Posts Tagged ‘catalyst’

Response to Seth Godin’s July 7, 2012 Blog: “Thinking about your shoes”

Posted on: July 7th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Response to “Thinking about your shoes”

Hi Seth:

One of my most important precepts: At the end of a speech, program, or course, the participants, when asked about the course, should not say Tom. Rather they should be enthusiastically thinking about what they have learned and, more importantly, how they will use and benefit from the “learning.”

I have watched too many trainers, lecturers, professors, and teachers, going out for breaks and lunches with their students. Rather than listening to and enjoying the students’ experiences, the instructor spends the whole time regaling his/her students with stories reflecting how unbelievable he/she (THE INSTRUCTOR), is. Every student’s story is topped; every student’s “attempt” is denigrated.

Of course, the program evaluations (proverbial “happy sheets”) show overwhelming program success as a result of this incredible instructor.

Personal power over others can be formal or informal. Formal power comes from the person’s relative formal position compared with the rest of the group. A professor has formal power, and holds his/her students’ lives in the palm of her/his hand. There are many ways a student can receive top marks. Participation, group work, verbal exams are all, at least partially, subjective. Regardless of protestations that class evaluations are completely anonymous, students know that it is better to err on the side of “the professor is wonderful” that the opposite.

Informal power comes from “force of personality.” Those who talk longest and loudest overpower (especially when humor is involved) everyone else. Laughing along with the “professor/teacher” indicates “agreement and respect” and often the other students feel intimidated by the apparent approval and therefore “go along” with other students to give excellent evaluations.

It is also amazingly annoying for any teacher, professor, lecturer, trainer (or worse, those business coaches) to measure their success by the success of their best students. The bell curve clearly indicates that there will be students (far right of the curve) who DO NOT succeed because of anything the “teacher” does. The strategy for those students? GET OUT OF THEIR WAY!

The 34 % to the left of that group are keen but need to be reinforced, encouraged, and supported as they clarify and practice the concepts. The 34% to the left of the median, they are normally lacking in confidence, feel they are stupid, and need a great deal of practice to pass. That 34% is THE GROUP teachers are paid to teach. That is the group that needs our skills, our talents, and our intensity. It is the success of those students that most reflects the teacher’s ability. (And those students should be the ones who least notice the teacher’s impact at least in the short term.)

My company, Catalyst Consulting, (closed in 1999), created, marketed, and conducted programs that ALWAYS included a final day (not follow-up day) 3 months after the first three or more contiguous days. This day was not an option. The day was part of the program fee. This practice allowed so many good things to happen. The initial questions that began that final session? What worked, what didn’t, and why. After lengthy discussion (and demonstrations and coaching) the final question would be “where to do we/you go from here?”. Program evaluations at THAT point might be more accurate.

Just this past week I stepped away from an opportunity to team-teach with a friend (with whom I had a passing acquaintance) with years of teaching experience. The course: public speaking; two 3-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks. My co-teacher’s philosophy, always end the first class after 45 minutes. Always because students “love” it. And don’t worry about preparing much; it is just an “introduction” course. Not my way.

All of this to support your comment. The little things (right color shoes, or me throwing up (I did make it to the washroom, came back and continued) while teaching 300 people on ship in relatively heavy seas) are not more important IF the students are more engrossed with the ideas than in the instructor.

Below is the letter I send to the person I was to teach with:

I am up in the middle of the night struggling to think how I can ask you to re-consider your tradition of having the first class be only 45 minutes.

It is my feeling that the first class is incredibly important;

The experience of the first class sets the tone for the succeeding classes. If the expectation is that the classes are over in less than half the time for any session, it begs the question why a three hour class? And why all of this is schedule for 12 weeks? We only have 36 hours and to throw away 2 hours is over 5% of the class time available.

Each class is “only” 3 hours long. My challenge is never too much time, but too little time. I always start on time and finish on time. Finishing early for me means 5 minutes, and only if everyone has arrived on time, and has returned from breaks on time.

My initial formative teaching paradigm was teaching adults. To charge a substantial fee, and then begin late or finish early, infuriates adults. They paid 100%, they expect 100%. To let students out after 45 minutes of a 180-minute class is not acceptable.

I believe in the incitement of teaching. The first class demonstrates my passion for the subject, my ability to use a variety of teaching / training experiences to engage the different student learning styles, and my expectation of excellence in both student and trainer/instructor/teacher.

I love every class. I prepare for 3 hours each class. I give breaks. I vary the activities. I follow the Situational leadership process of being directive in at least the first class to create in the students the confidence that I know what I am doing and have the ability to help each student achieve the “university’s goals for the course, as well as, (and more importantly), their personal goals for the course.

