Cordell speaks with Betty Parker, President of Sharper Development Solutions about leadership development. Betty and Cordell discuss the importance of lifelong learning, how to know your audience and have great facilitation skills. Connect with Betty on LinkedIn here.
Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed, the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now, here’s your host, Cordell Riley.
Cordell: Hello. Welcome to Training Unleashed. I am your host, Cordell Riley, my pleasure to be here with you today. It’s also my pleasure to welcome Betty to the show. Betty Parker is the president and founder of Sharper Development Solutions. Betty, thank you for joining us today.
Betty: Oh, it’s my pleasure to be here.
Cordell: Good, so Betty maybe do me a favor. Obviously, we got a lot of great training professionals here and I know you’re a training professional. Maybe tell the group a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your company here.
Betty: Sure, so my company is Sharper Development Solutions. We’re based in Columbia, South Carolina. We’ve been here for about 12 years or so. This started out in 2006 and our focus is on leadership development. We’ve discovered that throughout the course of our training I guess in different organizations that the real focal point should be in leadership development. We found that old adage to be true that people don’t quit jobs they quit bosses and we’ve found through our own research that a lot of times people who get put into leadership positions are placed there primarily because they’ve been on the job the longest.
So they may have the technical skills to do the job but not necessarily the leadership skills that are required, you know, knowing how to engage their employees and build strong teams and manage conflict and all those things that leaders need to know how to do well. And the other part of that is oftentimes they don’t receive formal training even though they may have been in those positions for a long period of time. So we found a gap and a huge need and decided to try to fill that in this particular area and we’ve had great success over the years in doing that.
So I love the work that I do and I really am appreciative of you bringing me into kind of talk a little bit about how I do that work when it comes to facilitating training, and part of what is morphed out of my business is a professional speaking as well as some coaching. I’ve become a certified coach as well, that’s a big part of the development piece enhancing managers to become leaders. So I do a lot of executive coaching, individual coaching, and group coaching as well.
Cordell: Awesome. Looks like you got your hands full Betty.
Betty: A lot, yeah. Not what I started out doing but, like I said it morphed into that and I’m glad because it really expanded my knowledge of, you know, how to get people where they ultimately need to be and where their organizations want them to be and in doing so it’s produced a lot of great outcomes for them and for me and that’s the rewarding part of it to really put a lot into an individual and see the fruits of that labor, you know, come to be and for those who are motivated now, let’s say that, to do the work we’ve had huge successes in that. So I’m really happy with what I do and I’d do this even if I didn’t get paid for it.
Cordell: That’s awesome. I always really believe you got to have a passion for what you’re doing in order for it to be successful, so that’s great Betty. Betty, I went out to your website and did some looking around. First of all, it’s also a great site. So I encourage our audience to go out and take a look and there was a page that really jumped out at me and it kind of goes back to something you said about, you know, people were great at whatever the technical skill was, they were there for a long time and now you’re a leader of this particular area. They weren’t trained. They didn’t get any background on how to be a leader versus having great technical skills, and you have a whole page devoted to effective training, and you have some great testimonials from people talking about how you came into their organization and helped them, not only with the leadership training, but did it in a very effective way to where it was useful.
So obviously Betty, our group is trying to get better at their training. So if you had to give us some words of wisdom about keys to making training effective, what would you share with our audience today?
Betty: Yeah, so I do get a lot of requests from different trainers. The one thing I’ve learned and love about people in the training industry is they have a desire to learn. They are lifelong learners and they have a desire to do well in their training and that’s what kind of prompted me to create this training class. I do a workshop called No More Boring Training! Because all of us have been through some probably not so well put together training classes at some point or another and we’ve been bored out of our minds.
The one thing that I learned early on in my career as a trainer was people’s desire to really put together something that’s going to be effective and not just engaging the learner but helping them to take what they’ve learned in the classroom outside the classroom and ultimately making it into something that’s tangible and measurable and so I would get calls all the time from different trainers saying, “Betty, do you have a good icebreaker?” “Do you have a good team building exercise?” Or, “Do you have something around conflict management?”
Or something that they needed and I’m pretty generous, you know, if people need help getting some of those things I’m willing to share. It’s just that it happens so frequently. I was like, “Why don’t I just create an entire workshop to help those trainers and those instructional designers to be a little bit better at how they put their training classes together and how they deliver it?” And so in my doing that, that’s how I’ve helped other trainers but even I practice what I preach.
So the testimonials that you saw on my website came from, you know, just years of working with different types of managers in varying industries. I mean, I always tell people I don’t necessarily need to know, you know, how to do your job or any of the specifics around what your job responsibilities are because what I train are soft skills and wherever you have people you’re going to have challenges. So as long as they know the technical part of it and they’ve got that under control that’s fine. Where they tend to struggle most is, “Okay, now that I know what I know how do I get everybody else on board to be able to do the jobs they need to do and how do I lead them to do that?”
