Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
Building Your Team for Peak Performance: A Grand Dynamics Action Seminar for the Jackson Hole, WY business community December 18th, 2014Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
Join Tim Walther, President of Grand Dynamics, Wednesday, December 18th from 9 AM to 11:30 AM, for this Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce sponsored business seminar. Grand Dynamics has offered several Jackson Hole Chamber seminars to the local business community, including Behind the Magic Curtain Customer Service and Switch the Change Breakthrough Action Seminar.
Here is the overview of the upcoming Building Your Team for Peak Performance Seminar
Clear communication, efficient decision-making, an environment of trust and support…these are all hallmarks of high functioning teams. The season employee culture is a unique microcosm of continuous team building, and comes with unique challenges. This seminar will address both seasonal and year round teams and show you how to build your team for peak performance!
- Critical team models, methods and tools for improving any team
- How to motivate and inspire a successful team of seasonal employees
- How to identify and rapidly advance through stages of team development
- Ice Breakers, initiatives and activities to build team culture
- Small and large group presentation and facilitation techniques
- Fun, engaging and productive networking
Any current challenges related to teams and teamwork in your organization
Focus areas include -
- Identification of current issues, challenges and needs
- Team definition, values and commitments
- Characteristics and stages of high performing teams
- Team chemistry and behavioral styles
- Team essentials: The GRIP model of team performance
- The new SMART goal setting and accountability framework
- Problem solving and decision making strategies
- Team trust – built for speed
- Action planning for success
- Grand Dynamics processes and programs for building teams
Based on 15 years of in-field research working with top performing business teams.
Presented by Tim Walther, M.S., President, Grand Dynamics International Tim Walther is an expert in designing and delivering team building performance programs. Grand Dynamics was founded in Jackson Hole and delivers a multitude of team building programs at locations across the country.
This is a Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce sponsored seminar for the Jackson Business Community.
Session Time: 9:00 am – 11:30 am.
If you have specific questions about the seminar, call Grand Dynamics at 307-733-1989.
You may also contact Andy Heffron for additional information at the Chamber of Commerce: Andy Heffron [email protected]
307.733.3316 ext 101
What is an experiential team building initiative? What is the facilitators role when facilitating an experiential initiative?Monday, September 30th, 2013
An experiential initiative is essentially a challenge that is proposed to a group or team. The challenge is ones that is unique to the participants so that no participant is an expert in the task. The focus then becomes on the process in which the group interacts together, rather than the specific task. The beauty of great experiential initiatives is that they initially seem nearly impossible to accomplish. Only through effective teamwork will the team be able to accomplish the task at hand. This transition from “This is impossible” to “We did it” offers great value in the overall perception of what the team can accomplish when everyone works together.
The Facilitators Role: Experiential initiatives involve a facilitator presenting the challenge by providing the rules, guidelines, resources and framing, or presentation, for the challenge. This often includes a specific timeframe for the challenge to be completed, and the consequences for not following the rules and guidelines. Keeping participants physically and emotionally safe throughout the experience provides the foundation for participants being able to participate fully. The facilitator’s job is to observe the team in action, listening and paying close attention to how the team interacts. Depending on the focus of the event, the facilitator will present the challenge in such a way that the activity relates the desired outcome.
For example, if the event is focused on fun and excitement and the experience of the group overcoming the challenge, the facilitator will present the experience with high energy and encouragement with a focus on keeping everyone engaged in the activity. If the focus is on team communication, then the activity will be framed in such a way that participants will focus their attention on how they are communicating with one another, and what processes lead to greater team effectiveness.
These challenges present an opportunity for the facilitator to provide a model, method or tool that will improve the collective team functioning. When the focus is on team improvement then the reflection period, also know as processing or debriefing, is an integral and important part of the initiative. During the processing participants discuss what they observed and how the team interacted and what lessons and actions are important to bring forth.
