Archives for August 2014

‘Quick Learning Modules’ Train as Fast as Technology Changes

As technology advances, the world becomes more globalized and attention spans shrink. Learning and development leaders have to find new ways to keep up. One of the more effective methods on the market today is quick learning modules (QLMs).

Derived from the Sharable Content Object Resource Model, or SCORM, QLMs are short e-learning sessions on a focused topic that can stand alone, as well as make up part of a more comprehensive course. While they can be short like the bite-size pieces learning leaders have been using for years, QLMs tend to be more complete modules that run between 10 and 20 minutes.

This makes them the perfect solution to span the gap between more traditional long form courses and micro-learning knowledge chunks.

They are especially effective as part of a blended learning program. For example, Cisco often uses QLMs as reinforcement for its internal events such as a meeting to announce a variety of security enhancements. In this scenario, the company is able to publish a short recap within a week or two that is comprehensive enough to provide people who could not attend the original event with a solid overview of what was discussed.

QLMs can be developed quickly and be completed in a matter of days or weeks. Because they are so short, the review cycles are usually less complicated as well, which makes it easier to track project progress than traditional training programs that can take a year or more to develop. This makes them perfect for SaaS companies that work in short sprints and allows learning leaders to make their course development strategies more agile.

Breaking a comprehensive learning program into a series of QLMs by terminal learning objectives makes it easier to update as things change down the line. Rather than redoing the entire course, one can simply update the module that was affected by the change. This way leaders can incorporate updates as needed and avoid creating learning programs that are out of date before they are even published. Plus, learners can take the modules one at a time or all at once depending on their schedule.

Despite the proliferation of smartphones and tablets — Gartner estimates that more than 54 million employees are involved in some form of remote work — most traditional e-learning courses are not easily accessible via mobile devices. The good news is most QLMs are created as video on-demand, which are by nature mobile friendly. Simply upload the module to Vimeo or YouTube, or convert it to an MP4 and add it to a proprietary site, and share the link. Then, employees can access them remotely at will.

For example, a sales rep may pull into a parking lot a few minutes early and review a QLM about the sales strategy or technology updates on a smartphone to brush up on talking points or value propositions before a meeting. Better yet, by adding narrated text to the training module, the rep can listen to it during the time spent driving to the sales call.

There are also several tools on the market, such as MobilePaks, to make these modules interactive and boost engagement through widgets such as knowledge checks and flash cards. Naturally, managers would want to discourage sales reps from using these while driving, but they can be great for the waiting room or public transportation.

QLMs also can help leaders communicate with diverse staff. By using templates and shells it’s easier and more cost-effective to translate learning into multiple languages. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure learning is not too U.S. centric. Avoid slang or idiomatic expressions and images or concepts that cannot be accurately adapted to multiple cultures and beliefs.
  2. Be clear, concise and consistent. Write the source content at a sixth- to eighth-grade level, use active voice and eliminate the verb “to be” as much as possible.
  3. Make room for text expansion. Text often expands or contracts quite a bit when it is translated, so don’t embed it in images. Also, cut up audio files into chunks for each individual slide to make room for longer narration.
  4. Keep narrators to a minimum. The more voiceover actors required to perform narration, the more time consuming and expensive it is to translate it.

When done correctly, QLMs are a great way to get learning programs out to a global, mobile workforce fast and boost knowledge retention.

A Match Made in Heaven: Performance Support and Mobile

Implementing training that actually drives skill and performance gains is a daunting challenge for any manager. Yet even if you do that initial dose of training well, it is the period after the training when employees are most in need of support. This is borne out by myriad research studies, which tell us that learners will not retain anywhere near all of that first dose of training.

Supporting application where it counts

Much of the challenge to refreshing training concepts has to do with logistical constraints and the vast amount of time required to make this happen. One way that some companies approach this refresher problem is to have their managers go through training that enables them to serve as in-the-field coaches who reinforce core training principles.

And while this approach certainly has its uses, it cannot directly support employees at the very moment of need, such as when a salesperson needs to recall a key part of their sales process or the details of a product offering.

So what cannot be done by training is, at that point, made possible by performance support (PS) embedded in the learner’s workflow. In other words, well-developed PS tools should facilitate or streamline completion of a task or procedure, while also elevating the quality of task execution.

