Expert Interview Series: Todd Macey, President of Vital Learning, on Why Most Management Training Programs Are Lacking

Todd Macey is the president of Vital Learning, where he leads a world-class team and partner network to deliver award-winning leadership development solutions built for today’s managers. We recently chatted with Todd about why many leadership training programs fail and how a company can effectively develop its managers so that they can help achieve the organization’s goals.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why are you so passionate about leadership training?

Throughout my career, I’ve had plenty of experiences with both good managers and bad managers. Whether I was working for a good manager or a bad manager, it had a huge impact on whether I enjoyed the job. I’ve worked for some pretty horrible managers, which both incentivized me to do better as a leader myself and developed my passion for building leadership skills early on.

I’ve seen first-hand the ineffectiveness of many training solutions. And there are a lot of bad managers out there in the world. People are commonly promoted to a management position because they are good at their previous job, but in their new role as a manager, they do not know how to get work accomplished through a team or lead others. Often, these managers are never given the fundamental skills they need to be effective, or they are put through a lecture-heavy training program that doesn’t actually help them develop the core skills they need.

My (and my company’s) passion is achieving a positive impact for people and companies by developing practical and critical management skills. We want to help rid the world of both bad managers and ineffective training solutions.

What are some of the skills that many of today’s business managers lack?

It often starts with the basic communication and leadership skills. We call these the “foundational” skills because a good manager must use these skills every day.  These include how to communicate clearly and concisely, know your audience, and use active listening skills. Next, today’s managers need to know how to involve team members in decisions, create a collaborative motivating environment, and focus discussions around facts and observable behaviors instead of attitudes or opinions. Another area where we often see people struggle is learning how to effectively provide feedback and coach others. Lots of managers, especially new managers, don’t delegate as often as they should, which does a disservice to themselves and their team. The most difficult management skills to master are the ones that often involve emotional reactions from team members. These include handling complaints, resolving conflicts, and disciplining employees.

Is there any truth at all to the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Is there a certain age of a manager after which it gets really difficult for him or her to develop new skills or learn new ways of doing things?

There is some truth to that statement, but I would say that it is never too late to learn good fundamental management skills. What happens when managers are never provided with a good framework for how to be effective is they will usually learn these skills slowly and very painfully on the job. Often, bad habits and poor workarounds are developed. Without a good framework, many new managers do not last long in their leadership position. Sixty percent of new managers fail within their role (i.e., are let go or demoted) within the first 24 months.

It is always valuable to provide managers with a good framework of skills regardless of their experience level. Managers who are used to a certain way of doing things may have to adjust their existing approach, which can be more difficult than learning with a blank slate. But experienced managers have, by necessity, already tried different tactics on the job and have likely seen the consequences of not leading the right way. This can give the experienced managers extra motivation and a structure to build upon.

Do you have any suggestions for how company leaders can convince managers that they are in need of leadership training?

The most impactful approach a senior leadership team can take is to help managers become committed to developing themselves as individuals and professionals. If the managers see the value in training (versus just being told it’s a requirement), they will approach it as a great investment of their time. A good first step is showing current managers (and high-potential employees) what building their skills will do for them and their career. Having the right skills will help them be more effective at their job, make their work days better, and can lead to bonuses, promotions, career growth, etc.

Getting managers to be fully committed to their own development can take some time. It may mean experiencing a few classes, applying the skills on the job, and seeing the impact this has. Since a lot of us have been through ineffective training, some people come into training sessions with the mentality that this is a waste of time. But what we’ve seen over the years is that even highly doubtful employees tend to realize over time the value of developing their own skills.

Is it possible for someone to improve their “soft skills” without training or practicing these skills in a face-to-face environment?

Yes, certainly. Participants do not need to be face-to-face to have excellent practice opportunities. Our courses provide practice scenarios throughout the experience, presenting short situations and asking the student to respond. Managers can get quality practice and develop the confidence they need to apply skills back on the job in both in-person and virtual environments.

As technology improves and becomes more accessible, virtual skill practice will continue to become more effective. For example, using virtual reality to fully immerse managers in realistic conversations with their team members will create an even more powerful version of the video-based scenarios we have today.

