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The why, when, where, who, what and how of the meeting agenda

Scott Adam’s Dilbert cartoons capture some of the worst meeting behaviours perfectly. No matter which industry you work in, you’ll run into poorly prepared and badly run meetings. There are a lot of factors which contribute to an effective (or ineffective) meeting and near the top of the list is the agenda. Having a purpose-built agenda for your meeting brings you and your team real benefits. Even just having an agenda sets the right tone. The agenda means that you know what’s happening, once you go to the meeting. Beyond that:

  • Agendas show you expect a productive meeting and not a rambling chat.
  • Time spent planning up front, will increase your chances of delivering results by helping to keep everyone focused.
  • A well thought out and communicated agenda helps people better prepare their thoughts and gather any relevant information they’ll need before the meeting starts.

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So how do you build an effective agenda?

The purpose of the agenda is to explicitly tell participants what they need to prepare and be ready to discuss. An effective agenda needs to answer 5 questions. Starting off with the first and most important …

WHY are we meeting?

Who called the meeting and why? What is the context for the meeting? How does this meeting fit into your broader purpose? Once you’ve thought this through properly you should be able to crystallise this in 20 words or less.  “Team meeting to discuss the changed scope and plan available resources for project XYZ.” The sentence encourages focussed thinking from the very start. Insert the sentence into your agenda, and be ready to recap them when the meeting starts.

WHEN and WHERE are we meeting?

Sounds obvious, and I know many client’s we’ve worked with tend to overlook this under the defence “well the same as always, of course”.  I’d argue that it only costs you seconds to include the meeting place to avoid sarcasm and irony.

WHO needs to be there?

Meetings are only as effective as the people who join (or don’t join) the meeting. Your agenda needs clarity about who will lead, present, or facilitate each point. You’ll also want to be explicit about who needs to be involved or is affected by each point on the agenda. Responsibility assignment matrix system like ARCI can very easily be integrated into your agenda.

Related to this theme, a common question we receive when training meeting facilitation skills is “What if they don’t really need to be there for this item?”. This can lead to wide-ranging discussions and scenarios – and to cut this short here are a couple of ideas to consider…

  • Do you want to reorganise the order of items so that a group of people can leave early? Avoid the ‘join late option’ if possible as the first few minutes is where you’ll review the all-important why.
  • Do you want to give them the option of stepping out for this section? … yet make sure they are back in time for the next item? If yes, then make sure they are next door and not back upstairs or in another building.
  • Do you want to address it as a “development opportunity” directly in the meeting along the lines of “I understand the next point isn’t relevant for you, but I think might help you to build a broader understanding of the project if you stay and listen”?

WHAT are we meeting about?

Describe the “meeting items” so that they are simple and unambiguous… without being meaningless headings.  This is where so many agenda templates fail.  Roger Schwarz’s advice to “List agenda topics as questions the team needs to answer” is a great tip I found while I was writing this blog post.

This part of the agenda also contains information such as:

  • What is the desired outcome?  (make a decision, brief people, discussion, brainstorm)
  • How much time is planned for this point?
  • Who should do what in advance of the meeting?

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HOW can we improve our meetings?

This is a very important, often overlooked part of the agenda. The last building block for any successful meeting agenda should be: Make your meetings even better. Are your meetings too long, too short, too often, too big? Low energy meetings are far less productive, even if you have a great, well prepared agenda. It could be as simple as changing the environment of the meeting. Go outside, meet by the watercooler, meet over lunch, meet over breakfast, have a stand up meeting… Remember, it’s your meeting. Change it when something stops being effective. Regularly plan into your meeting agenda 5 minutes to do a simple review. Effective teams take the time to reflect and learn. Ask yourselves:

  • What did we do well today?
  • What can we improve on?
  • How exactly will we do this?
  • What actionable to dos can we take?

More on this topic

Watch this TED Talk “How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings”, by David Grady.

Further reading on our blog

 

Business English training: on-the-job training (for the job)

On-the-job (OTJ) training has been a cornerstone in our approach to in-house Business English training since our first InCorporate Trainers started their jobs (one of them was Scott Levey). When we explain the concept of on-the-job training to potential clients, they “understand” what we’re saying … BUT …they don’t really “get” how effective and beneficial on-the-job training is until they have seen it in action. This post aims to explain what it is, how it works, and how participants benefit, using some non-specific examples of on-the-job training.

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The benefits of on-the-job training

OTJ training is highly effective because the training takes place alongside and as part of your daily work. The trainer uses your work situations (your emails, your virtual meetings, your plant tours) as the basis for your learning. On-the-job training takes place at work, while you are working. This brings two huge benefits.

  1. You maximize your time because you are benefiting from training while you are working.
  2. You can directly transfer what you learn to your job. Your training is completely based on a real and concrete task. Everything you learn is relevant.

If you are familiar with the 70-20-10 model, you’ll know that 70% of learning comes through “doing” and from “experience”. Learning while you work is highly effective and this is the heart of on-the-job training.

“I helped Hans to de-escalate a situation in Supply Chain Management. Hans felt that the American party was wound-up and overly difficult. Hans brainstormed phrases with my help and he wrote a draft email. I helped him improve the structure and tone of the email and suggested he rewrote some of his sentences in plain English. A few hours later, the American party positively replied and the whole thing was solved by the time Hans went home.”

What exactly is on-the-job training and how does it work?

With on-the-job training, the trainer is there when you need assistance in preparing emails, specifications, manuals, reports, slides and other documentation. The trainer can support you in the planning, writing and reviewing stage. The trainer is also available to you for preparing meetings, phone calls, web meetings, teleconferences, presentations and negotiations.  They can then shadow you in action and provide personalized and situationally-based feedback.

On-the-job training focuses on your priorities at work and on you improving your business English in those areas. It can be

  • reactive where you ask the trainer for help “Can you help me improve these slides?”
  • proactive where the trainer encourages you to share work you have done/are doing in English “I heard you are involved in writing the R-Spec for the new project. How can I support you?”

“One of my participants, a product manager, had to deliver two presentations in English. It was basically the same presentation, but for two different audiences.  Observing her in our first practice session, I made a note of language points to work on. We worked on these, and a few other things (key messages, adapting messages to different audiences, Q&A session) over the next week. She delivered the presentations to me again, already with much more confidence and fluency – and then she practised with a few colleagues in a weekly group session and benefitted from both their positive feedback and the confidence boost.  Finally, I watched her deliver from the back and she did great.  After the presentations we debriefed and I shared my feedback (what went really well, what would she like to focus more on next time etc) . She was too critical of her performance and I helped her to be realistic about what she needs to focus on.”

What on-the-job training isn’t

What the trainer does not do is write the email/document for you (where’s the learning in that?). One common misconception is that on-the-job trainers are translators or proof readers. They’re not, in the same way that translators and proof readers aren’t trainers. Collaborative proof reading and translation can be an option, but the ownership needs to stay with the learner.

Another misconception is that on-the-job training is traditional “classroom training” during work time. The trainer will certainly use the “insider” view and what they have seen on-the-job to tailor traditional “off the job” training. This means your group training, coaching, 1-1 training, and seminars are closer to your workplace and that the transfer of learning is smoother.  But “on the job” training is learning while actually doing. There’s a good example of how this looks in action in an R&D department here.