As the team experiences a lesson in process improvement the challenge is to apply those lessons in additional activities and practice what they have learned in an effort to experience better elements of teamwork, such as effective communication between team members, creating a shared mental model of the goal or team process or efficiently deciding on and evaluating the actions to take place.
This is where the skill and experience of the facilitator becomes very important. The art and science of effective facilitation is to be able to recognize the need for the right tool at the right time. This comes from understanding complex team dynamics and key elements of human psychology, experiential learning and business. The methodology is one of the Socratic method, where the facilitator uses questions to lead the group to their own insights and conclusions, thus increasing buy-in and ownership for the insights and actions as a result.
Often times collaboration is a key part of a team building experience. Experiential initiatives create the opportunity for participants to hold or share information, hinder or support the progress of another team, and to focus on working together verses competing. Our psychological make-up is typically one that is founded on competition. Our inner drive to get ahead of another person is based on our instinct and survival mechanisms. The art of creating collaboration is one that requires practice and a visceral experience of seeing the collective benefit through collaborative efforts.
Often times we refer to an “AH-HA” moment in experiential training. This happens when someone has an insight or breakthrough that allows for an individual to shift their beliefs or actions. When this occurs in a collaborative setting the shift in actions become readily apparent in future interactions in any environment.The benefit of experiential team initiatives comes from the fact that they are novel, dramatic, experiential, consequential and metaphoric experiences. Because participants are fully engaged physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally the retention of concepts soars high above traditional methods of learning.
The Tough Towner Media Contest captures the moments of the first inaugural Jackson Hole Obstacle Course RaceTuesday, October 30th, 2012
The inaugural Tough Towner took place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on October 20th, 2012. This event was comprised of 25 obstacles located in 5 primary locations over 4 miles throughout the town of Jackson.
If you took one of these photos below send your name and email to info at granddynamics.com because, YOU WON! Claim your gifts from Grand Dynamics, D&D Camera Corral, Mountain Khaki, Stio, Studio X, Bubbas, Dragon Lady T’s and more!
Thank you for all those who have submitted photos and media. If you have some great pictures please SHARE THEM with us! Email them to us, post on the Grand Dynamics Facebook page, etc. We would like to have a great archive of photos to get people excited about the next one!
Which, by the way, a Spring Tough Towner is in the works!
Stay tuned and get on our email list if you aren’t already!
Here are some of out favorite and best photos from the first Tough Towner!
But first, a HUGE THANK-YOU to our sponsors.
FThe Olympus TG-810 Tough 12 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with 5x Optical Zoom goes to…
Best Overall Action Photo: by Jack Wiley Photography
Overcoming Obstacles and Racing to the Finish
Mr. Mayor meets Tuffy
“Let’s Get Tough” – The Ultimate Mountain Warm-Up intro to the Tough Towner!
Featuring Stephen “Disco” Koch
Video by Caren Ware – Itz About Time
We’re from the Future
Zombie Bees created quite the BUZZ!
-Reaching New Heights-
Who was the Toughest Towner? This guy
Take a bite of the Sandpit Sandwich!
Served up by the Jackson Hole Community School.
Feel the Fever!
Mountain Chicken says, “More Cowbell!”
A Tough Team
And the Best Video goes to:
Jackson Hole Adventure Video: The Tough Towner!
Overcome Your Obstacles!
Experience the Tough Towner!
Coming Again Spring 2012!
Tough Towner Updates: Course Preview, Tunes, Gifts, Deadlines, Beta and more! – Friday October 12 UpdatesFriday, October 12th, 2012
Here are your Tough Towner Updates. Read on closely because there are SEVERAL AWESOME IMPORTANT UPDATES and tons of reasons to REGISTER NOW if you haven’t already as well as key info like our SPONSORSHIP DEADLINE BY MONDAY at 10 AM to get your name on the T-Shirt.
We got official confirmation that Rocky of Four Four Productions will be spinning tunes on the Teton Boulders at Phil Baux Park, so bring those groovin shoes and get ready to dance your way to the starting corral! This will be a nice preview to our featured James Bond theme music at the Rodeo Grounds obstacles!
