Strategic Coaching Skills For Leaders
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Navigational Conversations – Live Virtual Training
Navigational Conversations is Live Virtual Leadership Development focused on Coaching Skills for leaders and managers passionately committed to:
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- Building and empowering high performers
- Focusing on high-value high-return activities
- Creating a high performance culture
Join a limited group of professionals (class size limit is 24) in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere for 4 half days over 4 weeks from the comfort of your home or work office. No travel costs, no entertainment expenses, limited downtime and easy to schedule, super cost-effective given 1 person from a company can attend versus needing private training for a large inter-company team.
“Call an executive meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from the old command-and-control to one of high development and on-going coaching conversations.”
Jim Clifton CEO of Gallup
“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential”
Brad Nardelli former CEO of GE, Home Depot, Chrysler
“Everybody needs a Coach”
Eric Schmidt former CEO of Google
Introducing Navigational Conversations
7 Coaching Myths That Are Keeping You From Being a Better Leader
by John Hall
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
There’s a lot of talk these days about executives integrating coaching into their leadership style to establish a coaching culture within their organizations. Recently, I’ve been curious about what actually makes an effective coach.
A friend connected me to a pioneer in the field of building coaching cultures, Cylient CEO Dianna Anderson, to understand what coaching-based leadership really is. Dianna says, “Coaching can be a bit like love. You think you know what it is until you experience the real deal, and then you may realize it wasn’t what you thought it was.”
The hallmark of coaching as a leadership style is the igniting of insight in day-to-day conversations, which enables people to learn from their experiences “in the moment.” That kind of coaching builds confidence, encourages people to become more resilient, and energizes them to take action and continue learning. That’s why coaching-based leadership is the foundation of a coaching culture.
Unfortunately, all too often, “coaching” is practiced in ways that produce the opposite results. When coaching is done poorly, it can leave people feeling bruised, used, and disenchanted. The true value of coaching cultures won’t be realized when coaching is practiced in these limiting ways. That’s why it’s essential to understand what coaching really is — and what it isn’t.
Having been in the field of coaching since its infancy, Dianna has identified the seven most pervasive myths about coaching as a leadership style. She shared these myths with me, along with the real story behind the misconceptions.
1. Myth: If I’m asking questions, I’m coaching.
Not all questions are created equal. Consider leading questions that direct people to do what you want them to do, such as, “Don’t you think that if you did it this way, it would be better?” Or even questions that are intended to gather enough information so you can tell the person what to do, such as, “What are all of the contributing factors to this problem?”
These aren’t coaching questions.
Reality: What is the intention behind your question? If it’s to gather enough information to tell someone what you think she should do, or it’s a roundabout way to direct her actions, you’re not providing her any real value.
2. Myth: Coaching is getting people to do what I want them to do, without them knowing it.
When “coaching” is practiced in this way, it’s actually just an overbearing approach to leadership — albeit thinly veiled in directive questions. That’s manipulation, and it doesn’t feel very good. Do you know when you’re being manipulated? So does everyone else.
Reality: If you’re working your own agenda, trying to get people to do what you want them to do, you’re not coaching — you’re directing people with questions. It’s annoying, and it gives coaching a bad name in organizations. Even worse, this practice can actually inoculate your organization against creating a true coaching culture because people naturally defend themselves against manipulation and close themselves off from actual learning.
3. Myth: Coaching is only for “fixing problem people.”
Let’s be clear — coaching is never about “fixing” people, because people don’t need to be fixed. Treating people as though they’re broken or wrong leads to resentment and disengagement. Only reserving coaching for your most challenging people is a very limited use of a powerful leadership approach. Yes, coaching people who are stuck in limiting patterns of behavior can be helpful, but there is so much more to it.
Reality: The goal of coaching is to help others realize their potential. Everyone has the ability to improve, and coaching can help bring about that change. Coaching your solid performers and your top talent to expand their capabilities and reach further is one of the most powerful and rewarding uses of this leadership style. It’s also a great way to keep that talent engaged and loyal to your organization.
4. Myth: You can only ask questions when you’re coaching.
This “rule” probably originated when coaching was first evolving as a profession, and coaching schools needed a simple way to stop people from directing others. The easiest way to do that was to take away all of the tools and approaches that could be used in a directive way. For the most part, asking questions was all that was left.
We’ve learned a lot since then. For example, when people aren’t aware of something — like how their behavior is limiting their own success — just asking them questions probably isn’t going to help them to change their perspectives.