“Three of my participants had written a 300-page instruction manual and they came to me with the request to help them improve it. Nobody in their department understood it enough to successfully use the system that it was meant to explain. I told them I would read it. Oh boy. We worked on writing with the reader in mind, structuring documents to make them scannable and writing in plain English. Visuals replaced paragraphs and we even created a few video tutorials too.  Four weeks later, they produced a second manual. Over one hundred pages lighter, it was clear, comprehensive, mistake free, and written in a style that everyone could understand, even me. As a result, the system that was supposed to make everyone’s job easier made everyone’s job easier.”

Bringing on-the-job training to life

We sign confidentiality agreements with our clients. Even when we don’t, we wouldn’t use their actual documentation online, so these examples are non-specific and Hans is not really called Hans … she’s called XXXX.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of this approach, don’t hesitate to contact us.

5 Dinge, die Sie tun können, um virtuelles Training zu einem Erfolg zu machen.

E-Learning gibt es seit 1960 und auch der “virtuelle Besprechungsraum” ist keine neue Idee. Viele Unternehmen haben bereits Erfahrung mit dem Lernen über Online-Plattformen oder mobiles Lernen und verfügen bereits über eine Art Werkzeug, um sich zu treffen und virtuell zusammenzuarbeiten. Der Sprung vom virtuellen Meeting zum virtuellen Training scheint einfach zu sein – und das ist es, wenn man sorgfältig darüber nachdenkt, was nötig ist, um das virtuelle Training erfolgreich zu machen. Hier sind ein paar Dinge, die wir in 7 Jahren virtueller Trainingseinheiten gelernt haben.

Arbeiten Sie mit einem Trainer zusammen, der in der Lage ist, in einer virtuellen Umgebung zu gestalten, zu implementieren und sicher zu debriefen.

Kunden kommen mit ihrer Erfahrung aus dem Präsenztraining zu uns. Sie wissen, was sie in einem eintägigen Seminar erreichen können und wollen diese Erfahrung in eine virtuelle Trainingsumgebung übertragen. Allerdings ist nicht alles direkt übertragbar. In einer persönlichen Sitzung beobachtet, reagiert und passt sich ein Trainer spontan an. Sie überwachen ständig, was funktioniert und was nicht, was die Leute verstehen und was nicht etc. In gewisser Weise “spürt” der Trainer, wie das Training abläuft. Mit der virtuellen Bereitstellung haben Trainer weniger Möglichkeiten, dies zu tun.  Eine häufige Antwort für den Trainer ist, sich viel mehr auf den Inhalt zu konzentrieren als auf die Trainingsdynamik. Dies kann das Training in eine Vorlesung verwandeln.

Virtuelles Training erfordert Trainer mit neuen Fähigkeiten, Qualifikationen und Erfahrungen. Sie benötigen einen erfahrenen Trainer, der in der Lage ist, in einer virtuellen Umgebung zu gestalten, zu implementieren und sicher zu debriefen.

Zeit für Interaktionen schaffen

Wie bereits oben erwähnt, ist es in einem Präsenzseminar einfach und natürlich, dass Interaktionen stattfinden – entweder mit dem Trainer oder zwischen den Teilnehmern.  Wenn Sie ein Training virtuell durchführen, wird dies viel schwieriger. Gehen Sie nicht davon aus, dass die Interaktion leicht erfolgen wird. Für Gruppen ist es viel schwieriger, sich tatsächlich zu treffen und in einer virtuellen Umgebung ein Gefühl füreinander zu bekommen. Ein erfahrener und qualifizierter Trainer findet Abhilfe: Interaktionen werden geplant, Aktivitäten werden sorgfältig entworfen und mehr Zeit für Gruppen- und Paaraktivitäten aufgewendet.

Die Trainingsgruppen klein halten

Der Schwierigkeitsgrad der Aktivierung und Förderung von Interaktion bedeutet, dass kleinere Gruppen (nicht größere Gruppen) in einer virtuellen Umgebung ein Muss sind. Unsere Erfahrung ist, wenn Sie über den Wissenstransfer hinausgehen wollen, um Fähigkeiten aufzubauen und Verhaltensweisen zu ändern, ist eine Gruppe von 6 Personen ideal. Je mehr Teilnehmer Sie über 6 hinaus haben, desto schwieriger wird die Interaktion, und desto wahrscheinlicher ist es, dass jemand mental abschaltet und/oder mit Multi-Tasking beginnt – und desto mehr Zeit benötigt der Trainer, um die technische Umgebung zu überwachen und zu kontrollieren und sich nicht auf die Personen selbst zu konzentrieren.

Für Gruppen über 8 Personen sollten Sie einen fähigen und erfahrenen “Producer” beauftragen. Ein Producer unterstützt den Trainer bei der Verwaltung der virtuellen Umgebung, der Überwachung von Interaktionen, der Einrichtung von Breakout-Räumen und der Aufrechterhaltung von Geschwindigkeit, Fluss und Interaktion usw.  Ein erfahrener technischer Producer kann es dem Trainer leicht ermöglichen, mit mehr als 12 Teilnehmern zu arbeiten.

Halten Sie mehrere Sitzungen von max. 2,5 Stunden statt einer langen Sitzung

Ein ganztägiges Präsenzseminar lässt sich nicht in ein ganztägiges virtuelles Seminar übersetzen. In einer virtuellen Umgebung können sich die Menschen nicht so lange konzentrieren. Unsere Erfahrung zeigt, dass 2 – 2 ½ Stunden die maximale Dauer für eine einzelne Sitzung ist. Das bedeutet, dass Sie über drei zweistündige virtuelle Sitzungen nachdenken sollten, die einem Tag Präsenztraining entsprechen. Sie können eine ähnliche Menge an Training in der gleichen Zeit abdecken, aber wenn Sie das Training virtuell durchführen, müssen Sie den Ansatz neu gestalten, aufteilen und aufschlüsseln.

Planen Sie sorgfältig, wenn Sie mit mehreren Zeitzonen arbeiten

Ein Vorteil des virtuellen Trainings ist, dass jeder überall teilnehmen kann. Wir empfehlen Ihnen, sich davon nicht mitreißen zu lassen. Es kann Sie Geld sparen, aber Sie verlieren die volle Wirksamkeit des Trainings. Nach unserer Erfahrung ist es eine große Herausforderung für die Teilnehmer und den Trainer, wenn einige um sechs Uhr morgens, einige während der Mittagspause und einige um sechs Uhr abends dabei sind. Die Achtung der Konzentrationsspanne und des Umfelds der Menschen wird sich am Ende auszahlen.

 


Für weitere Informationen

Wenn Sie neu in der virtuellen Vortragsweise sind, Ihr virtuelles Vortragen hochfahren möchten oder daran interessiert sind, Ihr virtuelles Training interaktiver und wertvoller zu gestalten, dann finden Sie einen erfahrenen Partner oder einen Berater. Wir könnten die Richtigen für Sie sein, wer weiß. Wenn Sie daran denken, mit einem virtuellen Training zu beginnen, dann Fragen Sie Angebot an. Seien Sie sich darüber im Klaren, was Sie erreichen wollen, und bitten Sie die Anbieter, Ihnen mitzuteilen, was Sie benötigen, damit es funktioniert.

6 ways to improve your Business English by yourself

Whether you have English training at your companies or private training out of work, you probably know that to really improve your business English you need to take responsibility and control of your learning.  Just sitting passively in a training session once a week isn’t enough.  The good news is that according to popular research into language learning, we are all born autonomous learners. It is in our nature to be proactive, explore, and respond to our environment.  We naturally take charge of our learning by setting ourselves goals and we are driven by our own motivations and needs. This could be getting a promotion at work, being able to participate effectively in a meeting, working confidently on an international project or giving a successful presentation. To help you learn autonomously, knowing effective ways you can improve your business English independently is essential.  Here are some tried and tested strategies to improve your Business English by yourself!