Those of you in town – On-Air Interview in the AM
Tomorrow (Friday October 12th) AM: Course Director Tim Walther will be live on the radio with the early show and then the Fish Man at 8:15 AM so be sure to tune into KMTN. KMTN is also giving away one registration each day so tune in for your chance to win or gift your free spot friend if you are already registered!
Saturday: Course Preview
Interested in the course, have any questions or just want to get out for a nice run around town? Join us this Saturday at 12:30 PM for a course preview and run around town. Get all your questions answered. Meet us at Phil Baux! We will go run around 12:45 and preview the course.
Gifts for those who are registered
Those of you who are already registered are psyched! You have already locked in your cool Tough Towner T Shirt, which will be awarded to you once you cross the finish line, of course. We are finalizing our T-Shirt order tomorrow (Friday) at noon, so let us know what size you are by registering today if you haven’t already. (This includes SPONSORS!!)
And get this, we just got a notice that you will ALSO get a free pair of racing socks – a $15 value – from our latest event sponsor, Fit Sock!
It doesn’t stop there, there will also be TWO PROBARS per racing participant! $6 value! All real, natural, organic and the perfect after race recovery snack – Boom!
Don’t forget you also get 20% discount at Halloween Headquarters for those registered!
ALL this an MORE can be YOURS – but only if you are REGISTERED! So if you haven’t joined the crew yet, remember that the gifts are offered on first-come first serve so secure your loot! If you are registered, well jump for joy and give your fellow Towner a high five.
If you want to have your name on the tough Towner-Shirt, we need your confirmation by Monday at 10 AM. We will be going to press!
The Tough Towner Sponsorship Page has an overview of our contributors so far and some information about what it means to be a Tough Towner Sponsor, including a commitment to your community, people and to living life to the fullest!
There is still space for more obstacle sponsors, so spread the word about all the awesome benefits and join the rest of the community in creating this awesome Jackson event! Remember – we’re in this together.
WE ARE SECURING OUR VOLUNTEER SHIRTS so please let us know via email what you can commit to for volunteering.
We can still use LOTS OF VOLUNTEERS, so if you are interested please email us to join our growing POWER TEAM of Tough Towner Volunteers for a great time! We will be setting up the course on Friday and getting psyched.
We will be having a photography competition so get your peeps ready to strike a pose on those obstacles! WOOHOO!!!!
More Surprises to come!
Remember: Registration starts at 8:30 AM Saturday the 20th, Fast Classes at 10:30 and Fun Classes at 12:30! Spread the word about the event and and remember that registration goes up to $59 on the 19th and 20th.
Register now and SAVE!
FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK!!!!!
Grand Dynamics and The Tough Towner Team!
Sir Earnest Shackleton: Escape From Elephant Island – an experiential training program on building trust sustaining resilienceSaturday, October 6th, 2012
An introduction to one Grand Dynamics International training and development program themed around one of the greatest adventure stories of all time…
“After the taking of the South Pole by Roald Amundsen in December of 1911, who, by a narrow margin of only days, beat the British Expedition under Robert Scott (of which Shackleton was a member), there remained but one great conquest of Antarctic journeying–the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea. On August 1, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men (28 including one stowaway) and 69 sledge dogs set sail for the last unclaimed prize in the history of Antarctic exploration: the first crossing, by foot, of the Antarctic continent. Sir Ernest set out to cross the frozen tundra, a mindboggling 1,800 miles, from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. But as you will see, his adventure was to be far bigger than he ever imagined.
This true story, is now your story.”
The larger event will be anchored by Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the South Pole, where he and his crew survived some of the most harrowing conditions known to mankind. As the story unfolds, participants will take part in to relevant and specific activities that tie in to the real accounts, but more importantly, to what the team is going through together right now.
