Saturday, December 19, 2009

Developing Managers with Everything DiSC®

On August 30, I published this blog entry: New Take on an Old Standard. It is about Everything DiSC®, which is a style assessment tool that allows users to gain insight into their behavioral preferences at work. At the time, I had just purchased the Everything DiSC® package so my team could administer it and incorporate it into some of our management training programs. We have used it several times since then, and as promised, I wanted to report back on our experience using this tool.

The Training Approach: We have incorporated Everything DiSC® into several of our management programs. Participants go online prior to their scheduled class and complete the DiSC® profile as pre-work. It takes them approximately 30 minutes to complete. Once they are finished, they are able to immediately generate a very rich feedback report which we ask them to bring to training. During training, we define what the different DiSC® styles are and we help the participants identify the implications of their style preferences. We also cover how to read other people to determine what their likely DiSC® style is, and how to apply DiSC® in various management situations such as delegating work and developing employees. Essentially, Everything DiSC® enables us to cover some aspects of Emotional Intelligence (Self Awareness and Social Awareness) in training without calling it that. In my experience, managers sometimes get uncomfortable when emotional intelligence is mentioned, so this gives us a way to address their learning needs in this area in a non-threatening way.

(The four basic DiSC Styles surrounded by eight corresponding management behavioral preferences)

The Participant Take-aways: We purchased the management version of Everything DiSC®. The profiles generated for the participants and the feedback they receive on their style preferences is presented in a very practical context for the jobs that they are doing. Although there are only four DiSC® styles, there are many potential combinations of responses to the profile questionnaire, so each feedback report is unique. The reports contain personalized feedback on how DiSC® style preferences influence behavior in the following areas:

  • Management Style (priorities, preferences and implications for time management)
  • Directing and Delegating
  • Motivation
  • Developing Others
  • Working with Your Manager (influence without authority) 
The Measurement Results: The DiSC® segments of our management training programs are receiving some of our highest level 1 (participant reaction) ratings. I know level 1 metrics are nothing to get excited over, but considering that the discussions that take place during the DiSC® segments of our training are really discussions about topics such as delegating and motivation, I think this is noteworthy. Many “seasoned” managers attend our training sessions. To have them rate these segments highly tells us that they are adding new insights to topics that might otherwise seem like a retread to them.

We are also seeing positive results in our level 3 (behavioral change) metrics. Evidence that our managers are incorporating DiSC® style information into their management approaches can be seen in the goals they are setting in their post-training action plans and in their follow-up progress reports.

The Added Bonus: In addition to the personalized profiles and feedback reports the participants receive, Everything DiSC® also gives us the ability to generate composite and comparison reports. The composite reports plot DiSC® styles for a given population such as everyone in a particular job or an intact work team. We have been conducting DiSC® training separately for managers in our Sales and Service organizations. The composite reports for these two groups show that very different patterns of behavior have emerged within each group. It provides us great information for performance consulting and change management. The comparison reports plot two individuals on a continuum for the same categories in the individual profile reports. They provide feedback that is helpful for coaching and conflict resolution.

On the whole, Everything DiSC® has been a very positive addition to our management development programs. Each time we have used it we have been asked by at least one member of the class if we could administer it for their work group. So it looks like it has franchise possibilities as well!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tweeting at Conferences: Etiquette vs. Impact

I had an epiphany during this week’s #lrnchat. Participating in these discussions has been tremendously helpful in my quest to understand the value social media tools provide for learning.

This week’s chat started off with questions about how media sharing tools (such as Youtube) and collaborative content creation tools (such as wikis) are impacting corporate learning. As this discussion ran its course, the next question that appeared in the chat scroll was about the role of social media at in-person conferences. In response to this question, one of the chat participants made the suggestion that we should “bring the backchannel forward” in conferences. He stated that, "social media does not have to be a post-event activity; instead it should be an attendee."

