Organization Development

5 Tips to Make your Training Stick!

670 300 Russell Potter

All good trainers want just one thing, they want their training to stick. Maybe the biggest frustration and challenge is that what’s learned in the classroom is often left in the classroom.

Time and money are invested in training courses which have a sound theory and seem sure to add benefit to the organization. The leadership approves it, the trainer delivers it and the attendees acknowledge the value. Perplexing then that such learning activities so often fail to make an impact once the trainees leave the room where workplace norms prevail.

In reality, people just find it too difficult to break with their usual practices and to implement what they have learned even if they see the value. Here are 5 top tips for making past the morning after:

#1. Be There.  On the morning after the training, the trainer should be present on site to offer coaching in a workplace setting. During the training you planned the trip, now it’s time to make sure the family are in the car and the journey is started.

In addition to reinforcing the expectation of change, the repetition of a quick morning refresher will improve the chances of long-term memory storage.

#2. Top Down.  The bottom line with a lot of training is that if the management doesn’t fully support the change, it won’t be effective. This can be for a number of reasons but chief amongst them can be politics. Managers often believe, however, that teaching new skills will solve all problems without having to change themselves.

An excellent way to achieve commitment is simply to include the senior management in the training. For senior executives, this means the CEO. Their positive presence is crucial to reinforce the messages.

A word of caution here though that business Owners and CEO’s can occasionally become defensive when the training topic contradicts their own leadership styles or idiosyncrasies. Such occasions can take the momentum out of the positive change attitude created in the training.  Senior managers should be fully aware of the messages before the training and their own styles are best dealt with in a coaching setting.

#3. Bottom Up.  It should never be forgotten that training that should be the outcome of a thorough management consulting analysis of the most pressing business issues if expertise is noted as the issue. There is nice to do training and there is business critical training. If training does not address their most pressing issues, interventions are unlikely to succeed. In my experience it’s easy to see from the body language of attendees who’s number 1 issue is expertise and who’s is capacity. One looks happy to be there, the other never entered the room (mentally that is).

Using KPIs or customer feedback helps to build the case for the training event, the need for change and winning over the detractors. Using a KPI dashboard was instrumental in my training session this week with executives at a hotel in Indonesia. Once they saw the reality, I had their attention.

#4. Keep it short. In reality, most people will remember only one point from each training session. Keeping sessions shorter and spreading the learning over multiple sessions is a great way to get multiple messages across.

In their excellent book “Willpower,” Roy Baumeister and John Tierney propose that willpower is a limited resource that reduces throughout the day. In short, he suggests that only one change and one new habit can be formed at a time.

I split my leadership training into 5 X 2-hour sessions. I find that this way I can teach a single topic and have the participants leave without overloading with multiple concepts. Each participant also gets homework which maximizes the chances of creating an impact.

#5. Poster campaign.  As all trainers are aware, mixing the mediums in the classroom is very effective at getting the messages across. However, reinforcing training messages outside of the classroom is one of my favorite techniques. It reminds participants not only of the training messages and changes required but it also primes the organization to expect the change.

I recently placed posters in key areas to promote great leadership values. Although the training was for executives, it was important to make the training topic part of the culture of the company

More than anyone, the trainer wants the training to have a positive impact on the organization. Following these 5 steps will put you well on the way to maximizing training effectiveness.

Motivo provides talent and organization consulting to businesses in Asia.

5 Steps to Engagement in Life and Work

670 300 Russell Potter

Employee engagement and engagement in general, are still not major headline topics but more and more people are starting to ask questions about a general lack of caring and commitment not only in the workplace but also the wider frame.

By engagement we mean caring. Specifically, caring enough about something to want to improve and grow it, whether it be a busines
s, social issue, or local frisbee team, whether that be in the deeply immersed “State of flow,” or otherwise.

According to Gallup, 87% of employees globally are “disengaged.”  That number is shocking. That means that 87% of employees are being paid to do jobs they simply don’t want to do.