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Set yourself learning goals

Setting yourself goals is motivating in anything you do and a great way to understand your own learning process. These goals can be daily, weekly or monthly and ones, which are achievable and realistic. Try to focus on SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).   Your goals can be as simple as “I will record and learn 10 new business phrases I can use in project meetings”.  Once you have set yourself a goal you can assess yourself using simple online tools such as Quizlet. You can also download the app on your phone in order to review and assess progress on the go!

Immersion

Put yourself in real life situations where you have to use business English. Take every opportunity to speak to your international business colleagues. Instead of writing an email, go ahead and pick up the phone! Try to participate in meetings, events, conferences and projects where you have the opportunity to practice. Communicate and socialize with English speakers you know at work or out of work, this could be going for a coffee, lunch or dinner.

Watch and listen

Try to take a little time every day to watch or listen to business related resources online. This could be news, podcasts, or videos.  The more you watch and listen to business English, the more you will train this skill and the easier it will get when you have a real situation at work.  The web is full of resources but to get you started TED Talks always has interesting speakers, The BBC’s Business Daily site has plenty of videos and audio reports and check out the Harvard Business Reviews’ Ideacast (also available on itunes) and videos.

Recording new vocabulary

Keep a small notebook or use your notes on your phone to record useful/ relevant business English phrases and words. If you want to get more creative, I suggest using a voice recorder to record this information.  Instead of just writing the English word and the equivalent in your language, try to also write an example sentence, something relevant/ personal to you and something you are likely to remember e.g. Word: negotiate “We had to negotiate with the supplier to get the best price”.  Try to review the new vocabulary daily in order to internalize it and challenge yourself to use a new word during your next meeting, in an email or on a presentation slide.

Writing practice

Start by downloading Grammarly. This is a free tool with which you can check all daily emails, presentations and documents in order to avoid grammar mistakes and punctuation errors. You can also keep a diary of your day or about your learning experience, which will give you some extra writing practice and is a great strategy for self-reflection. I train a senior project manager who takes 10 minutes at the end of each day to write notes on reflections, insights and ideas. He does this to practice writing notes in English to help with his many meetings, but also to ensure he has reflection time and can focus on what is important to his project.

Reading business related material

Reading improves all areas of a language, including vocabulary, grammar, spelling and writing. The more you read the more input the brain gets about how the language works.  Context helps you figure out meaning and repetition of vocabulary helps you remember the words.  If you don’t want to read long articles or blogs you can always download Twitter and subscribe to news or anything of interest to get your 15 minutes of reading practice a day. Our blog is a great place to start so bookmark it and there are plenty of online magazines and newspapers which are free.

The single most important thing though is to .. do something regularly.

TED talks on motivation and leadership

This week’s post was meant to be about customer service skills. Once I had my initial ideas on virtual paper, I started searching online resources. Very quickly and inevitably I ended up on TED.com and almost an hour later, I was still watching videos, no longer anything to do with customer service. My post was about what customer service professionals can do to stay motivated, with an array of some not so nice customers contacting them. It was inspired by one of my not so very motivated participants. He said: I don’t care if they’re nice or not. I don’t care if they think I’m nice or not. I still get paid for taking the call. Being motivated to do a good job has very little to do with having ‘nice’ customers – ultimately. That was one of the points of my post. Perhaps I will finish the post, it was an interesting training session. This post is instead about everyday leadership, feeling good and staying motivated.
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What makes us feel good about our work

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely starts his TED talk ‘What makes us feel good about our work‘ with a mountain climbing example. “…If you read books of people who climb mountains, difficult mountains, do you think that those books are full of moments of joy and happiness? No, they are full of misery. In fact, it’s all about frostbite and having difficulty walking, and difficulty breathing — cold, challenging circumstances. And if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say, “This was a terrible mistake. I’ll never do it again.”

Everyday leadership

This very personal TED talk from Drew Dudley is easily transferable to a business context. ‘Everyday leadership‘ starts with a clear message. “…I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us; something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. We’ve taken this title of “leader” and treat it as something that one day we’re going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating. We start to devalue the things we can do every day. We take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, or feel good about it.”

The happy secret to better work

Shawn Achor’s very funny talk ‘The happy secret to better work‘ is definitely worth watching. “… One of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I’m trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking — two. But if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. If you fall below the average, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both.”

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Not bored of videos yet? This playlist contains 7 talks on loving what you do. Also recommended, here are a few customer service posts from our blog. Our new and very much improved Boost your Business English blog is online.

The best training course I have ever been on (or why wanting to be there made all the difference)

Most of my working life I have worked independently in or with small organisations, where training has often been on the job and learning by doing (the “70%”), or learning from and copying colleagues (the “20%”) And to be clear I’m not complaining –I’ve worked with and learnt from a long list of inspiring individuals. So a big thank you to Jörg, Wilfried, Wolfgang, George, Danny, Richard, Mac, Piers, Niven and many many others. Indeed the best “training” I have ever experienced was the 20% of the 70/20/10 model – and the best training course I have ever been on was one I really wanted to join. Here’s what made it such a great experience.

Professional and personal benefit

I’ve never been “sent to training.” Any seminar I’ve attended has been self-financed, and I’ve therefore always been choosy. Earlier in my career I attended seminars that could provide a hard benefit for my own work – but the best seminar I’ve ever attended benefited not just my work but me personally. The seminar was an introduction to the Ennegram. It was run by the Enneagram Institute of Greece and took place in a small hotel on Naxos, an idyllic Greek island.




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Inspiring trainers

The Enneagram unfortunately does not appear often on the radar screen of the HR departments of most German corporations – it seems at first glance to be too wacky and esoteric, but as a trainer who has worked with DISC, SDI and the MBTI I’ve found it to be powerful and challenging. The seminar was delivered by two inspirational Ennegram experts, Russ Hudson and Don Riso. Don and Russ had together developed the Enneagram away from the esoteric and mystic and made it into a robust psychometric tool, although the word tool does not do it justice. To cover the content of the seminar in a paragraph would be to invite ridicule. Suffice to say it covered applied psychology, history, mathematics, anthropology, theology. We explored the 9 types and took them to a deeper level.

The five day workshop provided space and opportunity for self-reflection. It was a „selfish” learning programme, in a positive sense. There was a refreshing shift away from learning a couple of tips and techniques for the day to day work – and a rewarding focus was on what are my motivations, how can I develop and how can I avoid the downward spiral into the darker side of my personality.

Location, location, location

The location was paradise. Imagine arriving at Athens’ airport, a short bus ride to the port of Rafina, staying overnight and eating seafood, catching the morning ferry to the Cyclades, a three hour sail to Naxos, disembarking, lunch in the harbour tavern, finding one of the island’s few taxis then to the hotel with its own beach surrounded by endless blue sky and water.

Motivated participants

The other participants were diverse, motivated and engaged – even the more sceptical among us. We learnt together and from each other, and from Russ and Don. Our only mystery was our selves. There were long lunches with time to swim and sleep; but we worked late into the night (Mediterranean time rhythm). The room was small, crowded and hot and it did not matter. Technical support was non-existent and not needed: the view was breath-taking and more motivating than a PowerPoint screen.

