unless I’m on holiday or they are my trainers!  If push came to shove though I’d probably fall in the ‘familiarity” camp – even though I hate admitting that.

You may have read my last blog before my holiday about my packing habits where I deduced I was an abundance lover rather than a simplicity one. Once again Gretchen Rubin in “Better than Before” shares her thoughts on the distinctions we have such as:

  • Are you a lark or an owl? (Are you better in the morning or evening?)
  • Are you a sprinter or a marathoner? (Are you slow and steady or do you leave things to the last minute?)
  • Are you an under-buyer or an over-buyer? (Do you love or hate to shop?)
  • Are you a finisher or an opener? (do you get the job complete or do you just like to start new things?)
  • Do you take big steps or small steps? (Are you happy making big changes or prefer to stick with small ones?)

So knowing which category you are in can help you understand your habits and behaviours more – which in turn can help us to be more effective and indeed inform the choices that we make both in and out of work.

For me knowing that I am more of a lark than an owl means I try to do my most difficult work in the mornings (including any exercise otherwise I’d never do it!);  Being a sprinter I need to make sure I build in enough contingency in case last minute doesn’t work out as planned; Being an opener I need to work hard on making sure I get things finished and my “big step” mentality means I need to build in milestones to check and monitor my progress along the way.  (Being an abundance lover goes hand in hand with an over-buyer – so enough said there!).

And when choosing my next holiday destination I’ll either be returning to Portugal combining it with a city I’ve not been to before or a new location with an over-stuffed suitcase full of my familiar possessions.

Who said I was indecisive?

 

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

This year I have been fortunate to take some time out from the business and focus on my own personal and professional development. Like many other coaches, facilitators and trainers I know, I am very good at putting everyone else’s growth first and leaving my own as a “nice to do” rather than making it a priority. The big question for me this year has been if I’m not working on my own development, how can I authentically ask those who I train and coach to work on their own progress? After all, one of my favourite sayings is “no-one is the finished article,” and with this in mind I decided it was time to bite the bullet and sign up for something that would challenge my thinking and skill level.

Putting on hold celebrations for our 20th Wedding Anniversary, my extremely supportive husband waved me off in late January as I made my way to Edinburgh to deepen my knowledge and understanding of transformational coaching. Now you may be expecting me to give you an insight in to what I learned about coaching and I did indeed learn a massive amount and must send a big thank you to Gillian and the team at Full Circle Global for the warm, supportive and sometimes heart thumpingly challenging experience. However, what I came away with was not just the confidence to be the coach I want to be but to have a deeper sense of what our participants and delegates go through when they are on a course we are delivering.

After spending five days in a training room as a participant, I really believe that one of the best ways you can increase your skill level as a trainer or a coach is to be on the receiving end and then to reflect upon what it has meant for you as a learner. I think a regular dose of being on “the other side of the fence” is something all of us who work in people development should plan into our busy diaries. So, what have I learned and how will I use it in how I work?

Participants get nervous – No matter how senior or experienced they are! Everyone on my course had previous experience of coaching others but there was a palpable anxiety as we moved into the coaching practice sessions. Creating a safe space to try out our new knowledge was going to be the key to our success and we were left alone to try out new techniques; no facilitator looming over us ready to step in with their feedback. We all felt absolutely free to step out of our comfort zones and make mistakes. The time for being observed would come later in the programme and it felt good to be fully responsible for our own learning.

Key learning point – Give participants space and trust that they will make the best use of the time available; allow participants to fully immerse themselves within the experience so they don’t notice the presence of the facilitator; sometimes we can get in the way!

Pace – As an Activist learner I am often guilty of wanting to pack lots into a session but taking on various roles within the training I realised how tiring a training course is for the learner. Shifting state between being a participant, coach and coachee meant that a much slower pace was required and plenty of breaks were needed to mentally and physically move between roles and be the best that we could be for our colleagues and for Gillian leading the event.

Key learning pointThere is a time and a place for high octane learning but let participants take a breath as they move them from one experience to another and never underestimate the amount of energy it takes to be in full learning mode.

