VOLUME ONE, ISSUE 3

3 Human Elements  "57 Channels and Nothin' On". This is the title of a song written by the Boss and appearing on his 1992 release Human Touch. At the time, 57 channels was a big deal. Today we can't conceive of having only 57 TV channels since most of us have access to more than 500. We might be able to debate the "and nothin' on" part, but we'll leave that for another time.
      The number of available TV channels isn't the only thing that's changed since 1992. That year, the first commercial text message was sent. Today, we'll send more text messages than the total population of the world. The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn't exist in 2004. This year, we'll generate 4 exabytes of new info - that's more than we've generated in the last 5,000 years. And this week's edition of the NY Times contains more information than a person in the 18th century was exposed to over a lifetime. (You can find these and other equally daunting facts in the video "Did You Know?" - the 2009 edition is now on You Tube....which by the way didn't exist prior to 2005.)
     What does all this mean? It means that we're living in a period of exponential change. The world we know today will be vastly different in 10 years and we have to be ready for it. As leaders and workers, many of the skills that once served us so well are now, at best, inadequate and, at worst, obsolete. In order to stay relevant in the workplace, we must commit to lifelong learning.
     What have you learned today?       
Jennie Ayers
President, Challenge It Now 

Make Virtual Meetings Work by Janice Criddle 

     It's no surprise that audio and web conferencing are gaining ground as a critical component of how we do business. We use teleconferencing here at Challenge It Now - we have offices on both coasts and we often travel to see clients. Using technology, we can still get information in real time, eliminate the down time and cost of travel and overcome the challenge of keeping in close contact even when we're geographically apart. And for those of us who are concerned about the "greening" of American business, virtual meetings mean using less carbon credits.

     But there can be a down side. If you've ever participated in a tele or web conference, you can probably share stories of "calls gone bad". Calls can be ruined by participants joining late or leaving early, background noise or poor preparation. Everyone can hear the clicking of a keyboard, the munching of chips, the traffic noise, the children, the pets and the shuffling of papers.
     By the same token, you're just as aware of the participants who are fully engaged, paying attention and being polite. Isn't that what it boils down to? Manners and etiquette work in face to face meetings - and they work in virtual meetings. Some things to keep in mind when meeting by phone or via the web...
If You are the Host
The same guidelines you would use for a face to face meeting apply to a virtual meeting. Prepare an agenda and send it out in advance, along with any background material. Start the call on time, taking a moment to review ground rules. Enforce "one speaker at a time". Have participants introduce themselves. Suggest they identify themselves each time they speak as some voices may sound similar. Insist that participants announce when they join or leave the meeting. If someone needs to leave early, do a check in to make sure they have clarity on what's been discussed. Is there anything else they need to proceed? As the call progresses, pay attention to who's talking and who isn't. Don't let 1 or 2 people dominate. If you notice that someone's not contributing, ask for his/her input.
If You are a Participant 

Make sure you're in a quiet room with no distractions. In the case of a teleconference, try not to use a speakerphone. If you need to be "hands free" for taking notes, use a headset. Don't multi-task. It's not okay to catch up on e-mails. Conduct yourself as if you were in that face to face meeting. You wouldn't talk on your cell phone and start texting if you were in a face to face, so you shouldn't try to sneak those things in during a virtual meeting. Use your best active listening skills. Since you may not be able to see anyone (and if you can, the video is often not very crisp), focusing on content, inflection and tone is even more important. Paraphrasing is a great clarification tool and helps you stay engaged.