To summarize

Like Hans Castorp in the Magic Mountain I re-entered the real world five days later, enriched and motivated. Here are the factors that made the training so fantastic.

  • It was not a “have to join” seminar but a “want to join” seminar.
  • The course presenters were inspirational.
  • The other participants were diverse professionally and culturally and I made some good friends.
  • Learning from each other is powerful.
  • It was a great location – I doubted it would have had the same impact in a business hotel at an airport.
  • The content was intellectually stimulating and challenging
  • There was ample time and process for self-reflection
  • And as a bonus I could transfer what I learnt to my private and business life.

I believe looking at the list above there are clear parallels and transferable to dos to the corporate world of organizing training. Do you see them too?

Qualifying potential training providers

The key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company.

 

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Are they prepared?

Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:

  • If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
  • Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
  • Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
  • Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?

What kind of business do they have?

You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:

  • How many people work there?
  • Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
  • Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
  • What kind of international work have they done in the past?
  • What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
  • Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)

How do they approach designing training content for new clients?

You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:

  • How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
  • What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
  • What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)

What methods of quality management do they apply?

No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:

  • Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
  • What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
  • What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
  • What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)

What are their expectations regarding contracting?

Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:

  • What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
  • What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
  • If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)

What references can they provide?

Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:

  • What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
  • What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
  • Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com

How to convince participants that gamification is a good thing

The first time I used a game in the Business English training room it failed – miserably. Actually, from a training point of view it worked pretty well as participants were talking a lot and interacting in an authentic, interested manner with each other. That was the aim of the session. In fact, being a business fluency class, it was really the aim of the whole course. But participants didn’t see it that way. They went straight to my director, complaining that the class had been a waste of time as they had to play a game.

What went wrong? This experience happened twenty years ago and the participants were heading towards retirement. I don’t think that it is time or age that explains it though. It has more to do with participant expectations, their perceptions of an activity’s usefulness, and the training department and trainer’s need to “sell” the training tools we are using to get participant buy-in. Looking back, I definitely didn’t sell it well enough.

Three ways to sell gamification to training participants

Gamification is all the rage in training at the moment and is one of the top training trends for 2016. And there are lots of tools out there to help the trainer convert the training room into a fun, interactive, engaging place to learn. Most of us working in training know that this is a good thing. Let’s look at some ways training managers and trainers can convince participants that games are not a silly, waste of time in training. We need to show them that games are a very valid way to learn, retain and use what has been taught, as well as being a great diagnostic tool to find out more about what they still need to know.

We’ve found that taking these three steps really helps to make participants feel ready to take on any kind of activity you want to give them. They’ve just got to know why.

Ensure you and your training provider share the training methodology before the training begins

Participants in any form of training have to know what to expect. Take language training for example. People have learnt languages in many different ways, but most commonly at school where the focus tends to be on grammar and accuracy. Traditionally they expect the teacher to stand at the front of the room and ask individuals questions. In language training, intercultural training and leadership training today, trainers are encouraged to act as facilitators and resources rather than to stand at the front of the class and talk at the class. The shift from this kind of traditional school teaching to a trainer who facilitates learning and makes participants play games and talk about their own experiences is a big leap. And it needs explaining before the training is even purchased.

To consider: Does your corporate training catalogue describe the training styles and tools that will be used in the training room?

Ensure your training provider shares the aims at the start of the training session and again at the start of the activity

You can generally get adults to do anything in the training room – as long as they know why. General course aims are often explained and shared right at the start of the course in the first session. They really need to be shared right at the start of the session and when setting up each activity too. Here’s a couple of simple ways trainers can be using to get participant buy-in:

  1. At the start of the session, write up your main aims in the corner of the board of flipchart. You can then tick them off as you move through the session and draw the participants’ attention to the fact that you’re doing this and that they’re making great progress.
  2. Start each activity by explain “why”. All you need to do is add a “so that”, “in order to” or “because”, and it helps to link your rationale back to the aims you outlined at the start of the session:
    • I’d like you to work together and play this game so that…
    • In order to …… we’re going into divide into two teams and…….
  3. Finally, check that everyone is OK with that. A simple Is everyone OK with that? or Does everyone feel comfortable with that? goes one step further towards making participants feel that they have been included in the decision-making process as well as giving them an opportunity to say that they don’t want to do whatever the trainer has just asked them to do.

To consider: Do your trainers and training providers share their aims at regular intervals? At the start of the program? At the start of each session? Before activities?

Ensure your training provider is debriefing effectively

Training providers need to be getting the participants involved in the rationale and evaluating the usefulness of an activity. They need to give them the opportunity to decide if they think they would benefit from doing that kind of activity again. Creating a dialogue helps to build rapport, increase buy-in, and build a positive learning environment. And a positive learning environment will help move participants along their learning journey. Here are some ways of starting that debriefing dialogue:

  • Why did we do that activity?
  • What did you get out of that activity?
  • How could that activity be improved?
  • Would you want to do that kind of activity again?

Trainers should go back to their list of aims on the board. Review this list and mark what has been covered, and what hasn’t. If some aims haven’t been met, this should be discussed with the participants.

To consider: How well does your training provider debrief training sessions?

Your search for the right training provider

For more ideas regarding what to expect from a training organization, why not take a look at our eBook The Definitive Checklist for Qualifying Training Providers:



eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

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Tools for teams

High-performing teams do not spring into existence simply by giving a bunch of people a common goal. Putting together a team is easy, but making them perform to the best of their abilities is something else altogether. Having a successful team is not something that will ‘fall into place’ either – no, not even if you really, really want it to… It takes time, dedication and understanding to build an effective team, and probably a few more things besides that. 

With that said, let’s look at some tools for teams…

Go to the eBook

Meet ARCI

You’ve heard of ARCI, right? There can be a slight affirmative murmur in the training room at this point, or no sound at all. Like so many other tools, ARCI can be implemented in a variety of business scenarios. ARCI can handle large scale scenarios, as well as the smallest process. By taking a structured approach like ARCI to role assignment, you can identify who’ll be doing what and what not on each team task. If done (and followed) correctly, it minimizes the risk of overlaps and confusions. Without further ado, ARCI identifies who is:

  • Accountable – this person is the “owner” of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, objective or decision is complete. This person must make sure that responsibilities are assigned in the ARCI matrix for all related activities. There is only one person accountable.
  • Responsible – these people are the “doers” of the work. They must complete the task or objective or make the decision. Several people can be jointly responsible.
  • Consulted – these are the people who need to give input before the work can be done and signed-off on. These people are “in the loop” and active participants in a task.
  • Informed – these people need updates on progress or decision, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.

Here’s an example.

ROLE AROLE BROLE CROLE D
TASK 1ARCI
TASK 2ARIC
TASK 3CIAR

ARCI is one of a mountain of tools that helps you define your team. But there are others…

What type of learner are you?

Do you colour code and highlight your way through documents, or do you write notations and questions as you read? Do you prefer graphics and visuals to reinforce learning? Or do you prefer to use tunes or rhymes as mnemonic devices to remember information? Do you learn more effectively via self-study, or via group activity?

The answers to these questions matter greatly in a training environment but they are also relevant in successful teams. Long instructional emails or manuals are difficult to digest for an auditory or visual learner. Or, consider the differences between someone who learns by trial and error and someone who learns from detailed how-to examples.

What type of team member are you?