We will tap in to issues of trust, communication, creativity, adaptability and dealing with uncertainty. We will compare and contrast how Shackleton kept his men optimistic even in the toughest times, with what the expectations of this team are today. We will explore how he led from the front, extended trust and built a high trust environment, and how our leaders can/must do the same starting right now.
This adventure is experiential and active. Teams will be working together, exploring the Shackleton story while making connections to their own business processes, and cultural norms. Where Shackleton had major decisions to make, so too will this team as the story unfolds.
The adventure crescendos with a disorienting dilemma – Shackleton realizes that he has run out of options, and time. He decides to take the greatest risk of all, to convert the lifeboat they have been dragging for months across ice and rock into a sailing vessel and try to make it some 800 miles to South Georgia Island to get help.
The disorienting dilemma is directly connected to the clients desire to shake up the group, make them shift gears and adapt, and then draw parallels with what is currently happening in the business landscape…
This is an article posted Wednesday, October 3rd in Jackson’s Weekly paper, The Planet, about Grand Dynamics upcoming obstacle race, the Tough Towner.
The Buzz: Jackson’s first adventure race
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
By Richard Abowitz
Jackson Hole, Wyo.-If you enter “adventure races” on YouTube you can find hundreds of videos of intense athletic folks pushing themselves through manmade obstacles. And, then you can find other videos of people who are just having fun working their way through the course. The First Annual Tough Towner Ultimate Community Obstacle Course created by Grand Dynamics hopes to attract both.
Grand Dynamics CEO Tim Walther says, “Everybody can give this a go. The idea is to challenge yourself and to have some fun. There are race classes for those that want to go fast and push it, and there is also a fun class, where people can still push it but you might just be racing along side an elephant.” The elephant part needs some explaining.
First off Toughy (the elephant’s name, of course) wears a pink tutu and is the mascot for the event. According to Walther, “Toughy represents all potential Tough Towners.” Okay, but why an elephant? “There are many meanings behind the elephant, including representing our emotional side of change and what brings us passion in life. Toughy also represents having fun.”
In terms of Tough Towner race fun is suggested by the calendar: October 20 being not too long before Halloween. “We expect to have several costume-themed teams in the fun class of the event,” Walther says. Individuals are invited to come costumed as well. And, in addition to your own costume you may want to offer an idea for a local symbol worthy of the experience for next year. Walther says: “We are actually open to the idea of an iconic Jackson Hole figure for the Jackson Hole Tough Towner, but that has yet to present itself, and this is the first ever Tough Towner.”
Walther offers a sketch of the race for those considering the challenge:
“It starts at Phil Baux park at Snow King. We’ll do an opening. The first part of the race is a mountain scramble up a portion of Snow King. Then participants travel to the Rodeo Grounds. There is an element there. Then we go to Miller park. From there we go to the Recreation Center Field. Then to Mike Yokel and back to Phil Baux park for the finish.”
Some may choose to bicycle instead of run between the parks. Altogether the race loop spans about four miles. Of course, the imagination will reconfigure the geography with obstacles. “We’ve created these different challenges and obstacles: climbing over walls, crawling through mud, and running through tires,” Walther says.
The racers will go in two groups: fast class and fun class. This allows the serious athletes to participate before the more casual adventurers. Walther explains, “The Fast Class will go first in the morning. And, the Fun Class will go a couple of hours later. The idea is to offer the challenge to a variety of different people in the community. So, it is not just for the Jackson elite athlete but for anyone who wants to challenge themselves. You can go fast; you can go slowly; you can do it individually; you can do it as a team. And, we are encouraging costumes and fun.”
It is not easy to start a new event in hopes of creating an annual tradition. And, Walther notes Grand Dynamics is a local business – for the past 14 years – that sees this effort as an important contribution to Jackson. “Grand Dynamics puts on a lot of corporate events: different adventure races.
