Professional Personal Development
Professional Personal Development
Professional Personal Development
We think the term 'training' is too restrictive, and we only use it because that is the context within which many organisations can understand what we do. But whether you call it people skills training, interpersonal skills training, soft skills training or professional personal development, what we're talking about is people changing what they do in order to be more effective, more able and quite simply, happier at their job and in their personal lives.
What we do know is that people take on new behaviours best when there is a parallel shift in their personal development. Interpersonal skills aren't just something you use at the workplace and then leave at the office when you go home. The whole person is what's important, and any programme Impact Factory creates has stuff in it that people can use in all aspects of their lives.
Individuals need to be skilled in what they can do to positively affect the outcome of any kind of communication. This is true if the communication is a presentation to 500 people, an annual review with a staff member, the initiation of new work practises - indeed anything that requires one person to be in communication with others.
In the simplest terms, being able to communicate effectively means relating well to other people. It means being able to listen and really hear what others are saying. Part of being a good listener is knowing how to respond without stonewalling or hijacking other people's ideas.
It also means being able to convey information, feedback and requests clearly and directly, give appropriate levels of praise and advice and take responsibility for making sure things are understood. This means that people must be able and willing to deal with conflict and confrontation. Conflict resolution can be effectively achieved by negotiating what is known as 'win/win' solutions.
There is not one 'right' way to communicate, but there are certainly many 'wrong' ones. Impact Factory's development work concentrates on what's already working about an individual's interpersonal skills and developing that. Gaining insight and awareness about the effect they have on others, coupled with developing specific tools and techniques for managing people, puts people more in charge of the communication process.
So why do we need it?
There have been changes in every sector where people are being asked to do more and take on more responsibility, often with less support than ever before. As a direct result of these kinds of pressures, dealing with difficult people or situations can be more problematic. Time constraints, deadline constraints and fewer people to do more work, means that communication may suffer, conflicts stay unresolved, dissatisfaction fester, tempers get frayed and inefficiency become more prevalent.
On top of that, there is an insidious assumption that if you are good at what you do - professionally - then you will be, ipso facto, a good manager, communicator, delegator, etc. That simply isn't true. We see this across all business sectors: people who are highly capable in their jobs but are far less adept at dealing with other people. Conflict arises because not only does the organisation assume that if you're good in one aspect of the job you'll be good in all, but you yourself may feel you already 'ought' - by dint of your position - to be able to handle difficult situations and therefore, won't ask for the support and training you need.
Some organisations have such issues well in hand and have the kind of company culture in place that supports peoples' development. More often than not, however, organisations ignore or sideline these issues with the outcome that communication suffers and morale gets worse.
Yet if employees are motivated, confident, communicating well and resolving differences; if they are being acknowledged and appreciated, then stress is reduced, people are more efficient and effective and work means more than a place to earn a pay cheque. In our experience within organisations where these skills are encouraged and developed, there is a profound affect on employees' performance and their overall well-being, and a corresponding increase in the bottom line.
The economic implications of poor people skills in the workplace are far greater than many organisations would like to admit. We are often approached by the Occupational Health Departments of companies who say they are seeing more and more people with stress-related illnesses and absences and are aware that good training could make a significant difference in the health, morale and therefore efficiency of the staff. The clich 'time is money' exists for a very good reason. If for nothing else, a better functioning workforce will affect the bottom line. Time wasted on poor communication, unresolved difficulties or inefficient work practises means time away from the core business of doing what the company does best.
Many companies know there are issues that need to be addressed; they even know that some kind of people skills training could help.
There doesn't have to be a problem
The need for development work does not presuppose a problem. When Impact Factory provides this kind of training for many companies we aren't there to 'fix' something that's wrong.
Given the added pressures in today's workplace, companies are not necessarily asking us to provide training to alleviate stress or correct a problem. Rather they are looking for excellence not competence. They are interested in gaining a competitive edge, offering their employees additional skills to develop their current capabilities and become both more accomplished and more confident.
So, why don't more people do it?
Here are some refrains we've heard more than once:
"We tried something like this before and it didn't work." - "It's clearly not right for us." - "We don't need it." - "It's a waste of time and money." - "If we're going to invest in training, we'd rather have technical training." "We'll never get buy-in from our senior managers."
If you look at the way some interpersonal skills training is done it's no wonder it's got a bad reputation. A lot of it follows what might be called the sheep-dip approach: large groups; all chalk 'n' talk and little participation; lots of rigid rules and regulations; a damaging emphasis on what's wrong with people; and unreal examples and exercises. That kind of training is de-motivating and often does more harm than good.
Lists of how tos, dos and don'ts and sets of rigid rules treat everyone the same. The individual becomes less important than the 'right' way to do something. Of course, there needs to be structure and guidelines in any kind of training, but if the training does not allow for individual needs and priorities then, ultimately, it will fail to develop the individual.
If people have had inadequate training, they will in turn feel inadequate when confronted with additional stress. The training will not have given them the real tools and techniques that could help them manage this pressure more effectively. Some assertiveness training is a good case in point, where people are told specific things to do in certain difficult situations. Which is all very well if you are capable of doing them. However, we know that for many people assertiveness training doesn't work. The solutions they are given are not things they feel able to do.
