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Learning and Making Connections

This week is Adult Learners’ Week.  This is a long-running campaign that encourages adults in all spheres of life to focus on their learning and the benefits they can get from it.

The joy of learning

The Adult Learners’ Week website is full of stories of adults whose lives have been transformed by learning and without a doubt, learning is one the greatest powers for personal and social transformation.

Learning changes your outlook and your potential.  It is available to everyone, and anyone can do it.  Its benefits range from the pure joy of knowing something new or understanding what was previously hidden, to enjoying a longer, more fulfilling life.

We can learn alone, browsing through books, journal or websites, or together with friends and colleagues.  We can learn fundamental skills or advanced concepts; and we can learn manual expertise, aesthetic sensitivity or abstract concepts.  So far there is no evidence that even hints at a limit on our capacity for learning.

A wonderful snippet of knowledge

I am indebted to Dr Peter Honey – a man who exemplifies life-long learning and whose blog is well worth reading – for a wonderful snippet of knowledge that he slipped into a column for Training Journal several years ago.

Have you ever wondered about ‘the three Rs’?  Why does one start with ‘W’ and why are two both about literacy?  What about other areas of knowledge.  Well, Peter pointed out that the origins of the phrase are far more generous in their spread of knowledge, though no more literal in their interpretation of ‘R’.

Peter’s article tracks the phrase back to an origin that recognises the value of vocational as well as other learning; a triangle of:

Reading and writing

Reckoning and arithmetic

Wrighting and wroughting

Wroughting

How far we’ve come.

Now, not only do we not teach wrighting and wroughting, but my spell checker does not even acknowledge their existence.  Yet the power of vocational skills to transform lives is as great as ever.  Three examples strike me from my own friends, in anonymised form:

  1. Ben has never thrived at school.  By taking a vocational pathway at Key Stage 4, however, he is able to combine an NVQ in Construction at a local college for one day a week with English, Maths and core Science.  A feeling that he can now do something he is good at, the prospect of a job, and seeing how the concepts make sense in the real world are spurring Ben to make headway with Maths and Science for the first time.
  2. Suzy was academic at school, did well at university and got a series of high-paying and demanding jobs.  For her, however, work was a source of excitement only in the early days of each new job.  What keeps her enthusiastic about life is learning new skills at weekends, in evening classes and in holidays.  She focuses on craft activities and rarely has to buy Christmas presents – she makes them all herself.
  3. Rob had a highly successful teaching career, rising to Head of Department at a well-regarded secondary school and inspiring his pupils to achieve great grades.  Then, one day, he realised that his next step would not be another teaching post.  Turning to one of his great passions in life, Rob took a huge risk and applied for a lease on a blacksmith’s forge.  Now he spends his days wrighting gates and wroughting the steel they are made from.

So here’s the deal

  1. Make a commitment to yourself to learn something new this week.
  2. Take a look at Jenny’s great blog, Learning to Learn, on the Teachers’ Pocketbook blog

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy 1: Predictable

As a learner, or a trainer, or a teacher, here are some pocketbooks you might like:

Learning

Training

Teaching
(Thank you to our sister blog,
The Teachers’ Pocketbooks Blog)

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy 2: Random

Hey! Learning is not just about a programme, it’s also about serendipity.  Follow these links to random Pocketbooks and look up the words you don’t know.  How many can you drop into conversation this week?

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Ros and Regina who each tipped me off to Adult Learners’ Week

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Recharge with Watercress

Management Pocketbooks is based in the lovely Hampshire town of Alresford.  The principal claim to fame of Alresford is as the heart of Watercress growing in the UK.  Thanks to the clear, fast moving fresh water that flows through around the town, watercress grows plentifully.

Watercress

Watercress has a peppery taste and is full of good things.  Those of us who live here use it as a salad vegetable and ingredient for most of the year for its taste, but it is one of the foods that can rightly claim the title of “’superfood’.  Let’s look at what’s in it:

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Vitamins:
A and beta carotene, C, B1, B6,
Folate (or folic acid) – a type of B vitamin needed to form new cells,
E, and K

Minerals:
Calcium, Iodine, Iron, Manganese,
Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Magnesium.

