The Vocation to Train

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Training wasn’t my first choice. I spent much of my youth collecting heroes and role models; Salvador Dalí featured prominently, so I pursued a life in the arts. I loved, and love creating and pursuing art. When it comes to Business Communication Training, I’m a legacy. My parents are excellent trainers. I also belong to a family of great educators and communicators. I mention this, because part of my adolescent rebellion was moving away from this world. Something changed in Mexico.

During my four years at Parsons, I would mostly spend September-May in New York and May-September in Caracas; where ERC, my parents’ company generously supplied me with summer work as a graphic designer for their training material. Early on, I approached my work with the ignorance and arrogance of youth.

The summer after my junior year, my father invited me to join him on a training trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. My job was to film participant videos and to assist him. He was delivering our presentation skills program. It was a two-day course. By the time we took a lunch break on day one, I was shocked. I had witnessed changes that I hadn’t expected to see at the end of the program, a quarter of the way through.

Education equips you with new lenses to observe the world. I remember that after one of my first drawing classes, I was never able to see the horizon the same way again. I always looked for the curving at the edges, observed what was above and below it and connected my fingers in L-shapes to frame what I saw. After Guadalajara, I observed my teachers, looking for their strategies to maintain focus and inspire action. How would they present? What role did anecdotes play? Would they show their own work or other artists’ work? Why? Drawings, quotes and notes on education were filling my sketchbooks.

I have worked full-time in training for 13 years. One of my favorite jobs is developing new colleagues; training trainers. My guiding philosophy is defined by a simple statement: It’s not about me. My success is defined by my participants’ experience and success.

Delivering training is an easy way to pad your ego. Great presentation skills, results and applause can go to your head. But, just like when you’re a presenter, the audience is the star (hat tip to Nancy Duarte) — when you’re a trainer each participant is the star.

Its wonderful when I see the vocation take hold in a new trainer’s eyes. I’m inspired by the skill, confidence, sensitivity and passion that I see in people who are prepared to change lives, through teaching new skills and giving participants new lenses to experience their world.

Communication in Times of Crisis

When countries are internally stable and economies are growing, most companies achieve their business goals. During these times, their teams are equipped to present products and services that are of interest to their clients. Their clients are more apt to buy because there is less risk, cost-cutting and fear to make a wrong decision. 

However, when a country is facing internal political, social and/or economic strife, when there is threat of recession, most companies and teams are not prepared to do business in these challenging environments. This is when the truly creative, innovative, brash and solid organizations survive and even thrive.

How does a company succeed during challenging times? Their leaders assess the situation honestly and focus on the opportunities. They create innovative strategies that differentiate their services from their competitors. They focus on benefits for their clients. And so importantly, they train their teams to communicate, sell, negotiate and succeed in these times of crises. They teach their key players, not only what to say, but how to say it, how to sell it and how to win. 

Yes, when others, in times of crisis are employing the myopic policies of cutting back, reducing and minimizing due to fear of losing, these innovative companies and leaders are investing intelligently with the sole goal of winning. That’s why you measure the quality of a company and its leadership, not when successful in times of bullish abundance, but when they prosper and succeed in times of crisis.

 

 

 

 

Uncertain Times Call for Confident Communication

We live in interesting times.

Our headlines read of scandal and corruption. Trust in leaders and businesses has deteriorated from finite to rare. So, how can we grow our businesses in the face of these odds?

Rebuilding trust is a long process that requires vision and discipline; it also requires clear, confident communication.

We believe that businesses communicate their vision through their people – all their people. Mass communication efforts are most effective when they also include a shift on a more human scale. Individual employees in conversation with clients and colleagues provide warmth and gravity to abstract messages.

To Craft Crisis Communication Messages:

  • Probe Audience/Counterpart for concerns
  • Summarize and play them back
  • Honestly acknowledge and lay out the current situation
  • Communicate your Company’s Changes and Solutions Specifically
  • Present a Realistic Timeline

We wish you success and growth in these interesting times.

Achieve Internal Training Goals

Welcome to the training business!

Amongst our clients, in industries ranging from pharmaceutical and biotech to media and high finance; developing powerful internal training is key. Across all sectors, training has become a core component of how businesses work.

Training builds new skills, empowers talent and reduces turnover. Internal training aligns individuals around common goals, with tools to achieve them.

As experienced trainers, we believe that most internal training efforts could be better:

  • Objectives are often unclear
  • Content is not properly tailored to specific audiences
  • Trainers are under-prepared as presenters, coaches and as models of the skills they are teaching

The presence of these three factors can lead to unmotivated participants and costly, underwhelming results.

Improving internal training requires discipline, cooperation and communication. Like most successful communication strategies, you need to begin by answering two fundamental questions:

  • What is my objective?
  • Who are my participants?

Answering these questions is important. They should be clear, declarative, necessary, specific and achievable. You are beginning with the end in mind:

“When this training ends I want my participants to…”

Once you answer your objective and participants questions, and your team agrees with them; discipline is key. Everybody in your organization has preferences, suggestions, ideas and interests – Some helpful, some hurtful.

Knowing which elements to incorporate is aided by embracing your objective and knowing your participants. Debates can become prolonged and sustained if you veer too far away from agreed-upon goals.

We understand that internal power dynamics often dictate the extraneous elements that are added to training. We have also seen good initiatives fail due to a lack of focus. Use your objective and participants as a filter for your own ideas and the suggestions of others.

When you design your exercises, try to make them as practical as possible. Also, try to train leaders and managers first, with tools to help sustain the learning.

One more thing, the role of the trainer is powerful. Trainers should be gifted communicators, with excellent presentation skills. They should also know that their role is that of a mentor, not a star. The participant is the star. Beware of trainers who shine more light on themselves than on their participants’ goals.

Need help achieving your internal training goals? Let us know. We will be happy to listen, understand and help you exceed expectations.


Welcome to the Training Business - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

From Business Book to Training Program (Part 1)

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.
— Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Five years ago, I embraced a challenge that changed my professional life.

I received a PowerPoint deck that our friend Andréa had presented to a Professional Women's association in Brazil. She shared stories and case studies that were at the heart of her book: Valor Feminino (Published in Portuguese – translates to "Female Value").

The deck was filled with interesting insights and detailed facts; but, it took me a few views to understand what the presentation was about.

My initial assignment was to redesign the presentation, so that she could deliver it in other venues. I had been doing a lot of this kind of work, taking an "okay" presentation and making it look better. This project required a different approach – This presentation wanted to be a training program.

Structuring the presentation like a course would support the publication of the book, empower the author and give actionable life lessons to the audience.

 

Step 1 – Active Listening

Listening to understand is not easy. It's a skill that requires curiosity, concentration and self control. It's difficult to turn off the part of your brain that wants to interrupt, add your two cents or make a proposal.

Listening leads to good work, by reducing the time and energy that is wasted in correcting misunderstandings, especially when they are revealed late in a project and require big changes.

We made listening and exploring Andréa's needs for her program a team effort. We knew we had to align our results to her goals.

We used verbal probes to align our efforts to:

  • Her Objective: Share powerful tools for Brazilian women to succeed in business
  • Her Audience: Brazilian women

This meant boiling the message, the case studies and the stories to specific skills that she could teach and that they could make a part of their lives.

 

We will publish part two of "Turning your Business Book into a Training Program" Wednesday, May 20.

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