Lightbulb Moments – Lessons in Learning

Lightbulb Moments

Keira and I were walking to school this morning and this afternoon’s swimming lesson came up in conversation. Keira said, ‘I hope Mum lets us practice butterfly, today – it’s my favourite stroke’, before asking me, ‘Do you think it is difficult for Mum to come up with a whole load of interesting lessons. I flipped the question back to Keira, ‘I don’t know – what do you think makes an interesting lesson?’ The following thoughts emerged from my ten year old daughter in the next 100 yards.

What Makes A Lesson Interesting?

Make it hard, but not too hard

Make it fun, especially if you’ve been good

Use different techniques

Involve people, ask them what they want to know

Encourage and support people, help them with their fear

Show me don’t tell me

‘What do you mean, show me don’t tell me?’ I asked. Keira replied, ‘There’s no point in telling a small child that the deep end is two metres deep, you need to get in the water and show them what that looks like and feels like’. And there we were – close enough to school for Keira’s embarrassment alarm to sound. A quick kiss, an ‘I love you’ and she was gone.

I walked home, lifted by the conversation and the sunny day. We didn’t get round to talking about Keira’s opening question, I’ll see what Keira thinks about that later this afternoon, but as a simple guide to what makes a lesson interesting, I think Keira is pretty much on the money here. What might you add to her list?

Friday Fury – Sweet Nothings

It’s no secret I’ve been out and about a lot this week. The Employee Engagement Taskforce Conference, the L&D Connect Unconference and the CIPD HRD Conference have all had to put up with me. I survived, and I hope that all the people I met, smiled at, and talked with did too.

Whilst at the L&D Connect event I heard lots of talk of how L&D practitioners dislike the idea of training being dished out ‘like Smarties‘. The implication was that organisations could hand out training and learning like brightly coloured little sugary treats. People were saying stuff like ‘There’s more to training and development than that’. And I’m inclined to agree.

The following day as I wander round the Olympia exhibition hall at the CIPD event I hear the same thing being discussed and at the same time I find myself almost overwhelmed with brightly coloured sugary treats. In disbelief I took stacks of pictures of the offending sweeties. They were everywhere, here are just a few of them (and to avoid embarrassment I’ve left all the promotional branded ones out).




Are you feeling sick yet? No – OK here’s more:




Enough already! Is the L&D product market place really so uninspiring that you need to lure someone to your stand with the promise of sweeties? It strikes me that L&D professionals and suppliers might want to get together and talk about this because from where I’m sitting – the Smarties conversation didn’t sit well among all the……Smarties (other sugary treats are available).

Serious About Performance

Gareth and I have recently started working with an interesting company called Careergro. They are in the field of employee owned career development and as part of our initial working together, we’ve been discussing the similarities and differences between career development and performance appraisals.

So I’m grateful to Felix Wetzel for sharing a great talk from TEDxPortsmouth over on Google Plus. It’s called Serious About Performance, by the sports and business coach Dr Chris Shambrook. I’ve embedded the talk down below so you can take a look if the following observations from it interest you. And even if they don’t, it’s worth a watch for a fantastic sporting analogy (around five minutes into the film).

Defining Performance

Dr Chris says that in most companies, people wrongly think that performance = results. Wrong! Results are output, they are goals (usually set for you) and how you are doing against those goals. Performance is about doing the things you need to do to get out what you want. Performance is input and output. It is about understanding your potential and developing it so that you achieve the best results you can.


In the workplace, performance improvement is almost universally seen as a bad thing, as a problem. Dr Chris thinks everyone should have a performance improvement plan – that we should seek it out, demand it and use it as a way of helping us fulfil our potential. I think that’s a much healthier attitude and when practiced, quickly integrates performance and career development.

Static versus Flow

Usually, performance is appraised annually. I feel sick just writing that last sentence, performance needs evaluating all the time. The annual appraisal sucks – I know no one who looks forward to giving or receiving one. Feedback needs to be regular – and seek it out. Otherwise, Dr Chris says it’s just a euphemism for criticism.

Weakness versus Strength

Most people leave their performance reviews with a clear understanding of their inadequacies. To achieve high performance you must focus on strengths. How can I deliberately and consistently make strong into stronger. Then, and only then, should I address my weaknesses.

Money as a Motivator

Dr Chris says ‘we start incentivising people to do behaviours and start manipulating them by introducing money’. When money is used as a motivator for results in sport, it’s when corruption is present. He uses cricket and match fixing to illustrate this, and I’m reminded of Robin Schooling’s excellent blog post about the New Orleans Saints on the same subject.

Choose Your Attitude

Choosing your attitude towards high performance is critical. Choose to be the best you can be and show that attitude as a role model to others. Readers who have been with me for the long haul may recall a post I wrote back in September 2009 after meeting with Chris Boardman. He saw this as vital too.

Does your company confuse performance with results? And who is responsible for your performance?

I’d love to hear your views.

photo c/o Bertron8