Powerful Phytochemicals:
Beta carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin, Quercetin , Glucosinolate Family

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The Watercress Festival

This Sunday (16 May) sees the annual Watercress Festival.  This has been a consistently great day out, with music, dance and food a-plenty.  You will be amazed at the flexibility of the humble water-weed that is Watercress.

What has this to do with Management?

Managers, leaders, trainers, and educators – indeed everyone in today’s stressful world – needs to know how to take care of their health.  Here are three relevant tips – which you already know:

1.  Eat well
Healthy eating is a pre-requisite for long-term resistance to the effects of a stressful job or lifestyle

2.  Sleep well
Sleep is when your body goes on its full re-charge cycle.  Like the battery in your mobile phone, you do need to drain your body’s energy and re-charge it fully on a regular basis.  Your battery needs this at least once a month: your body is designed to work best with this cycle running once a day

3.  Learn to relax
Days out, relaxing evenings, pursuing interests and time with family and friends will all help you to discharge the stresses and strains of daily life

So here’s the deal

Get along to Alresford this weekend and enjoy the Watercress Festival.  Eat watercress, buy watercress and take it home to eat.  See you there!  Click here for directions.

Management Pocketbooks to help you thrive

EnergyWellBeing

The Energy and Well-Being Pocketbook by Gillian Burn is full of tips and techniques to help you maintain your sense of well-being and boost your energy levels, so you can be at your best.

.

You may also enjoy:

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The Pocketblog Guide to Exhibitions and Conferences

On 21 and 22 April 2010, Management Pocketbooks will be on stand 571 at Olympia, for the annual CIPD HRD Conference and Exhibition.

We hope to see you there.  If you are coming to this one or going to another; whether you are attending an exhibition, an exhibition and conference, or are exhibiting, here are our top tips for making the best of your networking and learning opportunities.

Tip 1: Use your time effectively

Exhibitions and conferences are exhausting and time consuming. Your reason for going may be pleasure but for most of us, it is business.  So make sure you plan to capitalise on business opportunities.

  1. Research who will be there. Are there any of your clients, suppliers or prospects? If there are, check where they will be and go prepared.
  2. If you can do so, arrange to meet people at the exhibition. You’ll both be there and both be in need of a cuppa from time to time.
  3. Tour the exhibition hall systematically. Talk to people on stands that interest you – regardless of whether you sense a business opportunity. Let random connections create unexpected opportunities from time to time.
  4. Allow time to stop and have a break. You’ll need it and it will give you the time for an unexpected conversation.
  5. Schedule any conference events into your organiser to ensure you don’t miss them.

Tip 2: Practise the art of influence

A simple way to be more influential is to be seen as an expert. To speak with real authority, find something specific you can really specialise in. Ironically, the narrower your specialism, the more you will be seen as an expert. Try it:

  • ‘I specialise in training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training for SMEs’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training for high tech SMEs’

While we are on the subject of authority; remember to dress the part. Rightly or wrongly, we judge each other by the clothes we wear. Dress to impress – let your clothes reinforce your authority; not undermine it.  And don’t forget a big stack of business cards – not just for the fishbowl competitions: for doing business too.

Tip 3: Make your exhibit count

Make sure you let people know in advance that you will be there, and where you will be (we’ll be on stand 571).  On your stand, it makes good sense to appoint someone to co-ordinate your activities and also direct good practice.  For example:

  • Take an interest in the people who take an interest in your stand.  Playing it cool and chatting nonchalantly with your colleagues will not impress and may intimidate.
  • Ask people question when they come onto your stand.  If you bombard them with your pitch, you have a one in a thousand chance of saying the right thing.  Questions will help you figure out what they want to know about.
  • Don’t use your mobile on the stand.  If you need to make or take a call, step away from the stand.
  • Don’t put your freebies and brochures on the edge of the stand.  If a delegate is just ‘stamp collecting’ then the give-away has no value to them or you.  If they really want what you have, making them ask will give you a chance to engage with them.

Tip 4: Get the most from the Conference

Three colleagues went to a conference.