I wanted to bring this to the community and have it available to the community and not just specific businesses,” Walther explains. Indeed, life in Jackson inspired everything about this Tough Towner race. “I live in the central hub of all four of the parks in East Jackson,” Walther says. “And, I spend a lot of time hiking up Snow King. I would hike up Snow King, looking down at the parks and think that there has to be a cool event we can create.
Then I started thinking: what are the resources in the town? One thing came from the next.”
Of course, the gap between having and executing an idea in Jackson often involves a different sort of obstacle course: bureaucratic permissions. But Walther happily reports that has not been a problem for Tough Towner, which was embraced by the town. “Immediately the Parks and Rec Department got on board,” Walther says. This year the event benefits the Jackson Hole Community School.
It is worth stressing that the race is meant to appeal not only to Jackson as a whole but also to encourage groups to further bond or even to form within the community. Walther says, “This is a great team building event for businesses to engage their employees and bring people together through fun adventure.”
Excited to bring this to town, Walther concludes, “That combination of challenge and fun is the right one for Jackson Hole.”
Saturday, October 20, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration is $39 until October 5; $49 after. For more information on how to participate, volunteer, sponsor or to register: toughtowner.com
Toughy in training for the Tough Towner in Jackson.
Let’s tackle a garden variety corporate orthodoxy: the one that says your company shouldn’t do training without a measurable return on your training investment.
Variations on the theme: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it; all training must be defined in terms of behavioral objectives; each objective must link to behavioral milestones, each quantifiable and financially ratable.
Let me speak plainly: Subjecting soft-skills training to pure skills-mastery financial analytics is intellectually dishonest, foolish, wrong-headed, useless at best and counter-productive at worst.
There, I said it.
Now let me explain—and offer an alternative.
There are are sprinklings of truth in the rush to measure soft-skills ROI—but they are surrounding a germ of crap, like a Bizarro oyster and anti-pearl. Worse yet, the ones who buy and propagate this dogma are those who buy training, and those who sell and deliver it.
The ROI-behavioral view of training is fine for pure cognitive or pure behavioral skills. If your focus is on teaching Mandarin to oil company execs, mastering the report generation functions of CRM systems, or teaching XML programming, you can stop reading this now.
But if you’re talking about communications skills, trust, customer relationships, listening, negotiation, speaking, giving and receiving feedback, consultative thinking, influencing, persuasion, team-building and collaboration, then read on. There are at least four problems with measuring “return” on these kinds of programs.
First problem: definitions. We evaluate golf coaching by lowered golf scores—neat, clean, unarguable. But try defining “good communication.” Or trust. Or negotiation. You might as well define the taste of water, or the quality of love. To accept behavioral indicators (“she smiles, she touches me”) is to miss an essence.
Second: causality. All causality is unprovable, though we know when to accept it anyway. “I had 3 lessons with a golf coach, and cut my score by 8 strokes. It was the coaching—you can quote me!”
But what if I take one course in trust, and another in listening. Suppose my sales go up next year by 50%. Which course did it? Or did my company’s 70% growth have something to do with it? Or my happy new marriage? Too many variables.
Third: the Hawthorne effect. (Or, the Heisenberg Principle in physics). Sometimes the act of measuring alters the measurement of the thing being measured. If I know I’m being graded on listening, I’ll do whatever it is I think that you think makes me look like I’m listening. Which destroys real listening.
If you hype net-promoter scores, many will game the scoring—thus reducing the genuineness that underlay the original idea.
Fourth: the perversion of individual measurement. Most soft skills deal with our relationships to others. The drive to individually behavioralize, then metricize, has the effect of killing relationships—an ironic outcome for relationship-targeting training.
Suppose a course teaches focusing more on the customer, listening, helping others achieve their goals, helping teammates grow—worthy objectives, found in many programs.
The only reason to define those results financially is to evaluate them financially. Thus someone—somewhere between the CEO and the person getting trained—is responsible for deciding to do more, or less, relationship-building programs—by using short-term individual measurements, usually with short-term incentives.
