Friday, January 29, 2010

Twitter without Tweeting to Twain Twoday

ASTD Techknowledge presented a great crowdsourcing opportunity. One of the challenges we have as trainers / learning facilitators, is getting the learner engaged. Twitter is not the be all solution to our workforce problems but it does offer great value. The challenge is its value is limited to the willingness of the learner to participate. If you tweet (use twitter), chances are you have had a conversation or overheard someone saying, "Twitter is ridiculous. Why do I care that you're having burnt toast with your runny eggs". Maybe the conversation didn't go exactly like that. But chances are you ran into a skeptic. I am a firm believer that to use Twitter is to understand Twitter (via @mrchomp3rs). So here's the problem. How do we get a gathering to understand the value of Twitter without using Twitter.

I crowdsourced the answer via Twitter at the ASTD Techknowledge Conference. Following is the cumulation of the feedback I received.

Exercise 1 - A River Runs Through It

  • The title sets up @Mary_a_Myers suggestion. She felt the visualization of a river or stream helps set up the chat flow. Messages flow on Twitter as if on the current of a river or stream depending on the topic (brussel sprouts, probably a trickle of a stream; the movie Avatar, the mighty Colorado River) . You get the point.
  • @torriedunlap recommended we use sticky notes on the wall. The visual is starting to come together here. Each tweet would be represented by a sticky page. The size of the page limits the size of the tweet too as @learningputty suggested.
  • @cdmullins, @rickzanotti, @kelticray, and @reward75 all suggested the room be broken into small groups to create the tweet flow.
  • Finally @StevenGilbert gave us a great way to start it off by tweeting to have everyone talk at the same time about something they are passionate about. This would create wonderful chaos. To facilitate this, @cdmullins suggested the option of using scripts and having everyone say their script at the same time. Both are great options.

So now its time to piece it all together for our exercise.

"A River Runs Through It"
A Crowdsourced Exercise demonstrating Twitter.

Equipment needed:
Plenty of stickypads or index cards and tape
8X10 paper (4-6 sheets)

10-15 minutes

  1. Facilitator explains that this exercise is to help you understand what Twitter does.
  2. Have everyone stand up and face the wall (explaining they are talking to an imaginary person)
  3. For 10-15 seconds have them tell the imaginary person anything that is on their mind(or read from a script)
  4. After 10-15 seconds ask the group what they heard if anything and what value that had. Did they happen to hear someone say something interesting? They probably didn't.
  5. Facilitator explains that from the outside, that is what Twitter looks and sounds like. Let's take a look on the inside.
  6. Break the room up into 4 - 6 groups depending on size (divided equally)
  7. Distribute stickpads or tape and index cards
  8. Have everyone create an individual user name
  9. Have everyone create a group name which represents a hash tag. Post the hashtags on a piece of 8X10 paper and tape on the wall near the group
  10. As a group have every member write on the stick pad (No more that 140 characters and you know why), what information they have or any suggestions they have on solving a problem. The facilitator can pick the problem (fixing the economy, getting everyone to buy Lady Gaga's most recent album, improving attendance) Be creative and have fun.
  11. Have everyone post their sticky notes on the wall under their hashtag for their group.
  12. Tell everyone to move throughout the room and read the tweets (No Talking). If they like a tweet or find it useful, have them write it on another sticky note by preceding it with an "RT" (Do I have to explain why?)
  13. Why no talking right? If they want to say something to someone directly, then they use their stickypad and write (in 140 characters, no dah) what they want to say. They need to precede the statement with either a D or a @. If they use a D, the other person puts the tweet in their pocket If they use an @ then the other person puts it on their back. Remember, no one sees a DM but everyone can see an @ message.
  14. After 3-5 minutes, have them take all the RTs and put them under their group hashtag
  15. Give the group time to read any new tweets that came into their group hashtag.
  16. Facilitator then explains that is how Twitter looks and sounds from the inside.
  17. You can add variances like everyone moves clockwise to simulate the flow of a river or add other new personality to this exercise.
  18. To top it off, play the CommonCraft video on Twitter (a suggestion by @michelle300)

This exercise would not have been created had it not been for these amazing tweeple @reward75, @rickzanotti, @kelticray, @Mary_a_Myers, @learningputty, @michelle300, @cdmullins, and @torriedunlap

You can follow me on Twitter @terrencewing or @liquidlearn

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Generation Y: Tips for Taking on the New Year

With the new year approaching I am focusing the next few blog entries on potential "Resolutions" that any of us can proclaim. As a Generational Enthusiast (I have no idea what that means but some people like titles), I will focus this entry on Generation Y. Like a previous blog entry, "Tips for Managing Generation Y", I will once again stress that if you are looking for rampant proclamations about negative perceptions about this generation or any for that matter, you are reading the wrong blog. I want to help build the bridge connecting the generational gaps, not push them further apart.