Let’s say Danny just gave a presentation to his team that didn’t go well, mostly because he took a dismissive tone when they started challenging some of his ideas. His story is that the team is a bunch of small-minded jerks who don’t like him. Asking Danny questions about what he could do differently isn’t likely to help him see his role in the situation. You will need other coaching approaches — such as analogies, offering insightful observations, or even providing developmental feedback — to help him understand how he contributed to the outcome of the meeting.
Reality: If questions aren’t igniting the insight needed to create meaningful behavioral change, you have to use alternative approaches. Otherwise, coaching turns into a bad game of “20 Questions” that goes nowhere, which leads us to our next myth.
5. Myth: Coaching takes a long time.
Coaching generally takes a longer time when you only ask questions, which is another good reason to broaden your coaching capabilities. It can also take a bit longer when you’re first learning to coach because, like anything that is new, it takes a while to get the hang of it. The more you practice, the more quickly you can get to the heart of issues.
Reality: When you get really good at integrating coaching approaches into conversations, you will save yourself a lot of time because you will be able to get to the heart of issues faster. More importantly, when you coach others by igniting insight, you teach them how to think for themselves. Essentially, you’re showing them how to use their own brains instead of yours, so they’ll stop asking you to tell them what to do all the time and start figuring things out for themselves. That’s one of the greatest benefits of a coaching culture.
6. Myth: Coaching is something you do to others.
Coaching is never done to others — it is always done with others. This is an important distinction. When we think about doing something to someone else, there is an assumption of hierarchy and control. Doing something with others implies an equal exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Reality: Coaching evokes the greatest potential when both parties are fully contributing their thoughts, ideas, and creativity to the conversation. That’s when the insights generated create the most significant shifts. Coaching can be done with anyone — your peers, friends, even children and teens. When coaching is practiced as an inviting exchange of equals, it’s received as an empowering conversation that draws people into the dialogue and invites change.
7. Myth: Coaching is a tool or technique.
Coaching is what you believe it to be. If you think it’s just a tool, that’s what it will be for you. But coaching is so much more than that.
Reality: When coaching is fully engrained as your dominant leadership style, it rewires your worldview and becomes a way of life. You go from seeing people as problems to appreciating their unique contributions. And you see your role as a leader differently. Instead of feeling obligated to have all the answers, you get curious about how you can support others to find answers that work for them.
When coaching-based leadership becomes your way of life, the true potential of individuals and the entire organization flourishes with it. That’s why it’s so important to practice real coaching because that’s what delivers the genuine results you’re investing your time and energy to realize.
Managers Think They’re Good at Coaching. They’re Not!
by Julia Milner
Harvard Business Review
Are you successful at coaching your employees? In our years studying and working with companies on this topic, we’ve observed that when many executives say “yes,” they’re incorrectly answering the question. Why? For one, managers tend to think they’re coaching when they’re actually just telling their employees what to do — and this behavior is often reinforced by their peers. This is hardly an effective way to motivate people and help them grow, and it can result in wasted time, money, and energy.
According to Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in executive coaching, the definition of coaching is “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” When done right, coaching can also help with employee engagement; it is often more motivating to bring your expertise to a situation than to be told what to do.
Recently, my colleagues and I conducted a study that shows that most managers don’t understand what coaching really is — and that also sheds light on how to fix the problem. This research project is still in progress, but we wanted to offer a glimpse into our methodology and initial findings.
First, we asked a group of participants to coach another person on the topic of time management, without further explanation. In total, 98 people who were enrolled in an MBA course on
leadership training participated, with a variety of backgrounds and jobs. One-third of the participants were female and two-thirds were male; on average, they were 32 years old and had eight years of work and 3.8 years of leadership experience. The coaching conversations lasted five minutes and were videotaped. Later, these tapes were evaluated by other participants in the coaching course through an online peer review system. We also asked 18 coaching experts to evaluate the conversations. All of these experts had a master’s degree or graduate certificate in coaching, with an average of 23.2 years of work experience and 7.4 years of coaching experience.
Participants then received face-to-face training in two groups of 50, with breakouts in smaller groups for practice, feedback, and reflection around different coaching skills. At the end, we videotaped another round of short coaching conversations, which were again evaluated by both peers and coaching experts. In total, we collected and analyzed more than 900 recorded evaluations of coaching conversations (pre-training and post-training), which were accompanied by surveys asking participants about their attitudes and experiences with leadership coaching before and after the training.
