Context is King – They Said it, Too

March 24th, 2014

ShowDatainContext2Don’t you just love validation?

I got a big dose of it this week while checking out a very cool Business Guide to Visual Communications from very cool agency Column Five.

Now, I’ve said it before and will say it again – when it comes to data, context is king.

Is $5 million in sales a lot or a little? That depends on what the goal was. How much was sold last year. What competitors earned.

Folks, when applying for awards or doing any other kind of communication, give your audience a break–be they judges, stakeholders, colleagues, etc.–and give them the back story with the front one.

This lovely graphic captures it well (click on it for a larger, gloriously readable version).

The bottom line – use data for good. Be accurate and clear.




I’m Lucky

February 10th, 2014

VictoryRocks!I like what I do AND I’m good at it. And my clients rock.

I recently attended the Training magazine annual conference and Training Top 125 Award gala in San Diego.

It was an awesome night. 

My clients did very well overall. In fact, some did exceptionally well. Here are some results -

  • #1 - up from #2 (both a small and a giant step)
  • #2 - up from #41!
  • #15 - up from #28
  • #19 - up from #63 last year and #118 the year before!
  • #30 - up from #101!
  • #35 - first time on the list (only one newcomer placed higher)

I was absolutely thrilled by their success, which made me realize a few things -

  1. I know what I’m doing. Like, fer real.
  2. I’m genuinely fond of my clients. They are good people who win me over with their dedication and passion for what they do as well as the excellence they achieve.
  3. My clients seem to dig me, too. One picked me up, spun me around and shouted, “You’re a rock star!” Definitely a top moment of the evening.
  4. I AM LUCKY. All this adds up to me having a pretty good life.

So thank you to all the wonderful people who put their trust in me to help them shine.

P.S. I couldn’t help but put together a slide of all the selfies and photos from that night and drop them into my session presentation the next day. Pretty good proof point.




January 31st, 2014

They’re really trying hard.

Too hard, perhaps.

Microsoft has for years been trying to become a customer-centric company after a long history of success by virtue of monopoly.

Lately, it seems, they are trying to make up for lost time by overdoing it on the customer service end. Recently I have contacted them for support with Office 365 and other questions. On the one hand, I’m quite pleased with being able to speak with someone quickly and resolving my issues satisfactorily.

On the other, I get follow-up emails or phone calls from the person I spoke with and sometimes emails or phone calls from that person’s manager. While I appreciate that they want to make sure I’m satisfied, they’re asking for a lot of my time in doing so.

Microsoft, do us a favor: please chill out. Make your websites/tools more intuitive and customer service a one-shot deal and you will be just fine.

Thanks from all of us. Except, of course, Mac users.


December 12th, 2013

Sometimes you have to chalk it up to fate.

Watch my annual holiday video, and then check out this link, found in my Twitter feed just hours before I sent out the video link.

The universe works in mysterious ways…

Happy holidays to all.

Wise Words on Coaching

December 11th, 2013

Support and Motivate Just About Anyone

Researching content for my latest holiday video, I found many articles about how to be a good workplace manager, and many others on being a good sports coach.

But one article in particular supplied what I thought was excellent advice for any kind of coaching, formal or informal, business-oriented or not.

Four Top Coaching Tips that Work in the Real World,” by Sean McPheat, author of Coaching and Mentoring, provides guidance applicable in any number of situations:

1) Encourage self-evaluation

Not only does it help folks figure out for themselves what they need to do, it encourages self-awareness and accountability.

2) Create a vision that inspires

It’s not enough to set goals – those goals must have inherent worth and meaning. A vision can also support creativity and, of course, motivate action.

3) Set challenging expectations

Measures and milestones on the way help maintain focus and energy while also building confidence as progress is made. Making these milestones challenging can push people beyond what they might do if left to their own devices.

4) Build ownership & commitment

The sum total of taking risks, making decisions, solving problems and building confidence is essentially ownership. And once those actions have been taken, commitment goes hand in hand.


What’s some of the best coaching advice you’ve ever gotten? Given?


Mandela on Communication

December 6th, 2013

A group of American and South African students, aged from 11 to 19, met with Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, on 2 June 2009. This is part of a series of activities ahead of Mandela Day on 18 July.

A very humble homage to Nelson Mandela (1928-2013)

The world lost a great man this week, a tremendous role model for all of us.

The media has been awash with Nelson Mandela tributes and stories, all well deserved. I’d like to share just one quote:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Far be it from me to imply any likeness between Mandela and me, other than a hope that I might display an iota of his courage, strength and determination, and yet I was struck by the similarity of his message of my mantra:

Who do you think you’re talking to?

You must always know who you’re speaking with if you intend to influence them. At the core of communication is an understanding of the audience, their hopes and fears, what they know and have, and what they aspire to.

Rest in peace, Madiba.

VUCA, and People

October 24th, 2013

Wouldn’t ya know?

Not one week after sending out my most recent issue of BRAINSNACKS, my smart-n-informative enewsletter, on the topic of VUCA I received an email about…VUCA.

It was a promo for a new blog post, How the Talent Management Function Can Thrive In a VUCA World, by HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan. Recommended reading. As he defines it:

“As a leader in talent management, you have undoubtedly already noticed over the last decade that there has been continuous volatility and change in the business, political, social, technological, and even the physical environment. Well, this world of turmoil actually has a name, which is VUCA—an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  This turbulent environment was first identified and used by the U.S. military but it is now also becoming a standard business term that cannot be ignored.”

Yep. He said a lot of interesting stuff about VUCA but you should read that yourself.