After reading his post, I pictured a speaker in front of a room full of people with Blackberries in hand, eyes down and thumbs flying as they twittered messages back to the members of their respective online communities. The next image that came to mind was of my teenage children pulling out their cell phones to respond to text messages from their friends at inappropriate times. Being a relatively new social media user (I started blogging and tweeting in August) I viewed these two situations as much the same, so I naively typed in this question in response to his post: “Isn’t it rude to tweet during conference events?”

My question garnered some interesting responses, such as: “Not at a good one,” “It’s engagement,” “These days it seems like an insult not to,” “It extends the conversation,” and “Is it rude to take notes?”

Reading these responses made me realize that I need to change my frame of reference. My “pre-social media” point-of-view was that it would be disrespectful and disruptive to do anything other than give the speaker my full attention. But as I thought about it some more, I thought, “Of course the speaker would want people to share his or her message beyond the conference-goers.” Then, I began to calculate the impact:

Imagine a conference presenter speaking to an audience of 100 people. Let’s say half of them are social media users. And out of that half, half of them were interested enough to tweet the speaker’s message back to their online communities. That would be 25 people extending the message beyond the in-person audience. Now let’s say that each of those 25 people had 100 followers on twitter. The speaker’s message has now potentially reached 2500 people. Even if only a small percentage of those 2500 people retweet the message it still extends the impact even further. And these are very conservative estimates. I currently have 88 followers and I have only been a twitter user since August. Factor in long time users who have huge followings and the numbers grow exponentially.

As a result of this, I have revised my mental model of social media activity at conferences.  Far from being rude, it is actually complimentary to tweet during presentations.  And never mind about about it being disruptive, it actually helps the speaker be more productive. So, next time you are at a conference, don’t be surprised to see me in the audience at with my mobile device in hand. I promise it won’t be because I am texting home to find out if we are having meatloaf or chicken for dinner.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Instructional Design: To Degree or not to Degree

While cruising through the blogosphere this week I stumbled upon a debate about whether or not people who practice instructional design should have an advanced degree in the field. The two points of view are well represented in writings by Cammy Bean - Learning Visions (not necessary) and Karl Kapp – Kapp Notes (should have it).

Reading their arguments caused me to reflect on my own career path and choices. I have held a variety of positions in learning & development over the years. On my blog, I identify myself as a “Learning Generalist” but at heart I am an Instructional Designer.

Early in my career I began writing training programs using instincts and intuition. I made instructional design choices that made sense to me about how one would learn and internalize new information or skills. For the most part, I made good choices and my learners were successful. Publications such as Training magazine, T&D (as it is now called) and the InfoLine provided me with an informal “101” education. Later on I supplemented those readings with books on instructional design and courses from Darryl Sink & Associates, Langevin Learning and Bob Pike’s Creative Training Techniques. Through these vehicles and a lot of trial and error I sharpened my skills.

When e-learning appeared on the horizon and I was scared to death. I never was much of a technical person and I was sure my career was over. Eventually, some user-friendly tools came on the market and I was able to avert this crisis by learning how to use Lectora and Articulate Presenter software. It was a new medium but still required sound instructional design.

As my career progressed, I found myself wanting to know more about my chosen field. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Instructional Systems at Florida State University. Participating in the program had its pros and cons. On the pro side, it opened doors to new resources, sharpened my course development skills, and deepened my understanding of how people learn. I gained a better understanding of what motivates learners and how I could attend to their needs and motivations through instructional design. On the con side, I was a victim of the learning trends. I had to endure every new learning trick, tool and pet project my professors threw at me. But in the end, I am better off for this experience.

The bottom line is that the program has made me a more competent and confident learning professional. What I once did on intuition I now do deliberately and my results are consistently better. My company (which is paying for my education) has benefited greatly. I have success stories to tell about learning projects that I don’t think I would have even attempted prior to participating in the program. I am sought after as a learning strategist inside my company and my career satisfaction is much higher now.

But here’s the thing: Would I have had this success if I jumped right into graduate school early on? I don’t think so. Years of self-development and practical experience helped me to get the most out of the program. So I don’t believe it is necessary to have an advanced degree to be successful in this field… but it sure helps.