Belbin Team Type Inventory

An interesting place to start learning more how each team member can contribute to the team, is by looking at the Belbin team type inventory. The Belbin identifies nine different team roles. Each role has strengths and weaknesses, and, keeping personal preferences in mind, tasks can be distributed according to the preferred team role rather than by company hierarchy, technical skills, position or experience.

Here’s a short overview of Belbin’s 9 team roles. For a more complete description, including the typical strengths and weaknesses of each role, see here.

Resource investigator

They provide inside knowledge on the opposition and made sure that the team’s idea will carry to the outside world.

Teamworker

Helps the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.

Co-ordinator

Needed to focus on the team’s objectives, draw out team members and delegate work appropriately

Plant

Tends to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

Monitor Evaluator

Provides a logical eye, making impartial judgements where required and weighs up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.

Specialist

Brings in-depth knowledge of a key area to the team.

Shaper

Provides the necessary drive to ensure that the team keep moving and do not lose focus or momentum.

Implementer

Needed to plan a workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible.

Completer Finisher

Most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.

Read more about Belbin here.

What is your team’s type?

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Years and years of study and research went into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I will not be able to do it justice with this short summary. (Start here, if you want to learn more about MBTI. If you are interested in creating an MBTI profile, keep in mind that the MBTI is a three step process, and should be performed by a certified MBTI practitioner.)

“If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”

C. G. Jung

The combined individual profiles of team members can be translated into a team type indicator. Here’s an example of a team with the team identity ESTJ. The first graphic explains the combined strengths of the team members – these are the behaviours that come naturally to them.

MBTIteamprofile

 

And then there’s the flipside. The same team identifies as being INFP. This graphic shows the areas this team needs to be aware of because its team members don’t naturally exhibit them.

MBTIteamprofileflipside

Whereas Belbin’s focus is on the balance of team roles and tasking, the MBTI profile is about raising awareness of each other’s preferences and understanding their preferred way of working and communicating. The emphasis is on preferred. Many factors can influence someone’s behaviour in business. It’s not as simple as placing someone in a box of type, or finding the right balance of different types in your team. There is no right balance of type. Every team can work, if you’re interested in knowing who you’re working with.

A short personal disclaimer

I’m not certified in Belbin or MBTI, but some of my colleagues are. They can tell you much, much more, if the mighty Internet doesn’t give you all the answers. I’m not an expert on any of these tools, but I have found them very useful in the various teams I have worked in.

 

8 great books for busy managers you may have missed in 2015

It seems as though 2016 has only just started, but it’s February already! We know you’re really busy, so we thought we’d help out by reviewing 8 of the best management books from 2015 for you. If any of the summaries grab you, why not read the whole book?

1001meetingsphraseslargeThis (Target) eBook

1001 Meetings phrases is a useful toolkit of phrases for the most typical meeting situations you find yourself in…

 

Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (13 Aug 2015)

Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone

Did you know that actually the right team size is usually one fewer that most managers think they need? And that “chemistry” doesn’t equate to team success? Can you spot the right moment when one team needs to be dissolved to create another very different team? And are your teams really leveraging multicultural values as a strength?

Written for today’s managers, Team Genius reviews and explains the latest scientific research into how teams behave and perform and uses simple case studies and examples to bring it to life in a way that any manager can relate to.. It shows that much of the accepted wisdom about teams just doesn’t hold true – and then goes on to outline “new truths” and how to achieve them.

Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed (1 Sept 2015)

George Everly Jr, Douglas Strouse and Dennis McCormack

If you get turned off when you see the author is a “great business school professor”, “world-famous CEO” or “top management thinker” then this might be the book for you. Everly, Jr.is an expert in disaster mental health, and McCommack is a former Army psychologist and was one of the first original Navy Seals.

Drawing heavily on the psychology employed by US Navy Seals plus other examples from all walks of life, this book focuses on how we can each build our resilience and be “stronger” when everything seems to be falling apart. More importantly the book outlines how we need to practice building up our resilience (psychological body armor) before we actually need it. The five key factors the book explores are

  • Active optimism
  • Decisive action
  • Moral compass
  • Relentless tenacity
  • Interpersonal support

Each area is outlined in detail with case studies and research. A quick warning though – being written by 3 psychologists, it’s not an airport quick-read.

Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers (9 Oct 2015)

Elizabeth D. Samet (editor)

When you think about it, it’s amazing that this book hasn’t been complied sooner – management and leadership books aren’t a 20th century creation. General fiction, biographies, great literature etc have reflected core management and leadership questions for centuries.

This anthology draws our attention to 102 stunningly diverse extracts from fiction, speeches, anthropology, letters, songs, and even the odd occasional poem! The extracts from Machiavelli, Macbeth, Ghandi, Didion, Ovid, Melville, Mandela, Lao Tzu, Orwell plus many many more all invites us to step back and think about leadership. Excellent reading for just before you take the dog for a long walk.

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent (7 Oct 2015)

Bruce Tulgan 

“They just don′t know how to behave professionally.”, “They know how to text but they don′t know how to write a memo.”, “They don′t know how to think, learn, or communicate without checking a device.”

Today′s new young workforce (also known as Millenials or generation Z,) has so much to offer – new technical skills, new ideas, new perspectives, new energy. All great stuff- but Tulgan also argues that research shows that employers across industries feel that too many Milennials have weak soft skills. As a few of the many case studies outline “they only want to do what they want to do” and ”his technical knowledge far surpassed anyone else in the firm … but his communication made him seem so immature”.

Renowned expert on the Millennial workforce Bruce Tulgan offers concrete solutions to help managers and HRD professionals alike teach the missing basics of professionalism, critical thinking, and followership. The book includes 92 step–by–step “lesson plans” designed for managers to use, and these include “take home” exercises, one-on-one discussion frameworks and training room activities.

In a nutshell, I can’t imagine a more complete or practical book than this.

Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts (21 Sept 2015)

Ernest Gundling and Christi Caldwell 

Leading a global organization is no longer just a big businesses challenge.  Even small company owners can be leading a virtual team that includes people from all over the world – and just yesterday we spoke with a HR manager with 60 employees in 11 countries and 23 cities.

This books aims to guide you through this new business environment. It features stories from people in critical roles around the world, advice based on practical experience, and shares new research which outlines the distinctive challenges of leading in a virtual and multicultural environment … and cultural awareness isn’t enough! Happily the book also includes strategies, tools and tips for working across cultures, leading virtual teams, running a matrix team, integrating an acquisition and developing the agility needed to innovate in such an environment. Personally I found it aimed more at larger mature organizations, but still worth a read … and we integrate many of the elements into our Working in Virtual teams training.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead (2 April 2015)

Laszlo Bock

Despite receiving 1,5000,000 job applicants every year, Google spends twice as much on recruiting as comparable companies. Why? Because top performers are usually doing very well where they are and not looking to move. So Google works to identify these performers and cultivate their interest. But while Google spends considerably more on recruitment than most companies it also spends considerably less on training, believing top performers need less training.

Laszlo Bock, Head of People Operations, joined Google when it had just 6000 “googlers”, and in this book he shares the different recruiting and talent management practices Google use and have used. Although sometimes bordering on self-congratulation, the book is very much-action oriented with each chapter outlining a clear to do – Become a founder, Don’t trust your gut, Why everyone hates performance management and what we decided to do about it, Pay unfairly.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be (19 May 2015)

Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

Have you ever wondered why you become so irritated around a specific colleague? Or questioned why your communication skills fall apart when presenting to a certain team? Goldsmith is an executive coach, and in this book he examines the triggers that can derail us – and how we can become the person we want to be and stay on track.

