"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

How to Ensure Effective and Efficient Meetings

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At the end of our graduate class “Community Development: The Art of Facilitation and Design” with Jeanette Romkema we reflected on how principles and practices of Dialogue Education could also help ensure more effective and efficient meetings. It was eye-opening!

Most of us are involved in or will be involved in way too many meetings. Here are tips to help minimize the number of meetings we go to, maximize the use of time we have in them, and work to make these gatherings important, meaningful, and helpful.

  • Be clear about start and end times, and stick to them
  • Invite people to tend to their personal needs i.e. move around, get a coffee, etc.
  • Plan for solo thinking time
  • Practice active listening
  • Invite questions throughout
  • Name objectives and work to achieve them
  • Develop a realistic agenda and clear goals
  • Determine when it would be helpful to engage everyone to better achieve your goal(s)
  • Ensure all voices are invited in and heard
  • Ensure all content is relevant and important
  • Practice the core principles of respect, safety, inclusion, engagement, and relevance
  • Set guidelines, if necessary and helpful
  • Name who will do what, and by when, for each action item. Make sure this information is recorded in the minutes to ensure accountability
  • Start meeting by checking action items from past meeting(s)
  • Keep numbers to a minimum; ask “Who really needs to be at this meeting?”
  • Allow for “space” in the agenda for items that may take more time than expected
  • Be aware of different learning preferences and multiple intelligences, and make room for them
  • Welcome people as they enter (even if they are late)
  • Select or arrange the venue to enhance the meeting and dialogue (not distract)
  • Share the agenda in advance of the meeting and invite input
  • Ask “Do we really need to have this meeting?” If not, don’t.

What can you add to this list?

​*****

Steve MacDouell, Raymond Lo, Demola Orekoya, Zoe Zhao, Liesl Thomas, Ruth Bartlett, Jelle Koersen, and Mary Gorombey are graduate students at Wycliffe College, of the University of Toronto.

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One Funeral, Two Learning Tasks

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On February 1, 2018 my colleague and friend Karen Ridout died suddenly and unexpectedly. When I heard there would be a prayer service a few days later to honour and celebrate her life, my husband and I jumped on a plane to join family and friends to pay our respects and celebrate her life. Karen was a beautiful person and deserved this honour.

What I was not expecting was to see and feel her Dialogue Education influence on her own church service and the church she helped to establish, Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina.

During this prayer service, everyone present was invited to participate in two learning tasks – yup, you heard me: two learning tasks at a funeral! With a smile, the rector Stephanie Allen shared, “We can’t possibly have a prayer service for Karen without learning tasks!” Indeed.

Here’s how it went:

Learning Task #1 (in the middle of the service)

Sometimes those we love are ill for many months or years before they are taken from us. In this time, we are able to have final conversations and share things on our heart that we were not able to share until we knew our time together was short. When leaving this earth is a slow process, our loved ones (and we!) have time to close loose ends and finish the uncompleted; closure can be experienced.

However, this is not always how it works. Sometimes those we love are taken from us quickly and without warning. This was true with our dear friend, colleague, mother, sister Karen.

So in our time together today, I would like to invite you to have that final conversation you were not able to have, say the things you didn’t have time to say, or share with Karen what you didn’t have a chance to share. Indeed, she was taken far to soon.

Your invitation is:

Take a small sheet of paper and pen from those being passed around. On your own, take 5 minutes to have that final conversation with Karen. What do you still want to say to her?

If you are wondering what we will be doing with these completed sheets of paper, let me explain how this will work: If you are an EXTROVERT you will have an opportunity to share all you wish after we finish this prayer service; if you are an INTROVERT, you don’t have to worry; be assured that these papers will not be shared with everyone here but are for you to keep and do with as you wish. [These instructions were met with loud laughter – yes, Karen taught them well.]

Learning Task #2 (at the end of the service)

As we finish this service and you leave this space, I offer you one final learning task (in a way that Karen taught us so beautifully): take a small piece of paper from the table in the hall and write one thing that you are most thankful for about Karen and who she was to you. Write this down and place it in the glass bowl you will find there. These papers will be read by her children and then placed with Karen as she is cremated.

The family is deeply grateful for all that you share and all the ways you have been blessed.

I have never experienced learning tasks that were more important and more meaningful. I was moved to tears in that final conversation with Karen and so were many others, and joyous to have the opportunity to share with her all the ways she had impacted my life.

Thank you, Karen, for teaching your church and church leadership so well, and challenging my thinking about what a funeral should be.

How has this challenged your thinking of where we can use (or should use) learning tasks?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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An Approach that Invites Connections

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One thing that a learning-centered approach helps learners do, is connect. It is with this connecting that learners can more fully and easily learn. It is with this type of connecting that we maximize the possibility of real change.

Below are three types of common connections when using a learning-centered approach and for ensuring learning.

Connect with self. Learners need to connect new content to existing knowledge or experience. They need to compare it to what they already know and do, and decide how it lines up and if they like it. They need to weigh it again what they believe is right and true, and see how it feels. They need to imagine it in their lives and ask themselves “Do I want to start using/doing this?”

Connect with others. Learners need to share their stories, experiences, thoughts and questions with other learners. They need to hear what others think and debate it. It is through this testing and trying with others that learners can discover new meaning and understanding for themselves. It is by seeing ourselves in others that clarity is sometimes found. 

Connect with the content. Learners need time to examine the new content they are learning. They need to decide how they feel about it and how it compares to what they already know. If they are learning a skill, they need try it out. Learning is in the doing and deciding, and this need time.

