Olivia Mead

How “Fly Swatter Phonics” Can Help Solve Your Next Training Challenge! Part Two.

Last week, we started exploring the connection between having fun and actually learning…something my 4-year old grandson does by “swatting flies” as he’s learning to read. A key takeaway from that discussion was to keep your training content relevant and manageable. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the “fun-o-meter” will register pretty low. This week, we’re picking up there.

We often hear clients say something like this: “We rolled out training, but we can’t keep people’s attention. They aren’t engaged. What can you suggest?” Remember the client from last week? The one with the bazillion PowerPoint slides? What we discovered was their training wasn’t connected to people’s everyday work in a real, practical and believable way.

Our suggestion was to rebuild the training to simulate the learner’s real world. We felt it was critical to give people a chance to immediately apply what they were learning in meaningful ways and get immediate feedback at the same time. I’m happy to report that the client loved the idea, we built it, and it was a huge success! People remained engaged the entire time as they practiced “fly swatting” the way they would be doing on the job. The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, engage the learner through realistic practice!

In “Fly Swatter Phonics” the game mechanics were pretty simple. There was a fly swatter, some 3” x 5” cards, a blackboard and a few rules. But it wasn’t the game itself that made the learning fun. It was the fact that my grandson was actively involved in the learning. He wasn’t just a bystander. He was doing something. He was participating. He was making decisions. He was competing, appropriately, with his peers. He was responsible for earning his rewards or watching others earn theirs. These are the things that made it fun. (A fly swatter without purpose is just another fly swatter!)

When our client handed over all of those PowerPoint slides, we knew immediately that we had to find a way to make participants active learners rather than passive ones. We did that through the simulation. We also did it through a self-directed learning visual where, with minimal facilitation, teams navigated themselves through a collection of activities, team discussions, applications and mini-challenges.

Here’s what ‘our client of many slides’ had to say about their new program: “CONGRATULATIONS! The new training was amazing! What an improvement over the old method. Thank you on behalf of all involved. I would be very surprised if there was one person in the room who did not gain from the two days.” The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, involve the learner in the learning!

We at Blueline Simulations believe there’s no good reason—and no good way—for effective learning to be boring or passive. Let us help you swat your biggest training challenges!

How “Fly Swatter Phonics” Can Help Solve Your Next Training Challenge!

My 4-year-old grandson, Jackson, loves kindergarten and loves learning. In fact, I’m honestly amazed at how much he’s learning—and how quickly!

Is it because he’s smart and curious by nature? Yes, I’m happy to say that he is. Does he love learning because he likes his teacher? No doubt. She’s very likeable! Or is there more? Could it be because his teacher is making the job of learning exciting and fun? Bingo!

Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from a recent weekly update.

Dear Parents,

Our “W” week turned out to be a very fun week as it included a brand new game called “Fly Swatter Phonics” (inspired by the season we’re learning about, Spring). The game was played as follows: 3-5 flies (one-vowel words) were placed on the board. Two students were handed fly swatters. I then read aloud one of the words…blending our phonics sounds together. The students were to read the word choices and try to be the first to swat the fly (correct word). Once the fly was squished, two more students were selected and different words were placed on the board, continuing the game until all had a turn. The game was a huge success! On Friday, we played again, except this time I allowed the winner of each round to play a couple more times before sitting down (a modified “Around the World”). And the great part is you can play this at home. You just need 3×5 cards and a fly swatter and your house can be buzzing all weekend long!

The thing that impresses me most about Jackson’s teacher isn’t what she’s teaching, but how she’s teaching it. Through fun, age-appropriate games, she is laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Let the Learning (and Fun) Begin

So what’s the point here? What does a fun little game 4-year-olds play in a kindergarten class have to do with solving the complex training challenges today’s organizations face? I believe it’s the connection between having fun and actually learning. In this blog, and the next, I’ll illustrate, and leave you with a few takeaways.

In his May 3, 2012, blog, colleague David Hutchens shared a very common situation. David wrote: Client X comes to us with a PowerPoint deck of 300 bazillion text-dense slides and says, “This is our old training program. Can you do something with this?”

He’s not kidding! This happened with a longtime client just a few months back. As it turns out, the content driving the training program (and the 300 bazillion slides) had been created by 10 (this is not an exaggeration) different internal committees. Believe me when I say there was nothing fun about the program. However, because we love this kind of challenge, we dove in and sifted through the many layers of overlaps, inconsistencies and redundancies to uncover the content most relevant to the critical learning outcomes. Then we “chunked” (a totally magnificent training term) the content into a flow that people could actually wrap their heads around. The result was a relevant and manageable number of “flies” to swat. The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, keep it relevant and manageable!

