Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Mixed Messages and Training in Hard Times

I recently volunteered to help someone deliver a short presentation to some colleagues from a trainers’ network I participate in. It seemed an easy way to fulfill the commitment to contribute that I, and everyone else made when we first met. It then transpired that I had misread the email and had inadvertently put my hand up to running the second session of the evening. Serves me right really, I was avoiding my agreed share of responsibility for keeping the group dynamic and participative.

This happened the day before I ran a workshop on effective communication, so was a useful reminder that I am far from perfect, even if I know a lot of the theory! Then in the last week or so I have read a bewildering amount of conflicting views about the current economic transition, the government’s plans and woes and about the current state of the learning and development market. A few headlines that caught my eye include:
  • According to an Institute of Directors survey, in a bid to fight recession 80% of directors say their organisations have maintained or increased their training budgets over the past six months.
  • Another survey announced that training is a casualty of the cutbacks and employee skills levels are suffering with almost a third of European workers in jobs they are not properly trained for because of recession cutbacks.
  • Yet another claims that employers are delivering less training with almost all posting a year-on-year decline despite employee enthusiasm for professional development.
  • Only 15% of employees totally trust their manager meaning 85% are in doubt about some information they receive from higher up the organisation.
  • Employees are being kept in the dark about their employers' business performance, with 28% being told nothing about business health and one in 20 discouraged from asking questions.
  • Oh and the ban in Glasgow on showing the Monty Python movie “Life of Brian” is ended after 30 years.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the stories, rather like my faux pas with volunteering, it serves as a useful reminder that communication is incredibly important and incredibly easy to mess up. It also illustrates that there are two sides to every story.

One of the best pieces of advice in communication I have ever found comes from Abe Wagner, who urges us to “Say It Straight Or You’ll Show It Crooked.”* How often do we try to dress something up or disguise our true intentions and yet people see through it. Honesty really is the best policy and the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so tell it how it is. Good advice for politicians, managers, trainers, parents and everybody else! I only hope that the IOD are right – but I would say that, wouldn’t I!

*Abe’s book of the same name explores the behaviours and concepts behind this simple rule and is highly recommended.

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