Which of these types of connections have you found especially helpful in learning?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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A Conference to Remember

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Recently, NeighbourLink North York hosted “Bridging Generations,” the third intergenerational conference in the series “Let’s Get Connected.” Their goal was to invite 50 youth and 50 seniors to come for a day of learning and fun. At the start of the day everyone was partnered with someone of a different age, and then invited to experience the entire day with that partner. At the end of the conference they reflected on this intergenerational experience – it was powerful!

NeighbourLink is a charity located in the suburbs of Toronto and works with seniors. Increasingly, they want to share the importance of volunteerism and the value of doing this intergenerationally. At this conference, they did this in two ways: an intergenerational panel and interactive workshops.

The question was: How do we ensure people learn while they are having fun?

With the help of Global Learning Partners, they offered two tip sheets as well as guidance on maximizing learning.

  1. Tips for Speaking on Our Panel – (click here)
  2. Tips for Workshop Facilitators – (click here)

Wow, did this ever make a difference! The steps for success included:

  1. Emailing the tip sheets to panelists and workshop facilitators a week in advance
  2. Calling each panelist and workshop facilitator a few days before the event to answer their questions, checking in and offering support
  3. Meeting with each group before the start of the conference
  4. Introducing the individuals in each group to each other before the event and ensuring time to connect.

NeighbourLink North York is confident they will host this sort of event again and is grateful they now have more tools to support their volunteer presenters and maximize learning for participants.

How do you ensure learning at conferences?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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A Dialogue Approach Transforms Corporate Training: A Spectacular Example

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Global Learning Partners-certified practitioner Margaret Bean recently reflected on her years as a leader in the Learning and Development department of 7-Eleven. From her reflections, we extracted Six Tips that are helpful for all of us as we bring dialogue-based learning principles into new settings.

#1. Expand your company’s understanding of what training is.

When Margaret first arrived at 7-Eleven, training, telling, and job aids were often seen as interchangeable. While patiently and effectively designing job aids as her first assignments, she also gradually transformed the view of training from that narrow definition to a broader understanding of training as a dialogue-based, hands-on learning experience.

#2. Build communication between training designers (developers) and training facilitators (deliverers).

As is often the case in corporations, those who developed 7-Eleven training and those who delivered it were two different groups of people who rarely communicated with each other. As lead developer for operations training (which takes place in training stores all across the US and Canada), Margaret knew how critical it was for her to understand what the deliverers experienced in the field and the importance of having continual dialogue with them. This change in communication led to a robust collaboration over the years with a core group of volunteer trainers. All facilitators and their supervisors felt a new ownership, which led to consistency in training across the US and Canada, and better-trained store operators and field leaders – resulting in reduced cost and increased profitability. It also resulted in Margaret being awarded the 2014 Gold Award by the international Brandon Hall Group for Best Learning Team.

#3. Expand the design skills of everyone involved in training.

Margaret thoughtfully strengthened the design capacity of deliverers so that they 1) could offer valuable input into the design of what they were teaching (consultative voice), and 2) could more effectively adapt the training materials to unique contexts without losing the integrity of the original design. [At GLP, we’ve found that the principles to practice framework is a great way to talk with both developers and deliverers about their distinct but complementary roles.]

#4. See every training program as a living thing.

As Margaret so wisely says, “a training program is living and breathing, so it always needs to be iterated and updated.” Margaret and her team took a 2-year-old operations training program that had been on its deathbed and revitalized it. They updated it every quarter by gathering feedback and analyzing indicators of participants’ learning, their transfer of their learning into practice, and the impact of this transfer upon the company. Examples of this impact were:

  • 75% reduction in required reading in favor of hands-on practice
  • 20% decrease in participants’ time to complete training, leading to over 70% decrease in training costs
  • 7% increase in sales
  • 2.5% improvement in operators’ performance.

Rather than push to create “finished” products, Global Learning Partners encourages companies to continually gather learner feedback as well as data about the results of your training efforts. It is important to create processes to periodically update to newer versions so that your training responds to patterns of feedback and to the current context.

#5. Embrace the axiom: Less is More.

When Margaret took over the design of the operations training, the materials consisted of two huge binders that users struggled to read, and then set on shelves. Through a thoughtful and collaborative process, Margaret’s team trimmed down the materials by 75% in favor of hands-on practice and application. Both trainers and users were much more satisfied with the training, and, as we’ve seen, it was much more effective.

#6. Keep your eyes on results.

As a for-proft corporation, 7-Eleven understandably needs hard financial data to evaluate the effectiveness of their operations training efforts. Not suprising to Margaret (or others of us who specialize in a learning-centered approach), the results of this new approach were convincing: training was more efficient, and graduates showed increased performance and profitability!

These are just a few of the many tips and insights that Margaret had to share from her years bringing a dialogue-learning approach to this corporate setting.

What tips and insights would you share?

​*****

Margaret Bean (margspiel@gmail.com) was a Senior Instructional Designer for 7-Eleven, working in the company’s corporate office in Dallas, Texas, where she was responsible for the design and content of their operations training. In 2014 she won the Brandon Hall Best Learning Team gold award for building and developing a cross-functional team to collaborate and consult in developing, implementing and continuously improving this training program. She also used to design trainings for leadership, employees, and national conferences. 

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

Meg Logue (meglogue25@gmail.com) is a freelance designer and communications specialist. She has worked closely as an assistant and consultant to Valerie and GLP since 2017.

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