While this sounds so obvious, it’s a mistake we see organizations make all too often. Even if “fun” isn’t a direct outcome of your training program, your content needs to be kept to a manageable amount of data and it should be immediately useful on the job.

Come back next week as we continue to explore what 4-year olds (who are learning to read by “swatting flies”) can teach us about solving some very common training challenges.

Practically Speaking…What’s This EQ About? And Does It Really Matter?

In our previous posts on EQ (Emotional Intelligence), we defined EQ and shared how EQ has impacted the bottom line for several of world’s largest companies. In this post, we’re going to focus the discussion on practical ways EQ can impact our everyday lives.

You’ve been a customer, right? At some point along the way, you’ve had something go wrong. The cable guy didn’t show up on time. Your expensive car repair didn’t fix the problem. Your flight got cancelled. Your food was cold or over cooked when it was served. A check bounced and you had to deal with the bank. You get the picture. We’ve all been there.

EQ has a lot to do with what happens next because, as we’ve previously learned, EQ is how well we (and others) understand and manage emotions…as well has how well we (and others) establish and maintain relationships.

Here’s how this can play out in a not-so-positive way. Let’s say your flight just got cancelled. It’s been a long day…you want to get home. You walk up to the service counter…the airline representative doesn’t even look up. Instead they mumble something under their breath as they continue looking at the computer screen. As you wait “patiently” to be recognized…you’re growing angrier by the second. You finally can’t take it anymore. You want service…and you want it now! Loud enough for everyone around to hear, you say, “Excuse me. Is it possible to get a little bit of service around here?” The reply is predictable. “Look! No one—including you—is going anywhere right now anyway…give me a minute for my computer to come back online. Then I’ll see what I can do.” From this point on, the interaction never recovers.

What just happened? Chances are this person has received extensive customer service training. They know what they should say or do…but they let their emotions get away from them. All their customer service skills go out the window. And be honest! You weren’t so innocent in the whole matter either. It was your “excuse me” comment that got the conversation off track from the beginning.

Here’s another situation to consider…one that plays out on roadways everywhere…and one that can have much more detrimental consequences.

Say you’re driving down the road when, out of nowhere, another car whizzes around you. You have to swerve to avoid a collision. Your heart rate quickens…your muscles tense…you grit your teeth and grip the steering wheel, white knuckled. You break out in a cold sweat. One thing is for sure. You’re so mad you can’t see straight. Nothing else matters except not letting the driver “get away” with it. You speed up…smiling…with thoughts of the other car in the ditch.

All the situations I’ve described have one thing in common. Each person involved, in their own way, suffered an EQ meltdown of sorts. They let their emotions get highjacked. Once highjacked…the encounter was on a fast track for an unproductive, maybe disastrous, outcome.

Does EQ matter? Absolutely! Can you relate? I bet you can. I know I can!

What are some lessons to be learned? There are several:

  • First. If you’re someone who’s involved in customer service training…recognize that having service skills is only part of the equation. It’s essential to help employees strengthen their EQ so that when emotionally-charged situations arise with customers, they have the EQ to turn those situations into wins instead of losses for your organization. We’d be happy to discuss more about this with you.
  • Second. Pay attention to what highjacks you emotionally. Awareness is the first step to managing your emotional reactions. When challenged, take some deep breaths…count to 10…smile and force yourself to make a positive comment…put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Third. Think altruistic thoughts if you have a situation like the driver I described earlier. Maybe there’s a medical emergency. Maybe there’s something wrong with the car. (That really happens…it happened to me years ago.)
  • Fourth. EQ impacts our lives constantly. We can’t escape it. The better you understand and manage your emotions…the easier it will be to establish and maintain relationships with others. Often times, the difference comes down to responding with empathy not reacting on impulse.

A final thought! Last night, my husband and I watched the movie Up In The Air. George Clooney’s character flies around the country firing people on behalf of companies who are unwilling to face employees who are being laid off. Talk about EQ being put to the test! My heart ached for each person Clooney’s character fired.

There were several interesting ironies in the movie. Here’s one. Clooney’s character was incredibly successful in his job—firing people! Why? Because he never let the other person’s emotions, however raw or visceral, hijack him. He stayed in control of his emotions 100% of the time. His EQ was off the charts when it came to doing his job.

Try this experiment. Watch a movie or TV show. Observe the interactions between characters and how each handles emotionally-charged situations. Use these on-screen performances to build your own EQ awareness. I promise, there will be no shortage of demonstrations to draw on.