Rah! Rah! Rah! Training is more like cheerleading than coaching

I wrote this post for InSync Training’s blog. It posted July 25th. Woo hoo! Check out the great stuff they have to offer.


Some folks talk about training as “coaching”. I think they have the metaphor wrong. Coaching means developing skills within a team by repetitive drilling and motivating them using a combination of respect and fear. Real training is nothing like that. Real training is more like cheerleading than coaching.

Engage the players (students)

So I’m standing in a conference room with my trusty slide deck and handouts, looking out at the other folks in the room for my training. My position looks like it’s up front but really I’m on the sidelines. The real action will be with those students.

The students are the real players, the real action in the game. The students are going to make or break the training. If they’re tired or bored, they won’t engage and they won’t learn. We don’t have a lot of time here and this training session is costing the company a boatload. When you count up all the hours of preparation, then the total hours for all the bodies here in the room, then measure the slow climb up the learning curve for the students, you know there’s a lot riding on this training. These students are going to make the difference in whether the investment will pay off. I know I’ve got to engage them in the short time we have together.

So we start off with an icebreaker, the part of the game when the team leaves the field house and comes running on to the field. And I’m cheering like crazy, trying to call the players by name and praising their ability to answer the icebreaker quiz questions. It’s exhausting but it pays off bigly if the students are energized and engaged by the interaction.

Then we start training the content. My favorite training sessions are the ones where we all work together, ditching the PowerPoint slides for real hands-on learning. First I give a short demo, then the real players do their magic. I shout “Hit ’em again, hit ’em again! Harder! Harder!” and they do. If I’ve done my job, the process is easy once you know how. The students pick up the skill and the underlying technology or the system it runs on. They carry the ball down the field. “This isn’t so hard. I can do this on my own next time.”

The last part of the session will tell how well we’ve done. We review what we learned, review expectations and collect feedback from the training. If things went well, the feedback will be upbeat and energizing. If things didn’t go well, the team will wander back to the locker room and leave the champagne corked for another time. Negative feedback is sometimes tough to hear but it does let us know how to make the next session better.

But let’s go back to what happens when we win. At the end of the winning game successful training, the players leave the room feeling like winners. They have learned some new skills and have confidence they can do it on their own, and maybe even show the new skills to their coworkers.

Engage the crowd (user community)

Another function of cheerleaders is to engage the crowd and get them cheering. In the training world, this means inspiring the user community so that they will see the trainees as rising system experts. The more that the user community recognizes local system experts, the less work for you as the trainer. Everyone prefers asking a coworker for help over having to search for an answer in the online help or opening a customer support ticket. If you can get the user community to see each other as the system experts, you will have fewer questions to answer and fewer customer support calls to take. It’s a win for the home team and a big win for you.

When the cheering stops

After the game, when the team and spectators have gone home, we celebrate the win or mourn the loss. If we’ve done a good job, the whole organization benefits. The students go back to work confidently using the system to accomplish their goals. Their goals are not to be a great system user. Their goals are to be a great doctor, lawyer, or indian chief who happens to use the system. They become great clients, providers, and colleagues. They make the world a better place, thanks to you and your effective training.

Let’s cheer about that!

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Summit Sketch Notes by Elizabeth Alley

This is one in a series posted in the STC Notebook blog of sketch notes taken at the 2017 Summit by STC Senior Member Elizabeth Alley. I am super tickled that Elizabeth included my session in her sketches and I’m even more delighted that it was posted in the Notebook. It could have a lot to do with the fact that I’m sharing the slot with #TechComm legend, Leah Guren.

Relive the magic of the Summit in a unique and dynamic way through Elizabeth’s sketches! You can see more of Elizabeth’s work at elizabethalley.com.

You can see more about this presentation and review the slides in this post.

Here’s that amazing sketch:
OnTrackSketches

On track! Running an effective meeting is more than the agenda – Summit version

Here’s me adulting at #STC17.

I had a blast, mostly because the attendees to my spotlight talk were so smart and engaging. I talked about a pretty dry subject, meeting management, and how to make your meetings go better by collecting expectations and gathering feedback. Thanks everyone for being such a great crowd.

Here are my slides.

Yeah, we all know meetings are a necessary evil. Managing them better can build a stronger team that gets more done in less time.

#STC16 – From Fred Flintstone to George Jetson: Creating Tension in Training Increases Adoption

The objective of a good training program is adoption and excellent field execution. This presentation is about how to use a combination of traditional training deliverables and old school psychology to gain user buy-in and achieve a successful launch. We’ll talk about how my company uses cartoons and countdowns to ensure that users seek out training and have a stake in adoption and field execution excellence.  

Whether we create video, user assistance, classroom training, or documentation, what we really want is a group of folks who use the product to do an excellent job with little or no effort and make no mistakes. Creating good training is less about the deliverable and more about building the right relationship.

Here are the slides from my presentation for #STC16 about a project that went really well.

Many thanks to Rachel Houghton for catching a photo of me #adulting.

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#STC16 – The Lightning Talks – You stink at email: Why spend time writing something nobody wants to read?

This lightning talk will take a look at business email and our bad habits that ensure deletion.
And then we’ll talk about Christy.

Here’s some video and my slides for the lightning talk at #STC16. Many thanks to Rachel Houghton for capturing this and the other lightning talks on youTube.

You stink at email: Why spend time writing something nobody wants to read?

Leadership: the best in us, Sunday, May 15, 2016

Don’t let the fancy name fool you. The Leadership Program is free and open to all STC members, whether they are officially in community leadership or not. So whether you just signed up yesterday, or are an elected officer in several communities, the Leadership Program is for you. And it’s free.

Communication Rising

If you’re attending Summit 2016, the STC International Conference, you’ll once again have a chance to attend the Leadership Program. This Sunday-morning event is filled with informative presentations and discussions about what it means to lead an STC community, suggestions for tools and processes to build stronger leadership, and recognition of dedicated volunteers.

The Leadership program is NOT just for those who are currently chapter or SIG leaders, though — it is open and FREE to all Summit 2016 attendees who want to learn about what goes into leading a chapter or SIG, how to get involved, and how you can build your own leadership skills. You’ll get to network with friendly leaders from around the world, meet members of the STC staff and board of directors, and take away plenty of tips and insights.

Here are some articles from 2015 that tell you more about the Leadership Program:

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Event Review: Content Strategy to the Rescue!

My friend Greta Boller writes great event reviews. Check out this write up of Tuesday’s InfoDevDC meetup.

The Lone Technical Writer

InfoDevDC kicked-off their event season Tuesday night with Content Strategy to the Rescue!Opower hosted the event that featured a presentation by Theresa Rogers and an Oktoberfest-themed spread (a keg, brats, the whole shebang). It promised to outline how Opower built their knowledge management team and teach how to grow an effective, sustainable content strategy from the bottom up.

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My Journey into #TechComm by Viqui Dill

Greta Boller is doing a blog series about getting into technical writing. Here’s a blog post I wrote for her series.

The Lone Technical Writer

This week kick-starts the series exploring how Washington, D.C. area technical writers broke into the profession. Viqui Dill, the Technical Communications Leader at American Woodmark Corporation, guest blogs this week and outlines her journey for us.

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