Archives for July 2013

Now You CAN Have It Both Ways!

Back in 2010, David Milliken and I engaged in a spirited debate here in this blog. We explored whether skill practice through eSimulations was as effective as live role-play in a classroom.

As a quick recap, I argued that there are important aspects of live role-play that could not be replicated in an eSimulation. These include live coaching on non-verbal aspects of the learner’s delivery such as voice-tone, pace and body language.

David, on the other hand, correctly pointed out some of the problems with live role-plays that eSimulations address better. These include the challenges of extreme variability in the delivery of the “other player,” such as people “playing extreme hard-ball,” or just not taking their role seriously and thus depriving the learner of a real opportunity to practice the skills.

So today, I am calling a truce with my old friend David Milliken. What if you could have a role-play with the consistency of experience of a well-designed eSimulation… without sacrificing the individualized feedback and coaching of a live classroom?

Today we are proud to present a solution that does exactly that. Introducing Management Challenge™.

Management Challenge™ delivers a vivid learning experience that parallels the real experiences faced by every manager you know. Working as a table team, your learners are quickly drawn into a computer-based simulation in which they must run a fictional organization for three consecutive quarters.

Along the way they face realistic challenges such as:

  • How do I allocate my resources most effectively across multiple projects?
  • How do I increase employee engagement?
  • How do I handle conflict among coworkers?
  • How do I develop my people – both through assignments and through coaching?

Here’s how it works. Learners rotate turns in the role of a Director, a Senior Manager, and a Manager in the fictional organization. When acting as Director, they will delegate actual projects to the team. As Senior Manager, they must assign resources and plan for how the work will get done. And as Managers, they must assign virtual employees to the projects while managing and motivating them. The decisions they make impact not only the performance of the organization over time, but also the opportunities and challenges they as a team will face later in the simulation. And of course, they are competing with the teams at other tables for the best business results at the end of the year. So energy and engagement are high!

Okay, so what about that “you can have it both ways” role-play? Management effectiveness is just as much about communication as it is about decision-making. So throughout the simulation, Managers are faced with situations in which they must meet with individual employees. This is where the magic blend happens.

The virtual employees are presented in video clips. This ensures a consistent delivery, and that core concepts are addressed, thus leveraging an advantage of typical eSimulations.

But what makes this design so effective is that the role player monitors the dialogue and selects the next response for the virtual employee based on what the Manager says – thus ensuring the most realistic dialogue possible. And here is where the benefits of live role-play kick in. The Senior Manager takes coaching notes to provide feedback not only on what was said by the Manager, but also how it was delivered. Some teams even opt to provide real-time feedback during the dialogue to allow the Manager to make on-the-spot adjustments and rapid improvements.

What do learners think of this approach? Well, to be honest, at first they react like learners do whenever they hear the words role-play or skill-practice – they groan! But, after the first round of practice they become immediately immersed in the low-risk environment, and they recognize the real opportunity to improve. Frankly, they can’t get enough.

Now, the blended role-play is just one of the unique and innovative aspects behind the highly engaging and powerful learning experience of Management Challenge™. We’d love to show you more.

Contact us today and arrange for an online demonstration of Management Challenge™ and we’ll show you how it can be tailored for your unique needs.

Top 5 Mistakes Managers Make: Misunderstanding Motivation

Management Challenge Program Designer Kate McLagan is penning our latest blog series “Top 5 Mistakes Managers Make”. Over the next five weeks, Kate will explore these critical mistakes that managers make in their relationships with their direct reports. Read on for Part 5: Misunderstanding Motivation. Click here to read Part 4: Failing to Delegate.

Manager Mistake #5: Misunderstanding Motivation

The workplace today is a very complex social system, and motivating people to do their best work consistently is an enduring management challenge. Managers often find employee motivation to be something of a mystery. Motivation comes from wanting to do something of one’s own free will. Employees don’t engage when they are being over-managed or controlled, so strong-armed attempts (however well-intended) to force employees to be motivated will fail. Employees are motivated by intrinsic factors such as interesting work, challenges, and increased responsibility. For example, when managers provide interesting work, it brings out the employee’s energy and willingness to complete their task. They get excited about the work ahead and thus feel motivated. In today’s workplace, the focus on motivation largely remains on external motivators, i.e. the “carrot-and-stick” approach. With the “carrot” being a paycheck and the “stick” being a threat, these extrinsic factors do not motivate employees from within.

It is important to note that motivation is at the very heart of performance management. People want to “understand the game”, develop skills, and accomplish personal goals. Your expectations of people and their expectations of themselves are the factors that result in positive employee performance and motivations. Interestingly, the techniques that have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least. If provided the proper environment as well as feedback and coaching, they will engage with their own internal motivators. You will never have employees treat customers better than they are being treated themselves.

Avoid This Mistake:

  • Provide opportunities for the employee to experience increasingly challenging assignments (ensuring he/she succeeds at each level before moving forward)
  • Conduct one-to-one feedback & coaching with the employee emphasizing what they do well vs focusing on their weaknesses
  • Provide developmental opportunities that reflect what the employee is interested in learning
  • Project your sincere commitment to the employee’s success and ongoing development tied to the purpose/mission of your organization