The biggest takeaway was the fact that, when initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting. Essentially, they simply provided the other person with advice or a solution. We regularly heard comments like, “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?”
This kind of micromanaging-as-coaching was reinforced as good practice by other research participants. In the first coaching exercise in our study, the evaluations peers gave one another were significantly higher than the evaluations from experts. In an organizational setting, you can imagine how a group of executives, having convinced one another of their superior skills, could institutionalize preaching-as-coaching.
Our research also looked at how you can train people to be better coaches. We focused on analyzing the following nine leadership coaching skills, based on the existing literature and our own practical experiences of leadership coaching:
• Giving feedback
• Assisting with goal setting
• Showing empathy
• Letting the coachee arrive at their own solution
• Recognizing and pointing out strengths
• Providing structure
• Encouraging a solution-focused approach
Using the combined coaching experts’ assessments as the baseline for the managers’ abilities, we identified the best, worst, and most improved components of coaching. The skill the participants were the best at before training was listening, which was rated “average” by our experts. After
the training, the experts’ rating increased 32.9%, resulting in listening being labeled “average-to-good.”
The skills the participants struggled with the most before the training were “recognizing and pointing out strengths” and “letting the coachee arrive at their own solution.” On the former, participants were rated “poor” pre-training, and their rating crept up to only “average” after. Clearly, this is an area managers need more time to practice and work on, and it’s something they likely need to be trained on differently as well. Interestingly, the most improved aspect of coaching was “letting coachees arrive at their own solution.” This concept saw an average increase in proficiency of 54.1%, which moved it from a “poor” rating to a “slightly above average” one.
More generally, multiple assessments of participants by experts before and after the training course resulted in a 40.2% increase in overall coaching ability ratings across all nine categories, on average.
What can organizations learn from our research? First, any approach to coaching should begin by clearly defining what it is and how it differs from other types of manager behavior. This shift in mindset lays a foundation for training and gives managers a clear set of expectations.
The next step is to let managers practice coaching in a safe environment before letting them work with their teams. The good news, as evidenced by our research, is that you don’t necessarily need to invest in months of training to see a difference. You do, however, need to invest in some form of training. Even a short course targeted at the right skills can markedly improve managers’ coaching skills.
Regardless of the program you choose, make sure it includes time for participants to reflect on their coaching abilities. In our study, managers rated their coaching ability three times: once after we asked them to coach someone cold, once after they were given additional training, and once looking back at their original coaching session. After the training, managers decreased their initial assessment of themselves by 28.8%, from “slightly good” to “slightly poor.” This change was corroborated by managers’ peers, who reduced their assessment by 18.4%, from “slightly good” to “neither good nor bad,” when looking back at their original observations of others. In other words, if managers have more knowledge and training, they are able to provide a better self-assessment of their skills. Organizations should allocate time for managers to reflect on their skills and review what they have done. What’s working, and what they could do better?
Our research also supports the idea of receiving feedback from coaching experts in order to improve. The risk of letting only non-experts help might reinforce and normalize ineffective behaviors throughout an organization. Specifically, coaching experts could give feedback on how well the coaching skills were applied and if any coaching opportunities have been missed. This monitoring could take the form of regular peer coaching, where managers in an organization come together to practice coaching with each other, or to discuss common problems and solutions they have encountered when coaching others, all in the presence of a coaching expert. Here managers have two advantages: First, they can practice their coaching in a safe
environment. Second, coaches can discuss challenges they have experienced and how to overcome them.
If you take away only one thing here, it’s that coaching is a skill that needs to be learned and honed over time. Not only does a lack of training leave managers unprepared to undertake coaching, but also it may effectively result in a policy of managers’ reinforcing poor coaching practices among themselves.
Julia Milner is a Professor in Leadership and the Academic Director of the Global MBA program at EDHEC Business School in France and an Honorary Professorial Fellow with the Sydney Business School in Australia. She has recently been selected as one of the World’s Top 40 under 40 Business Professors by Poets & Quants. Her research focuses on leadership, high performance cultures, and technology usage.
The Problem with the Problem Solving Mindset
by Cheryl Smith
Co-Founder of Navigational Conversations
Coaching is the most effective means of unleashing leadership ability and aligning people with their aspirations. As we have heard so many times, the number one job of leaders is to build more leaders.
So then, why is it a problem to be a good problem solver?
