How to Work With Trainees and Their Mixed Motivations

indian womanAs a trainer in time management it’s a guarantee: you will have trainees who have no interest in being in your classroom. They are there because were sent by their manager, and had no interest in coming… until they were ordered to attend.

You have a problem at the very start – how do you nullify their effect on other participants, at the very least, and maybe get them engaged in the materials, at the very most?

The answer is simple – your course must powerfully address their self-interests at the very beginning.

Sure, their bosses wants them to be more productive and to get more work from them. They also want them to get to work on time, and provide deliverables on a set schedule.

But that’s not going to get them engaged in your program, especially if they believe that they are already being maxed out, and that their boss is being unreasonable – wanting blood from a stone.

You’ll need to address their more basic needs, such as:
– the pressure they are getting from their boss to improve and how to deal with it effectively
– the areas of their life that are out of balance right now (weight, relationships, spirituality, personal time, etc.)
– where they are experiencing the symptoms of having a system that’s not keeping up with their lives
– how to deal with the fact that the demands on their life are increasing all the time
– how to cope with information overload
– how to stop feeling dissatisfied at the end of each day that so little got done
– how to keep up with other people in the office and do better than them
– how to become the last person they’d consider letting go because you are so productive
– how to avoid ruining your reputation by not delivering
– how to have an uncluttered office

It doesn’t matter which angle you take, you must spend enough time in the training to capture the imagination of a critical mass of attendees. If you do that, then the unwilling may give you enough space to work magic with the other attendees.

In my training, I make sure to have paired activities so that people can work with each other, in order help each other.  I have noticed that it’s hard to remain resistant when you have the opportunity to help others who are serious about getting all that they can from the learning opportunity.

These are just a few the approaches I use – do you have ideas for others?

Lack of Time vs. Lack of Skill

Laptop Demo 1As time advisers, one of the essential transformations we must make for our trainees and clients is to shift them from thinking that they don’t have enough time, to the point where they realize they don’t have enough skill.

Many professionals get to the point early in their careers where they start to parrot the same complaint that everyone shares: “I don’t have enough time.” It’s an early warning sign that something is awry, but it’s not necessarily a cry for help.

At the very least it’s an indication of a mismatch – the client has more time demands flowing through their lives than they can manage. They are experiencing some of the symptoms they can’t readily address, such as a feeling of constant rushing or finding themselves unable to keep all their promises.

They don’t know what to do, so in their desperation they blame God / The Universe / Mother Nature for not granting them super-magical powers: an ability to turn 24 hours into 25.

Of course, deep down, they know that this is impossible, yet they still complain. As coaches, it’s important to understand why.

In the moment they indulge in the complaint, they are able to release some of their frustration. That’s a good feeling. However, if they persist then you should be suspicious. They might be using the complaint as a way to gain sympathy and agreement from others. They are running a scam in which they share negativity in order to get people on their side. After all, it’s better to feel miserable with others than it is to feel miserable alone.

It also feels good to have something/someone to blame. Unfortunately, it all carries with it a nasty undertone: they are actually avoiding responsibility. As a result they don’t take effective action and this renders them un-clientable and uncoachable.

There are a few cases in which I’m willing to work with a client on this particular way of being, but usually I simply let them go in the hope that they’ll come to see that there’s ultimately no benefit from continuing that vein.

While most of us have this complaint at some point in life, a few get to the point where we are ready to look beyond Mother Nature’s “shortcomings” to some lasting solutions. A client who is ready has an inkling that there’s something they are either not doing right, or could do better. They are usually unable to see it clearly on their own, but they have at least located the source of the solution.

Once they are ready to enter a learning relationship, I recommend that you deliver a powerful message near the start of your work with them: they aren’t doing anything “wrong.” It’s just that the life they are now living has outgrown the system they self-created to deal with all the demands on their time.

Now, it’s time to upgrade their skills and you can help them make the transition from their current system to one that is more suited to their current goals.

As a time adviser it’s important to know the difference between a prospect who is complaining, and avoiding responsibility and one who is ready to be a client.

Gamification and Time Management Training

If you have been a time management trainer for some time, I probably don’t need to sell you on the importance of gamification.

In the time management world, however, there hasn’t been a lot of “gaming around.”

Effective games would help not only teach the concepts required to upgrade a time management system, but they would also help learners to implement new habits, practices and rituals. Incidentally, this happens to be where most people fail in their attempts to improve.

Recently, I gave a speech at one of the leading Human Resource Conferences here in the Caribbean on the topic of Transforming Time Management Learning with Gamification. In my online and live training, I include a number of games in an attempt to engage learners at a deeper level that requires them to think.

In fact, I argue that the training I offer in NewHabits and MyTimeDesign are actually extended practice sessions in planning a time management upgrade. It is meant to replace the seat of the pants planning that we usually do when we attempt to implement an ineffective upgrade. In this particular game, you happen to award yourself different belt levels depending on an evaluation of your time management skills.

I started studying the principles of gamification about 7 or 8 years ago when I was introduced to the idea of game mechanics via an article with Amy Jo Kim of ShuffleBrain. To be honest, I struggled with the idea at first and couldn’t see how it could be used for a practical result.

Now, however, I am always on the hunt for games that make learning easy. For example, I was asked by a client of mine to come up with a method for selecting a help desk dispatcher. The role requires someone to field calls and emails from customers, and to dispatch technicians to effect repairs.

The client needed a way to use more than just a few interviews to hire someone who would do well in the job. I suggested an assessment centre, which is essentially a series of tests in which a candidate is invited to undertake certain parts of the job while being observed. Imagine hiring a cook after asking a number of them to prepare a particular meal.