When you can't see other people and they can't see you, it's easy to slip into disrespectful behaviors that we think go unnoticed. Trust me...the only one who won't notice is someone else being rude.
When conducted properly, virtual meetings are productive, convenient and cost effective. Whether working with colleagues or clients, use them as an opportunity to make a good impression. Treating people with respect and consideration is one of the best ways of doing that...even in a virtual meeting. 
In This Issue
Make Virtual Meetings Work
Elmo's Four Funny Friends
Be More Creative - Stuff That Works
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Quick Links
"We now accept that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change."
Peter Drucker
 "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."
Alvin Toffler
The Work Climate Equation
 B = M x E
The (B)ehavior (performance) people demonstrate is equal to the
(M)otivational Drivers
(power, achievement, affiliation)
they carry within themselves,
influenced by the
(E)nvironment (climate)
in which they work. 
Climate Hands

How Innovative is Your Organization?
How does your organization measure up when it comes to fostering a work climate that successfully supports innovation and creativity? Based on more than 20 years of research by Goran Ekvall, there are 9 dimensions of the climate for innnovation.
(1) Challenge - how challenged, how emotionally involved and how commited are you to the work? 

(2) Freedom - how free are you to decide how to do your job?

(3) Idea Time - do you have time to think things through before having to act?

(4) Idea Support - do you have the resources to give new ideas a try?

(5) Trust & Openness - do you feel safe in speaking your mind and openly offering a different POV?

(6) Playfulness & Humor - how relaxed is your workplace? Is it OK to have fun?

(7) Conflicts - to what degree do you engage in interpersonal conflict or "warfare"?

(8) Debates - do you engage in lively debates about issues?

(9) Risk - is it okay to fail when trying new things?

 collaboration cubes

"Elmo's Four Funny Friends"

Money Well-Spent on Training & Development by Jennie Ayers 
The other day I was in Borders, reading "Elmo's Four Funny Friends". Not my usual choice of reading material but I've got a crush on Elmo - and I needed a gift for a little girl. I bought the book - which got me to thinking about my own friends. At least one of them is "make me laugh out loud" funny so when we get together, I know I'm in for a good time. Boy, was I disappointed at our most recent lunch.
My friend sent two of her direct reports to a pricey skills workshop two months ago. To date, their performance hasn't improved and now her boss is questioning my friend's judgment on how she's spending company resources. That'll take the funny out of anybody. My friend's angry and frustrated and blames her direct reports for failing to take advantage of the opportunity she gave them.
"What are you doing to ensure their success?" - I just had to ask. Like many supervisors, my friend thinks it's enough to encourage and support ongoing education. The facts say otherwise.
Those of us involved in adult education know the challenge of retention. But even I was shocked to discover that corporate training professionals estimate that only 16% of participants in workshops and seminars are able to take what they learn, transfer that knowledge to their jobs and improve their performance.
That means the other 84% of participants don't retain the skills they learn. Why? Research finds that it's because supervisors don't stay involved. In short, if supervisors don't have recurring conversations with direct reports on how they can apply what they learn in training sessions, there's little chance that work performance will improve. And studies at Pfizer, Xerox, Motorola and American Express find that companies acutally realize a negative return on educational investment when supervisors don't provide ongoing reinforcement after the learning experience. 
Only 16% of participants in workshops and
seminars....transfer what they
learn to their jobs and
improve their performance. 
turtle on back 
            Don't leave employees stranded after a training session.
What Should Supervisors Do?
In looking for additional resources to help out my funny friend, I came across a new book - "Getting Your Money's Worth from Training & Development" by Andrew McK. Jefferson, Roy V.H. Pollock and Calhoun W. Wick. Just out this year, it's a "nuts and bolts" guide to making sure your company gets good value from learning opportunities. The book addresses what both managers and participants can do. Here's a taste of how managers can impact the success of their direct reports.
Be More Upfront - Do your homework. What's the program/workshop? How does it support company goals? Meet with your direct reports before the learning experience to set up clear expectations and establish timelines for follow-up.
Be More Engaged - Talk to your direct reports about their experience. What did they learn? How can they apply it at work? This gives an employee the opportunity to retrieve and reprocess the information, which supports retention and application. Continue to provide feedback and encouragement.
Be More Results Driven - Review and revise the learning objectives of your direct reports and monitor their progress on meeting those objectives. Assess the results of the learning experience by noting changes in performance, citing specific examples. Discover what worked, what didn't and how future learning experiences could be more effective.
That sounds like a lot. Fortunately, the book helps out by providing actual worksheets you can use and offers specific coaching guidelines. Without on-the-job reinforcement, too many training dollars are wasted. Capitalize on your investment and build employee engagement simultaneously. Meet before training programs to set expectations and after programs to provide encouragement and application. It will be time - and money - well spent.
I gave my friend the book. It must be working. We had dinner last night and she had me laughing out loud.