As the term suggests, performance support helps the employee perform at the very moment he or she needs it. That said, well-designed PS enables organizations to literally drive higher performance every day.

The 5 Key Moments of Need

So when and where should companies implement PS? What are those key moments of need? Well-known performance support expert Conrad Gottfredson has developed a framework that delineates five key moments of need.

1. When learning something for the first time

2. When seeking to learn more about something

3. When trying to apply or remember something or adapt performance to a unique situation

4. When attempting to solve a problem or deal with something that has gone wrong

5. When something changes that requires a change in how work gets done

So while it’s become a given that well-crafted performance support is central to honing the quality of skills and execution, what’s the best way to embed it into the employee workflow? More and more frequently, the answer is mobile-learning technology. With escalating adoption rates for mobile-learning technology in the corporate world, we may well have an important mechanism for resolving learning and skill-mastery challenges.

Mobile Devices + Performance Support

With that as a backdrop, allow me to make a case that performance support and mobile devices may truly be a match made in heaven.

Here are five reasons to support my claim.

1. Moment of Need

Mobile devices may have become the first devices or tools (maybe other than a watch and a pen) that nearly everyone owns and carries virtually all of the time (awake and at work). The ubiquity of mobile devices in itself addresses much of the challenge, as it ensures a delivery channel whenever and wherever performance support is needed.

2. Real-time

While having a device with the capacity to deliver PS is critical, the device itself doesn’t do enough. The actual value is in the ability of the device to access information or people that can provide help at that moment of need.

Of course, the limiting factor here can be connectivity. While access to key data clearly has value, there may be times when Internet access to a central Internet server is not available. If the data is only available online, and the mobile device cannot connect to the Internet, then the device is worthless. There needs to be a Help function in place for such situations—a way to bridge the PS gap. This brings us to the third reason.

3. Offline storage

Mobile devices are not just channels to access information; they are, in their own way, powerful computing devices and their power seems to be increasing daily. This means that it is possible to store information on the device for use even when the device is not connected to the Internet. So, theoretically speaking, someone on a field-service call at 3 a.m. in a remote area would still be able to fix a customer’s problem by accessing a short video or trouble-shooting guide stored on the technician’s mobile device.

This is a rather mind-blowing concept. It’s the very essence of true performance support—enabling the employee to solve a problem quickly and effectively. Not to mention the resulting boost to customer retention and reputation.

4. Videos

A post published on the Upside Learning blog in late 2012 (“The Return Of Video To eLearning”) highlights the reality of a sharp increase in popularity and use of videos in eLearning and mLearning for performance support. The power of video (typically two-to-three minutes in duration) provides benefit whether the user is online or offline, which clearly provides a nice value added in scenarios where connectivity is a big concern. Plus it is an excellent way to leverage mobile devices for performance support.

5. Responsive design

In a way, responsive design, where the software automatically senses and adapts to the display device, is the savior in all of this. The other method of developing performance support tools for mobile devices is to develop native apps for a mobile platform. The presence in the user pool of three to four such platforms, and the uncertainty created by the bring-your-own-device (B.Y.O.D.) trend, makes the conversion of content to native mobile apps potentially costly and time consuming.

In addition, in the long run it can also be a challenge to maintain and update content. Responsive design saves the day by removing the need to repeatedly develop content in support of yet another mobile device type, while retaining the benefits of mobile device delivery. It also gives companies a relatively cost-effective way to quickly adapt existing tools and informational material for mobile performance support without reinventing the wheel for each and every mobile device.

The “perfect couple”

The need for performance support has definitely not been the driving force behind the ascent of mobile-learning technology. It has been the other way around—a kind of silver lining if you will. The capabilities of mobile devices are definitely ensuring that providing performance support to employees when they need it and in real-time (rapid response time) is easily possible and affordable.

Performance support and mobile certainly seem like the perfect couple…wouldn’t you agree?

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Do the Math: The ACA Means Correct Counting

It’s eight months into 2014. Do you know how many employees you have? If you don’t, it could soon cost you.

Employers who have not accurately counted the number and type of employees within their organization by Jan. 1, 2015, could end up with unnecessary expenditures as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The legislation states that all businesses with more than 50 full-time-equivalent employees must provide health insurance to their full-time employees or pay a maximum penalty of $3,000 per employee who is not offered coverage and instead seeks it on the public exchanges.

Pop quiz: What’s a full-time equivalent employee?