Hence the perversity: training people to focus on relationships, by measuring and rewarding them individually.
“The more unselfish you are, the more money we’ll give you for being unselfish.
“The more you get rated as providing ‘excellent customer service,’ the more we’ll pay you” (which leads to pathetic begging by CSRs)
“The more you focus on others, the more we’ll pay you.
“Quick, get over here, I want to genuinely listen to you so I can raise my quarterly bonus and get promoted.”
Raise this perversity to the level of an industry over decades, and you can understand why pharmaceutical and brokerage companies have accrued such low ratings on trust.
So what’s the answer? Simple. And you don’t even have to give up your addiction to metrics.
Just measure subjective rankings.
Ask people these simple questions, over time:
1. Would you do that training again?
2. Would you recommend others attend?
3. Would you include it in your budget?
4. How do you rate that training compared to these other five programs?
You can run regressions, chi-squares and segmentations on that data to your heart’s content—as long as it’s measuring subjective data in ranking terms. Just stop trying to monetize interpersonal relationships by measuring ROI on soft skills training.
This post is written by:
Charles H. Green
Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC; read more about Charlie at http://trustedadvisor.com/cgreen/You can follow him on twitter @CharlesHGreen
Here is a re-post of a nice blog by Marcia Renolds of Outsmart Your Brain about ROI of soft skills and leadership training.
ROI of your Mother? Blogger Chris Brogan saw the author of Crush It, Gary Vaynerchuk, grilled on the return on investment of social media. When he finally had enough, Gary responded, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”
I think the same answer applies to the question, “What is the ROI of soft skills leadership training?” When you think of what a good mother provides – someone who cares about what you want, who helps and encourages you to grow and who inspires your greatness – these are critical attributes for today’s effective leaders. Even when well developed, the direct effect of these abilities, though profound, is difficult to measure.
Lauren Klein shared some thoughts with me from Kenneth W. Thomas, author of Intrinsic Motivation at Work, when he presented to the Executive Networks Global Talent Leadership forum. Thomas says work engagement requires intrinsic rewards, the positive feelings that energize people to do good work. Leaders need to focus on what makes people want to do their best work and stay with an organization, from the inside out. Discretionary effort is fueled by the heart.
According to the Corporate Leadership Council, emotional engagement is four times more powerful than rational engagement from external rewards in inspiring employee effort. They surveyed over 50,000 employees at 59 global corporations. By increasing employees’ engagement levels, they found organizations see increase in performance of up to 20 percentile points and an 87% reduction in employees’ probability of departure. Their study demonstrates a clear ROI of soft skills.
Thomas calls actions that ignite internal motivation “firing up the talent engine.” Keeping the talent engine burning is critical to creating business success in today’s competitive and consistently changing marketplace. Daniel Pink in his book, Drive, says it is critical that a company’s mission and strategic objectives also fire up this energy. People need to feel that the work they are doing is important, even if it is helping other businesses be successful.
Yet all too often corporate executives still focus on using the hard skills of process improvement, increasing efficiency, and creating new business models to try to increase bottom line results. Focusing on old methodologies keeps them hitting their heads on the ceiling of short-term and marginal solutions.
The generations entering the workplace and moving into leadership positions today are used to instantly connecting, collaborating and voicing opinions on the Internet. They expect to have work environments that provide the same atmosphere. The good performers want to have fun, feel challenged and express their creativity. They want leaders who care about what they want, who help and encourage them to grow and who inspire their greatness. I repeat Gary Vaynerchuk’s questions, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”
On the flip side, the younger generations despise workplaces rife with fear and negative emotions. They won’t put up with this nonsense for long, especially when the economy stabilizes and jobs open up.
It’s time to quit giving lip service to the soft skills and truly make them important strategic directives. It’s time for leaders to truly support the development of skills such as coaching, collaborative visioning, emotional intelligence, and team motivation in their young leaders. It’s time to make the workplace a place where people look forward to going to.