Imagine you hired a fitness coach to help you be more physically toned. At your first training session, the fitness coach says, “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have. I’m a lot stronger than you are. I have more experience in this area of fitness. I can get this done a lot faster than you can. I’ll just lift the weights for you.”
We can laugh at this example knowing the arrangement doesn’t make any sense. I won’t get any stronger if my fitness coach lifts all the weights for me. But that’s what we’re doing in organizations right now.
For example, there’s knock on the door of the boss’ office. An employee says, “Hey boss, I’ve got a problem.”
What happens immediately is that most bosses, and leaders, without even thinking, say, “Tell me all the details,” and then, “Here’s the answer. Away you go.” When instead, what they could do is use this as an opportunity to grow and develop the employee’s capacity to make good decisions.
We’re missing the opportunity to build long-term capacity in our organizations so that we can grow and develop talent. We’re subconsciously grabbing every problem that’s presented to us and becoming the sole source of solutions for those problems.
Faster is Slower
When Brent and I present this idea to leaders, the push-back we get is always the same. “We haven’t got time to coach. I know the answer and it’s just a lot faster to give the answer to my employee.”
We agree that it IS a lot faster to give the answer!
But if we borrow the notion that faster is slower (from Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline), and use this opportunity to switch from solving the problem ourselves to unleashing the potential of the person in front of us to solve it, then in the long run we are going to be able to free up our own time. Which is good news because organizations are time-starved.
We pay big prices for the problem solving mindset.
The danger of problem solving is that we position ourselves as a bottleneck if we are the sole source of answers to problems and the only place to go to for solutions. The minute the boss isn’t there, then the problem doesn’t get solved or people get distracted because they don’t know what to do and/or they don’t know if they should take action.
Organizations have a lot of problems and people who solve problems often get rewarded for that with promotions etc. One of the factors that goes into someone’s success is that it’s recognized that they are good at solving problems. They become a go to person because there’s no shortage of problems that need solving.
But over time the difficulty with this is that if I become known as the person who solves problems all the time, what it can mean is that besides the fact that I’m not growing other people’s capacity, it could also mean that I’m doing other people’s jobs. And I’m not doing the job that I get paid for.
While my head is down looking at problems, my head’s not lifted up looking at the horizon to see what opportunities are out there for our business and also what needs to be done for myself and my own personal and professional development.
People are often surprised to hear that by maintaining a problem solving mindset they are getting in the way of their own success.
When we scratch the surface and get people to be honest about why they hang onto this behaviour, leaders have several answers; they say it’s a form of job security. “If I’m the one you can’t do without, when there are redundancies it won’t happen to me because I’m so valuable.” It’s job security and survival. So the focus is internal rather than external. However an external focus would be better for the long-term growth of the organization to be delegating and developing other that are coming behind.
A Subconscious Reflex
There is a degree of satisfaction that human beings experience when they solve problems.
It was in my work with IT that I first started to notice this pattern.
I was working with a newly appointed manager that the organization had great hopes for. He was what we would call a ‘high potential’ employee. I asked if I could shadow this person for a day and see what I could learn so that when we began our work together, as a coach I would have a shortcut to understanding the company culture and the person.
Here’s what I saw: this young man went from being a programmer to being a manager of programmers. He had a non-stop queue outside his door of people with problems. They often had pieces of paper in their hands showing computer code. He listened, asked questions, investigated, and eventually pointed to the code that was the problem on the papers his direct reports brought to him. And here’s the thing; his face beamed every time he solved another one. It was his joy to solve problems.
However, when everyone else went home at the end of the day, he now had the full workload of his new job as manager still to do.
So when we talked about that, it occurred to me that his pleasure came from solving problems. That’s human nature. We love to solve problems! We do sudoku and crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. There is a definite personal satisfaction that human beings feel when we solve problems.
When leaders work on developing their coaching skills and developing others, I ask them why coaching hasn’t caught fire in organizations yet.
• We haven’t got time
• We don’t know how
• It’s too hard
• I can’t be bothered
• Nobody coached me
I think the real answer is that people don’t want to coach because they love solving the problems themselves.
Leading vs. Solving Problems
People who are good problem-solvers are really valued. And then they’re promoted because
of that skill, not necessarily because they have good management potential.
However, we often promote people who have lived inside a problem-solving environment but we don’t educate, empower and train them that they’re new job is to create leaders, not to do the job they did before.
Beginning in the 1980s and ’90s organizations stripped out layers of middle management and the leap from one job level to another became larger and, more importantly, we lost our mentors. We’ve now given our managers a full time job plus the task of developing others.