Charitable engagement however, seems to have taken a different path. Total giving to charitable organizations was $373.25 billion in 2015 (2.1% of GDP). This is the sixth straight year that giving has increased and the second straight record-setting year, following 2014’s total of $358.38 billion.  Good news on that front.

In more qualitative terms however, with Facebook et al maximizing social engagement, many may believe that we are all already highly engaged yet we are more likely to engage with a picture of someone’s dinner than we are with a major issue of global importance.

A client who is launching a rehab clinic here in Asia recently bemoaned that a post detailing a cutting edge therapy offering relief to thousands will receive almost engagement whilst one detailing a celebrity in rehab will score a home run.

Why are we so disengaged at work and in life? Is there optimism for the future. I think so.

My experience in working on employee engagement highlights 5 main points:


According to a slew of research, we achieve peak performance when we have a growth mindset focused on optimistic outcomes. According to Shawn Achor in his landmark book, The Happiness Advantage, we are more successful, live longer and have a range of measurable health and performance benefits if we are happy. Further, it appears that happiness preceded success and that by focusing on happy thoughts we can achieve the aforementioned benefits. Clearly then, we instinctively focus on the happy, a fact attested to by the huge popularity of inane situational comedy and reality TV.

Based on this insight, would we, by our very nature then, be more likely to evade what we may perceive as negative and unhappy issues and news stories even if they are of global significance in the same way that we procrastinate at work. Indeed many people who follow a “Happiness” mindset watch no TV News (with its negative sensationalism) or Hollywood action movies (with their destructive social scripts).

It would seem then, that we are hardwired to engage more closely with a picture of a cute puppy falling off the sofa than we are with an article on a sofa made by child labor.

Could reframing with a positive, growth mindset be the solution? Would this appeal to our hardwiring for happiness and growth? Ironically, in my work with organizations in creating positive mindsets, it is immediately apparent how few people have such a mindset. This is a superb opportunity, as with some simple exercises we can transfer our perception of a worthy cause from an insurmountable negative issue into an opportunity for growth.

Try this. The next time your team encounters a major problem. As them for 5 ways in which it could be the opportunity of a lifetime.


Our modern lifestyles and technologies have perfected the art of distraction. Social media, email, 24 hour news and stock prices are amongst the bombardment of information available anywhere and in real time.

It is estimated that, on average, only 1.1 hours of real focused work gets done per day and that this is largely down to the distractions of email and the previously mentioned distractions. With so little engagement in even our bread and butter, is it any surprise that we fail to engage with worthy causes (which, for the purposes of this article I will reframe as projects).

As our minds are cluttered our focus becomes more and more narrow decreasing our engagement with even ourselves. The mind has so many “issues” that we lack the headspace to contribute.

Here we have 2 solutions, either we clear each problem one by one, which may not always be feasible, OR we short circuit the system with mindful meditation.

Take only 10 minutes per day to focus only on your breathing and new neural pathways will be created which serves focus and concentration, giving you the power to ignore all of the clutter that simply doesn’t need to bother you.

Taking it one step further, address as many of the issues as possible. Write down all of the issues that are on your mind. Cross off all of the issues which you cannot affect e.g. the economy, your bosses mood, the outcome of the little league game etc. For all of the issues which are in your circle of influence write down a “Next Action,” i.e. the immediate next small step towards resolving the issue. As Psychologist Roy Baumeister says in his book “Willpower,” the brain needs only to know that there is a plan, and the next part of it, for it to cease being a cause of stress. Indeed, this “Internal locus of control” is a predictor of high performing individuals and has major life benefits.

Leverage Narcissism

“If they don’t care about me why should I care about them.” In the Western World (but not the East) we have been brainwashed into an X v’s Y culture in which a zero-sum game of winners and losers is ingrained. Our culture has become narcissistic with selfies and bragmail now duly scripted into society as a norm. A narcissistic society however, by its very definition lacks empathy, is deeply insecure and is inherently self-interested.