Quality over quantity – Now I have to admit that when I looked at the published timetable for each day, I felt slightly short changed. Each day was due to start at 9:30am and close at 4:30pm and one of my first thoughts was “heh, I am paying for this myself – no corporate company footing the bill, I want value for money!” Well how wrong could I be? I was exhausted by the end of every day and I really couldn’t have taken in any more if we had gone past 4:30pm. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to leave knowing that I had given my all but still had an opportunity for some downtime to explore the delights of Edinburgh city centre.

Key learning point – Long training days aren’t always effective; trainers can do more with less. Allowing participants to apply learning faster, rather than lengthy theoretical explanations keeps learners engaged and on their own agenda. Keeping the training ‘learner’ rather than ‘trainer’ centric, recognising that learners need to let their new knowledge “settle and sit” by having the time to take part in other activities, whether that is a spot of shopping or catching up on emails.

Learning continuity – One of the greatest gifts I have been given since attending the course is a new group of like-minded people, dare I say it they have become my “friends.”  I don’t use that term lightly but having the opportunity to get together over lunch, get a WhatsApp group going and an informal Action Learning Group via Zoom has cemented my belief that learning is above all a social activity. Thank you to Karen, Amandine, Eleanor and Paula – your insight and support has been invaluable and especially for giving me the feedback that I could be heard sighing during a video Masterclass. A bad habit that I am massively more aware of now!

Key learning point – Create social spaces within a learning event that encourages  participants to share their learning from the session over coffee and lunch but coming back to one of my original points, don’t hijack the conversations – let the participants work it out for themselves; if they are sufficiently motivated they will!

As you probably can tell, I have hugely enjoyed my own learning journey. I went expecting to know more about coaching and yes, I came away with that but also with a new found understanding of myself as a person and myself as a trainer – now that is excellent value for money!

 

If you would like to know more about our extensive personal development and coaching packages, please get in touch with us at hello@change-gear.com or call on 07714 793669 we would love to hear from you, no matter which side of the fence you sit on!!

“WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM?” THE LOST ART OF STORYTELLING

In its simplest form storytelling is a connection of cause and effect. A narrative helps us make sense of the world around us. In fact, our informal conversations are dominated by stories; researcher Jeremy Hsu found 65% of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip – “who did what to whom?

Great stories surprise us; they have the ability to spark emotions, whether it’s happiness, anger, trust or guilt. They have compelling characters. They make us think and make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.  Fundamentally our brains are more engaged when listening to stories and studies show that when information is communicated in this way people will better relate to and remember it.

Story telling has been used successfully in brand advertising for years.  Guinness has come up with some great marketing stories such as their “Empty Chair” ad where a bartender leaves a pint of Guinness at an empty table every night.  No one sits at the table, and the woman shoots a dirty look to anyone she catches eyeing one of the empty chairs.  Without fail, the Guinness is there every night. It’s a powerful image that serves as a sign of hope for the bartender. But we aren’t exactly sure who the beer is for until the very end. Everything comes together when a soldier finally returns home to claim his Guinness.

Lego’s “Let’s Build” ad is another great example of storytelling in advertising. The ad features a father and son bonding over their Lego; it shows the two of them creating fantastic skyscrapers with their enormous Lego collection. For a second you forget that it’s advertising toys because all you see is the perfect home life parents and kids are always dreaming of. And so a story unfolds.

Although storytelling is a timeless human tradition, unfortunately it has become a lost art in many businesses. Instead of taking the time to craft captivating stories, most people in business create dreary Powerpoint presentations; you could say Powerpoint has killed our ability to tell good stories, and this is a habit we need to change.

However, a word of warning! – storytelling works on a spectrum – at one end you have BIG stories – like legends, epics and fairytales – at the other end you have small stories such as examples, recounts and anecdotes.  When starting out in storytelling it’s best not to try too hard – start small with your stories until you get more confident.  And try to build a bank of stories – funnily enough they don’t always pop in your head when you need them.  In the meantime here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way:

 Surprise your audience

When you set out to create your story, it’s always good to start by revealing an important fact or detail that isn’t common knowledge or includes an unexpected turn of events. Try to hook your audience by sharing something that no one would expect because when it comes to storytelling, predictable plots won’t engage anyone.