Perhaps common sense, but our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of triggers in our environment—whether this be specific person, situation or environment. .But how do we actually change ourselves? Knowing what to do doesn’t mean we actually do it, right? This book outlines how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives, and actually change to become the person we want to be, Drawing on executive coaching experience the authors use a simple “silver bullet” approach – daily self-monitoring, using active questions which focus on the our effort (and not the outcomes).

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (20 Jan 2015)

Herminia Ibarra

Do you wish you actually had the time and the space to be the manager and leader you know how to be? Introducing the idea of “outsights”, Herminia Ibarra, -an expert on professional leadership and development at INSEAD — shows how managers and executives at all levels can make an impact by making small but crucial changes in their jobs, their networks, and themselves. She argues that managers and leaders need to act first then to think – and to use the “outsights” resulting from the experience as a basis for meaningful individual growth and enabling of people and organizations. Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG. summed it up nicely as “transforming by doing”

The book is full of engaging self-assessments and plenty of practical advice so you can actually build a plan of action. It can be a bit heavy going but stick with it.

Identify your training goals for 2016 with these 4 questions

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keytrainingqualityissuesIf you are a line manager, you probably need to think about training for the people who work for you. But, how do you decide what training is necessary? How do you set the training goals? And how do you know what will actually provide real, tangible results?

Start with the end in mind

The best way to think about training goals is to start with the end in mind. Don’t ask, “What training do I want?” Instead, ask yourself, “Why do I want training?”

When you start with the end in mind, you define what you want to achieve with the training. In other words, why have you decided to invest money in your people?

4 questions to ask when identifying your teams training goals

The first question really needs to be answered before you can start thinking about actual training. Once you have answered the first question, you can sit down with a training provider and let them help you to answer the other 3 questions.

  1. What result(s) do I want to see?
  2. What behaviour needs to change so that this result can be achieved?
  3. What skills, knowledge or attitudes do my people need to learn to change this behaviour?
  4. What sort of training is most appropriate for learning these skills, knowledge or attitudes?

A good training provider should be able to help you to define the behaviours which support the results you are looking for. They should be able to help you to decide what skills, knowledge and attitudes affect these behaviours. And, finally, they can suggest alternative ways for delivering training which will ensure that your people learn and put these behaviours into practice in the best possible way.

Don’t ask ‘what’, ask ‘why’

So remember, first you need to think why you want training. From here, you can decide what training will help you to reach your goals. For more tips on training goals and budgets, make sure to download our eBook “Making the most of your training investment” to help you get your money’s worth once you have identified your training goals.

Improve your business English by yourself

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learning vocabHow can I improve my English when I’m not in the training room? I think that probably every one of my colleagues (including myself) has been asked that question more than once. The simple answer is: exposure. The more you expose yourself to the language you are learning (through films, conversations, books, apps, etc), the more you will learn. Following my post about popular business English apps, I have made a list of audio books that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Tips for improving your English with audio books

  1. Make sure you approach the audio book with the right attitude and expectations. The goal isn’t to understand everything – but rather to get the key points.
  2. Read the summary information before you start so you understand the general idea of the book.
  3. Listening to a book is not the same as reading one. Even native English speakers will drift in and out. If you don’t understand everything, just rewind!
  4. One play is not enough: repeat, repeat, repeat! Listen as many times as you want or need to.

If you don’t want to listen to something related to business, there are thousands of free audio books available online that you can choose instead. This is especially good for building your vocabulary!

Top audiobooks and themes

Audiobooks by Spencer Johnson

Biographies from top business people

Audiobooks by Bill Bryson – funny cultural insights

Top business books that are currently trending

Other resources

You might also want to check out companies like http://www.audiotech.com/business-summaries/ that offer audio summaries. And don’t forget to download a copy of our latest eBook “How to learn vocabulary”.

 

The role of games in training sessions – serious business or seriously overrated?

The multinational company where I give English training has introduced several games over the last few years to help employees learn skills intended to help them do their jobs better. While utilizing games isn’t mandatory, it is strongly encouraged. Some people love this way of learning, others find it a waste of time. So why the hype about using games in the training room? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method of learning? In the last few years there has actually been a fair amount of research put into studying the effectiveness of using games for learning purposes so we don’t need to search for long before we find proof of how popular games can be. This is demonstrated by the sales figures of various game consoles or by the number of subscriptions to online games. This means that there are many people who obviously are interested in playing games and excited to spend their time doing so. Why not combine this enthusiasm with learning goals and create a win-win situation?

VT poster

 

Not convinced?

Here are some figures* which support the movement:

  • In the US, nearly 170 million people played computer and videogames in 2008, spending a record $11.7 billion.
  • Because of good game design, more than 11 million subscribers spend an average of 23 hours per week immersed in World of Warcraft.
  • In the four years between 2006 and 2010, nearly one in five US workers were expected to retire, to be replaced primarily by 18-40 year-olds who grew up with videogames.

The last figure is probably the most important reason to bring games into the training room- it has become normal to spend time playing games. In the past, those games might have been bingo or bridge, but now they are often computer games. We have access to games in many of our daily life situations- on television, on the radio, on our mobile devices and online. Why not also in the training room?

Using games in the training room

The reason for using games in the training room isn’t to kill time**. It’s to learn and practice valuable skills. There are many skills which lend themselves well to games- improving fluency and speed, creative thinking and problem solving, revision of previously discussed topics and vocabulary. When the games are combined with soft skills like meeting, presentation or negotiating skills, the value (and the level of difficulty) become even higher.

Many of my participants inform me that they appreciate the chance to do interactive exercises (the most basic expression of a game) because they learn easier this way. They also really appreciate the chance to “kill two birds with one stone” or to accomplish two goals at the same time- learn more about a topic and practice their language skills. This idea is supported by evidence from Professor Seymour Epstein at the University of Massachusetts. His theory, the Cognitive Experiential Self Theory (CEST), states that our brains retain and process information in two different ways. One part, our experiential mind, helps us to learn by focusing on what we are doing. This method of learning can happen very quickly and is forgotten very slowly. Our rational mind, on the other hand, focuses on processes. This information is often not retained for a long time however. In order to learn best, we need both parts of our brains to work together. When combined with a discussion after the game, both parts of the brain are activated for learning.

Are you interested in finding out more about how games can be effectively incorporated into the training room? In a few weeks, I’ll review a few popular apps and games. If you want more information in the meantime, contact us below with your comments.

  1. *From http://www.newmedia.org/game-based-learning–what-it-is-why-it-works-and-where-its-going.html
  2. ** See http://thiagi.net/archive/www/fac-027.html

Help! How do I speak English in a meeting after not speaking English for years?

This is what a stressed-out team leader asked me last week. His manager had asked him to present his ideas at the global management meeting in English – but unfortunately – he hadn’t spoken English for a long time and needed help. Luckily, there are many things you can do to ease your anxiety, so if you suddenly find yourself in the situation where you need to speak English after a long break, here are a few things you can do.

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4rs

1. Prepare

Take a moment to go over some English basics. Make sure you can introduce yourself simply and explain your position in the company. Also think about how you will ask a question, interrupt a speaker or ask for clarification if you need to. Which key words can you check before going into the meeting?

2. Manage expectations

Make sure you manage your own expectations regarding how much you will be able to follow the meeting and how much you will be able to contribute. Do not expect to suddenly understand everything if you are returning to English after a long break. Expect to slowly get used to hearing English again. Expect to follow more as the meeting goes on and you relax a little. However, also expect to get tired quicker as it takes a lot of effort to listen to an English meeting after a long break!

