The Right Questions

You just finished briefing your boss on the latest proposal. You and your team spent hours hashing over details. You ensured you presented the big picture, highlighting critical points for understanding. You ask for questions and find your boss has plenty. schoolofathens.jpgYou wonder where you went wrong. The truth is you did a great job. Your boss understands the importance of asking critical questions about everything in the organization. The knows to verify things that appear to be one thing to ensure they are not something else. With experience, the boss learned the right questions to ask related to a host of issues and situations.

Using questions to stimulate discussion and analysis has been called the Socratic Methodi. The questions focus on learning information in areas of interest for the questioner. Quality answers are supported by proof in the form of an accepted fact, expectations based on analysis, data from test results, or another accepted proof. Challenging proof and conclusions occur next in the Socratic Method.

Puzzle-OlgaBerrlos.jpgSocratic questions that stimulate discussion and analysis may include:

– What is the risk related to that decision?

– How do we reduce the risk?

– What proof exists to demonstrate risk reduction?

– What impact will the decision have on … ?

– How does the organization deal with that impact?

– What other ideas did you explore and why were they not presented?

– What is the most important consideration and why?

– Are there examples of following a course from history; if so, what happened and why?

– What are your measures of success and how did you determine those measures?

– What are the costs in terms of money, influence, credibility, etc.?

These are only ten possible questions inspiring critical discussions and analysis issues or topics. They are a starting point. Use critical thinking questions to test your theories before presenting an idea to others. Ask someone to challenge your assessments with the Socratic Method. The more you practice, the better your assessments. Your ability improves by responding to challenging questions asked by others.

Experienced leaders develop core questions used in every analysis. Core questions stand the test of uncovering important information repeatedly. Experienced leaders develop questions for particular situations. Sometimes they are developed as the situation unfolds or come from preconfigured questions developed for different situations.

PuzzleSolved-OlgaBerrlos-mod.jpgWhether you are developing a course of action to market a new product, or deciding where to go on your next vacation, learning to ask the right questions helps you make better decisions. Questions that challenge conventional thinking allow decision makers to identify alternative courses of action and determine if they would be effective. Allowing others to challenge your conclusions with Socratic questioning improves your logical thinking. As you step into your next leadership position, or prepare a briefing for the boss, take time to think about questions to uncover the best solution to any situation.

Endnote

ihttp://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic-teaching/606

Photo Credits

School of Athens by Raphael, 1509-1511 – photo by Frans Vandewalle from Flickr.com

Puzzle Pieces by Olga Berlos from Flickr.com

Puzzle Assembled ibid (modified by author)

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Posted in Leadership

One Thousand Words

Sitting through a presentation of slides with nothing but text is a torture bordering cruel punishment. meeting-meal-food-lunch-buffet-education-686174-pxhere.com.jpgAny popular instruction beyond the basics of how to create slide decks emphasize the importance of graphics. Presenters face challenges finding inexpensive images to really make their learning or persuasion points powerfully. Learning about and finding public domain and Creative Common licensed images liberate presenters from corny clip art and open a world of high quality pictures, clip art, and video free from fees and royalties.

The Licenses

Public domain is the least restrictive level of licensing for any work. Something that is in the public domain is a work of intellectual property with an expired copyright, or released by the author into the public domain. Works commissioned by the U. S. Government and many educational institutions release works as public domain. Anyone may use them for any non commercial purpose for free. One may encounter advertising restrictions when images contain recognizable persons.

Creative Commons licenses come in several varieties. You can find the details of each at creativecommons.org. Generally a work released under a Creative Commons license is free to use for many purposes. The originator may choose to require an acknowledgment, limit modifications, limit commercial use, or any combination. Many times you can use works simply by providing credit to the creator or photographer which is a best using any reference not of your own creation.

Where to Find the Images

My readers will find I frequently use flickr.com for most of the images that appear in my posts. I frequently turn to flickr for my slide decks.flickr.PNG Flickr is the big name, but not the only source for free images. Google Images provides access to lots of images. Like flickr, not all are free, but like flickr, you can filter your search result to show just public domain or Creative Commons images.Google.PNG Pxhere.org images are all Creative Commons licensed with no use restrictions. That means anyone can use or remix any image for any legal purpose according to the website. pxhere.PNGClip art is more difficult to find, but a good source is openclipart.org. All images are open source. Users should familiarize themselves with the restrictions of each type of license before using images from any source.

Decks of death should be something of the past. Good presenters use images to make their points. Everyone knows a picture is worth 1000 words. Why fill your slide with boring text when an inspiring image communicates your message better? Learn to find and use free images published in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license and avoid accusations of subjecting others to cruel and unusual punishment during your next presentation.

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Photo Credits

After lunch meeting — https://pxhere.com/en/photo/686174

Screen shot of flickr.com search by author

Screen shot of images.google.com by author

Screen shot of pxhere.org by author

 

 

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Posted in Training

Measuring Success

Measured-Michael_Coghlan.jpgTrainers and leaders need to measure success. Measures of success demonstrate the organization does things correctly and does the correct things. Trained tasks support the organizational mission, the organization’s why. Trainers measure performance and leaders measure effectiveness. Understanding the difference ensures organizations correctly apply the correct measures to tasks by the right people.