Turns out, it was the first of two blog posts from DDI (Development Dimensions International), a global talent management consulting company. The second, [Benchmark Yourself] Is Your Talent Strategy Built for a VUCA World?, by Justin Yopp, promotes their “agile talent management” benchmarking tool.

In addition to being a clever way to capture your email (don’t know how they got mine), the benchmarking survey asks good questions, such as:

We build multi-level, agile competency models informed by business challenges to support our talent strategy.

We recognize talent strategy and systems may become obsolete, so we review them at regular intervals based on dynamics of external environment.

The choice of responses:

  • We’re doing it
  • We’re working on it
  • We should think about this

Seems like a pretty good list of things to, at a minimum, be thinking about.

Be Agile. A lot.

More and more folks seem to say that the opposite of VUCA is agility. While that makes sense, it also makes me wonder:

How much faster can we all go?




What She Said (About Winning)

October 16th, 2013

And she should know.

Jacqueline Burandt, senior director of the Center for Learning Excellence at University Health System, a nationally recognized academic medical center in San Antonio, Texas, knows a thing or two about winning awards.

She has led her team to win multiple prestigious learning awards over the years, including the Chief Learning Officer magazine LearningElite Award, Training magazine Top 125 Award and the American Society for Training and Development’s ASTD BEST Award.

I recently saw Jacque give an outstanding session at the ASTD Learn from the BEST event in Washington DC during which she emphasized the importance of winning awards. Afterward, an attendee asked her why. If only I’d whipped out my iPhone then and there to capture her response on video!

But because Jacque is kind and generous, she sent her thoughts over to me, and here they are (thank you!).

In her own words.

I am often asked why I take the time and effort to submit award applications. Is it really worth the effort?

There is no doubt that writing award applications is a large investment of time and labor.  Although as with most investments, there can be a really big, long term pay off. The reason I choose to invest in submitting award applications is that I have repeatedly seen the value to my organization and to my department.

Here are a few of the benefits:

  1.  TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) for our brand.  When you think of a top health care organization or learning department, you’re more likely to think of us.
  2. Recruitment of staff for our organization. An award-winning learning organization is seen as a crucial part of any benefits package in attracting new staff in the highly competitive workplace market.
  3. Recruitment of learning professionals.  Every time we interview new candidates to our department, they mention having been to our website and having been impressed with the many prestigious awards we have won.
  4. Retention of staff. (See #2  and # 3 above.)
  5. Differentiation.  Winning awards causes us to stand out from other organizations.
  6. Staff morale builder.  Staff are proud to announce their employment at an organization that wins awards.
  7. Benchmarking.  As an award-winning learning organization, we are frequently contacted by other organizations and are able to share our successes and network.
  8. Free publicity. Most award applications have minimal application fees.  The resulting free press in trade publications, local and national news stories, etc. is truly invaluable.
  9. Respect in the C-Suite.  Executives love to see their organization recognized.
  10. Awareness of areas to improve. In receiving feedback on the applications, we learn where we can do better.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Don’t Be a Sissy…phus

October 2nd, 2013

What makes us feel good about our work? 

It’s a great question.


And it’s posed by none other than behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a TED Talk I came across recently.

I found it absolutely fascinating, as I generally do with Ariely (you’ve got to admire a guy who appears regularly both on NPR and in the Wall Street Journal).

Turns out, Sisyphus really did get a bum deal.

Here’s the description of Ariely’s talk on

What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work. 

If you’re wanting to better understand what makes you–and/or the people who work for (or with) you–feel enthusiastic about work, take 20 minutes and watch.


And AR Stands for…What?

September 17th, 2013

In this case, augmented reality.

Might sound kind of space age and actually it kind of is.

The Wikipedia definition: a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

My simpler explanation: it’s stuff superimposed onto other stuff.

Something like the next step up from QR codes (which when scanned with a smartphone or other device take you to a predetermined Web page or other destination), AR can be data that appears when you hold up your phone to, say, an ad.

It’s essentially how Google Glasses works. Here are a bunch of other pretty cool uses as reported by Mashable.

Just one example.

I recently helped a client with a presentation on current trends in recruiting (about which I knew little prior to the project, and can deftly pretend to know quite a bit about now).

In that process I came across a particularly WOW example of AR. It’s not surprising that the military is often an early adopter of advanced technologies for recruiting. This case is no different – as the Australian Defence Force looked at using augmented reality to recruit top medical students.

A few agencies (full disclosure: including a former employer) collaborated to create what “medically diagnosable advertising.”

You’ve got to watch this videoMaybe AR should stand for Awesomely Rad.


Learning Program and Team Awards 2009-2013


ASTD Excellence in Practice

Technical Training Award
Training Management Citation (for new programs)
Learning Technology Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Leadership Development (x2) Award, Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Onboarding Citation
Sales Enablement Citation

Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning

Best Custom Content Gold
Best in Learning Strategy and Governance Gold
Best Leadership Development Program Gold
Best Innovation in Learning Technology Silver
Best Leadership Sales Training Silver
Best Integration of Learning and Talent Management Bronze
Best Use of Games for Learning Bronze

Brandon Hall Technology Excellence

Best Advance in Social Learning Technology Gold

CLO Magazine Learning in Practice

Technology Innovation Gold, Division 1
Innovation Gold, Division 1
Business Impact Gold, Division 2
Business Impact Bronze, Division 2


Learning Organization Ranking Awards


American Society for Training & Development

ASTD BEST #1 (up from #32 in one year)
#2 (up from #37 in two years)

ELearning! Media Group

Learning! 100 #1 (first year on list)

Chief Learning Officer Magazine

LearningElite #4, #8

Training Magazine

 Training Top 125 #11 (up from #68 in one year)