Soft skills focused on enriching human interaction get solid, hard results. Do you value caring for, listening to, developing and inspiring others? Then translate this value into reality by putting time and money into ensuring your leaders excel at connecting with human beings.
Here is a nice article from H2 training and consultancy out of the UK:
Soft Skills Training – How to Get a Return on Your Investment: A hard case for Soft Skills
During the last decade there have been significant changes to working practices throughout the UK. In order to keep pace with increasing competition, many companies are requiring higher levels of productivity and higher quality from their employees than ever before. This, together with the move away from traditional hierarchical structures to team-based working, has brought about a greater need for new skills and strategies amongst employees at all levels, particularly in the areas of teamwork, leadership and communication. Indeed, there is compelling evidence that suggests that companies that consistently value and invest in the personal effectiveness of their staff are more likely to meet the increasing challenges of national and/or global competition.
“The development of an organisation’s people lies at the heart of its overall development and growth” – Investors in People
Hundreds of millions of pounds each year is spent by business in the UK on soft skills training, but how big is the return on the investment (ROI)?
Whenever budgets become the driving factor in decision-making and training strategy, courses without an obvious ROI are often the first to get the chop. This is understandable – if the results are seen as short-lived, and perhaps intangible, then it’s simply not worth the investment. Course participants may find the training useful, practical and enlightening on the day, but a month down the line? Are they really using the skills and continuing to implement their learning back in the workplace? Despite good intentions, have they returned to their familiar, but unproductive habits?
Having worked with a wide range of different organisations in various sectors over the years, we are well aware of the need for sustainable improvements in the soft-skills. We have also discovered that long-term improvements can be made, but only where there is a change in attitudes and often company culture, which can only be achieved through a longer-term, proactive strategy.
Here we reflect on the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills training, and discuss some of the ways we believe will help to achieve more permanent results from soft skills training that deliver the essential ‘return on investment’.
Hard skills vs. soft skills
The term ‘hard skills’ relates to the skills and knowledge required to carry out the technical and administrative aspects of an organisation’s business. These include IT skills, knowledge of financial procedures, ability to operate equipment and competence in administration. These skills are relatively easy to observe and measure as there are clearly defined ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of doing things. For this reason, they’re also easy to train.
The ‘soft skills’ are entirely different. The skills of communication, listening, giving feedback, solving problems, delegating, negotiating, motivating others and resolving conflict (to name but a few) are typically much more difficult to observe and measure. They are also more difficult to train, because unlike the hard skills courses, people usually come along with deep-rooted behaviour patterns that are learned throughout their lives, and not just at work. Individuals learn how to deal with countless inter-personal situations and challenges by observing how other people do things, and by experimenting for themselves. They then stick with what appears to work and usually with what gives immediate benefits or relief. The ultimate result is that everyone ends up with a unique approach to interacting with others. Some of these learnt behaviours may be effective, but others can be counter-productive.
Introducing any new interpersonal skill is far more difficult than learning a new technical skill, because it almost always involves replacing old habits. As behaviour patterns are physically established at the brain cell level, any new pattern, even one that makes sense, and one that is desired and expected, will still feel extremely uncomfortable and difficult to achieve. The only way to replace old behaviour patterns is to introduce new behaviours that consistently prove to be more successful. Furthermore, only with regular reinforcement will new brain pathways take over from the old ones.
When an individual returns to a workplace from training, more than anything else they need ongoing feedback, guidance and encouragement.
Understanding how the brain is involved in the learning process helps us to understand that the only thing that can create permanent behavioural change is frequent reinforcement – over the long term. If an individual truly desires to change an interpersonal behaviour, and is supported by the ongoing encouragement of a knowledgeable mentor or coach, then new patterns can be established. Soft skills training programmes are of course an important first step. They provide an essential introduction to tried and tested ‘models’ of behaviour and best practice. They also ignite the motivation to change. However, after the course is over it is the ongoing reinforcement of desired behaviours that has to be provided to ensure that the changes are implemented.