Get to the point

Although you need to hook people in, it is also really important to get stuck into your messaging as quickly as you can. Stick to relevant details if you want people to listen to your entire story, as most people don’t have the patience or the time to hang around! Choose two or three main points that people will actually care about and focus on those — things like money saved, number of users, growth over the years are all effective examples.

Think about your purpose

What’s the point of your story? Are you informing or teaching your audience, are you trying to sell them something or are you just engaging with them to make them feel inspired to act? Make sure you have a single message that you want them to take from your story.

Be honest

Everyone makes mistakes or does embarrassing things every now and then, but being honest about those less than perfect moments will make you and your message easier to relate to. Share those painful lessons you learned. Even the simplest things like a spelling mistake in a text can show your human side.

Overcome the odds

Talk about a few of the challenges you have overcome, such as rejection or setbacks. Tell your audience what you learned from each challenge, how it motivated you and inspired you to get better.

Don’t forget humour

Using humour will engage your audience and make your story more likely to be remembered and shared. Laugh at yourself or a situation you found yourself in, never at someone else. But do run it by a few friends or colleagues first, just to make sure it is actually funny as well as appropriate.

And finally … Hold something back

As well as the tips above about being honest and open, you shouldn’t reveal everything all at once. Keep people interested and wanting to come back for more by finishing on a cliff-hanger. Make sure all your content can stand alone but getting your audience to think you have something more that they need to hear will keep them hooked.

And on that note, I invite you to join us at our free breakfast seminar “Powerful Persuasion – The Art of Storytelling” on Tuesday 20th March at CitizenM Hotel, Tower Bridge, where the Change-Gear team will share with you their secrets on how to finesse this age-old skill.

To book your ticket please follow this link: ART OF STORYTELLING BREAKFAST SEMINAR

We look forward to seeing you there.

 

LET THE MUSIC PLAY…….

Ok.. who can name the singer of this blog title? Of course, it is the incomparable Barry White!  So, why have I chosen to write about a 70’s Love God? Well, it’s more about the part that music and lyrics play in our learning of new skills in both business and life. From creating memories, to taking us back to past times, to providing the backdrop to our lives; music can have a significant part to play.

Certain songs have the ability to transport me to specific times and places and relive a moment in glorious technicolour detail. I cannot hear a brass band without being jettisoned back to my childhood and the memory of my Grandad playing the big bass drum with the Langley Prize Band outside our house every Christmas Eve. I am a blubbering wreck at the sight and sound of a trombone or cornet!

As a designer of learning events, my challenge is to create multi-sensory environments to appeal to all participants’ learning preferences. Using visual tools/cues and physical movement are a few ways I can achieve a rich learning tapestry for attendees, but could using music help or hinder a learner’s experience?

There is certainly a weighty body of evidence which demonstrates that music can have a positive impact in education and treatment of illnesses such as Dementia. Music has been found to light up parts of the brain like a firework display and reconnect people to memories and abilities that may have been thought lost. Studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of dementia patients, and has shown that scores on memory tests improved when they listened to classical music. Chris Brewer, founder of LifeSounds Educational Services and author of the book Soundtracks for Learning, explains that music can help to hold our attention, evoke emotions, and stimulate visual images. “Students of all ages—that includes adults— generally find that music helps them focus more clearly on the task at hand and puts them in a better mood for learning,” says Brewer.

Many of the research studies suggest that playing music when engaged in a learning activity has an impact on “positive mood management” and that various styles of music are appropriate for different types of activities. For example, upbeat popular music to motivate learning, especially songs with lyrics that encourage positive thinking. However, when engaged in more reflective learning such as writing, or reading, instrumental music can help to sustain concentration. Classical music of the Baroque era, such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach with musical pulses between 50 to 80 beats per minute helps to stabilise mental, physical and emotional rhythms. Music has been found to affect the neuro plasticity of the brain and slower baroques can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations.