What steps do you take to ensure that managers who complete your leadership training programs actually retain and use the knowledge they learned?

We place a lot of emphasis on developing skills over time. Just like learning to drive or ski, it takes continual practice to become an excellent manager. Instilling these critical management skills means lots of practice handling various situations to build your comfort level and confidence.

The initial classroom or online course is a good first step. But that’s just the beginning. There are a variety of follow-up practice opportunities and resources so that skills become ingrained and are actually used on the job. At the end of the day, that’s what is most important to us.

Also, we have a free reinforcement app that gives participants additional short practice scenarios for about a month and a half after the initial training. Participants are assigned exercises after the course to help them retain their knowledge and skills. Follow-up skill practice sessions are built in, and materials are made available for “just in time” learning. Plus, we provide various job aids and resources to assist managers in using the correct framework back on the job.

Finish this sentence: “The biggest improvement that companies tend to notice after their managers complete their leadership training is…”

…that company objectives are executed more frequently and with higher quality. Managers who communicate effectively, create a collaborative environment, and can get work accomplished through their team will be able to execute the company’s strategic vision. The manager is typically the critical link to quality outcomes.

Having good managers in place has a powerful ripple effect. If managers at the company are using proper fundamental skills, we often see a resulting increase in employee engagement and morale, job satisfaction, and retention. The result is cost savings as well as revenue growth for the company.

In the future, what skills must effective managers learn and master in order for them to be successful?

Management skills, in my opinion, are generally timeless. How to communicate effectively, properly delegate, structure a coaching conversation, etc. doesn’t change much over time even as our world and our workplace transform radically. However, what does evolve significantly over time is how these core management skills are delivered and practiced.

Thirty years from now, the key concepts, skills, and framework for how to be an effective manager will be largely the same as they are today. But we will see major advancements in how these concepts and skills are learned and delivered. As people’s needs shift over time, learning and development will need to continually evolve along with them. This is something that continues to make me excited about the future of our company and the future of our industry.

Could you use some help with your management skills? View CCSU’s open courses now.

7 Professional Benefits of Strong Presentation Skills

A Harris poll showed that 70 percent of American employees thought that having strong presentations skills was critical to their success on the job. Still, many professionals are fearful of making presentations and avoid them because they don’t have the skills they need.

The following are some professional benefits of strong presentation skills.

1. The ability to get jobs and promotions.

Professionals who don’t present well are less likely to get the jobs and promotions they want. Job interviews are very similar to a presentation in many ways, and being able to out-present the competition is essential. Similarly, many upper-level jobs require presentation skills, so you will be evaluated, even informally, on whether you have the necessary skills before a promotion is given.

2. The ability to represent your company and products well.

Even if you aren’t in sales, you are in some ways. Everything you say and do in public and in the community reflects on your brand, so having strong presentation skills will give you, and your company, the credibility you need to hold onto and increase market share.

3. The ability to avoid miscommunication.

Miscommunication is a major cause of stress and problems in the workplace. Being able to present yourself clearly and well will help you avoid miscommunication, which will make the work environment less stressful. It will also give you a leg up on the competition to be able to say what you mean and mean what you say.

4. The ability to be brief and to the point. 

Brevity may or may not be the soul of wit, but the fact is, people appreciate someone who doesn’t waste time talking for an hour when they could say what needs to be said in 15 minutes. People naturally gravitate toward those who don’t bore them, and who respect their time and don’t waste it.

5. The ability to be a leader. 

Strong presenters are leaders. If you want to be a leader, strong presentation skills aren’t just nice to have, they are absolutely necessary. Your presentation skills can guide and direct your team and inspire your colleagues to do their best in the work they do.

6. The ability to express the best of yourself. 

Have you ever thought that you don’t express yourself to others nearly as well as you do in private? Developing your presentation skills will allow the best of what’s inside you to come out so that others can see the real you all the time. Bonus: You will be able to show the real you to your family and friends better, too.