I had a hunch that there had to be a game that simulated this job and got lucky. Miss Management is a desktop based time management game that proved to be a very close match to the job, and could be used to test a candidate’s ability to perform very fast triage.

One of our candidates was offered the position, in part because they passed this particular test, which involved playing the game for an hour. Their performance was not as high as a staff member who actually held the job for several years (there was a 20% difference in performance.)

I played the game all the way through to the end, and found that it did what I expected – build real-life skills. It was a promising beginning, and the potential for using games in training time management skills is, I believe, abundant.

Here are the slides from my presentation and you can listen in to the audio of the speech by clicking this link and allowing it to play in the background.



ASTD Conference 2013 – What I Presented and Learned!

I just spent a whirlwind few weeks speaking at a couple of conferences.

ASTD 2013 How to Stop Failing

The “main event” was the ASTD International Conference and Exposition in Dallas at which I gave a one hour speech entitled “How to Stop Failing at Behavior Change Training – The Case of Time Management.”

I had an exciting time, to say the least! With over 9000 attendees, almost 200 attended my own session which took place on May 20th.

In my speech (you can find the slides here) I talked about my personal struggles in time management and in trying to find the kind of training that would go past the one-size-fits-all detailed prescriptions.

I offered my session’s attendees a new path that I have taken – to give learners  the tools they need to upgrade their own behaviors, and to offer a training session that serves as an extended opportunity to practice the planning that’s needed to make an effective upgrade. While I have used this approach in time management training (MyTimeDesign, NewHabits) and a few others, I’m really interested to hear from those who attended: have they tried a similar approach, and what success have they had?

It’s a much tougher path to follow, but ultimately the learner would benefit greatly from these kinds of skills in specific areas. I also expect that it would help trainers to escape the trap of trying to force-feed learners a whole bunch of new behaviors.

The problem with this approach (which is SO easy to take) is that learners quickly realize that they can find any set of behaviors they desire somewhere on the Internet – which they will do before the first hour of class is over. Then, they’ll either leave or mentally check out – because they now have access to the “new” information that the trainer is about to give them. Learners all around the world are beating trainers to the punch.

The key is transform training from information sessions to ones that are experiential. In the case of the training  programs I mentioned above, they become opportunities to:

  1. Evaluate when it’s time to upgrade one’s time management system
  2. Conduct an assessment using world-class standards
  3. Use the results of the assessment to craft a plan that is conservative, including targets and timelines
  4. Put in place a habit change management system
  5. Gain feedback on the quality of one’s plan

Usually, this is the first time they are consciously undertaking such an upgrade and the expectation is that they’ll do it several times in their career, as needed. This applies to other behaviors, and it will be interesting to see how this approach is already being used, or can be used in the future.

The other conference I attended and spoke at was the Human Resource Management Association of Trinidad and Tobago, which was held in Port of Spain the prior week. I gave two speeches: one on Gamification in Learning, and the other on how to Raise the Standards of Caribbean Executives. I’ll be eventually posting all these speeches up on slideshare and will create links to them as they are created.

From both conferences I learned that the idea I have been working on here at 2Time Labs are not only interesting, but they push the envelope. They can create an awesome dialog with others who are thinking along similar minds and provide learners with a unique and challenging experience that goes well beyond the usual time management training. I also saw how gamification can be used after a class to extend classroom learning – that’s something I’m rushing to put in place in all my training.

Next year’s conference will be in Washington, DC and I can’t wait!

The Obstacles Your Clients Face

In my book, Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure, the protagonist (Bill), faces a number of challenges that reflect the stuff that our clients deal with every day.

The truth is, I wrote the book based on the problems my clients have been struggling with, and how it all intersects with the use of new technology. The simple, quick fixes aren’t an option for most people, or time advisers. In the book, I tried to throw everything in Bill’s way that could stop him from improving his skills and therefore saving his job.

If you want to know more about Bill, the protagonist, check my YouTube video on this time management “hero!”

Who is the main character in my book and why was he created?

I wanted Bill, the main character in my book, to deal with the problems and challenges that most of our clients face. These obstacles became a composite of the typical issues I hear about each day, and the solutions he tries to implement are the also the ones that each of us sees with our clients.

He wasn’t all that special – and he wouldn’t have gotten very far without the help of Andre and G, who are simply proxies for time advisers in the real world.

WHen you read the book, try to understand the world that our clients live in – especially those who are already pretty savvy and have tried the usual remedies without luck.

Click here to see the prior post in this series on YouTube, on why I decided to write a time management business fable or parable, rather than a regular “how-to” book.

Why I Chose to Write a Story

There’s a good reason why I chose to make my first time management book a fable or story, rather than the usual list of stuff you should be doing but aren’t.



This has implications for how you coach or train your clients in time management strategies, given the research that’s been done on the effectiveness of using stories when teaching adults. Of course, you should develop your own stories by using your own first-person examples of what you have done, and are doing, to develop effective time management skills.


Why Your Clients Need Metacognitive Learning

As a time adviser – a coach, consultant, trainer or professional organizer – it’s important that you use sophisticated and useful concepts that training and development experts routinely employ in their work.

One such idea is metacognition, which I use in this article written for the ASTD Learning and Development blog. The article is entitled Leaders of Time Management Need to be Taught Metacognitive Skills.

Helping Your Clients Achieve the Zero Inbox

One of the most powerful ideas that’s been around for some time is that of maintaining the minimum number of time demands in various Inbox, both physical and electronic. It’s a result that almost all our clients say they want.

However, the point is not to actually get or keep the Inbox empty, but instead to maintain the right philosophy, according to Merlin Mann, one of the early proponents of the idea. Check out his latest article – it will help you deal with clients who take things literally and can’t see past the wording of the goal.

On Chasing the Right “Zero”