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A 'Series' of Things Here at Priority Learning

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: September 2011

A look at what is new in the world of Learning and Development

Normally, I reserve this space in the newsletter to pass along another piece of information, experience or a pearl of useful wisdom. This time I really want to share something we think will revolutionize Priority Learning and we feel may change how you think about your own development and the development of your people.

As I write this in the fall of 2011, we at Priority Learning are beginning a new chapter in our business adventure. I called it an adventure, because since we started the business in 1995, it has transformed several times (as it should if you are paying attention to your clients) and, as we try to keep up with all the current projects and coaching, we are excited to begin this new chapter. Let me tell you why.

A little history for all you folks who ask us routinely about the business. When we began in 1995, it looked like a "training business" to me and we began with half-day workshops dedicated to things like team leadership and management skills. Somewhere in the next few years this idea of training began to grow into full-day workshops and eventually into two-day workshops. As this "training" regimen grew we began to realize that clients had different kinds of needs and were asking for things like inside specialty development programs for their employees and managers. We also discovered through these inside development programs that clients were becoming very interested in OD (that's consultant speak for Organizational Development). By the time that the recession of 2008 arrived, we were involved in two-day training workshops, OD work like cultural initiatives, inside development programs for a variety of groups in each organization, in addition to our individual coaching work and just a ton of special request work like Myers-Briggs, personal organization, service training and more.

2008 changed everything. In the fall of 2008 we, like many of you, were considering the new economic landscape and trying to figure out where we fit in. For instance, we found out that filling up two-day workshops was becoming a full time job as more and more businesses slimmed out the workforce and time away (two days) was becoming increasingly hard for the individuals who wanted the training. We tried one-day workshops and that didn't work either. We found out that we had spoiled people over the years and there is a very strong learning "rhythm" established over two days that was missing and impossible to replicate in a one-day experience. Quality of the experience was and has always been the real issue here. We began to feel like we were not meeting the expectations we were accustomed to meeting and clients started to tell us things like, "That was really good but I wish we had more time" and "It didn't feel the same." We didn't know quite what to do but we knew we had to do something. This set us on a new course.

Fast forward to 2010. In the spring we were asked by clients about our traditional "train the trainer" program and it made me thoughtful of all we had been through. As a result in the spring of 2010 we launched an eight-part, six-month process to really prepare trainers and presenters to grasp and master audience participation, learning transfer, training technology, facilitation art, the use of medium, engagement techniques and lots and lots of practice. Why eight parts? I was never satisfied with the four days we had previously done and felt it took a sustained learning and practice period to grasp the fundamentals and ingrain them into practice. That 2010 group created magic around here. They embraced the process and worked harder than we had a right to expect. The members of that 2010 group created such a strong bond between each other that they still stay in touch today in addition to becoming our biggest advocates.

The result for us was a change in the way we think. This year we launched roughly the same Facilitators and Trainers program and the audience was so large we had to create two groups. We realized we were on to something.

direct manager seriesNow what? We are convinced that series of workshops are the future. The bond that is built between participants, the depths of practice, the ongoing assignments between sessions, the candor and feedback given to participants by each other, the depth we can go into relevant issues for our clients and the obvious layered learning made this an obvious direction. For all of us the work is much more rewarding, challenging and intimate. Plus, the expense of having an individual participate in a series can still be much more affordable for clients who can"t afford to have a group meet for an organizational process. This, and yet the experience is deeper, and what sticks to each participant is very rich.

What you are about to see. Starting on November 10th we are launching a series called the Direct Managers Series. This series is intended for front line leaders either new or experienced and will focus on the key skills and essential behaviors for the front line leader. This series will take place at Priority Learning in seven full-day events over five months ending on March 15th 2012. Each day will have a theme consistent with what we know each front line leader will need to be successful and still contains all the coaching that people have become accustomed to from us. Below are the themes by day:

  • Day one theme - Core skill for front line leaders and balance.
  • Day two theme - Strategies and practice for leading through conflict in the workplace.
  • Day three theme - Building the finest teams and motivating team members.
  • Day four theme - Professional communications and measurement skills.
  • Day five theme - Impacting performance using critical PM techniques and tools.
  • Day six theme - Implementing strategies to develop people to max potential.
  • Day seven theme - Making feedback, goals setting and follow through a way of life and Direct Managers Series graduation with invited guests and presentations.
Additionally, we are going to launch at least four other series between now and the end of 2012. These new series will capture the best of the work we have done in the past and all the new ideas and strategies of the present and future. The new series after this are:

January 2012 - The Facilitators and Trainers Series for all those people who want to polish their presentation, training, facilitation and learning transfer skills.
February 2012 - The Influence Leaders Series for people beyond the front line supervisor's role.
June 2012 - The Associate Series for people of potential and associates at all levels.
September 2012 - The Executive Series for people in elevated positions of responsibility.

Our Promise: We've been testing the series idea for several months on clients and unanimously they say that we are on the right path. They have also told us that "the time is now" and they "are ready." Here is the promise to all of you: This is the best of Priority Learning materials, facilitation and experience coupled with lots of the newest stuff, even stronger levels of group interaction, important between session assignments and Priority Learning back on-the-job coaching upon request.

To learn more please go to our Direct Manager Series page and get ready to hear from us regarding the upcoming Direct Managers Series starting in November. As always, please let us know if we can answer and of your questions and please share your ideas with us.

Next month I plan to start a new series of articles on changing workplace environments along with what really motivates people. My plan is to fill the articles useful techniques you can all use right away. Until then, please enjoy the beautiful New England fall.

Best to all,

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.