Breaking the Pattern of Problem Solving to Develop Leaders
The easiest way to coach is what I call ‘Knock Knock Coaching’. A direct report comes and says, “Hey boss, I’ve got a problem.” The boss can handle this one of two ways:
1. Solve the problem. “This is what I want you to do.”
2. Ask a question. “Let’s talk about this. Before I give you my answer, what would you like to have happen? If you were making the decision what would it be?”
We can start coaching instantly!
But that love of problem-solving kicks in subconsciously and away we go solving the problem.
Once people start to document the advantages and disadvantages of the problem solving mindset, the disadvantages column brings forth a lot of discomfort. They notice the extra work that has to be done and how their own promotion might be limited because people wouldn’t want to lose them in this job because no one else can do it.
When people see for themselves the trap that they’ve created, then they are able to lift their heads up and ask how they can get out of that pattern.
That’s when we start to shift from solving the problem to unleashing potential. Thinking differently. Rather than answering a question – ask a question!
Rather than focus on the facts because you need to educate yourself about the problem, focus on the possibilities. Ask, “What’s possible here? What would you like to see happen?”
It’s as simple as changing the first words that come out of your mouth These small strategies typically are what cause people to be successful at breaking the habit of the problem solving mindset.
The Science Behind the Mindmarker
NEW KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS START TO FADE AWAY AS SOON AS YOUR PARTICIPANTS WALK OUT THE DOOR. FOR TRAINING TO HAVE THE MOST IMPACT, IT HAS TO BE REINFORCED.
This troubling situation is far too common: Your employees return from a training or e-learning course armed with new information and skills. Yet, days after the training, your staff begin to forget what they just learned and revert back to old habits. It is like the training never took place at all! While you invested a lot of time and money in the training, the impact is very low and this can be extremely frustrating. What is going on?
When you want staff to learn new information, retain it, and implement it in the workplace, you must understand the brain’s ergonomics and design a program that is effective. The brain is a highly powerful organ that is capable of remembering lots of information, if you build a learning program that works with the brain’s natural learning patterns, instead of working against them.
Mindmarker takes science, analysis, and studies from the last 10 years to create a proven methodology that works for reinforcement training programs that lead to lasting behavior change among participants. Shall we talk about leaners?
Reinforcement Leads to Impact
In order to discuss effective learning strategies, we must first look at forgetting. What makes people forget what they learned, and how can you design a reinforcement program that people will not forget?
Variables that affect a learner’s memory include:
• Motivation to learn
• Prior knowledge
• Type of material being learned
• Learning methods used
• Amount of time the learning needs to be retained
• Contextual cues in the learning or remembering scenarios
There are common statistics cited by those in the learning field, and often these are assumed to be true without further analysis. One of these common statistics suggests that learners forget 40 percent of materials learned in 20 minutes, and 77 percent of materials learned within 6 days.
Another commonly cited statistic says that learners forget 90 percent of what they learned after a month. Clearly, these statistics are distressing to those who’ve invested heavily in training courses and want to see results. The good news is, these pessimistic statistics need not be true.
Thalheimer (2011) reviewed 14 studies on learning and remembering, looking at 69 distinct cases of forgetting over 1,000 individual learners. Based on this extensive research, Thalheimer found that no one can predict with certainty how much learners will forget unless they do multiple research studies on their own learners – something organizations are not able to do. While this does mean that those commonly-cited figures on forgetting are false, Thalheimer still found that learners are faced with varying amounts of forgetting that can be represented on a curve.
Unless you intervene, your staff will forget a higher percentage of new material soon after the training, and gradually forget less of the knowledge learned over time.
The Forgetting Curve
The concept of the Forgetting Curve dates back to 1885, when the German psychologist Ebbinghaus developed his memory retention theory. Ebbinghaus theorized that learners quickly forgot information in the days that follow a training. He tested subjects using made-up syllables, and plotted the results to develop the original Forgetting Curve.
Ebbinghaus’s curve demonstrates that users lose memories when no attempt is made to retain information. So, it follows that learners have more likelihood of retaining new information when they make an attempt to remember it.
Your learners must continue to learn after the initial training to remember the information. In other words, learners need reinforcement. If you can provide your learners with opportunities to recall information — and therefore to reinforce the learning — in the days and weeks after the training, you can boost learning retention.
