Monthly Archives: October 2014

Management Training is not Sports Training

Imagine you’re a sports coach who can only train each of your athletes for 3 days every 6 months, and you have no direct access to any athlete for the rest of the year. Would you train those athletes the same way Phil Jackson trained the Chicago Bulls or the LA Lakers? Or imagine you’re a great schoolteacher, who has just 6 days a year with each class of pupils. Would you use the same approach that even your most inspiring schoolteacher or university professor used?

Sportsmen are usually in competitive action for less than 2 hours a week. The bulk of their time is spent practising, making adjustments, and mastering skills well away from the field of competition. Students are learning full time for months or years, understanding principles and slowly building a foundation before starting a lifetime’s vocations. A typical manager has around 6 days of training each year, and needs to use that training in real life, skillfully, straight away. This is a completely different challenge, and those few training days need to be used really well.

Here are some ways management training can make those precious days of training really count.

  • We focus only on the few things that help us best improve. None of us can absorb more than a handful of new things in a day, and then integrate them into our way of operating. If we try to do more, then we’re drinking from a fire hose; so we need to be wise about choosing the few critical things we learn and practise
  • We learn skills that work well, straight away. Elegant principles and beautiful insights are never the final step. Every beautiful insight needs to be turned into an effective approach that Martha can apply skillfully on Monday
  • We start mastering our new skills well before we leave training. Understanding something is not the same as knowing how to apply it skillfully. We need guided practice, to recognise how to use a new skill well, before we use it in anger
  • We get prompts to improve our expertise in the 98% of our time that we are not in training. This can mean anything from simple practice reminders to incorporating 3 or 4 approaches into a team playbook

We can learn lots of things from great sports coaches and brilliant teachers, but management training is a very different prospect, and in many ways a much more difficult one. We think we’ve got good management training when we can make the absolute most of a handful of days, to help someone get much better, straight away, at skills that really matter.

SMART Goals Sound Good but Miss the Benefit

Goal setting can be an outstanding way of improving performance if it’s done well. If I were to boil down the years of studies about good goal setting to just two critical things to get absolutely right, those things would be difficulty and feedback:

  • Goals should be just at the edge of your ability: just difficult enough that if you concentrate hard you’ll hit them, but on an off day you won’t
  • You get continual, very specific feedback about how you’re doing, which tells you what you need to adjust to get in the performance sweet spot

Let’s consider what happens when we don’t bother about difficulty and feedback. Imagine a tennis lesson to improve your return of serve. How much will you improve if your coach serves 130mph bombs past your ears? Or if he dollies it over the net to you? How will you know how to adjust your return if you can’t tell whether it’s difficult for your opponent to hit back again, or if your coach says nothing?

These two things: task difficulty and feedback, are the heart of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s superbly well researched conditions for getting into a state of peak experience, or “Flow”. Other research, on goal feedback, shows that if you don’t get feedback then you get no benefit at all from goal setting.

Now let’s look at the SMART goals acronym, the popular wisdom on good goal setting. There are different words that each different letter of SMART can stand for, which is a bit of a worry in itself, but let’s take a common definition: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. To be fair, these can all be useful characteristics of goals in the right circumstances, and have decent evidence to back them up. So they’re not wrong, but they miss our two critical characteristics of difficulty and feedback. SMART only skirts around goal difficulty. SMART doesn’t even mention feedback, and without feedback you might as well not bother.

SMART goals also miss plenty of other very important characteristics of goals: using learning and process goals in the short term; having performance goals that are entirely within your control; commitment to goals; repositioning goals upwards or downwards when they become too easy or difficult; and taking breaks from goals entirely.

So my advice is to beware snappy acronyms and use what works: set goal difficulty just at the edge of your ability, and get continual feedback to help you adjust and learn. Everything else is important but secondary.

Kardelen Launches Its MBA

Kardelen has launched its MBA, training a group of 10 Senior Consultants, 3 Associate Directors and 2 Directors at Sports Industry Agency of the Year, Two Circles. The MBA comprises 7 individual courses, and the group will take one course every 2 months.

We spread the course into separate sessions to give participants time to bed in each course’s skillset before introducing the next one. This approach has some other practical advantages: we don’t take a whole senior team away from client work for days at a time; and the participants can come to each session refreshed and hungry for an energetic day of learning and practice.

Because an entire peer group and senior team are taking the course, we have also been able to work with Two Circles to integrate the skills and practices from each course into its operating playbook.

We offer this course for all clients, and will publicise details soon.

Accredited Distance Learning Courses

Kardelen has developed 2 of its courses for distance learning: Managing Teams for High Performance and Managing Individuals for High Performance.

We have worked closely on developing the distance learning with Premier Training International, the UK’s leading training company in health and fitness, and with Active IQ, the UK’s largest health and fitness awarding body. The courses will form the core of the health and fitness sector’s new level 3 qualifications in management and leadership, and will be complemented by more of our courses in October and November.

Kardelen and Premier will launch their suite of management and leadership distance learning courses in the health and fitness sector in the next few months. Kardelen will offer a growing range of courses as distance learning in all sectors.