 3. Take notes

If you are having trouble following, take notes so you can catch up later or have someone give you more details in your own language afterwards. Do not try to write down everything! Focus on writing down key verbs (important actions) and nouns (important names and points).

 4. Be honest

If you need to contribute, be honest about how much you can communicate and how much you understand. There is no point in lying or pretending you understand – it is easy to see how much you are following (or not). There is no shame in being rusty; it is hard to speak another language, especially in business. The other people in the meeting will appreciate your honesty (and many may be feeling the same).

 5. Use resources

If there are slides in the meeting, make sure you ask for copies so you can go over key points after the meeting. If you are allowed to bring your laptop into the meeting, use an online dictionary when you do not understand words that are used repeatedly. Do not check each and every word, just key words that are repeated during the meeting and are important for understanding. Also, although the meeting is in English, you can ask colleagues for a quick translation during the break (or quietly as the meeting moves from speaker to speaker or topic to topic). Use every resource available to make sure your return to English is as pain free as possible.

Boost your Business English

Sign up for your weekly shot of Business English, for free. Or take a look at other posts from our blog:

The 3–6–9 of great leadership (according to TED …and me)

As a kid, my parents told me I watched too much TV. They would not be pleased to know that hasn’t changed very much, but at least nowadays I try to watch things that might actually inspire me. That’s where TED [www.ted.com] comes in. TED talks can be a great source of inspiration. They can be short, or long. They can be energetic or dry. And they are full of information on nearly any topic.

The “3-6-9 of great leadership”

As an intercultural trainer, business English teacher, project manager and former actor, I think a lot about what motivates people, especially at work. Three short TED talks that I have watched over and over really get to the heart of what makes a great leader. I call them the “3-6-9 of great leadership.” These three talks summarise in (more or less) 3 minutes, 6 minutes and 9 minutes what I think is the essence of great leadership. For now, I’m not going into why these and other well-structured talks and presentations work as well as they do. Let’s just take in their messages.

Derek Sivers

How to start a movement

The first TED talk, by entrepreneur Derek Sivers, explains to us in three minutes “How to Start a Movement.” Using a light-hearted video of a group of rather spontaneous dancers, he demonstrates how to lead and how to create a situation in which people want to follow. He also surprises us by highlighting who the real leader is. It’s not who you might think.

Drew Dudley

Everyday leadership

If you work in a team or an office, how often do your simple, unremarkable actions influence others? In the second talk, leadership educator Drew Dudley asks us in six minutes whether people can be leaders even if they don’t have that title. In this quick-paced, very personal story, he shows us how we can often be leaders without even knowing it.

Roselinde Torres

What it takes to be a great leader

In the final talk, the longest of the three at just over nine minutes, leadership expert Roselinde Torres details qualities of a great leader. She has spent 25 years researching leadership and her fascinating talk boils it down to the need to ask three simple questions:

  • Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?
  • What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?
  • Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Spoiler alert!

All three talks repeat one particular theme: While some principles of leadership may remain, true leaders are characterised by doing something different. But not just for the sake of being different. They have a goal.

  • Derek Sivers’s ‘leader’ is the first person who has the courage to follow the person you think is the leader. As the first ‘follower’ he gives others the permission to join in.
  • Drew Dudley’s ‘leader’ appears to go about his daily business fearlessly and effortlessly. In the process, he unknowingly inspires someone to go about her work as fearlessly as she can.
  • Roselinde Torres reminds that great leaders take action; they do not walk with their heads down, trying not to be noticed. They dare to be different.

Is leadership for managers only, then? Definitely not. These three talks remind us that learning to be an effective leader can help you chair a meeting, or create a presentation that people remember. Among many other things.

… so what are your thoughts?

Why you should care about your business English trainer’s background

When you are looking for a business English training solution, how much value do you put on a trainer who understands your business needs? Are you confident that your training is being delivered by a committed, experienced professional? If you want your training to have a real impact, you need somebody who has the skills and speaks the jargon of your industry. Being an effective business English trainer means more than having an English teaching qualification. Your business English trainer must be able to draw upon personal experience and must have the ability to effectively tailor the training material to the needs of the client.

The training investment will never pay off with the wrong trainer

If participants don’t want to go to the training because they feel it’s a waste of time, you should rethink the training program and the trainer. You have the freedom not only to find a qualified English trainer, but, more importantly, one who also better understands your needs and industry. If you need help with technical English, look for a technical background or alternatively extensive experience training technical English. If you have a need for soft skills development, find a trainer with direct experience in this area or impressive experience training these skills. Bottom line, you want a trainer who knows what they’re talking about.

Symptoms of having the wrong business English trainer

  1. There’s a disconnect between participant needs and training delivered. The participant needs help with presentation skills but receives conversation training.
  2. The participant is dissatisfied after the training.
  3. The participants stop using the training because it isn’t useful.

“Imagine you are to make the most important business presentation of your life. Does your English trainer have the ability to help you get the right messages across successfully?”

Find the right trainer

The training will have more impact, the participants are more satisfied if their training is relevant, and ultimately, you’re getting more for your money. Don’t settle or become complacent with your training provider. Search the market for specialists, compare services. Ask for references. Try different trainers. Work with trainers who evolve as your business evolves.

Qualities of the right business English trainer

  • Has a minimum of 3 years experience in business English training and a relevant business background
  • Uses a variety of approaches: group training, on-the-job support, coaching sessions, 1 to 1s
  • Bases training on participant needs and uses internal documents as a source for training material
  • Understands your business

The market is saturated with training providers. Business English training is on offer, along with different levels of flexibility, success and partnership…and the list goes on. A lot of companies are successful at what they do and there are websites full of competent trainers looking for work.

But before you hire anyone, have you considered what the training program should look like?

 

Book Review: Get the most from your meetings

As so many business people around the world already know, few people are satisfied with the quality of their meetings at work. A recent study in the US found that 50% of managers surveyed considered many meetings to be a “waste of time.”, 90% said most meetings were a failure due to “lack of advanced planning and organization,”and over 75% said that they received no formal training on how to conduct a meeting. To make matters worse, American professionals attend an average of 61.8 meetings per month, and research suggests that 50% of that time is wasted. We can assume that the situation in Europe is similar.

Despite this general feeling of dissatisfaction, meetings are here to stay because they’re still one of the most efficient ways to share information and solve problems at work. However, it’s wrong to think that they’re necessary in every situation, or that they cannot be improved. The question is: if we must have meetings, what concrete steps can we take to guarantee they are effective and efficient in terms of time, effort and money?

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Along with our  latest eBook “Keys to effective meetings”, here’s a list of resources you can use to make your meetings more effective.

Facilitation Made Easy: Practical Tips to Improve Meetings and Workshops

Esther Cameron

Facilitation Made Easy is a comprehensive study of the complete process of planning, carrying out and debriefing workshops, conference calls and meetings. In addition to a description of what you need to do, this book also describes why, so you know the theory behind the key factors that make a meeting successful.

Meetings That Work!: A Practical Guide to Shorter and More Productive Meetings

Richard Chang & Kevin Kehoe

Written by consultants with experience working with multinational companies, Meetings That Work! focuses on keeping meetings short, concise and to the point. Examples and techniques are provided that you can put to work in your meetings right away.

Talk Lean: Shorter Meetings. Quicker Results. Better Relations.