Ebbinghaus found several factors that helped learners remember material after training and decreased the Forgetting Curve effect. Ebbinghaus suggested asking and answering three questions about training:
1. How meaningful is the material to the learner, and are they truly interested in learning more?
2. How is the learning material represented? Are you offering visual learning or only text-based learning?
3. What other psychological factors may be at play? Are your learners stressed out, sleeping well, or exercising?
While you may not be able to alter the psychological stressors faced by your employees, you can make sure the learning material is represented using different learning modes. You can also to make the material both meaningful and interesting for your staff. By doing so, you will naturally decrease the amount of forgetting.
Ebbinghaus went on to suggest two more techniques that could increase memory retention: spaced training or spaced repetition and the use of mnemonic devices. The ideal time frame for repetition is within 24 hours of the initial training.
Understanding Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition suggests that learners actually learn better when they space out studying over a long period of time. It would be better for a staff member to review training materials once a week for five weeks than to cram in five short review periods over the course of one or two days.
Spaced repetition software takes the familiar form of a flash card question and answer pair. Based on how quickly the learner can recall the correct answer, they can have the next review period sooner or further out.
This software is ideal as it allows the learner to focus on information recall and skills development, instead of timing or pacing. Utilizing software also reduces the demands on the learner, who can focus on the comprehending the material rather than managing the course of study.
What is the Difference Between Training Reinforcement and Spaced Repetition?
We understand the spaced repetition model, but how is training reinforcement different from this model? Training reinforcement adds additional layers of complexity to the spaced repetition model. Thus, it is a more effective model for training programs.
Training reinforcement takes into account your unique learning objectives, training materials, and desired behavioral changes to create a structured reinforcement program. This program is based on goals you define and creating behavioral changes that will last.
Reinforcement is a proven way to create behavior change and move training past simply reminding employees to being impactful in your organization on a day-to-day basis.
Authors Peter C. Brown, Mark A. McDaniel, and Henry L. Roediger III unpack the “Key Neurological Principle of Retention” in their book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” As they state, the Key Neurological Principle of Retention is purposeful recollection over set intervals of time. Spaced repetition, then, is one of the tactics that can be used to create retention. By turning your learning objectives into a story, or a set of events and messages, reinforcement programs can create lessons that stick. The key difference between spaced repetition and reinforcement is the narrative aspect. We know that learners are more likely to remember something when it is meaningful. Adding in the story element makes reinforcement more meaningful.
What is the Difference Between Reinforcement and Reminder Services?
Reinforcement and reminder services are similar, but there are important distinctions between the strategies. Each uses different technologies to measure results, and have achieved vastly different results.
To understand the difference, let’s first review what reminder services are. If your organization uses a learning management system or LMS, you probably have access to some type of reminder service as part of the LMS. The LMS dashboard typically shows system administrators who have checked reminders, which reminder they have viewed, and where they are in the reminder process. Admins can then take the information gleaned in the reminder service as a tool to boost knowledge acquisition among staff. Methods used to accomplish this include LMS reminder, the e-learning platform itself, email reminders, and texts.
A typical reminder message has a link to a small bit of training material. The learner can then read the snippet, refresh their memory, and get that small reminder of what they learned. Admins can set messages on a recurring schedule. However, this schedule differs from training reinforcement programs, like Mindmarker.
Reminder messages are not personalized. They are simply snippets of material taken from the training, placed on a timeline, and sent out arbitrarily — at least from the learner’s perspective. Thus, it should not be surprising that it is difficult to keep your staff engaged when you use reminder services. They are “one size fits all.” The reminders may come too far apart for some users, and too close together for others. Reminder services also place no responsibility on learners to achieve results or meet goals. Finally, there will be some percentage of learners who do not read the reminders and thus fail to get the message. There is no accountability in the system. If you seek true change, you need reinforcement and not reminders.
What is the Difference Between Reinforcement and Reminder Services?
Training reinforcement takes your learning objective, goals for reinforcement, and existing training material to reinforce skills acquired in a prior training course. Since your current content inspires the goal-based reinforcement story, you do not need to “reinvent the wheel” or invest significant amounts of time in developing new training materials.
Training reinforcement consists of a set of learning modules, each with a specific objective. A learning module may try to reinforce a few specific, desired behaviors. By being small and selective, the learning module promotes retention. Learners then move on to the next module once they have achieved a specific goal. When your staff use training reinforcement, they will be more likely to apply the new information in their day-to-day job functions.