7. The ability to improve your team, company, and industry.

Chances are, you have important things to say, and you owe it to your team, your company, and your entire industry to learn how to say them well and make the contributions you can make to the world.

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CCSU Interview: Instructor and Alumni Duane P. Pierre

 

DPP pic_600xDuane P. Pierre is an instructor for Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Tech It Out summer youth enrichment program. During his time as an instructor with Tech It Out, Mr. Pierre has taught several classes in video and music production to middle and high school students. Mr. Pierre is also the Founder and Executive Director of ParaDYM Academy and the media production teacher at the Journalism and Media Academy in Hartford.

Mr. Pierre’s connection with CCSU goes beyond the Tech It Out summer program. He is also a CCSU alum and community partner with CCSU’s Office of Community Engagement, TRiO and the Institute for Municipal Research and Policy. He has worked with CCSU to bring media literacy and media production programs to local middle and high school students through his non-profit, ParaDYM Academy. Tech It Out allows Mr. Pierre to continue his non-profit’s mission for students in the summer, bringing local youth together from across Connecticut.

Mr. Pierre feels his time at CCSU has taught him the value of a blended learning environment and the power of community engagement.  He believes that, “Working with CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education helps support ParaDYM Academy’s mission to create media literate digital citizens and empowers the youth we serve to be the leaders of tomorrow. Everything I learned about empowering students to be self-directed, I learned at CCSU.”

If you are interested in or want to learn more about the Tech it Out Summer program at CCSU, please contact Christa Sterling at CSterling@ccsu.edu or 860-832-2277. You can also join our mailing list for helpful tips and more information on open courses.

5 Ways the Job Market Will Evolve by 2020

The job market never stops changing, and it will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future. Employees will need to change and evolve along with it in order to stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.

Here are some ways the job market is expected to evolve by 2020, just a few short years away.

1. Tech jobs will continue to grow in all kinds of businesses.

IT jobs are expected to grow 22 percent by 2020, which is much faster than the average 10 percent increase for all jobs during the same time period. Just about every business needs technology services like website and app development, cyber security services, and network administration.

As technology advances, qualified professionals with cutting edge tech skills will be in demand. While some of this demand can be filled by existing team members, there will be many new jobs created in this field.

2. An aging population will create needs in health care, assisted living, and other services to seniors.

Baby boomers are retiring at the rate of about 10,000 a day, according to the Pew Research Center. Many of these retirees are moving into assisted living communities, and others already need increasing amounts of medical care by the time they retire or soon afterward. Even seniors who don’t require medical interventions may need help from the healthcare industry to maintain their health as they age.

Some healthcare positions that are expected to grow fastest by 2020 include health educators, audiologists, medical secretaries, physical and occupational therapists, and home health and personal care aides.

3. Diverse populations will require specialized services and translators.

Demand for interpreters and translators is expected to increase over 40 percent by 2020 due to the influx of new immigrants who haven’t yet learned English. Rules in the healthcare community increasingly require medical professionals to use translators to avoid medical mistakes that can result from language barriers, and translators are also needed for court cases, in social services, and to facilitate international communication in business settings, as well as in the military.

4. Marketing specialists will be needed to navigate the increasingly complex but necessary field. 

Marketing used to be fairly straightforward—print ads, broadcast ads if the business could afford it, and direct mail. Add in websites, social media, mobile apps, video marketing, and suddenly marketing is overwhelming to all but the savviest business owners and managers.

5. Veterinarians, technicians, and assistants will be in increasing demand as more pet owners seek specialized services.

Many families dedicate much of their time, energy, and money into their “fur children”—their pets. It isn’t unusual anymore for pet owners to want procedures like hip replacements and chemotherapy for their pets, which is increasing the need for veterinarians and other vet staff to provide these additional services.

Are you interested in learning a new skill to keep up with the ever-changing job market? Central Connecticut State University provides a variety of continuing education courses to help you develop your skills.  View open courses to see what’s currently available.

Expert Interview Series: Resit Gulec of Master of Project Academy on the Benefits of Online Certification Training

Resit Gulec is Founder & CEO of Master of Project Academy, the world’s No. 1 affordable and flexible online certification training provider.