  1. Chris thought it was just as expected: all either familiar ideas or irrelevant rubbish
  2. Vic thought it was just as expected: all the talks were interesting and everything was brilliant
  3. Sam thought it was just as expected: a lot of the speakers had one or two real nuggets to take away and think about, with a few surprising insights from unexpected places

Who got the most from the conference?

So here’s the deal

Plan your time, prepare your personal pitch, use your stand well, and tune your radar for unexpected nuggets of insight and opportunity

The Essential Conference-goers Management Pocketbook Collection

There is no Conference-goer’s Pocketbook or Exhibitor’s Pocketbook – yet.  So in the meantime, take a look at the following Pocketbooks to prepare yourself:

  1. The Influencing Pocketbook
  2. The Networking Pocketbook
  3. The Negotiator’s Pocketbook
  4. The Customer Service Pocketbook
  5. The Learner’s Pocketbook

If you don’t own any of these, you can buy them at a £1 discount on stand 571 and, if you buy five Pocketbooks you can get one free.  How about:

….…6.  The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook

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Put Yourself on Display

Just last month, the CIPD’s People Management magazine reported that one of the big audit firms has resumed its full graduate recruitment programme.  Perhaps this is a sign that the professional and managerial job market is on the move again.

If this is true, we will start to see more work going into running assessment centres.  John Sponton and Stewart Wright identify three purposes for assessment centres in their Managing Assessment Centres Pocketbook:

  1. Recruitment
    Finding the best candidates
  2. Promotion
    Evaluating readiness and skill sets objectively
  3. Restructuring
    When job roles and responsibilities are changing

ManAssessmentCtrs

More than just efficient

If you are designing an assessment centre, you have a big job.  You need to create exercises, schedule activities, secure and brief assessors and do a raft of other tasks.  These are well set out in the Pocketbook.

In all of your focus on efficiency, one thing is easily overlooked: the messages you give the candidates.  A good assessment centre will not only allow you to assess the candidates, it will allow the candidates to assess your organisation and the role you want to fill.  Everything you organise will tell them about your organisation.

So how can you design your assessment centre to fully reflect the values, culture and priorities of your organisation?  This has to be more than a few opening remarks and some posters.  Your exercises and the way that you evaluate them must be linked not just to the job requirements, but to the way you want the successful candidate to act, once in post.  Here are two examples.

School Head Teacher

In recruiting a head teacher, many schools include observations of how candidates interact with pupils in formal and informal settings.  Assessors are looking for a style that accords with their school’s values.  Many will even include pupils in the assessment process and, when they do, they typically find pupils’ comments insightful and often in accord with the far longer observations of the governors.

Management Consultants

Professional services firms take in large numbers of new graduates and all are competing for the brightest.  However, academic talent is only a starting point.  Consultancies look for a complex combination of team and leadership skills, and the ability to follow a lead, whilst also thinking independently.  Consequently they provide complex team activities with multiple observers.

AssessmentCentre

What about Being a Candidate?

Whilst you can expect interviews and formal reasoning tests at many assessment centres, there is often little you can do to prepare for the assessment itself.  The following are important:

  • Practise your interview techniques and think about answers to the obvious questions
  • Make sure you have researched your prospective employer
  • Think about what questions you have for the assessors
  • Get your travel plans right

Sometimes you will be asked to prepare something specific.  If you are, you can be sure that this will be important to the assessors, so don’t leave it to last minute and then rush it.  Remember that this is your chance to really distinguish you from other candidates.

Perhaps what is most important for you is what is most important for the assessment centre.  The organisation wants to show you its values, culture and priorities.  You should aim to show assessors yours.  If they cannot see a fit then, no matter how well qualified you are, you will not get hired.  And if there is no fit, then why would you want the job anyway?  Within months, you would be unhappy.

So, here’s the deal

Assessment centres are good for candidates and good for employers.  When they are well designed, they give employers the best possible insight into candidates’ performance under realistic conditions, and they give candidates the best possible idea of what it would be like to work in the organisation.

Given the cost of recruitment, promotion or redeployment, it is best to invest a little more to get it right.

Other Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

As employer …

As candidate …

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