As an ex-basketball coach and player, I knew the first practice would be/must be challenging, fun, exhausting and personally rewarding. Basketball (or any sport) requires hard work, determination and the willingness to push yourself to the limit of your abilities. (My favorite song of all time is “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles.) Every practice has a purpose, and every practice is a full practice. And every practice starts on time, and finishes on time except in exceptional circumstances.

All of the above I believe fits within the way you and I think.

If there is any concern about 3 hours as too long for the first or any class thereafter, it is not shared by me.

I am prepared and excited to teach a full 3-hour class on Wednesday.

He was not amused, and he and I are not conducting the program together. C’est le vie!

On Jul 7, 2012, at 7:39 AM, Seth Godin wrote:

Thinking about your shoes

I woke up early to give a speech a few weeks ago and got dressed in the dark. Bad idea. I ended up wearing two slightly different brown shoes on stage, and I was sure that it was the first and only thing that anyone in the audience would notice. I was wrong.

People spend almost no time thinking about what you wear on your feet. A few hours after the meeting, we have no recollection at all about what tie you wore or how your hair was done.

On the other hand, we’ll long be impacted by your big idea, the project you didn’t launch and the gift you didn’t give.

It’s easy to obsess about trivia, mostly because the stakes are so small. What happens if we wonder about what we could to that might change everything instead?




How to prevent change / how to encourage change.

Posted on: October 30th, 2011 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

It is challenging to overcome prejudice. And ignorance. And a narrow perspective. Or the desire to make fun of, rather than to have respect for.
It is always easy to take the easy way out when confronted with something you don’t understand. The “easy” way; when in doubt “they” are wrong, “I/We” are right. If “their” reality does not match “my/our” reality, “I/We” are right, “they” are wrong.
Of course, everyone understands Covey’s “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Telling someone they are “stupid” or “wrong” or “prejudiced” in a pejorative way, or in a way that denigrates them, rarely makes that person open to your ideas.
Living by the concept that change best comes from working inside the “group” is NOT the EASY way. It can appear the person on the inside is condoning the behaviors and practices of the society that currently exists.
As a Canadian, I do not “approve” morally with some of the practices of other cultures. But I do know that publicly criticizing or condemning another culture is NOT the best way to encourage change.
My belief in the potential of the youth of the United Arab Emirates to create a unique culture that might move closer to my preference, is unbowed regardless of the criticism from my friends, peers, and many Canadians. I also have endured and understand the way the UAE CID has treated me (and maybe continues to treat me).
I will continue to severely demean those so-called “experts” who are motivated more by greed than helping the UAE citizens make decisions, and take responsibility for these decisions.
Consultant Peter Block suggests three ways of addressing an organization’s problems. 1. Do for them what they cannot do for themselves (and do not need to do ever again). 2. Work with the organization’s personnel to solve the problem, 3. Work with the organization’s personnel to help them learn how to do “it” themselves. However, in all cases the ethical consultant solves the problem and moves on.
In the 1980’s Canada’s federal government instituted projects to help “fishermen” (now called “fishers”) to learn new skills to move from the fishing industry to other industries. I had the opportunity to be first in on the effort. After looking at the scope of the proposed projects, I walked away because I knew my organization was not big enough to do the job. However, the big guys (consultants) and the little guys (anyone with a business card) jumped right in. The Federal Government spent millions of dollars. The number of “training” programs was in the thousands. The number of fishers “trained” beyond thousands. The success of the programs?
Ask the consultants? “We did a fabulous job.”
Ask the government? We trusted the consultants . . . if they said they did a good job, they did a good job. We would not throw away our money.
Ask the fishers? We got paid to be there. We all said we learned to keep the money coming. And we always knew there would be no jobs, let alone new careers.
I once asked a few insightful consultants their mission statement; “The government has money and we want it.”
The unethical practices in Canada pale in comparison to the consultants and experts practices in the UAE.
Enough of this. I had the honor to work with many young Emirati women (College and University graduates). They are making a difference. They are able to do on their own without consultants “doing it” for them. I feel strongly that I helped the young people to develop the skills needed to improve their chances of communicating more effectively.
My passion is for results. I am a catalyst, concerned with making a difference and then moving on.
I detest consultants and experts who, rather than solve a problem or really develop client skills, do only what is necessary to keep the problems unsolved, and the skills underdeveloped in order to maintain their revenue flow.
So much more I could write, and so many more examples I could give.
Rather than “exploit” – “expand”.
Rather than just find and define a problem, solve the problem. (Using most appropriate consulting approach.)
And being more concerned with concrete results than bigger (and bigger) consulting fees.
And yes, I tried to work within the system, but the system sensed my concerns, and ate me up. (Several times.)
But, on we go. Hope I can someday help some more.