While reinforcement messages use your existing material, they build on it rather than simply break it into smaller pieces. Each reinforcement message is created to express the desired behavior, then set into your modules where it can guide learners through your story, cement knowledge acquisition, and create the type of behavior change you wish to see.
How to Create Reinforcement Goals
You may have goals for learning, but your goals for reinforcement need not be the same. Remember, goals are there to give direction to learners and motivate learning. Training goals may be focused on building awareness and transmitting knowledge to learners. With reinforcement, the focus should not be on awareness. In fact, it should be quite the opposite.
To create the proper reinforcement goals, start by identifying the problem. What are the real issues or problems that you have created reinforcement training to solve? Discuss the issue with key stakeholders to figure out what the right goals should be.
It may be useful to ask the following set of questions when having the conversation about goals:
• Why is this important?
• What do learners actually do?
• What negative consequences could happen if learners do not adopt this behavior?
• How will learners know when they are doing something right?
• What would it look like to get this wrong?
• What actions or beliefs cause the most problems on a daily basis? Why?
Commonly, people start with a goal or objective that is too broad. For example, learners may lack management skills. Unfortunately, management skills is a concept that cannot be addressed successfully in reinforcement. Instead of trying to impact management skills as a whole, select one specific skill to work on in reinforcement. Then, build another learning module to address another desired skill. After putting together all of the learning modules, you will have a story that progresses toward the goal of improving management skills without overwhelming learners. You can also be more specific in directing training and getting to the end goal in a manageable way.
Many reinforcement programs want to bring about a behavior change. As a result, many of the goals are based on the action of doing something specific. Yet, reinforcement objectives may use different language; for example, asking the user to explain or define something. While it is good for learners to be able to explain a process, they actually need to be able to apply it. In this case there is a mismatch between the goal and the reinforcement objective.
Recenter the goal by asking yourself if learners would actually do something in their job, and if you would be able to tell whether the desired action had been done.
Reinforcement goals should help learners remember something, explain it, apply it, analyze a situation, and evaluate the action afterward in a progression. These objectives are a lot more specific than simply remembering something, and can be worked in any order and not simply chronologically.
Learners must of course understand a concept before they can analyze it. Yet reinforcement should always select the appropriate objective for the moment. A learner might be better off analyze patterns, to come to a deeper understanding of a principle. Or they may be better off evaluating their performance, to understand themselves better and prompt behavior changes.
When selecting the goal for reinforcement, match it the real problem your employees face. By identifying the problem, you can select the most appropriate goal. If there is a skills gap, for example, your employees do not know how to do something, so the “how” is what you must reinforce. If there is a communication problem, then your employees may need more directions or protocols in place to guide behavior in the moment.
If there are multiple problems that come into play, take it slowly. Address one problem at a time in order to create desired behaviors and improve performance across the board. Ultimately, the best reinforcement program dives deep into analysis and intensifies goals to boost performance.
Often, reinforcement experiences bring new information to bear on known problems or scenarios. This can be exhausting for learners, who must grapple with new information and new habits. Instead of presenting learners with lots of new information, and risk overwhelming them, you can structure reinforcement using the concept of flow.
At Mindmarker, we use the definition of flow proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. With flow comes joy and involvement with life, as well as balance between challenge and the ability to meet the challenge.
If a challenge is too difficult for an employee, that individual will become very frustrated in reinforcement. If the challenge requires critical thinking and is mildly challenging for the employee, it can be satisfying. The employee can feel rewarded by meeting the challenge, and motivated to keep learning. The ideal reinforcement flow moves back and forth between challenging and rewarding your employees.
Along with challenging employees, you must provide feedback that lets employees see how they are doing at any time. Feedback is necessary for the development of skills. Of course, there are many ways to give feedback and the best reinforcement courses use a variety of feedback mechanisms to keep employees informed.
The Content, Challenge, Activity, Feedback model is a great model for reinforcement programs that naturally has many built-in opportunities to deliver feedback. Whatever model of reinforcement program you use, look for ways to increase the amount of feedback given to staff. Different ways that you can offer feedback include scores, ranking, visual graphs, points, and more. Along with providing feedback, make sure that learners can see clearly where they are in the reinforcement and what they need to work on next.
Learners need to be able to see the next goal in order to progress. By working through short-term goals, they will begin to achieve long term goals and finally be able to accomplish the overarching objectives for the reinforcement course.