Alan Palmer

‘Talk lean’ in this context means to use fewer words and less time to convey your intended message to your audience, while being careful to remain respectful, polite and considerate. The focus in this book is on honing your communication so that you’re always using time in the most efficient way possible.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Al Pittampalli

Pittampalli starts with an interesting question: “What can you do to make a difference in your company’s meeting culture that requires no one’s permission but your own?” The emphasis here is on responsibility: when you make changes that work based on your own initiative, others have no choice but to follow your example. One of the more thought-provoking books on meetings and meeting culture, Read This Before Our Next Meeting will challenge you to take personal responsibility for the quality of the meetings you hold.

Boring Meetings Suck: Get More Out of Your Meetings, or Get Out of More Meetings

Jon Petz

If you can’t tell from the title, Boring Meetings Suck is an unconventional and irreverent look at how meetings work and why they sometimes go wrong. Petz takes a humorous approach to some of the more common problems with meetings in companies around the world. The situation becomes less humorous as you realize many of the situations happen in your own organization every day.

Meeting and Event Planning Playbook: Meeting Planning Fundamentals

Debi Scholar &  Susan Losurdo

While it’s written from an administrative assistant’s perspective, the Meeting and Event Planning Playbook can still be useful for the comprehensive view of the meeting planning process it offers. The section “75 Questions to Ask to Plan a Meeting” might come in handy for meetings where you need to make a particularly good impression, like customer visits.

Business English apps for busy people

Business English on the go

Maybe you’re as serious as all of my clients about improving your business English – but like them, you have other priorities too! What it comes down to is that learning English takes a back seat when important deadlines loom. Half the time, you’re travelling and the other half, you’re too busy to go to English training. Or something like that. There are many valid reasons for not having the time to practise your English. Even if you don’t have time to do the homework your trainer has given you, or time to listen to an audio book, or time to watch a movie in English, you still have time to learn English.

With five or ten minutes here and there, on the train or while waiting for your next meeting to start, there are a number of business English apps that can support you. I’ve tried a few of them and I’ve compiled a short list for you. All these apps are free and available for both Android and Mac users.

Boost your BE2

1.bmpBusiness English Test

This app focuses on English in the workplace and tests common business phrases and vocabulary with quizzes. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jquiz.english_business

2My Grammar Lab

A popular app with hundreds of practice exercises to keep you focused on your grammar when on the go. An advanced version is also available.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-grammar-lab/id516583295?mt=8

3Sounds: The Pronunciation App

A great pronunciation aid for learners, this app lets you focus on specific sounds and then test yourself. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sounds-pronunciation-app-free/id428243918?mt=8

4Dictionary – Merriam-Webster

This dictionary app also offers word of the day, synonyms, antonyms and a voice search feature to help you find new words. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.merriamwebster&hl=en

5EnglishPodcast for Learners

Free video and audio podcasts allow you to play back podcasts faster or slower depending on your level. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tidahouse.englishpod&hl=en

The importance of independent learning

These apps are an additional tool for you to use when learning English and it’s great that they’re so widely and freely available. While virtual training, on-the-job support and face to face training all have an important part to play in learning – independent learning is essential.

Check out these links if you want to read more about independent learning:

How do you measure the success of training?

More specifically, how do you measure the success of training when learners don’t have a test to pass? The goal of our training is for participants to be able to do their job better. How easily can that be measured, taking into account all of the other variables that can affect job performance?

When we look at the success of our on-the-job training, we use the Kirkpatrick Model as a guide. The Kirkpatrick model has four levels. When you measure each of the four levels, you have an overall impression of the success of the training. By looking at all four levels, it gives us the chance to make sure that what is learnt can really be implemented. Each level can individually help, but looking at all four levels together gives the real story. If you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model, here is a short summary:

Kirkpatrick’s four levels

Reaction

Are the learners/participants happy with the process?

Learning

Did the learners acquire the knowledge, skills or attitude that they were meant to learn?

Behavior

Have the learners changed the way they do something when they got back to the job?

Results

Has the training helped to achieve certain results?

An example of the four levels in practice

A group of phone operators in a help desk take English training. Following the training, they fill in a feedback form (reaction) about their satisfaction with the training. They could be tested either during or after the training to assess their new knowledge (learning). Once back on the job, they can be observed to see what they are doing differently (behavior). Finally, some sort of job-performance indicator can be used to see if the actions of the learners are having the desired effect (results), e.g. the time it takes to resolve a problem or a measure of customer satisfaction.

When looking at all four levels, we can not only measure success of the program, but we can also pinpoint potential problems. For example, if we only measure the end result and we don’t see any change, it may be possible that some other variable is responsible for the situation. Maybe the learner is learning and is satisfied with the training but is not given the opportunity to implement their new skills.

More on the Kirkpatrick model

Some of our key staff are Kirkpatrick certified and available to answer your questions about training assessment. Use the comments function below or contact us via email.

Leadership and Training: A department head’s view

As a training provider, I have my opinions on how I think leadership and training should be connected.  Is this the same as what a German Dept Head thinks? I was recently fortunate to spend a few minutes with Arnhild Ott, Department Leader of Personnel Development in the Mail division of DPDHL. Here are four questions on leadership and training and her answers.

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What do you wish line managers would understand about training?

Arnhild Ott: I wish that they would understand that training is only one possibility. The most interesting method is to learn on-the-job and that training is only 10% of the learning environment and it’s most valuable in your own business environment. A second point is that every training session needs to be centred on communication between the line manager and their employee. There is a need for a talk before and after the training. And this is very important for the training’s success: that the manager has an important role. A third point is that training is not an incentive; training is for when we have to close a gap between the current knowledge and the expected knowledge in the function of the role.

What will training look like in 10 years’ time?

Arnhild Ott: I expect that training will be more and more virtual, further away from classroom training with more webinars, more on-the-job, smaller pieces of content, or experience. It will be more creative, more integrated in your normal life and business life. It will be more difficult to see a distinction between training and a non-training session as it will be integrated in your business life. In short, small pieces, more virtual and more media-driven.

Can you give me your perspective on current trends in leadership culture?

Arnhild Ott: The world is rapidly changing. Main issues in the leadership culture context are that leadership practice is influenced by globalisation, by the uncertainty of the situation at the moment . You have to act in a more and more complex world. It’s more difficult for each manager to create the future. This is very strenuous for each manager because traditional methods and perspectives don’t help you in these increasingly complex situations. You always need more skills and more knowledge about methods, so as to be able to understand and (re)create complex situations with your employees.

The next point is that you see an increase in burnout; more and more people feeling limited in their competencies, their lives restricted by too much time at work. Everyone is searching for better work-life balance as they have to struggle against complexity. In fact, you see more and more issues of rationalisation. Mostly leaders have to handle more and more uncertainty and ambiguity. These are major challenges for people and especially leaders; everyone needs competencies to deal with uncertainty and unclear perspectives and also to enable them to decide on their own how to act.

Can you give some examples of these competencies?

Arnhild Ott: You need ambiguity. You need more systemic thinking rather than a linear perspective. You need to think from a network perspective- influence between several influences– not a single linear one. You have to combine rational thinking with more intuitive thinking and you have to recognise more and more your own gut-feeling.

 

A special thanks to Arnhild for taking the time to share her thoughts with us.  What do you think about what she said?  Do you agree?  Let us know in the comments area below.  Also, make sure to check out our methods and tools section to learn more about how companies are approaching their training.