Performance measures are those things that show we are doing something correctly. Examples include demonstrations of completing a task within a set of given guidelines, passing a test demonstrating knowledge of selected ideas, or achieving a certain result we believe leads to effectiveness. All these examples show the task is being performed correctly. These are the measures a trainer uses to demonstrate tasks are understood and performed correctly. Front line leaders use measures of performance to demonstrate assigned tasked meet defined standards.

Effectiveness measures are those things that show the organization is accomplishing its mission. Effectiveness is harder than performance to measure because organizations often have poorly defined missions. Effectiveness comes down to an individual or organization being able to focus on their one reason for existing. Examples of effectiveness measures include things like changes in behavior favorable to the organization, increased trust between employees, customer loyalty, or improvement in a given condition. Measures of effectiveness demonstrate mission accomplishment by the organization.

Organizations must understand and communicate why they exist in order to be able to measure effectiveness. Jim Collins talks about businesses that learn how to laser on their purpose for existence. Great businesses last because they were designed well in the beginning, or transform to meet changing times. There are many books that talk about the importance of why including Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and Stephen Covey’s First Things First.  Senior leaders use measures of performance to determine success when the organization meets its mission.

As leaders and trainers measure success, they need to learn how to measure both performance of individual and collective tasks, but also the effectiveness of those tasks. Everyone may be doing everything well, but if they are doing the wrong things, they fail. Knowing which measures to use and when help organizations ultimately complete their mission. Find your why; determine what an how to achieve it, then measure your success.

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Photo Credit

Measured by Michael Coghlan from flickr.com under a Creative Commons License

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Posted in Leadership, Training

Leadership Reflection

Reflection-Theophilos_Papadopoulos.jpgReflecting on past mistakes and successes teaches leaders how to adjust behaviors improving successful.  Few new leaders understand the importance of reflection.  As a result they do not understand which traits lead to success so they can repeat them, nor which actions impede them preventing them from avoiding similar actions in the future.  Leaders achieve effective reflection by following some easy steps.

Record what happen.  In another piece, I described how and why to conduct post event reviews (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/review-action-record-results-learn/).  Another example of recording what happened is a leadership journal.  Use a few minutes every day to write down something you learned, someone you helped, how someone helped you, an important task you must accomplish, or anything else you feel you may want to remember.

Document how you can use what you recorded.  Think about and write down ways to modify your behaviors to improve success.  How you can implement a lesson learned?  Decide which behaviors you helped another person.  Identify behaviors of others that were both effective and not effective.

Path-J-O_Eriksson.jpgPeriodically review your reflections to adjust your course.  Taking time to figure out where you are is an important step in the goal achieving cycle.  Reviewing things you allows you to consider the path to achieve a goal.  You may see a lesser traveled trail is more effective.  You may realize a new behavior provides access to the express lane.  Either way failing to apply what you learn unnecessarily lengthens time of achievement.

Recording reflections on successes and mistakes allows leaders to become more effective.  Using a leadership journal is one way new leaders can improve their reflective skills.  Writing down key ideas on your journey ensures they are captured for future use.  These lessons and ideas help leaders adjust course seeking to accomplish goals.  A few simple steps, and a little bit of time, allows improvement of success for leaders through reflection.

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Photo Credits

All Photos are from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.

Reflection by Theophilos Papadapoulos

Path by J-O Eriksson

 

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Posted in Leadership

Review Action. Record Results. Learn.

Nat-Grd-TownMeeting-NGB.jpgTake time to review actions at the end of project or events. This action enables leaders apply lessons learned the next time. The military thoroughly reviews and documents actions after every key event. As they begin their next planning cycle, leaders revisit those reviews to identify how to apply lessons learned to repeat effective actions and avoid repeating mistakes. Learning to analyze an event and gather important lessons is easy.

There are several principals to conduct post event reviews. Have all the key people at the table. Honestly document what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze why the things that went well went well, and poorly; and why those things happened that way. Participant judge events, not people. Check egos at the door. File the review so it can be found and used later.

All the Key People OutdoorMeeting-USAID.jpg

Key people does not mean everyone unless the event was small. Key people include the crucial leaders, contractors, organizers, observers, and key people from your red team. You want the people there who have the ability to make decisions during a similar future event that affect outcomes.

Document What Happened

This sounds simple but is not always easy. During this step top leaders may learn what

they wanted to happen is not what others understood was supposed to happen.  When you talk about what was supposed to happen, you may have to break it down into several levels. What really happened is also not so easy. Not everyone saw the same thing for a variety of reasons.WhatHappened.png Things may have gone well in their part of the project because the logistics section fixed a problem before others know about it. If others did not see it, the problem still existed and should be documented and analyzed.