Don’t fret if the answer didn’t immediately come to mind. Questions like this are still stumping employers nationwide. Add the government’s recent decision to defer the compliance deadline for companies with between 50 and 99 employees until Jan. 1, 2016, and the potential value of getting the correct count only increases.

Before diving into the 1,000-page document for the answer, try this two-test approach instead.

The first test determines the number of full-time-equivalent employees. Begin by selecting a measurement period in 2014. According to the employer mandate, this period can be between three and 12 months in length.

“A good rule of thumb is that a full-time employee equals two part-time employees,” said Dorothy Miraglia, the vice president of benefits at Engage PEO, an HR payroll and benefits company.

Those preferring long math can add up the hours worked by the part-time employees and divide that number by 130, which is the number of hours a full-time employee works in a month, said Andrew Molloy, an assistant vice president at Unum Group. Add this number to the total number of full-time employees who work 30 or more hours a week. This value is the company’s total number of FTEs.

The legislation states that if the number is between 50 and 99, the company isn’t required to provide health insurance until Jan. 1, 2016. If the company has 100 or more, coverage must be provided by Jan. 1, 2015.

The second test determines which employees must be offered coverage. Simply, only those employees who work 30 or more hours a week qualify for coverage.

About the Author:

Sarah Sipek is a Workforce associate editor. Reprinted from

Once Upon a Time in Training: Stories Bring Lessons to Life

Understanding principles in an employee handbook or an e-learning program can be difficult, but not because the content is hard. It’s difficult because it’s boring and detached from employees’ day-to-day lives. Some companies are finding storytelling can bring to life learning content that now exists only on the page or screen. Others use it to recognize employees, to communicate the company’s values and initiatives to employees and customers, or to develop emerging leaders.

To make storytelling an integral part of your corporate culture, you first must guide trainers and managers to weave a tale that achieves its learning goals.

Leaders Telling  (Truthful) Stories

Sprint uses storytelling to train its next generation of leaders, says Wendy Savlin, manager, Leadership Development, Sprint. As part of a leadership development program in 2013, 150 Sprint leaders spent one full day learning about and practicing storytelling in small groups. Participants in this leadership program since have been able to put the lessons on storytelling to use with clients.

When 50 executives attended the company’s recent Executive Leadership Program, which targets high-potential executives, Sprint partnered with Duke CE to offer innovative training on storytelling using actors to teach important skills. “One participant used storytelling more frequently with his team and reported higher satisfaction and less turnover,” says Savlin. “He also added storytelling to his public speeches and believes his stories helped get his message across more effectively. He has been invited to speak at conferences worldwide and credits the storytelling as a big reason.”

Another Sprint executive who attended the Executive Leadership Program had an unhappy client. “After attending the program and learning about storytelling, he called his team together and challenged them to create a story of success,” says Savlin. “They had some seemingly impossible happy endings. By starting with the story, the team was able to take their problem solving to a new level and implement one of those difficult solutions. Instead of losing an unhappy customer, the storytelling team created a surprised and happy customer.”

On a larger scale, Sprint uses storytelling as a way to share a positive corporate culture. “At Sprint, we use storytelling to help employees feel a sense of community with one another. Whether it is sharing the story about an employee who is a professional female football player or a health and well-being success story, we look for opportunities that allow employees to share their story with their Sprint colleagues across the country,” says Jennifer Schuler, manager, Communications. “These employees often get a lot of positive response directly from employees near and far, and at the same time, it helps create cultural bonds for employees who are located many miles away from one another and may perform very different functions for the company.”

It’s ‘Emotional Transportation’

“Storytelling is important because stories are emotional transportation,” says Diana Oreck, vice president, Leadership Center, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. “It is a fantastic way to make an emotional connection with employees. Storytelling captures peoples’ imagination because stories add color to the facts.”

Stories often are remembered more often and more accurately than straight facts, Oreck notes. “At The Ritz-Carlton, we have a process we call The Daily Line-Up. This is how 40,000 ladies and gentlemen (staff members) around the world align back to The Ritz-Carlton culture 365 days a year. On Mondays and Fridays, we share ‘WOW’ stories. These stories recount random acts of kindness by our ladies and gentlemen around the world. They are meant to inspire and motivate other employees to emulate kindness, and they do! You cannot teach discretionary effort in a classroom.”