Not only that, there are training companies now offering interpersonal skills training over the Internet! Wow! We've said it before, but it bears repeating, this way the sheep don't even have to leave the meadow, they can be dipped right at their desks. We're truly fascinated with interpersonal skills training that doesn't have other people to be interpersonal with.
Reverting to type and dealing with the feelings
What is very clear to anyone that works with people is that under pressure, people will 'revert to type'. In normal circumstances, when there's no pressure, everyone knows how they would like to deal with tricky situations. However, when decisions need to be made quickly, when staff are not working to expectations, when management becomes more demanding, most people under stress will behave as they always have. They will not have the time, nor will they make the time to weigh and measure their options.
What they will do is react to the current situation and do what they've always done to get a speedy result. What they have always done may not - often is not - the most appropriate choice to make; but it seems to be the only one available to them at the time. It is in hindsight that other options become clear.
People cannot help reverting to type. It is how the species has survived: when a mastodon came into view, people didn't take time to ponder their options; they acted immediately. That vital mechanism is within us all: under threat we will react without conscious thought in order to survive.
However, without well-developed people skills, pressurised communication in the corporate arena can look like bullying or blaming where it's easier to accuse or order someone around rather than encourage. It can mean that people will avoid conflict and back down from useful confrontation where differences could get resolved. People will make incorrect assumptions and then act on them. Reverting to type can also mean avoiding delegating because you feel you have to do everything yourself. It may mean keeping information to yourself, rather than ensuring that other people are in the picture.
When people revert to type, they are usually driven by their feelings, and it will usually be feelings that get in the way of being able to change behaviour constructively. Most people know how they would like to behave, so teaching the 'how to' is not at issue here.
Feelings that can get in the way of effectiveness can be anything from nervousness about presenting, to fear of humiliation for saying something stupid, to being intimidated by a particular person who seems to wrong-foot you all the time.
All of our programmes address the fact that uncomfortable feelings will make it difficult, if not impossible, to create a better outcome. Otherwise, people are trying to cope with new information and new techniques without acknowledging that their emotions can, at times, stop them making any change whatsoever.
Changing yourself to change others
We hear over and over again and at every level within organisations that things would be much better if only someone else would change the way they do things. "I'd get on much better if only my line manager would give me more time to get things done." "My job would be easier if only my secretary was more efficient." "This company could improve if the men at the top gave us the kind of budget we need."
In these and many other examples, the solution rests with someone else. Therefore, the responsibility for moving things forward rests with others as well. There will always be situations where life would be far better if someone else would just shape up and do things the way we think they ought to be done! However, that attitude puts all the power and influence into someone elses hands and leaves us feeling impotent and often inadequate. You can have a good moan, but nothing changes.
Changing what you do, changing the way you speak to others, changing your attitude towards recurring difficulties will change the normally predictable outcome.
When we talk about change, we are looking for simple changes; tweaks, adjustments, small alterations, rather than looking to change everything about a person. At Impact Factory we talk about the least amount of change for the greatest impact. Striving for small but effective changes rather than complete transformation.
Our work is easy and enjoyable and filled with variety, so that there is 'something for everyone'. What works for one person, won't necessarily work for others. We believe that the way forward is to find a few things that you know you'll be able to do, to have fun doing them and to experience enough small wins as you practise them. These are the things you'll be able to remember in the heat of a difficult situation. You will revert to a new type!
Real life, not make believe
One way we do this is by using the real-life, everyday situations that people encounter on the job, rather than giving people made up, textbook scenarios they then have to 'act out'. Working with real issues helps people recognise and understand their feelings rather than ignoring them or wishing they would go away.
We know that if you spend time learning and developing new skills on a course there needs to be a realistic bridge between the workshop room and real life.
We always ask people to bring in their own experiences - a challenging presenting situation, a recurring difficult person or problem, an upcoming meeting, etc. Within those real-life scenarios, we use some of the tools and techniques that the individual has practised in the training and has already found works for them.
By letting people work on their specific issues and then incorporating their favourite techniques into the re-enactments, they get to choose what they feel able to do, rather than ones they ought to do.
And if we could sum up our entire philosophy in one word it would be: choice.
When people feel they have choice, they feel more confident and better able to deal with the ordinary and the extraordinary of work and personal life.
Professional Personal Development: why it's a good investment
Gives people more confidence in dealing with challenging or new situations.
Offers people a range of behaviour choices to try.
Creates a solid basis for all other kinds of training.
Gives people the tools to manage pressure more effectively.
What you'll get working with Impact Factory
Programme content that fits your requirements as opposed to off-the-peg workshops.
Flexible formats that take both the organisation's and the individual's needs into account.
Emphasis on what what's already working rather than pointing out what's wrong and needs fixing.
Small groups to maximise individual participation and attention.
Programmes that develop the whole person.
No pressure to do things the 'right' way.
Enjoyable, easy, doable exercises that give people practise and experience in trying out new ways of doing things.
Accessible to all levels in an organisation.