We recently asked Resit about the benefits of continuing your education and getting advanced certifications through online learning. Here’s what he shared:

Can you tell us about the mission behind Master of Project Academy? How do you set yourself apart from other online education providers?

Master of Project Academy is the source of 100 percent online and self-paced certification courses for IT and business professionals. Our mission is to prepare and publish affordable and premium courses that professionals need for a better career. We have created a platform where professionals can improve their skill sets. We believe in extending knowledge sharing through our growing learning community. Our goal is to make premium and professional education affordable and accessible at professionals’ own pace.

Our biggest competitive advantage is that we are the most affordable and flexible certification training provider in the market. While many online education providers offer a fixed and flat fee, we offer monthly, annual and lifetime access pricing options at a fraction of the cost of other certification training providers.

We have a very strict process for selecting our instructors. We seek instructors with 10-plus years of field experience and significant teaching experience. This is the foundation on which our students achieved 99.6 percent success rate in their certification exams.

What types of courses do you offer at Master of Project Academy?

We haveproject management courses, IT service management courses, cyber security courses, quality management courses, networking courses and many more coming down the pipeline.

In terms of certification, we have over 40 courses for PMP certification, CAPM certification, ITIL Foundation certification, Agile, Scrum, CEH, CISSP, Six Sigma certification and Cisco certifications.

Briefly, we help professionals who have exceeded five years of experience in the industry. We help them to enhance their skill sets to advance their career and we prepare them for middle-level management positions.

What types of courses and certification are most in demand right now for adult learners?

This year is cyber security year. Recent hacks of corporate giants like Yahoo and LinkedIn increased the demand for cybersecurity certification and courses. Companies spend billions of dollars for their information security and cybersecurity certifications become a critical evaluation criterion when they are seeking employees for their vacancies.

Project management is an old but still popular certification. Considering that there are over 2 million PMP certification holders around the world, project management certifications will still be in demand for years to come. Based on a recent survey, PMP certified professionals command 14 percent higher income than their uncertified counterparts. This shows that project management certifications will be in demand for a long time in future.

For individuals interested in continuing education, what subject areas – particularly in tech – would you recommend they focus on?

Our courses are aimed at senior-level professionals and mid-level managers. However, when I looked at the trends and future of the tech, I see that big data, marketing analytics, machine learning, biotechnology and renewable resources will be the top tech areas for the following years.

Machine learning will especially be the area of the future. Many industries delve into machine learning to improve their quality levels and better serve their customers. I believe that the demand for the machine learning skills in jobs will increase significantly in the coming years.

Why should professionals consider getting advanced education? What are the long-term benefits to their career?

Education is a never-ending process. The world changes, industries change, organizations change, people change and generations change. Change is inevitable fact of life. To survive in a changing environment, you need to keep yourself up-to-date. As Charles Darwin stated, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

Can you manage a millennial with the tactics you used for Generation X? Of course no. You need to study the trends, changes in the industry and enhance your skills to survive in the changing environment.

What do adult learners need to know about successfully completing online courses and certification? What tips can you offer?

There are several sources of online education in the market. I recommend a three steps simple process to learners for successfully completing online courses.

1. Evaluate Yourself. Find your weaknesses, what skills you need to learn and what skills you need to improve.

2. Find the Optimum Education Provider. Check the training providers that provide courses for the skills you want to improve. Note that a generic and well-known education provider might not be the best for a specific niche skill set. Therefore, check alternatives carefully.

3. Check Content. After you have found a good education provider, look at the reviews, student testimonials, education quality, course content, etc. Make sure it fits your needs.

What are the most common mistakes or oversights online learners make? What should they be doing differently?

The most common mistake online learners make is looking at the price of the education. We know marketplaces that show the list prices for hundreds of dollars and give these training courses at a great discount for only $10 as the final price.

Price itself is not the only criteria for choosing the right education. You invest in yourself, so you don’t want to make that investment with the cheapest course. I do not mean that students should spend thousands of dollars, but if you find a right online course, be prepared to pay for what it offers. As long as a good online course fits your budget and you think that it will improve your skills, do not hesitate to enroll.