Engagement with worthy projects however, requires a great deal of empathy unless it is motivated by vanity and the need to be seen to a good person (for narcissistic reasons).

Again, the answer lies in reframing the engagement as benefiting not only the receiver but also the giver. Vanity or not, at the end of the day, does it really matter?

Avoiding Ambivalence. 

There is a phenomenon of desensitization which pervades our society and workplaces. Norms of growing moral depths are experienced making the original atrocity seem somehow normal in comparison. Socials scripts such as these are alarming psychologists. This desensitization makes us less likely to care about a cause as we are somehow numbed and normalized to it.

I am reminded here of the reaction to a Facebook post about a huge bomb in Karrada, Baghdad which killed over 300 people in July 2016. The blast came some months after a Paris atrocity which claimed the lives of 130. I questioned why nobody changed their profile pictures to the Iraqi colors, as had become a statement of solidarity following the Paris attacks. “We hear about bomb attacks in Iraq all the time but this was Paris,” was one reply.  As good an example as one could hope for of the ambivalence of our desensitized society.

There is hope. The evidence is, that minority groups who are persistent and consistent in their message do eventually succeed in achieving their goals. It may take years, but, over time more and more people will engage with the cause and accept it as not just a passing phase, but a real and worthwhile cause with integrity.  The message is, keep shouting and you will be heard.

Tackle Learned Helplessness. 

In one of the most famous experiments in psychology, dogs were conditioned to expect electric shocks when a sound played. The dogs were then put into a pen which was specially built so that, on one side, the dogs would get the shock and on the other side they would not. The dogs only had to jump over the low wall to reach the safe side.

Surprisingly, rather than head to safety the dogs submitted to the belief that they could not escape the shock so didn’t bother trying to move away from the danger area. They had learned helplessness.

In the two-legged world, Psychologist Marin Selgman took the idea further to prove the concept in human behavior.  Many believe that it’s a senseless waste of effort to engage in breaking established norms even if they are guaranteeing our mutual destruction. Who on Earth would engage in a challenge such as poverty, hunger, global warming, nuclear proliferation or corporate corruption with a “We can never win” attitude?

Luckily, just as we can learn helplessness, we can also learn a growth mindset. Try this exercise. Every day list 3 things that you are grateful for. Do this for one week and a new neural pathway is established which scans the horizon for growth opportunities. That mindset is then permanent and will continue even if the exercise is stopped. Boom!!

Imagine how engaged our society would be is we saw worthy causes as winning opportunities and “projects” rather than depressing demands on our precious time and resources.  Imagine how engaged we would be at work if we focused on the intrinsic value of each task and not the deadline.

In the coming decades, life will in no way slow down to give us time for engagement and more and more people and communities will get left behind. By cultivating an awareness of why we fail to engage and cultivating the skills to achieve it, both giver and receiver can enjoy lifelong sustainable benefits in all areas of their lives, social networks and organizations

How to be a Disruptor in 5 Easy Steps

670 300 Russell Potter

In the age of disruption we have seen so many determined entrepreneurial minds break through with simple, well-executed ideas that transform the lives of millions. From the supply and demand conduits of Uber and AirBnB, the accidental disruptors such as Google Maps and the flat out globalized disruptors such as Apple.

We are often startled by the simplicity of their innovation and the meteoric rise to public ubiquity in what seems like days. Of course, disruption h

as been happening for a aeons.  Edison’s light bulb disrupted candle makers for example, however disruption now is somewhat different. Edison’s lightbulb was a invention of the truest order. It’s the pace of disruption that’s changed.

Modern disruptors simply use other people’s inventions (reusable code and off the shelf electronics) to create new innovative iterations which sync with today’s consumer (and indeed supplier) with vastly reduced product development costs and timeframes.   It’s the pace that changed with a mix of enabling technologies + business model + impeccable timing.

Here’s how its done in 5 easy steps.

Step 1 | Look for a great idea that didn’t quite make it.

