How about you be the best that you can be

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Another year coming to a close. What a year it’s been filled with highs and lows of all sorts! Was this a good year for you? How many goals did you cross off your list? Did you grow personally or professionally this year? These are all apt questions as we get through the frenzy of the holidays, approach a New Year and begin to take stock of the old. But, what if we abolished the cage of setting goals in the New Year and just focus on being the best that we can be at all times? Sometimes we place ourselves in restricting, impossible situations which only add undue anguish and stress to our lives.

I’ve often heard the expression that a career is a journey and not a sprint. There is nothing promised to anyone. Sometimes we work hard and get the desired results but other times, the results we seek are elusive. Either way, keep going! Continuous learning has proven to be the secret to being the best that you can be – growing personally and professionally. This puts the pressure off achieving everything all at once. I’ll use the analogy of starting to save. Let’s say your goal is to save $10,000 in three years. The thought of coming up with that lump sum all at once is pretty daunting but if you break it down into contributing $277 per month or $69.25 per week, it immediately becomes a more doable task. It’s the same with continuous learning – learn and improve as you go – a little adds up to a lot.

At times we may need to do a complete overhaul and go in a completely new direction in order to realize our goals. But, at other times, there are opportunities to build on the skills we already have. I strongly believe that no skill or experience is ever wasted. We can transfer existing knowledge and skills –  apply them to other disciplines, industries or job families.

Regardless of the date on the calendar, remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day and you can always hit the reset button at any time.  As morbid as it sounds, where there is life, there is hope. Strive to be the best that you can be!

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The move towards performance in the workplace

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The word performance has many connotations but I think we can all agree that it indicates that you need to do something. To perform is an action word. In our daily lives, we have a number of ways in which we perform – if you’re an actor/actress you’re on stage in front of a crowd hopefully an adoring one. For those of us who are not physically on a literal stage, the “stage” is our lives. Many of us play a number of roles in our personal lives – wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, friend etc. Each role requires a different performance. We are expected to do something pertaining to that role and do it well by producing a favourable result.

Let’s apply this same concept to the workplace. At work, you have a title, belong to a department or business unit, have a job description which reflects your title and outline your duties and responsibilities for that role. In short, you are expected to perform and produce results for your department and company.

Consider this scenario:

Simone works in the sales department for Would Rather Play Merchandise Company as a sales representative. She uses a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) called Salesforce. This is the main tool she uses as part of her daily duties. Although Simone is very familiar with Salesforce, at times she misses some key steps in the system whenever she completes a sale. The end result produces a transaction that is not complete. Simone has performance issues but how do we course correct? Is additional instruction the right solution for Simone?

Let’s analyze this situation a bit more. Salesforce is not a new technology for Simone as she’s been using it for some time. The problem is that she is not using it well. Additional instruction on the technology would be a waste of time. Another remedy would be more effective and efficient in this instance. A performance improvement remedy could be to provide a job aid for Simone for example a step-by-step procedure on how to use the technology. The guide is an easy point of reference that Simone can use to complete a transaction from start to finish. She can then fill in the gaps in her knowledge. Another remedy could be observation. A manager or a colleague could shadow Simone during a transaction to see what she’s doing wrong and provide guidance in real time.

Training is only one intervention in the performance improvement ecosystem. Depending on the problem, training may not be the best solution. It is the job of the Learning/Training & Development professional to analyze the situation and provide the most effective solution. At times the solution may call for a task redesign, more documentation or additional tools or equipment.

Organizations are moving away from throwing training at every issue and hoping for a quick fix. Continuous performance improvement allows the people resources of an organization to do things in a productive fashion using current knowledge, skills and abilities. Although instruction can be an effective intervention, it is only one of many tools available. Performance is encompassing and serves the purpose of continuous maintenance rather than having to do a complete makeover.

Objectives: A roadmap to training success

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Remember the days of the Perly’s map? Maybe, maybe not depending on your generation. This was way back in the day. Way before Google Maps or any sophisticated GPS device. I remember before we set out in the car, my grandfather would fish out his Perly’s from the glove compartment. He would spend a couple of minutes mapping out where he needed to go to ensure he arrived at his destination. There is nothing unusual about that. This is the step that any logical person would take. It defies reason that one would set out on a journey, having no idea how to get there and no plan.

Objectives play an important part in many facets of our lives – careers, life decisions etc. In the training world, objectives are equally necessary and important. They answer the question, what do you intend for the learner to achieve? A training program needs to have a set destination with checkpoints along the way. Objectives not only ensure that you arrive at your destination but also provides markers to assure you that you are on the right path.

There are generally two types of learning objectives: terminal and enabling. Terminal objectives describe the expected level of performance by the end of the training. Enabling objectives define the skills, knowledge or behaviours learners must reach in order to complete the training successfully. Both learner and facilitator benefit greatly from these guidelines. For the facilitator, objectives provide a framework for delivery. For the learner, he/she can readily identify the specific points they need to master.

Okay, so we have established that we need objectives in line with the intended outcomes.  Before you set pen to paper or in the digital world, fingers to keyboard, consider these three things:

  1. What should the learners be able to do?
  2. Under what conditions do you want the learners to perform?
  3. How well must the learners perform?

We can break these three questions further into three words: performance (behaviour), condition, criteria. One of the negative things about training programs is that they are ineffective and learners do not see value. The value begins with defining the goals and objectives. Equally, the effectiveness is achieved when the objectives are realized.

We all know the acronym SMART:

SPECIFIC
MEASUREABLE
ACHIEVABLE
REALISTIC
TIMELY

Objectives should be all of these things.

This is a good mnemonic to use as an aid. So, while charting the destination, ensure you are SMART about the journey.