Leadership Training that Works

Any training will provide some impact back on the job, but to maximize the impact of your training dollars you need to address five design considerations with any program you roll out.

That’s the message Jay Campbell, VP of Product Development for The Ken Blanchard Companies®, shared in a recent presentation at Blanchard‘s annual client summit.

Across all modalities, Campbell believes that there are five design principles that need to be addressed if training sponsors want content to stick. Toward that end, Campbell outlined five key concepts.

  1. Simplicity. Less is more. No training design or facilitator guide is complete until every unnecessary element has been removed, explained Campbell. Drawing on his recent experience launching the new learning design of the company’s Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) training program, Campbell shared, “In our own case we removed terminology and teaching points throughout the program that added unnecessary distraction and slowed things down.

    “What would happen if we removed this? What would break? We used the analogy that if your house was on fire and you could only take a few things, what would you take? This allows you to set aside elements that are not absolutely critical. In the end we cut the participant workbook in half. It's amazing how much cleaner and simpler you can make the learner experience using this approach.”
  2. Engagement is the second element critical to the design of any training program. Campbell explained that you need to create an emotional connection between the content and real work issues. As a case in point Campbell described how an exercise in The SLII Experience makes that connection.

    “Matching leadership style to the needs of a direct report is a key learning outcome for our program. Only 54% of leaders can successfully use more than one style. To emotionally cement that point we have participants in our SLII Experience class engage in a match-mismatch activity where they use only one leadership style with people who have four different leadership needs. Because they get a mismatch three out of four times, they experience this real sense of the potential downsides and inefficiency caused when matching doesn’t occur. It helps participants to see the positive side of being more situational and matching at a much more emotional level than just reading the statistic.”
  3. Third on Campbell’s list is the idea of “Learn fast, practice slow.” While the delivery of content is sped up in the new designs that Blanchard is creating, the time allowed for practice is increased and slowed down. That’s because understanding and doing are different. Not only is a new behavior uncomfortable at first, it may even seem to clash with your personal self-image, Campbell explains.

    “Most people have a comfort zone with the one leadership style they use most often. In my own case I like to be more of a supportive type of leader. Direction is tougher for me because I have a belief that people don't like being told what to do. “Our new design allows for extra time in the classroom so leaders can explore the material and make it their own. People are going to still be uncomfortable when they use it for the first time at work, but we help them see the value and get some experience in the classroom.”
  4. Campbell is a firm believer in creating Tools that support learning. Like other supporters of the performance support movement, he believes that learning tools and job aids work best when they are available close to and at the moment when they are needed. Campbell likes the metaphor of a fire extinguisher to explain this.

    “They put fire extinguishers next to the microwave and coffee machine. That’s where they are most likely to be needed. Where should you place your leadership support tools? Use the same principle.” For Campbell, this means reference tools that are online and mobile friendly, within easy reach when situational leaders need them.

    Tools also have to be designed with the idea that they're either temporary, to help a student develop self-reliance or referential, always being there when needed. Bicycle training wheels are a great example of a temporary tool to help develop a greater skill. Instructions for filling out your taxes are a more referential type of tool designed to be used every time you encounter the task. Both have their uses.
  5. Environment is the final design consideration according to Campbell. Showing a slide of a space capsule returning to Earth titled “Reentry Sucks” Campbell explained that applying new skills back on the job is a tough task even under the best of circumstances. Creating an environment that is conducive to practicing new skills learned in the classroom and actively rewarding application is crucial.

    That means creating an expectation up front that new skills are going to be monitored and evaluated. One way to signal this is by sharing early success stories and making sure that senior leaders are engaged in the process of catching early adopters doing things right.

    “Learners come back from training wondering whether to take the time to adopt or whether to wait and see if anyone else will. They need to see some signs of momentum when they return to convince them that adoption is worth the work.”

    Blanchard has pulled together its best practices for clients to build momentum and encourage adoption and shares this freely with its clients.

Could your training programs use a boost?

Training in today’s fast-paced business environment requires a consistent focus on creating engaging, high-impact designs that capture attention, provide content quickly, and allow people to practice slowly on their own terms to embed the learning. It also requires providing access to tools that make it easier to take first steps along with encouragement and support. Technology and the latest research into adult learning theory have opened up additional resources for instructional designers and training professionals. With a little planning, adherence to key principles, and a consistent application, it is now possible to develop programs that quickly and effectively build skills.

“Consider these five principles in the training you are developing,” encourages Campbell. “Focus on the learner experience and on behavior change back on the job, and you’ll find ways to create designs that engage and educate.”


Would you like to learn more about creating engaging learning designs? Then join us for a free webinar!

Leadership Training That Works: Mastering Five Key Design Principles

Thursday, November 21, 2013
9:00–10:00 a.m. Pacific, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00–6:00 p.m. UK and GMT

Adult learners are looking for engaging and effective experiences that provide information and skills needed at the point of impact. Senior executives in today’s organizations are looking to maximize the time and money they put into employee development programs. Training professionals stand at the crossroads and provide a leverage point.

Discover the things that you can do before, during, and after training to engage learners and improve the transfer of skills from the classroom to the work environment.

Join Jay Campbell, VP of Product Development at The Ken Blanchard Companies, as he shares the five principles of effective adult learning design and, specifically, how they can be applied in a corporate setting. Drawing on more than 20 years of experience designing engaging learning programs that work, Campbell will share

  1. How to design a “bold start” that captures learner attention
  2. How to simplify existing content by identifying essential concepts
  3. How to create and evaluate temporary and permanent tools that build skills
  4. How to transfer training from the classroom to the work environment through experiential activities and online follow-up

Learn how to create engaging learning experiences that build new skills in a fast, practical, and effective manner. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the impact design has on retention and application.

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