In their book “Big Bang Disruption” Larry Downes and Paul Nunes describe a “Singularity” before the Big Bang of disruption. At this phase, market experiments are happening on a small scale but only as a weak signal to the big market players. Often traceable to great ideas that didn’t quite make it these experiments offer an insight to new markets and possibilities and often fail due to underfunding, poor timing or just poor execution.

The forerunner to Facebook was MySpace. Although MySpace could never have been described a small player Mark Zuckerberg said that, “They were so inept we just couldn’t fail to do it better.” Now we can see how big Facebook has become, Myspace could easily be described as a weak signal.

Before Uber there was Google Ride Finder which was dropped but an idea, a technology and a market was identified for others to later exploit.

Many disruptors have capitalized on the failure of others who have blazed an unsuccessful trail only to illuminate a possibility, some lessons learned and fledgling market.

Step 2 | Think high volume low/no cost.

The key to any disruptor is that its low development and advertising costs keep the price to consumers very low. Most consumers now expect things for free and successful disruptors need the right business model to match. Remember that most disruptors will essential buy users and customers at the beginning using VC money.

Take the example of one startup I came across recently planning to offer a $30 hotel room for only $3 to customers whilst paying the full contract rate to the hotel.  Although their model is unlikely to work due to the industries standard mechanisms, it nonetheless shows the intention. Buy users, monetive later.

Moves like that bankrupted bigger fish (Hoover in the UK is a shining example) but now it’s a popular business model and arguably unfair competition akin to economic dumping.  Regardless, it’s the model and its here to stay. Speed, aggression and surprise is the key to achieve massive, overwhelming and seemingly overnight customer adoption which will be monetized at a later date.

Step 3 | Simplify

As the great bearded billionaire, Richard Branson said “Any fool can make something complicated, it’s hard to make something simple.” Bang on. Gone are the days when we needed to make things seem complicated and oh so specialized to justify the price tag. Disruption is all about taking something laborious, complicated and specialized and making it easier, more accessible and cheaper.

Think how Monster and other online job boards disrupted the traditional recruitment market.  No longer did the candidate have to trudge through the newspaper or business press and then send CV’s by email with a long cover letter. 10 applications could be sent with less clicks than a dolphin saying “Hi.”

Step 4 | Experiment (a lot)

Floating ideas and small frequent experiments is a key trait of disruption that even large incumbent corporations now use. Get the basic concept right and test market even if it’s to a Facebook page.

I met a startup entrepreneur recently who had a great idea for a dating app and just started a Facebook page to see what type of response she’d get. When she got to 4,000 page likes she decided to go for it and her app will launch in a few months. Experimenting like this takes away that stomach churning “will they come,” feeling that most bootstrapping entrepreneurs get when they are developing a product or service.

As Paul Brown mentions in his book, “Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us,” the key to a breakthrough is to take small steps, launch at an experimental level, see what they think and then refine the product until you find the winning formula.

Short feedback cycles are key. I do this after ever training workshop and recently came across a free/low cost app to get anonymous feedback online.

Step 5 | Innovative is a Culture.

The big mistake that many larger companies make is that they are not set up for the innovation required of disruption. Mistakes are not tolerated (especially in Asia) and this promotes a, “No risk culture” and a dearth of great leaders. Disruptive innovation can ONLY happen in creative environments where innovators are free to explore without the fear of a warning from HR.

The office space itself should be laid out to allow collaboration, experimentation and second glance moments that make you think differently.

Forget astroturf floors and indoor slides, recent research from Gallup concluded that Baby Boomers appreciated funky “Out there” office spaces more than Millennials.  Think co-working space and immersive experiences.  Not having regular desks is a great way to mix it up, creating the cross-functional discussions you need. Some of my clients now look more like Starbucks than an office with long benches and no desks.

Disruption is here, like it or not. Organizations can no longer afford the luxury of Darwinian pace organic evolution into evolving market conditions and need to accept that change now happens at an overnight pace more analogous to Global Warming. Smart organizations need to be the disruptor and not the disrupted and this requires a fundamental culture change.

Happy disrupting!