And I found that people just kind of wing it a lot of times. They just don’t know, you know, how to connect with other individuals. So I’ve been very effective in helping them to do that. I’ve learned a lot along the way. The things that you should not do because I’ve come across a lot of them who’ve struggled but more importantly from really good managers who finally got it figured out and through, you know, what I’ve observed in them and through working with them for long periods of time as well as looking at the people who struggle so much.
I’ve been able to put together really good and effective training program to help them through that learning process and that’s what’s netted me the great responses that you read about on the…and I would say this too, those were totally unsolicited so it’s very like, as I mentioned to you a little while ago, it’s very rewarding to have, you know, your work done and people recognize it and they acknowledge it and so they would send me letters or notes or anything like that and just ask, “Hey, can I put it on my website?” They say, “Sure.” So it’s been a good run.
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Cordell: So Betty just has some do’s and some don’ts. So maybe if you could give our audience a couple don’ts and maybe a couple of do’s so they don’t have a boring trainer, just a couple tidbits you can share there that our audience can kind of sink their teeth onto here a little bit.
Betty: One of the things I do encourage trainers to do since we have a different type of learner in our classes and they’re all adult primarily is to go and learn what the adult learning principles are. Malcolm Knowles, K-N-O-W-L-E-S, created these four principles of andragogy and andragogy is basically adult learning principles. So I think when you understand who your learner is you can create training that suits them. So, for example, we know that adult learners want a little bit of control over what they learn.
They’re motivated to come into a training class and learn when they feel that what they’re going to learn can be used right away and it’s going to impact them in some way in doing their jobs better. Say, for example, somebody has to learn a particular process in order to, you know, work on a project or to get that next promotion or whatever it is their desire is if they learn these particular skills they’ll be able to get what they want and so knowing that when we create the training that supports their goals then you’ll get a more engaged learner.
Now, you know, they may come in and just have to learn some technical skills and you can get somebody who’s a subject-matter expert come in and just drone on and on about that. You can quickly lose them as a learner there but I tell people, learn your learner better and also just practice facilitating too, that would be the second point. Tap your facilitation skills, your delivery, because you can have some really great content but if your delivery is off, if you don’t know how to engage your audience to asking the right questions and debriefing and, you know, making sure that they’re able to participate, you know, be full participants in their own learning then you’ll lose them somewhere along the way.
And the hard part of that too is, you know, if you here doing multiple classes say, you know, you’re in your organization and you’re the [inaudible 00:10:05], it’s gonna be harder to get them to attend training if it’s voluntary, if they know they’re coming into a class that’s just not very appealing. It’s, you know, it’s a drab. There’s not a lot of engagement. There’s just much lecture and so it’s gonna be hard to get for it. So I tell people, learn your learner and make sure you have great delivery skills.
Cordell: So learn your learner. I love that and I completely agree, great facilitation skills Betty. How do I get better at that? So how does the audience work on that muscle and strengthen that? What do they do to get better at that one? Because I think it’s key.
Betty: Yeah, take a class.
Cordell: Take a class.
Betty: So as I mentioned, trainers are lifelong learners, right? Generally, I find that but I would highly encourage people to take a class that trains in facilitation skills though. I think people go and get training in presentation skills and that’s fine but there’s a distinct difference between the two. So I am a big encourager of people going and participating in say, Toastmasters International, right? They teach you presentation skills and that’s good if you’re a person who doesn’t feel very confident standing in front of a group and being able to give a presentation and, you know, you’re a little nervous and you do all the ahs and the ums and the hiccups and all these things that can get in the way of your delivery.
But that’s just you presenting information, sharing information out, but when it comes to facilitating that’s more of drawing people in. So if you can find a class that teaches you how to do that, I would highly encourage people to do that. When I do my No More Boring Training! class, we actually put into practice facilitating. I draw all the distinction between the two and then they get up in the workshop and actually do some facilitating. So it’s more of once I present this amount of information how do I get good at asking high-gain questions where people can think for themselves, work through the process mentally, have a discussion and really engage even the other learners in a class and part of what that discussion is.
So at that point, the facilitator kind of, you know, pulls back, even melts away if they can and let the class be more about the learner. They should be talking to each other. They should be working through, you know, certain simulations if that’s what’s the necessary, case studies, whatever it is that you place before them but it becomes more of their meeting and when you got adult learners they already come into the sessions with a certain amount of information anyway, a certain amount of knowledge.
So you have to help them to use that to think through some things, enhance that knowledge that they have. Yes, give them new information but help them to grasp what they already know and pull the old and the new together and when it’s experiential like that, that’s one of the other principles that Knowles tells us, you know, adults learn experientially. So if you can get them involved in their own learning then now you’re facilitating. It’s not just you standing up there giving lecture. There’s much involvement in the learning.
Cordell: I want to go back to something you said because I think this is a really good point. I just want to hear you talk about this a little bit. So giving a great class, No More Boring Training! is effective. So, you know, you gotta know the audience, great facilitation skills, so you’re doing all of those things but I heard you talk about what happens after the class is over and is it tangible, is it measurable, do they do something with it? How do they take action? So can you just talk a little bit about it Betty, how you get that to happen so that really you do get the results from the training after it’s over?