The case is certainly strong for incorporating music into a learning event, however perhaps a word of caution before facilitators and trainers rush to build their playlists into sessions. Tests on retention and transfer of knowledge and skills have also shown that irrelevant background music can lead to poorer student performance and can create a distraction for learners if it generates a negative emotional reaction. Just as we would with any piece of design work, if we intend to use music in our sessions, then we need to think about the needs of the audience and choose music that resonates rather than alienates and most importantly seek permission from the learners before launching our chosen tracks.

As I prepare to head to Edinburgh for a week of self-development, I am starting to think about my musical choices. As I do my evening homework, I want to create neural pathways that help me in the future to access the resources I have developed during the day – so to that end I am most definitely going to “Let the Music Play!”

If you would like to find out more about any of our development programmes please contact us at hello@change-gear.com or call us on 07714 793669 we’d love to chat with you and maybe even hear about your favourite learning tunes.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Greetings from Dubai!

Once again my offspring are appearing in my blog. Trying not to make a habit of it, but given that I’m travelling with my 15 year old daughter (sorry, she would most definitely correct me by saying “16 in 31 days actually”) it’s a bit unavoidable.

So, at the age of “almost 16” my super lucky daughter was given the opportunity by a very generous friend to gain some invaluable work experience in Dubai. To say she’s had a blast would be an understatement. I am so grateful that she has been so well looked after and has learned so much in such a short space of time. If only more businesses could follow suit and give our emerging young talent this type of invaluable life experience – I am positive that young people would be so much better equipped to start out in the workplace.

When the opportunity was first discussed over 6 months ago, both of us were very excited. A trip to Dubai, working for a very well-known lingerie and beauty retailer (exceptionally popular with ladies, young and older, around the world). Maddie has been the envy of many friends – having said that, she’s had a busy week with a real marketing project to do as well. I’m sure this experience will stay with her for many years.

So, she needed a chaperone and here I was to be that person. It sounded like a ball… Maddie busy at work and mum could sit by the pool… maybe not! Firstly, it’s not entirely in my nature to watch my daughter go to work while I indulge in “me time”.  Secondly, I wanted to make the most of this great opportunity to network in the UAE and take some uninterrupted time to focus on doing some business development.

So, five days in I’ve started to realise a few things. Firstly, sending your daughter off at 8am in the morning whilst you’re cooped up in a hotel is nothing but odd! I found myself a little lost and wondering whether I was supposed to relax or get straight onto my work. I settled for working while she was working and then chilling out with her when she had finished. Secondly, the challenge of working remotely from an unknown hotel in the UAE was harder than expected. My normal routine had gone out of the window. I wanted to eat well, work out, swim, get some sun and be productive = it was all too much. So what did I learn and how did I cope? I needed a few strategies to keep me focused.

Here’s 5 top tips that might help if you’re planning something similar:

Internet – Have a plan for your Internet connection. When you’re travelling internationally, you can’t always rely on the corner Starbucks. If you’ve griped about the WiFi speed at the coffee shop in the UK, the connection can be even more frustrating abroad. Do your research before you travel and find out what WiFi provision is in your destination, and have a back-up plan, whether it’s purchasing an Internet SIM card or securing a spot in a co-working space.

Old-school rules – Carry around a notebook and pen. There will come a day when you can’t connect to WiFi and you’ll be grateful you have this.

Time after time – Be mindful of the time differences. Keep track of time zones so you don’t end up calling a potential client or another important contact at 3am without realising it! Most smartphones allow you to set a clock for another time zone, or you can download an app to keep track.

Be realistic – The days are shorter than you think. Don’t over-estimate what you can do. And plan some down-time. You’ll feel more productive as a consequence.

Be culture savvy – Every country has its own specific customs and traditions. Although immersing yourself in a culture is the best way to learn what is appropriate and what is not, try to research and avoid any major faux-pas before you pack for your destination. I’ve only worn 10% of the wardrobe I brought with me so far as everything else is either inappropriate or unacceptable.

And so today it’s my official day off with my gorgeous daughter – a well-deserved trip to the Burj Khalifa – and I can’t think of a better person to be on top of the world with!

 

 

#employabilityskills #luckymum #pricelessmoments #fabworkexperience #workingmums #beautifuldaughters #worklifebalance #verygrateful

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