How to see your colleagues more clearly, so you can lead and develop them more effectively.


2018: Walking the talk – new learning for a new year…

Do you have a list of things to LEARN this year? Is it a ‘to do’ list full of “off-the-shelf training”  – in skills, languages, processes, compulsory compliance courses…?

Instead of that list, I’d like to ask about the commitment you and your teams have made to:

1) carefully defining what and how you need to learn to really raise your standards as a person, and as a professional


2) practising, and mastering, some of the excellent training courses you attended last year?

At the end of December 2017 I had a very dynamic conversation with the HR/L&D lead for an impressive asset management organisation. A senior analyst had asked her to buy in some off-the-shelf, standard, quick fix “Presentation Skills Training” for some of their younger talent. I call this “the Efficient Approach”.

A bit of digging yielded a couple of familiar nuggets:
“We need them to speak up and challenge more in internal meetings with seniors.”
“They lack confidence to take on an advisory, ‘trusted Partner’ mindset with big clients”.

Asked what “Presentation Skills” training these people had previously received, I was walked through a perfectly valid half-day workshop featuring a simple psychometric (for understanding your own communication style and others’), plus a model for presenting with impact, plus a bit of ‘we-will-video-you-and-give-feedback’. A perfect example of  the “Efficient Approach”.

But the reason I was invited into the room is that “the Efficient Approach” had not been effective.  And I’ve heard that same story time and again. I want my clients to stop wasting money on one-off timesaver “fixes” that don’t work. Like cheap shoes, you wear them a few times, find they’re uncomfortable and then something goes wrong – a heel snaps, the sole flaps – and you never wear them again.

What is commonly described as “Presentation Skills” is, actually, a call for a broader intervention: confidence and communication.

To effectively challenge and engage with older and more experienced colleagues and clients these young professionals need to understand themselves as people; to be skilled listeners, questioners, thinkers, recappers, imagineers, empathizers, debaters etc. Confidence, wisdom, gravitas. These tend to come with age and experience.

To really accelerate that process requires a different sort of “training”: they need to walk in hand-made shoes that soften and become more comfortable every day; shoes that will last a lifetime at work.

To be effective in developing real confidence in communication, we are big advocates of three approaches:

  • ‘Intact Team’ workshops – so the tools, language and levels and development focus of the group are mutually understood and can be supported in the daily workplace.
  • ‘Applied Learning’ where there are opportunities to practice (in the room through roleplay/realplay and back in the workplace) in specific tasks and projects with coaching support and feedforward loops focused on constant progress and improvement.
  • ‘Vertical development’ – guided learner reflection on who they are as a person and a professional, and how they can grow to see the world from wider, wiser perspectives.

This deeper process is less efficient (in terms of time and one-off cost). I make no apology for that. Because if you do it the right way once, real communication coaching builds young talent effectively, and delivers dividends over time. To help young professionals stand for something, stand up to their seniors, walk beside their clients or climb and stand on the shoulders of giants, it helps if they’re wearing really good shoes! As I said to my Asset Management client, that’s what we call asset management.

At Dramatic Difference, we’re passionate about designing, delivering and embedding effective learning.

If you’re interested to explore how we could help your people build Executive Presence and excel as communicators in all situations, please get in touch.

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