Oreck says storytelling in training works best if it is participatory, rather than presented solely by the trainer or facilitator. “The manager should tell his or her story first and then say: “It would be very meaningful if someone else would share a story of their own,’” she suggests. Oreck also says it helps to know your audience. “If you have an inkling that you might offend anyone, do not go there because stories can backfire. If your topic could be controversial and is edgy, practice on people first,” she says.

With those precautions in mind, Oreck says you can weave in popular media to aid your storytelling. “We try and use movie clips or YouTube videos whenever possible to highlight a point. If you can make people laugh or cry through stories, you will effectively get your point across and the learning objective will be remembered,” she says.

Every high-performing organization should have its own “WOW” stories of kindness and stellar service shown to customers or clients. Make use of these stories by passing them along, advises Oreck. “Companies that do not have a formalized mechanism to capture the random acts of kindness of their employees should think about implementing one,” she says. “One of the most effective ways to further engage employees is to recount a positive story about them in front of their peers. That type of recognition is a wonderful psychological pick-me-up.”

Companies that could use help getting started in storytelling can get it from Ritz-Carlton this year. This summer, the company’s Leadership Center, which is open to the public, is asking for its clients’ success stories. “We are asking our clients to submit a customer service WOW story from their company once a month,” says Oreck. “We will vote on the story, and if the client agrees, it will be featured on our Gold Minds blog.”

High-Tech Anthropology

At some companies, such as custom software developer Menlo Innovations, storytelling isn’t just a training device or tool—it’s endemic to the culture. The company’s storytelling is so ingrained in its culture that one of the co-founders, Richard Sheridan, is not just the “CEO” but also the “Chief Storyteller.” Sheridan says employees should be skilled not only in passing along the company’s overall story, but their individual stories to customers or clients.

“The best way to build storytelling capacity and take advantage of the positive benefits of a storytelling culture, is not only to teach the team to speak the company stories in the voice of the Chief Storyteller, but to capture their own voice,” says Sheridan. “This builds authentic leadership capacity as a person’s voice gives insight into the character and the heart of the storyteller. It’s magical. I delight in hearing Menlonians tell my stories in their voice from their perspective. None of the stories we tell— including mine—are 100 percent accurate as they are told from our own vantage point. By hearing the same story from different vantage points, we get a truer picture of our shared belief system.”

Menlo even uses the art of storytelling to help it educate new customers about what the company could do for them.

“Given what we do for a living—designing and developing custom software systems—story collecting and storytelling is an integral part of the practice we call High-Tech Anthropology. Menlo’s High-Tech Anthropologists’ work is to collect stories about the potential users of the software we are designing and retell these stories to our customers,” says Sheridan. “Unlike the boring, templated documents and mind-numbing PowerPoints used by typical analyst teams, our High-Tech Anthropology storytelling events during client Show & Tells draw the client’s minds and hearts into our work. The conversations that result are richer and more passionate, and, ultimately, produce better value in a more compelling and useful design that everyone believes in.”

Storytelling Via Video

Hildebrand Creative has found storytelling videos to be an effective way to help clients communicate corporate initiatives to its various departments, says company founder Dennis Hildebrand. “JP Morgan was building a new mortgage center in California to support its efforts to build its mortgage business. We spent two days in the Illinois mortgage center and produced 10 videos, one for each of the 10 departments that touches a JP Morgan mortgage,” says Hildebrand. “Each video interviewed those in each department to build a story on what the department does for the mortgage process and how each department is critical to a positive and successful client experience.”

Hildebrand points to another example in which Illinois State University needed better insight into the minds and daily workings of angel investors for its entrepreneurial students enrolled in the university’s Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Hildebrand Creative interviewed three Chicago-based angel investors on three primary areas to start the video program: The Approach, The Presentation, and The Relationship. The success of the series has generated interest in building out the video storytelling series into an ongoing program for the center, Hildebrand says.

In addition, new managers can be brought more in touch with the meaning behind their new jobs through storytelling videos, Hildebrand believes.

“Our best success with using storytelling in manager training involved a two-year contract with HP’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department. We were involved in remote training managers from around the world via online training and conference calls on how to develop and build their own stories of how they, as HP employees, were contributing around the globe for social good. After training the managers to gather and construct their own assets and write and record their own scripts, all assets were uploaded to an online project management system, and we virtually produced their video storytelling series that played internally within HP to promote the company’s CSR efforts around the globe.”

