Thursday, February 28, 2008


A client recently turned us on to Marshall Goldsmith's concept of "feedforward," and we've been happily passing it along.
Goldsmith points out that the problem with feedback is that it focuses on the past (and blame!) rather than on the future (and growth). Feedforward emphasizes ideas that can help you do a better job next time, instead of analyzing where you screwed up last time. Imagine development sessions without criticism, defensiveness, or arguing about who was wrong and who was right. (Hey, imagine a marriage like that!)

Try the exercise Goldsmith uses. We found it a much more productive and respectful way to share ideas about how we can do better. And after seeing a group of twenty practicing, we were delighted by the energy and connection in the room.

Of course, we can't completely abandon talking about the past. But we can use feedforward more often than we think. It's a great tool for keeping communication positive and fruitful. And people eat it up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good words

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this. - Emo Phillips

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stuck on you

For some months now I've been in love with Chip Heath's and Dan Heath's Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

The title of the 2007 book grabbed me, of course, because Workplace Productions has been using the phrase "Learning that Sticks" for five years or so. And as a designer and facilitator of adult learning I'm always looking for new ways to make ideas and skills memorable.

And what a treasure this book is! It's written using its own principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional appeal, and stories.

I'll be discussing aspects of it here (even though the orange cover clashes with my color scheme), and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Heaths' practice-what-you-preach manual.

So grab your copy, and over the next couple of weeks we'll talk about how these ideas relate to workplace learning. Stick around.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good words for Valentine's Day

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. - Carl Jung

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good words

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. - Naguib Mahfouz

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anniversary Waltz

Today marks ten years that Workplace Productions, Inc. has been in business. It's only getting more exciting for us, as we explore new ways to make business learning interactive, engaging and memorable. Check out some of our stories at our website (yes, we promise to update those pictures soon!).

Thanks to our wonderful clients and especially to our great team of interactors. We love working with you.

And we never get tired of hearing participants say, "This was the best training I've ever had."

Friday, February 8, 2008

I'm recommending...

Here's my review, from Perdido magazine, of a terrific all-around management book. It's just come out in paperback.

Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers
By Erika Andersen
Reviewed by Beverly Feldt

Say you’re a manager. The people who report to you are pretty good, but there are a few problems, of course. You’ve had some management training from your company – mostly focusing on theory, rather than practice. Some of the approaches you’ve learned are useful, when you can remember them in time. But often you run on instinct, and often you regret it later. You recall vague terms such as “core competencies” and “coaching for performance.” However, it’s kind of a jumble in your mind.

You’ve even read a few books on management, but most of them are either too simple or too abstract. Usually they tout one skill, such as listening, as the cure for all workplace ills. You’d give a lot for a clear, well-organized manual on the people side of management.

Got $15.00?

Growing Great Employees (Portfolio, 2006) might be the handbook you’ve been waiting for. It’s the best management training book I’ve seen.

Beautifully organized, comprehensive and straightforward, Growing Great Employees is better than its title. (And don’t be put off by its unifying metaphor, gardening, which appears mostly in chapter headings and introductions.) Erika Andersen, founder of the consulting firm Proteus International, has put 25 years of experience into a reader-friendly, meaty guide to “all that people stuff.”

In admirably clear language, Andersen covers an astonishing amount of material: the hiring interview, TRACOM’s Social Styles ™, delegating, positive and corrective feedback, performance agreements–even how to fire someone. There’s a guide for making sure new employees start out well; a technique for discovering the key responsibilities of a job; a model for changing your own mindset to become a better coach. Each topic is discussed step by step and illustrated with dialogues and case studies. Diagrams and models are lucid, logical and easy to follow. Every chapter ends with a page of “Big Ideas” that summarizes the main points just covered.

Even more useful are the many practical exercises throughout the book. Called “Try It Out,” these experiments cover actual practice (using listening skills in a real conversation), planning (writing out statements and questions you might use in a corrective feedback session), analysis (filling out a job description template) and self-assessment (determining your preferred learning style). There are checklists and charts, and even space to write in the book.

But what makes Growing Great Employees a true handbook – and truly useful – is its structure. In the introduction, Andersen offers a summary of each chapter, acknowledging that many readers might not choose to read the book “in a straight line.” Since reading non-fiction books out of order is a secret vice of mine, I was delighted. What’s more, throughout the book Andersen provides references back to earlier chapters as needed.

For example, in Chapter 4, during a discussion of non-verbal signals, she writes, “…if you’re reading this book out of order, at this point you might want to go back and read the first chapter, where we focus on listening skills.” This interconnected approach, reminiscent of hyperlinks on a website, makes the book much more accessible if a reader is trying to work through a particular management problem.

Throughout each chapter, there’s a personal flavor, as if you were having a private consultation with Andersen. The tone is positive, down-to-earth and specific – a welcome change from most management books, which seem either to oversimplify or to wallow in impenetrable jargon. Growing Great Employees does neither.

Non-gardeners may roll their eyes a bit at chapter titles such as “Staking and Weeding” and “Some Plants Don’t Make It,” but Andersen has a charming way of laughing a bit at her own tendency to push the metaphor. (She says in the introduction, “I intend to wring every last drop [from the gardening image] by the end of the final chapter.”) It’s not really a gimmick; it’s more of a useful trellis on which some prize roses grow.

Is Growing Great Employees for you? It’s worth a look. As productivity demands increase and hierarchies flatten, hiring and keeping good people becomes crucial. As Andersen says, “Most of the things that make employees want to work for a particular company can be provided by a skillful manager. I can help you be that kind of manager.” I think she’s right.

Reprinted with permission from Perdido: Leadership with a Conscience, Vol. 14, No. 3, ©2007 Trinity Foundation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Good words

There is no pleasure to me without communication; there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to. - Montaigne