Tips for Managing Gen Y focused on how we (older generations) can create a culture conducive to productive and happy Gen Y employees. I'd like to change perspectives here and make suggestions on how Gen Y can become a productive asset to today's modern business. For my Gen Y readers, this isn't about assimilation (so don't click to another site). To the contrary, this is about getting your way. It's about proving you are as valuable as you say. It's about priming and setting the right amount of powder to catapult you perhaps even beyond your career trajectory. These are tips to make you successful.

The following are 10 ways you (Generation Y) can increase your value to your organization and employer:

1. LEARN TO LOSE: What the heck is he talking about? Some of you may be reading that and saying I am a winner. That is where I should focus. My response to that is I have never met a person in my life who didn't lose. However, the truly great ones, are the ones that lose well. You won't win every battle you fight. Life guarantees that. If you lose poorly, your value is diminished but if you lose like a pro, you may even increase your value beyond the winners. Look at the Jamaican Bob Sled team. Who won the gold, silver, or bronze Olympic medals that year?

2. LEARN HOW TO EMPATHIZE: The Greeks designed the communication model, Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Pathos helps us to understand the other person. To often we try to understand the other person from our perspective. That couldn't be more selfish. Understand them from their perspective. Hold off judgement until you can do that. To judge before you achieve Pathos is not a reflection of the other person. It is a reflection of you and a poor one at that.

3. LISTEN: This couldn't be place any more strategically behind empathy. I once read an author (who's name escapes me) define listening as the act of existing solely for the person speaking. What a powerful statement. To me it means my mind is clear from assumptions and open to facts and perspective. Listening is not an agreement of terms but a tactic to help you understand and gain position. Listening is also a play of offense not defense as it is often mistaken.

4. VALUE EXPERIENCE: I had a conversation with a Gen Y employee who was struggling with this. She was 23 at the time and I asked her if experience doesn't matter would it be okay with you if I replace you with a 13 year old. She was insulted and said how could you think a 13 year old could do a better job than me. I made my point by explaining how do you think an employee who is 45 sees you. Experience is extremely valuable and usually that is a lesson learned once you get the experience.

5. PRACTICE POWERFUL PERSUASION: If no one agrees with you, it doesn't mean their naive, it simply means, you did a poor job of persuading them. The Power of Persuasion is a skill that is up there at the top for leaders and managers. Without it, you may find yourself leading a party of one, you.

6. MANAGER YOUR TIME: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize. Time management is about decision making. You are deciding what should be your priority at any given time. Make no mistake, the time slot of NOW can only be occupied by one priority and cannot be shared. You are judged by your decision of what priority you place in the NOW time slot. Read my post "Multi-Tasking: Manager's Beware" to gain further insight.

7. KEEP THE CUSTOMER IN MIND: First, do you know who your (direct internal or external) customer is? If not that is the first question you need to answer. Everything you do, every task and decision should have the customer in mind. Keep the customer at the center of your work and it is unlikely you can go wrong.

8. BALANCE YOUR TECH BIAS: This is one of the greatest strengths of Gen Y but can also become your biggest obstacle. Your attraction to technology can isolate you from older generations who don't integrate it so willingly into their methodology. Its not right or wrong, its choice. You have to respect that to influence them. There could very well be a legitimate reason why tech may be the wrong option. Look at the film "Up in the Air" with George Clooney to open a great debate on this point.

9. BUILD YOUR REPUTATION: The accomplishments of your peers or predecessors don't belong to you. Your employers are judging you based on what you accomplish. This also holds true to the weakness of any generation as well. You should not be grounded or propelled by anonymity but by the thrust of your accomplishments. Build them and boast them to your employer.

10. INCORPORATE AGE DIVERSITY INTO YOUR NETWORK: What's the average age of your network? How many members do you have over 60, 50, 40, etc.? Gen Y seems to have an amazing tolerance for some traditional issues of inclusion (race, gender, religion, etc.). A need is for Gen Y to increase their tolerance of Age Diversity. Look to include the talent of these groups into your network.

11. ASK FOR HELP: (Here's a bonus point beyond the usually list of ten.) What I am not referring to here is asking Google, Yahoo, or Bing for help. Gen Y does an amazing job at that. Ask your fellow co-workers for help. This is an expression of the value you see in them. One person can instigate a difference but it takes a community to make a difference.