Betty: Right, so I think they’re two challenges and it’s one, I mean, it might not necessarily be a challenge. For me, it’s a challenge in that I’m not inside of an organization. So for somebody who’s like a resident trainer, they’re in-house, they’ve been hired by this company and that’s their job, they do it. They have a better opportunity I believe to be able to engage the learner even after the training is over. For me, you know, a hired hand in a sense, I can get to it to a certain extent but I’m not there every day to be able to see that people are doing what they need to do, but I still have found ways around that and through that. But I think it’s really, really, really important that there is accountability built throughout any training class.
So my biggie is at the end of any session, and I find if I can get people on a program, I try not to run into an organization into a one-day class or two, you know, twice a year or whatever. I try to get organizations to look at putting their people in a program which means they will see me on a regular basis, and I tend to work with my clients for up to a year. So once a month training, maybe a half-day. They have 30 days in between when they see me again and my expectation is within that 30-day period you’re going to do something with what you’ve learned. So I always tell them, you know, “Hey, this is three hours or four hours you’ve been with me. I don’t like full-day classes. I think it’s just too long. I think people take in so much information and then their brains have to process it.”
They have to do something with what they’ve learned. So when we give them too much, say in an 8-hour class, a full day class, it’s overwhelming for some people. It’s almost too much and they don’t know what to do with it. So I’m good with just a half-day, three or four hours, give them an opportunity to process it and they do that through action. So at the end of my sessions, you know, I’m like, “Hey, you’ve been with me three or four hours and these are three or four hours of your life you’re not gonna get back, so you might as well put something to use that you gained in here.”
And so I try to get them to just pull one thing, just one thing that they know they can realistically go back and use in the workplace and then they create a plan before they leave the session with the specific action steps and what they think the outcomes are going to be and if they can quantify or qualify it in some way in that plan, is it gonna save the company money, is it gonna make the company money, is it gonna boost morale, is it gonna decrease turnover, something that we can measure, something we can evaluate. Then, when are they gonna do it, when are they gonna get started? And hopefully they start it right away, and they have 30 days until they see me again to put it into action.
So that when we get together again the next month, then I start the class by asking people, you know, “Okay, let’s talk about your plans, you know, what kind of progress are you making? Have you run into any snags or what has been a success or a small win along the way?” Something where we talk about what they’ve been doing and that becomes the expectation of them throughout the entire year that we work together. So it’s all about accountability. They set goals for themselves. We create metrics around that and then, you know, we have to see some type of outcome from those.
So I highly encourage instructional designers and trainers as you’re putting your training classes together that there be evaluation throughout that training even if it’s in that individual class or if it’s throughout your six-month program or one year program or however long you’re gonna be with that person, there needs to be evaluation. Now afterwards, well, I don’t have the benefit of doing as frequently as somebody who’s in-house would be able to do is, “Okay, what does it look like in the workplace?” Now, we need to see, you know, them actually using what they’ve learned and some measurement around that as well, and I might check back in three months later, six months later, nine months later to see what, you know, if they’re still practicing what they’ve created in that plan.
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Cordell: So Betty, I could keep talking to you forever. You’re obviously sharing some great things here but I want to be respectful of your time and our audience’s time. But I do want to kind of leave the last segment to you here. If there is one training tip that you would like to share with our audience, training professionals, what would that be?
Betty: To continue to learn. I just feel like there’s so much great information out there, and in the 12 years that I’ve been doing this I’ve gained so much just by learning from other people, And there are so many people who are experts in particular areas of training, so I came in knowing how to train, but I knew nothing about instructional design. So I just connected with people who knew. So it’s about building alliances, building your network and going out and finding different ways in which you can learn something different, something new to enhance where you are currently.
A lot of people I’ve talked to who have gotten in the training industry, whether they’re independent consultants or whether they’ve been hired by a company, they basically got in there because they were the subject matter expert at some point and they were like “Okay, you know how to do this so you go train everybody else.” And they didn’t receive any formal training around how to train. So they struggle a little bit, and we’re all looking for different ways to be able to do what we do better.
So I would just encourage them to just seek out different ways to do that. And if I might Cordell, I’d like to recommend I’m a big proponent of being a part of the Association for Talent Development, ATD, and I’m very active in our local chapter here in Columbia, which is the Midlands Chapter, and we’re very, very adamant about bringing some really high-quality presentations to our membership. And in fact, they’re bringing Disney in September to come and do some customer service training but we try to put on, you know, some event every year, some major conference and expo every year to bring just a wealth of great information to trainers and instructional designers and even HR professionals who might have some training responsibilities.
Cordell: Awesome, thank you, Betty. Hey, Betty, pleasure talking with you. Betty, thank you. Thank you for our audience, for being here. We certainly appreciate your time today and please continue to come back for other Training Unleashed episodes. Take care and have a great day y’all, bye-bye.
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