Tap Into Creativity: Stuff that Really Works by Rebecca Ripley
collaboration cubes Innovation gives life to business in a market economy. Companies need to successfully exploit new ideas in order to succeed. Coming up with those ideas means tapping into the creativity of all workers. Tough economic times can often be good news for innovation - General Electric, Walt Disney and McDonald's are a small sample of companies that were formed through innovation during times of recession. But tough economic times can also be a roadblock to creativity - if we let it.
When people are nervous about job security and frustrated about not getting raises, productive brainstorming can be a challenge. To help team members get past the doldrums and re-engage, consider using the following techniques to foster creativity and innovation.
Angel's Advocate: Several years ago at a conference, I learned this technique from Sidney Shore. We all know about devil's advocate, where we point out the flaws of ideas, supposedly to make them better. Unfortunately, this approach focuses on the negative, possibly leaving good ideas beaten into the ground and left for dead. With angel's advocate, we take an opposite approach and focus on what's right about a proposed idea. Look for an automatic positive response, even when you don't like the idea. When you hear a "bad" idea, say, "I'm going to tell you what I like about that." This strategy gets us beyond our preoccupation with the obvious drawbacks of the idea.
Another variation is to try one of these antidotes when you feel yourself offering an automatic "no" response. Notice that these comments are not falsely effusive, yet they buy the idea some time. "Let's talk about it. Tell me more. I hadn't thought of that. That's an interesting perspective." When you hear people talking, notice the "automatic no" response. This will help to increase your awareness of when you use it with others and remind you to counter the negative comment with a positive or neutral one. A final variation is to ask, "What's good about this situation?" whenever you're faced with adversity. This helps you regain optimism which triggers more creative solution-finding.

Introduce these approaches to your team, and at future meetings remind people to use angel's advocate. You might adopt a ground rule that says "Before any proposed idea can be criticized, at least three positive or neutral statements have to be made." This will allow the idea to percolate so others can ponder and piggyback on the idea, perhaps turning it into something worth pursuing.
To help people with an introverted preference participate fully in the brainstorming process, try this silent idea generation technique. Have the team work at tables of 4-8 people. Give every person a blank sheet of paper, and put an extra sheet in the center of the table. After naming the brainstorming question, ask all participants to write down one idea and then pass their sheets to the person on their right. Each person then adds ideas triggered by the previously stated suggestions. If what's been written down doesn't lead to a new idea, just add another unrelated suggestion and pass the paper to the right again. Continue the silent process, adding new ideas to each page, for 7 minutes.
The extra sheet in the middle of the table is for those quick thinkers who would otherwise become impatient waiting for the person on their left to pass them the paper circling the table. They can add an idea to the sheet from the middle of the table and return it for the next person to use. This beats the alternative of incessant finger tapping or the proverbial stare down!
Brainwriting eliminates negative evaluation, suppresses domination by a verbal few and decreases uniformity pressure. The technique can also be done virtually using "Groupware" technology. It's a nice variation on traditional brainstorming and generates lots of responses quickly. Whoever has responsibility to take the problem solving to the next level can collect all the sheets, ask for any needed clarification and then decide how to prioritize and move forward.
We encourage experimentation with these techniques. In my experience in dozens of creativity and innovation workshops, they increase people's willingness to participate. When more ideas are generated, you are much more likely to get a winner. Quantity does lead to quality. And remember, as Charlie Brower said, "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow."
Make a personal commitment to champion new ideas and give them a chance to live...and let us know how these techniques work for you.
3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
Please take a moment and visit our website at to find out more about us and what we have to offer.
Our October PCM is full. Please mark your calendars for our next public offering of the Process Communication Model to be held on Wednesday, January 13, 2010.
For additional information, please contact us at (818) 585-9553 or (818) 429-0077.