This list contains common themes of relationship, trust, collaboration, respect, etc. As I look back on it (despite being designed for Gen Y), I realize that these are tips for each of the generations. It makes me realize not how different we are but how similar.

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing or @LiquidLearn

Friday, December 18, 2009

Using Sun Tzu's The Art of War

I was talking to a gentlemen at dinner last night. He was the CEO of a mulit national media company. We started to discuss some of the challenges that we all are faced with in modern business. Being management-centric, I voiced my opinions about how we are faced with a dilemma of performance malaise. Of course he wouldn't settle for such a broad statement so he asked for deeper clarity. Being the extrovert I am, I happily obliged.

I explained that we are being overwhelmed by a sense of status quo. Employees are looking to stay off the radar. They want to perform to standard but they don't want to take any risks for fear that failure may lead way to termination. He exclaimed, "what an awful outlook on the American Worker but... your right. I think I see it now that you put it that way." I was relieved that he agreed and didn't take his Martini to another table (I was enjoying a Johnny Walker, Black Label Neat if that matters) "So Terrence, how do I fix my company" he inquired.

I wanted to tell him, "You hire me" but I decided to take the higher road. I told him, you find the enemy. He looked at me confused and curious. How can you fight what you can't see? You have to know what's causing the malaise. My experience points me toward anxiety. In these tough economic and political times, employees don't see their future. They're anxious and that anxiety causes mass paralysis across an organization's payroll. Then I remembered reading Sun Tzu's, The Art of War and explained a strategy he could take.

Needless to say I had a captive audience. I explained Sun Tzu's approach to overpowering his enemy, in this case Anxiety. He called it Attack by Stratagem. One of the rules under this caption is "Strength Against Weakness". "We give Anxiety its legs", I revolted. I am adamant about trying to help manager's put a face on this performance killer. Our fear fuels and energizes Anxiety. The only way to defeat anxiety is to destroy it's fuel source. Attack it's replenishment lines and cut it off from its garrison. Okay, perhaps my military background gets the best of me. But that thinking has helped me reduce obstacles to nothing more than memories.

In layman terms, attack the weakness of Anxiety. Too often managers look on powerless by the thrusting blow of change only to decide, there's nothing I can do about it. B...ologna (you can insert the appropriate explicitive). Here is what Anxiety feeds off of:
  1. a lack of information
  2. a lack of respect for each other
  3. a lack of courage
  4. a lack of ownership
  5. a lack of self worth
  6. a lack of accountability
  7. a lack of perspective
  8. a lack of focus
  9. a lack of leadership
I exalted to my captive audience of one, "CUT OFF THE SUPPLY LINE OF ANXIETY".

If you want employees to perform have your management step up and deal with the fuel supply. The previous list is a visual representation of the Enemy's (Anxiety's) weakness. Use your strength to attack it vigorously.

  1. Provide constant information
  2. Reward and encourage strategic risk
  3. Hold everyone accountable
  4. Celebrate success
  5. Coach failure
  6. Create opportunities for teamwork and leadership
  7. Keep everyone focused on the prize (laser sharp focus)
  8. Step up and encourage others to do the same
  9. Collaborate on decisions

This list is one to empower management. Anxiety is not to be dealt with passively. It can be nuetralized. You can use "Strength Against Weakness". Chip away at the sharp edges of Anxiety and you'll discover a blunt fragile enemy who will retreat away from your aggressive front line.

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing and @LiquidLearn

Fridaylicious 2 - Underwater Volcanic Eruption

This is our second edition of the Fridaylicious posting. Last one was humor, this one is awe. Hopefully, we can tap into a few more emotions as we continue to post. What an amazing display of nature. This is a Youtube video of the recent underwater volcanic explosion. Wow.

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing or @LiquidLearn

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rubber the Fabric of Poor Policy Design

Often during training a question is asked or a scenario is shared that has great value to share with others. During one of my public seminars, while discussing progressive discipline, an attendee asked, “How should I handle counseling an employee whom I don’t want to use formal discipline (for various reasons)? The question created a great discussion around standards.

The participant’s question came from a noble place but it screamed of potential problems within the organization. The flag appeared when he stated, “…I don’t want to…” I needed more information obviously and he shared that his employee was a good employee and hadn’t been late in the past (lateness was the performance problem). I asked him to tell me the policy at his company. He explained that lateness was not tolerated but the policy read that counseling lateness was “at the manager’s discretion”. There in lies the problem.