Hildebrand says such videos then can be uploaded to sites such as YouTube and Vimeo for greater use. “Stories of real people throughout the organization can be shared instantly throughout the company, and used effectively in management presentations inside and outside the organization.”

Storytelling: A Teachable Art

If your company’s managers don’t seem creative, there is still hope that you will be able to nurture them into storytellers. It comes naturally to some, but many others who become proficient storytellers have to work at it. “Storytelling may not come easily to everyone. Some will need to work harder at it than others, but everyone has the capability and capacity to be a good storyteller,” says Melissa Starinsky, chancellor of the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy. “Passion, patience, creativity, personal disclosure, humor, theatrics, spontaneity, and relevance/context are often critical elements of storytelling.”

Learning to share both good and bad experiences without fear of being judged is a good first step for those for whom storytelling doesn’t come naturally, Starinsky says. “Managers and employees who feel they are able to freely share without retribution or being judged are more likely to be honest so the richness of the learning experience can be optimized. While we all must and should be held accountable, it is critical that managers, leaders, and all employees show respect toward one another and never use the exposed vulnerability to harm another. Doing so will halt any kind of disciplined and deliberate storytelling effort from ever getting any traction,” she notes.

Part of the trick, Starinsky says, is learning how to generate discussion of others’ stories, so the manager isn’t alone in the storytelling process. People generally want the opportunity to share, so managers should create an environment where this is possible.

“In meetings, the manager can ask, ‘Does anyone have a similar story they’d like to share or has anything like this ever happened to any of you?’ A manager also could pose the question along the lines of: ‘I’m really struggling with how to deal with this issue. Does anyone have any prior experience on something similar to this that you successfully navigated that you could share?’” she suggests. “Recalling the element of interactivity to effective storytelling, the manager and employees should participate by asking probing questions to better understand context and promote a healthy dialogue.”

Reprinted from Training Magazine

Taking the Sting Out of Feedback

We all can recall a time that a partner, family member, friend, or colleague gave us some well-intended feedback that seemed to really hurt. Most of the time, the intention of feedback is to convey a perception others have of us. In many cases, it is a direct or indirect request for us to change our behavior.

Research points out just how powerful both positive and negative feedback can be. New research about the neurobiology of feedback gives us important clues about why feedback sometimes can do more harm than good, how much positive-to-negative feedback we receive becomes the “tipping point” to the discomfort we feel, and how we can frame information to others in a way to possibly minimize defensiveness and increase their acceptance of the feedback.

Mental and Physical Effects

Feedback is one important factor in defining the quality of our relationships both at home and at work. Current research suggests that strong relationships with one’s partner, family members, co-workers, boss, and friends are significantly associated with several important emotional and health outcomes, including:

  • enhanced immunity, measured by natural killer cells and IL-6 cytokines
  • less burnout
  • decreased depression
  • less inflammation, measured by C-reactive protein
  • enhanced job satisfaction and engagement
  • less physical illness during life, based on meta-analytics reviews of more than 148 studies
  • greater longevity, based on a 20-year longitudinal study.

Newer neuroscience research sheds some interesting light on why negative feedback is potentially emotionally harmful. In general, stressors that induce a greater social-evaluative threat elicit significantly larger cortisol and ambulatory blood pressure responses. These social stressors result in the “fight or flight” stress hormone called cortisol elevating three times higher than noninterpersonal stressors, and it takes 50 percent longer for this important regulatory hormone to go back to its baseline state.

Interestingly, women apparently have a secondary biological stress reaction labeled by Shelley Taylor, a prominent social psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, as the “tend and befriend” response. Taylor’s research, and those of others, suggests that women under stress are more likely to express emotions and behaviors consistent with nurturing, care taking, sensitivity, and bonding.

This secondary stress response appears to be largely due to a reproductive hormone called oxytocin (the “pro-social” or “cuddle” hormone). Recent findings by social economist Paul Zak, from Claremont University, and others, have shown that oxytocin plays an important role in facilitating trust and collaboration with others and might be a marker for those who lack basic warmth and empathy (for example, sociopaths) as well as even being a possible short-term treatment approach for some of the autistic spectrum disorders.