An organisation may invest heavily in a people skills training programme, but unless active reinforcement after the event is planned, the results will be limited and the investment wasted. This explains why even a well designed and delivered training programme cannot by itself change ingrained behaviour patterns. Without on-going and frequent reinforcement, even people who want to change are likely to return to their old, comfortable patterns.
Before commissioning any training provision, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of existing competence. The easiest, and arguably most effective way to do this is through 360-degree feedback, which provides a fairly objective assessment of skills that are often difficult to observe and measure. Analysis of current people skills enables priority areas to be identified. This in turn enables training providers to deliver the right courses, to the right people at the right time, so funds are spent wisely. The assessment process also acts as a powerful tool for self-awareness and therefore becomes an effective motivator for change. Repeat assessments can be useful for identifying improvements and for encouraging on-going personal development.
Develop helpful attitudes towards change
Developing individuals and teams requires the winning of hearts as well as minds. Simply developing knowledge and skills without shifting attitudes so that people are willing to embrace change, take on different approaches and new practices, will not ensure that real lasting changes will be made. Although knowledge and skills development is clearly very important, equally important is enabling learning to take place by identifying and removing any individual barriers such as resistance, doubt, self-limiting beliefs and negativity.
The personal development required to move individuals from rejection of change towards acceptance and commitment requires high levels of emotional intelligence, including self-esteem and self awareness, and an awareness of, and respect for others. In order to assist people to accept change, managers need to be able to encourage and motivate course participants prior to, as well as after training.
In-house versus external delivery
External (public/open) courses can be particularly cost-effective for training small numbers of employees. Attendance can be arranged to suit the individual, it can be arranged with little or no notice, and it gives participants the opportunity to have a glimpse into other people’s worlds at work, which can be extremely inspiring. However, sometimes people struggle to apply what they have learned on their return to the workplace. If everything at work remains unchanged, the returning trainee will find it extremely difficult to implement and sustain the required behavioural/practical changes to make a difference.
Whilst in-house training for the whole team requires a little more logistical planning, it means that every team member shares the same training experience. Well executed training exercises in which colleagues from all levels work together as equals, in a safe and structured way has tremendous benefits: it brings a fresh perspective to all and increases team understanding and rapport. It can also enable more open communication and exploration of any conflict or tensions, allowing individuals to voice their frustrations and seek joint solutions constructively.
Whilst qualitative results are hard to quantify, we believe there are many tangible benefits to investing a little more time to ensure that soft-skills training is as effective as it can be. These include creating/enabling:
dynamic working culture – Team members become better equipped to problem solve positively and proactively, and they have the determination to strive for excellence.
successful implementation of change – Effective leadership, individual motivation and improved communication brings active involvement, and commitment to planned changes.
increased satisfaction – Improved communication and an open, dynamic working culture improves overall satisfaction and commitment.
reduction in staff turnover – A more satisfied and committed, less stressed workforce is less likely to move on. Salary and other benefits become less important when team members feel respected, appreciated and supported.
more efficient meetings – Open and honest communication, and effective facilitation of meetings saves time and improves collaborative problem solving and decision-making.
meeting of deadlines – More effective communication and negotiation between departments means that targets are more likely to be met because of increased transparency, trust and rapport.
increased productivity – Through effective leadership, improved motivation and communication, individuals and teams are better equipped to achieve results.
saving of managerial time – Improved team communication and collaborative problem solving results in fewer conflicts and fewer demands on management time.
reduction in complaints – Improved collaboration, negotiation and resolution of problems results in fewer grievances, and a reduction in internal and external complaints.
In summary, ‘Soft Skills’ Training can and does offer ROI through sustainable and valuable improvements, particularly when:
It is strategically linked to individual, team and organisational needs
It addresses individual, team and organisational attitudes to change
It is supported by on-going reinforcements by managers and team members
It is followed by real opportunities to practise “how to”.