“At the Manager’s discretion” creates inconsistency throughout the organization. I suggested to him that another manager in the organization may interpret discretion to mean never, while you (the participant) are interpreting it within the context of extenuating circumstances. The answer to his question was that he should challenge the policies wording. Remove “at the manager’s discretion” and replace with steps that would be taken consistently despite the circumstances. The ambiguity of the policy minimizes its effectiveness. Additionally it invites the opportunity for potential litigation.

Learning Point: Policies should be consistent and clearly worded to avoid discretionary applications.

Leadership Behavior: Enforce standards consistently to clearly communicate the journey to success.

Leadership Principle: Success is achieved through the development and commitment to achieving standards.

Policy and precedent can create many challenges to management. Clarity and transparency seem to mostly rescue manager's from creating challenges and problems.

Follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing and @LiquidLearn

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leadership Lessons "From Up In The Air"

This isn't a movie review of my recent screening of George Clooney's newest movie, "Up in the Air", but more of a surgical dissection of a few of the leadership lessons I took away from it. Fear not, there are no spoilers so you still can see the movie, which by the way I did thoroughly enjoy. George Clooneys character and the situations presented were fairly realistic reflections of the anxiety that plagues much of today's business world. Allow me to briefly set up the movie.

Clooney's character works for a company who is contracted to manage the termination process for downsizing organizations. His job takes him all over the world, helping him in his pursuit of elite status with Frequent Flyer programs. Of particular note is the brilliant product placements throughout the film which almost serve as characters. Clooney's character brilliantly spins a termination into an opportunity for the films "victims". As Clooney mentors a Generation Y protege, we are taken on a journey of the frailty and victories of human relationships. So what does this have to do with leadership.

People are anxious today. Even those in the most stable of industries are seeing the dark veil of uncertainty as tomorrow's accessibility becomes more a question than an expectation. I had a recent coaching session with a young professional woman who was almost finding this state of anxiety paralyzing. She stated she was afraid to make decisions she would normally make without hesitation in the past. She feared the repercussion of failure in a time when companies are "looking for an opportunity to let you go". Her goals were starting to morph away from ambition and towards compliance. "Stay off the radar", was becoming her mantra. What a shame to see one of this company's most talented individuals do herself and her company this incredible disservice.

So what should the company do. Leadership is most visible during times of adversity. If it's not evident in your organization during these times, chances are your ranks don't contain many leaders. Here are some tips

LISTEN. Simply stated but often a complex execution. Clooney's character was cleaning up a termination meeting gone south (due to the naivety of his mentee). He read between the lines on the employees resume only to unveil that this job was a prison to the employee's aspirations. He restated this as an opportunity to follow that dream for the benefit of his children. The employee took pause to this. What are your employees aspirations and needs? Do you create opportunities to listen?

ENGAGE IN RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. Your employees are feeling more and more isolated these days. Every time they don't see their managers, they started drawing their own conclusions. This fosters that "stay off the radar" mentality my mentee stated. It's destructive and a sure fire way to slow the progression of success.

COMMUNICATE. Information is gold in this day and age. As "Knowledge Workers" your employees need it. As a leaders, it should be a driving passion to provide it. Let them know what you know and what you don't know. They need a leader they can trust. Don't hide behind the curtain of uncertainty. Instead bast in the warmth of focus and direction.

CELEBRATE THOSE THAT TAKE RISKS. You need to grow today. This isn't the time to join your cowardly competitors who are hiding under rocks and regressing from the life force of business, growth. Growth is not waste. Help your employees see their potential by "Getting on the Radar".

Sure this list is simple, short and not a guarantee for longevity. It is a starting point though. Don't leave your future and that of your employees up to chance. Today is a time for Leadership. If you hear the calling, don your cape or magic lasso and step up to be the hero your employees need but more importantly deserve. To "Stay off the Radar" in the mist of this calling is a horrible tragedy. The calling is loud. Can you hear it?

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing and @LiquidLearn

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Liquid Learn

Why the new name? You may be asking this question. Eventually, this blog will be moving to the address as a permanent home (not yet though). Don't worry, I won't move without letting you know. Our new home will be host to a wide array of learning information and opportunity. Along with my blog, you'll be able to access elearning courses and our LMS to help you track your learning.

We carefully chose the name. Today, liquid like water is portable and oh so essential to our life. Learning is to business as water is to life. That's where Liquid Learn (TM) came from. It's an exciting time at Workforce Performance Partners and we can't wait to share this with our fans.

Let us know what you think of the name and what topics we can write about to to help you become a stronger manager and leader.

Surf up to Liquid Learn and pour yourself a tall glass of learning.

You can follow Liquid Learn on Twitter @LiquidLearn .