Analyze

Analysis during the review is nothing more than answering a bunch of relevant questions. What went well and why? What problems cropped up and why? How well did communications work? How did leaders make decisions at critical times? How well did the decision making process work? How did leaders solve problems? What things went well that could have gone better? How can we prevent the wrong things from happening in the future? These questions are just an example series, but a good start to any analysis.

Judging

When judging good, bad, success, and failure, focus on events and decisions, not people. If a leader made a poor choice at a key event examine why. The group may learn the leader lack important information, or had a poor understanding of the situation. PieJudge-Sarah R.jpgFocusing on why the leader made the decision allows him to learn from mistakes, identifies potential problems in processes outside that leader’s control and reduces defensiveness improving learning.

Egos

People do not like criticism. The offense perceived is proportional the size of the ego. The learning from observations that look like criticism is inversely proportional to the size of the ego. Avoid the problem; check egos at the door. This rule needs to be posted and enforced by the group facilitator. When an individual becomes defensive during discussions related to decisions or actions she made, it is an indicator she brought her ego with her. Stop the conversation. Restate the rules. Focus on the actions or decisions. These measures ensure maximum participation and learning occurs.

File the Review

File post activity reviews so others can find and learn from them. Taking time to review and identify lessons achieves nothing if filed forever. Dig out those reviews when you begin the next project planning cycle and learn.

A post activity review is an important process in any learning organization. Conduct reviews with all the key players after every major event or project. Identify what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze the good and the bad of each event, action, and decision during the activity to identify important lessons. Judge decisions and actions to avoid offending and shut down learning. Check egos at the door to ensure everyone learns and participates. Adding a review at the end of every project or training event ensures lessons learned are available for use when a similar activity occurs next time.

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Photo Credits

All photos were found on flickr.com and used under a Creative Commons License.

Capture

U.S. Government photo-National Guard Bureau

U. S. government photo-USAID

Cars: Modified from two photos.  Limo by caccamo.  Small Car by Hsing Wel

Pie Judges by Sarah R

 

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Posted in Leadership, Training

Envision Effective Training

v

Steep-Rocky_Paul-Irish.jpgThe task is like climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. The task is simple but not easy.  Mt. Washington is a deadly peak showing little mercy for those who may make even a small mistake. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow are common even in July. The terrain steep and rocky. The views approaching and above tree line are dramatic, distracting, and just plain awesome. The task is simple really, inspire your students to learn what you are teaching and incorporate the lessons into their daily lives to become better at what the do. However, like trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, the path to successful training not easy. Adult learners are distracted in many ways. Some dealing with problems at home. Others deal with problems at work. Problems are like the tremendous views causing students not to pay attention to the trail. Some students do not feel they need to learn what they were sent to learn at your training, while others may think they know more than you do about the topic (and they might). Both groups are like large rocks tripping you if you do not pay attention to your student’s needs. Like to cold in July, some students remain cold through out the class. Vision is often discussed as a leadership tool to help employees focus on what is right. With vision comes passion. Vision in training and education accomplishes the same result as it does in leadership. With learners, vision creates a desire to pay attention, focus on the learning, and demonstrates you are prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you.

An example of casting a vision that catches the eyes of your student could be as simple as the opening of this blog. It is a short glimpse of an exotic place rife with danger. Showing (showing is a vision word) how your lesson connects to something exotic captures your students attention. It also provides you the tool the show your passion for the subject.

Instructors with passion retain the interest of students longer. In order for your training to affect the behaviors of students, they first must receive the information you provide. Passion for your topic, demonstrated through your vision, keeps their attention on your message.

As a believer, an instructor provides opportunities during training for students to practice new skills. Simple practice exercises allowing students to try skills keeps them focused, and reinforces you know something about what you teach. Skills students master during training are more likely used in life outside the classroom. They leave with the courage required to accomplish change.

BeachHammock-Kok_Chih_and_Sarah_Gan.jpgMost people want to learn to work better, rather than harder. Paint a picture of a hammock  strung between two coconut palm trees, the wind gently swinging them back and forth as they sip a cool tropical drink on a quiet, sandy beach. Let them leave your training with the passion, vision, and confidence that using your ideas and skills will lead them to that hammock. Students who understand how your lessons creates a simpler life encourages them to pay attention and learn more. Some say life on the beach is better than climbing mountains. Creating a vision of success inspires your students to implement the things they learned from you.

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Photo Credits

Both from Flickr.com using Creative Commons License

Rocky Trail by Paul Irish

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_irish
Beach Hammock by Kok Chih and Sarah Gan

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gandhu

Capture

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Posted in Training

Remembering

Memorial Day is upon us again. It is a day to remember those military members who died in service to their country. Often there memorials are led by veterans who find themselves the objects of other people’s gratitude. The result is many a vet and the person are confused about what to do next. Next time you feel an urge to spontaneously thank a man or woman in uniform, try a different approach.

After thanking the veteran ask if they have some time to tell you about a friend they served with, or a time they like to remember. Ask questions as time permits. Both the veteran and you will walk away with a better understanding about why you are thankful for the service of those who died in the military.

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