Learners perform best when they know where they need to go next and how they are doing along the journey. When planning your reinforcement flow, remember to give learners a break. If you do not give learners a chance to rest during reinforcement, they will take a break anyway. Promote engagement by rewarding accomplishments and using structured goals that solve problems. Finally, use frequent, multifaceted feedback to guide behavior.
Measuring Timing and Results
There is no question that timing plays a role in the type of reinforcement messaging sent to learners. You may find that your learners are more likely to engage in training activities or spend time on self-reflection at certain times of the day, or even certain days of the week.
To accurately measure the skill development and knowledge retention, and of course behavior change, you must look at busy moments for learners.
Training reinforcement programs include analytics that let administrators dig into learners’ answers by job function, area, or department. Repeating survey questions lets you measure progress and hold staff accountable. By using them, you can see cause and effect. Reviewing analytics lets you dig deep into the reinforcement program, review the survey questions you have used, and ultimately create actionable intelligence. Actionable intelligence refers to reinforcement data that is turned into business intelligence and used to make informed decisions for the organization or for the training program.
Additional Science in Mindmarker’s Methodology
As stated above, Mindmarker has taken studies and findings from the last 10 years to create a methodology that works for reinforcement and behavior change. In addition to the scientific findings discussed above Mindmarker uses the 7 Principles of Reinforcement, Goal Theory, Evaluation Theory, and Motivation Theory.
The 7 Principles of Reinforcement are:
1. Close the 5 reinforcement gaps
2. Master these 3 phases to get results
3. Provide the perfect push and pull
4. Create friction and direction in modules
5. Follow the reinforcement flow
6. Create measurable change in behavior
7. Put the learner central
Featuring Mindmarker Technology
Every participant in Navigational Conversations will receive a 1-year subscription to Mindmarker, a leading application in training reinforcement. This includes a customized 12-week accountability plan for implementing the skills you learn during the live virtual training.
Mindmarker is a user-friendly technology that will help you get the maximum ROI on your training, ensuring the time and money you spend on this course won’t go to waste.
Our facilitators are experienced business executives and leaders with over 30 years of leadership experience. They will teach you how to empower your people with the coach approach, unlock the hidden potential within your teams, and how to build a performance culture resulting in increased productivity.
Marc is a “serial entrepreneur” who’s enjoyed the last 20 years in the business of Business Coaching and Training – supporting leaders and managers to bridge the gap between where they are, and where they want to be. Marc was also an original builder of FocalPoint in 2004, supporting people to become successful coaches in the United States as well as Canada beginning in 2008.
Marc is an absolute believer in “Unlocking Human Potential” and in having a “21st Century leadership” mindset.
After a successful 31 year career with some of North America’s most notable enterprises, Kelly began a business coaching career in 2008 and has enjoyed the privilege of working with business owners, including sole proprietors, entrepreneurs and leaders of multi-million dollar corporations. Kelly has amassed more than 10,000 hours of coaching experience over the last 10 years.
His passion is about having his clients achieve the goals they may have never dreamed possible.
Dulcee spent 20+ years in executive and operations management within corporate America. She has had full financial management responsibility, asset management and forecasting responsibility.
Dulcee left the corporate environment in 2008 to pursue her passion of coaching; partnering with clients to enhance their effectiveness, profitability and quality of life. She has trained leaders and managers throughout North America in “the Coach Approach” to leadership and in building cultures of high performance and trust amongst the team.
“One of the cultural pieces is that we have so many different people from all over the world. This program provides us a unique framework to help everyone grow and work together. I found Navigational Conversations to be an eye-opening experience and I think you will as well.”
Mgr at Schlumberger
“The training was extremely effective for our organization’s leaders, the roleplays were extremely helpful in figuring out the techniques. Our entire HR dept would benefit from this as well.”
– H Clarke
The delivery of the information was excellent! Everyone was engaged and I see great potential for myself and the team I lead.”
– J. Olson
Check our Event Calendar for a Navigational Conversations live virtual training that works for your work schedule.
The Five Functions of Coaching
The Art of the Question Part 1
The Six Principles of Navigational Coaching
Problem Solving Mindset vs. Coaching Mindset
Coaching Mindset Assessment
Who to Coach?
5 Step Coaching Conversation Model
The Art of Conscious Listening
3 Levels of Listening
The Art of the Question Part 2
3 Intentions of Questions
End of qu’ggestions
Embedding tools and skills learned in past five sessions
The Art of Telling Part 1
The Art of Telling Part 2 Corrective & Developmental Feedback
Integrating Feedback into Coaching