Physiological effects

It seems that emotional and physical pain follow the same physiological pathways in our brain and can both lead to the same outcomes of depression, inflammation, and fatigue. In a study by Naomi Eisenberger and colleagues at UCLA, she was able to use the latest technology to peer into the inner workings of our brain called functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) while participants were involved in a social exercise designed to provoke feelings of social isolation and rejection.

Comparison of fMRI brain activity revealed that social evaluation and rejection tend to evoke the same neural pathways as those associated with physical pain. Indeed, a “broken heart” might be an apt description of how our brain treats rejection, bullying, and social evaluation.

In one of the most cited review studies on performance feedback, Avraham N. Kluger and Angelo DeNisi analyzed more than 600 effect sizes and found that there was a significant effect for feedback interventions. However, in 33 percent of all studies, performance declined.

Although the authors speculated about many reasons why performance feedback led to worse performance on the job, they seemed to suggest that in most cases it leads to individuals feeling hurt, demotivated, and emotionally upset.

If Eisenberger and her colleagues are correct, it would appear that prolonged negative feedback, in some cases, might be potentially harmful to your health.

Emotional effects

Everyone has experienced physical pain, and one of the first things we often do is take a pain reliever such as aspirin or acetaminophen. But physical pain isn’t the only kind of pain we might experience. Our feelings also can be hurt from feeling slighted, having our ideas rejected, or even being given feedback we experience as judgmental and evaluative.

C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky and his colleagues wondered whether acetaminophen, which acts on the central nervous system, could blunt social pain, too. In several experiments, healthy college students were randomly assigned to take acetaminophen or a placebo twice a day for three weeks. Those who took acetaminophen reported experiencing significantly fewer hurt feelings in their overall reporting of social interactions they had with others.

Those who had taken the acetaminophen exhibited significantly less neural activity in areas of the brain previously associated with experiencing social and physical pain when other players stopped tossing the ball to the subject who still reported social stress from being left out and rejected.

These studies help to validate that physical hurt and social pain are strongly linked. However, just how much constructive criticism or perceived negative feedback is harmful to our mental and physical health?

The Tipping Point

Is there a ratio of positive-to-negative communications, interactions, and behaviors that predicts individual health, longevity, performance, relationship success, and even how effectively a team performs? Across different disciplines, researchers continue to find an interesting relationship between positive-to-negative expressions of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that do seem to predict things as diverse as how long we will live to how effectively teams function and produce great results.

Here are a few examples:

Longevity in life. In a 2001 study, developmental psychologist Deborah Danner and colleagues from the University of Kentucky analyzed and scored for emotional content the one-page handwritten autobiographies from 180 Catholic nuns that were composed when they were a mean age of 22 years old. The study revealed that the nuns whose autobiographies contained the most sentences expressing positive emotions lived an average of seven years longer than nuns whose stories contained the fewest.

Positive feedback. In a 2004 study by James Smither and colleagues, researchers analyzed the impact of upward feedback ratings and narrative comments for 176 managers during a one-year period. They found that those who received a small number of unfavorable, behaviorally-based comments improved more than other managers, but those who received a large number (relative to positive comments) significantly declined in performance more than other managers.

Marriage/relationship longevity. John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, followed 700 couples for 10 years and found that when there was less than a five-to-one positive-to-negative ratio in a videotaped interaction of 15 minutes, it predicted subsequent divorce with a high level of accuracy (81 percent to 94 percent).

Psychological well-being/life satisfaction. University of Michigan researcher and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson examined students’ month-long diaries, and the positive-to-negative ratio of emotions seemed to differentiate those who were languishing from those who were high in psychological well-being. She found that students who expressed a ratio of three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction and overall happiness than the other students.

Although some current research has questioned the appropriateness of the original mathematical models used in earlier studies on positive-to-negative ratio, it still appears that the secret to individual and team health and productivity might be as simple as accentuating the positive-to-negative ratio of emotions and behaviors and being aware of when our own self-talk and expressions seem tilted in the wrong direction.

3 Feedback Techniques

We all know that some feedback techniques and approaches seemingly work better than others. When delivered and received well, most people perceive feedback as it is intended to be—constructive, useful, and helpful.

Three techniques that have a higher success rate in practice include feedforward, DESC, and give-get-merge-go.

1) Feedforward. Would you be open if a trusted partner or individual you knew offered you specific tips to help you be more successful in the future? Of course you would, and this is the concept behind what coach guru Marshall Goldsmith termed as feedforward.

An example might sound like this: Next time you are in a staff meeting, you can be even more effective in getting everyone to participate by directly asking for the opinion of others without trying to provide more rationale or logic to why your approach is the best way to go.

This feedforward method of communicating with others tends to diminish defensive reactions and increase the likelihood the other person will be receptive to your constructive comments and suggestions for improving in future situations and interactions.

2) DESC. The DESC feedback technique—describe, express, specify, consequences—is a simple and powerful way to express to others what you would like them to do more, less, or differently to maximize your relationship or improve the work they are doing. This technique works best with people who you have some emotional currency with and who are likely to care about your feelings and requests.

With practice, you can use this technique to get out on the table what you have observed and would like others to do to change their behavior. Write out four brief sentences, mentally rehearse them, and attempt to get them all expressed to begin a longer conversation with others.

First describe the perceived behavior of others. Use an “I” statement (not “We all noticed that…”); focus on only one behavior that is important to you; refer to a behavior that is fairly recent; practice using words that are nonevaluative (for example, avoid using always or never); and don’t mention personality or style.

Next, express how the behavior of others makes you feel. Share either a positive or negative emotion that their behavior caused for you.

Specify the one thing you would like the other person to do more, less, or differently, or stop or start doing. Prioritize only one behavior that is most important to you, and make sure to be as specific and concrete as possible.

Finally, share the consequences of their behavior change. Start first with the positive benefits for you. If this conversation is not the first time you have raised this issue or asked for the behavior to change, shift to consequences that might be perceived to be more negative. Make sure that the consequence you share is one you are willing to back up and act on.

3) Give-get-merge-go. This technique is a great way to assert and express your ideas and opinons and be seen as involvement-oriented and participative with others. The sequence of feedback steps is important:

  • Give your point of view. Don’t ask others for their ideas and opinions first—assert your own ideas and suggestions in this first step.
  • Get their point of view by actively soliciting their reaction to your idea, suggestion, or proposal. For example, “What reactions do you have to my suggestion?”
  • Merge their suggestion with yours, but first paraphrase to make sure you completely understood their point of view and alignment with your own thoughts and suggestions. For example, “If I understand what you are suggesting, it is …”
  • Go ahead and summarize where you both agree and then where you disagree to clarify what else you need to discuss further.

Even if you “agree to disagree,” the interaction typically will be seen as less confrontational and in the spirit of seeking a win-win solution.

Successful Behavior Change

Feedback, when perceived critically, does seem to negatively affect both individual and team effectiveness and health. Yet, feedback is a necessary condition of successful behavior change. When possible, try to use feedforward to minimize defensiveness and increase acceptance to look for ways to grow and learn.

If you do need to ask others to change their behavior and provide them with constructive criticism, consider using either the DESC or give-get-merge-go technique to leverage your results. There is no guarantee that these feedback techniques will always work perfectly, but they just might take the pain out of your interpersonal interactions.

About the Author:

Kenneth Nowack, PhD, is a licensed psychologist, president, and research director at Envisia Learning, Inc. He is a guest lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and member of Dan Goleman’s Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. He is co-author of Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It (2011).

Reprinted from TD Magazine


“Best Practices for Incorporating Multimedia in Webinars with Ken Molay” (On Demand Webinar)


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Webinar content can be so much more than PowerPoint slides and narration. Have you considered adding live video, prerecorded content, audio clips, web interactions, quizzes, or interactive exercises to your webinars? Multimedia content can improve attention and engagement from your attendees, but only if you use it carefully and correctly.

Watch this 60-minute webinar and you will learn best practices for incorporating multimedia components in your webinars. You will gain valuable tips such as:

1.            Ways that multimedia can increase or inhibit interaction and engagement

2.            Techniques for smoothly integrating recorded content into your live presentation

3.            How to avoid making the most common and annoying webcam mistake

4.            What technical factors you need to be aware of before adding multimedia

5.            Fair use considerations for referencing publicly-posted contentKen Molay

The session was led by Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success and a recognized expert in webinar production and presentation. Ken shares tips and tricks gleaned from 15 years of webinar experience, with plenty of practical examples for webinar administrators, moderators, and speakers.

Listen to the questions that attendees asked during the presentation and Ken’s insightful answers.  Don’t miss this opportunity to discover new ways to enhance your webinars and make them more attractive and memorable to your target audiences.


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