Another common mistake of online learners is a lack of dedication. They purchase a course, and since they know that they will be able to follow the course on their pace, they do not spare enough time to complete the course. A self-paced feature of online education does not mean you follow the course whenever you wish. You should be able to commit enough time each week to follow the course.

Therefore, we recommend preparing a study plan for online learners. For instance, our PMP study plan for working professionals shows guidance on how an online PMP certification aspirant can prepare for the PMP certification exam step-by-step. Online learners should prepare and follow similar steps to get most out of the online courses they follow.

What trends or innovations in online education are you following today? Why do they excite you?

Online education is becoming more and more important in today’s world because of the fast pace of technology and harsh competition in the market. Therefore, there is a huge shift from traditional classroom training to online education in corporate companies.

Not more than a decade ago, corporations were asking their employees about what kind of training they would be interested in. Then, the human resources department of the company would look for education providers and organize classroom training for their employees. This process could take at least six months in many companies.

Can you consider a software developer who is interested in latest trends of web development waiting for six months to attend a training? With the pace of technology today, what he was interested in six months ago might now be outdated.

Another flaw of the traditional classroom training is that the employee has to adhere to the schedule of the training. Since he needs to attend the classroom, this means a workforce lost from the employer’s point of view.

When I was working for Ericsson, I wanted to enroll in a Six Sigma training. My company arranged everything for me and scheduled the training in a classroom in Saudi Arabia. It was four months later when HR contacted me. Just two weeks before the training, I was notified that the class has been canceled due to a low number of attendees. I waited for more than six months for training, and just two weeks before the training date, I learned that it was cancelled. Can you imagine the demotivation that these kinds of issues can cause in employees? On the other hand, if I had gone, I would have had to leave the company for one week and there would have been travel and accommodation costs for the company as well!

But now, many  companies like Google and Sales Force encourage their employees to enroll in online courses. Employees choose what they want to learn and enroll in the course in minutes. No travel, no accommodations, no HR bureaucracy. This is the biggest trend in online education, I believe.

For the moment, more than 90 percent of corporate training is organized in classrooms around the world. I expect that it will shrink down to less than 20 percent in the next five years.

Looking to advance your career on your time? View open courses.

9 Tips that Will Strengthen Your Resume

When you’re trying to get a new job, having the strongest possible resume is one way to get a leg up on other applicants and get employers to give you a closer look. Here are some tips for strengthening your resume to remain competitive in even the toughest job market.

1. Make it easy to read.

Using bullet points can allow recruiters and hiring managers to get the most from your resume in the few seconds they are likely to spend reading it (6 seconds on average, according to some research).

2. Put things in the right order.

Applicant tracking systems may not be able to scan your resume properly if you put the dates of your employment history first rather than your title or position. Making sure every part of your resume is optimized for ATS will prevent it being tossed out if the system can’t read it.

3. List accomplishments, not responsibilities.

Accomplishments show employers how you have excelled and gone beyond the basic requirements in the jobs you’ve had, and will also incorporate enough of your job duties and responsibilities to make it clear what you’ve been up to.

4. Write tight.

Using extra words makes readers do more work and doesn’t sound as professional, so you should aim to cut the clutter. While online resumes don’t need to stick to the one-page rule, they shouldn’t be unnecessarily long or waste words, either.

5. Use specific, active verbs.

Verbs like “was,” “were,” “do,” and “work” are vague and don’t give a good description of what you actually did. Come up with more specific verbs to use and keep to the active tense for maximum effectiveness.

6. Customize your resume for each application.

Customize your resume for each position you apply for in order to stand out from the crowd. Don’t just attach a standard version of your resume to every job application.

7. Write to the future.

Focusing exclusively on your past experiences and accomplishments will not go far enough to show what you can contribute to a company’s future. There needs to be at least an element of forward-thinking in your resume. Find a way to convey what you can contribute to a company’s future and not just what you’ve done in the past.

8. Make it mobile-friendly.

More and more, resumes are being viewed on mobile devices, so keep your formatting to one column with simple formatting that won’t look too busy on a tablet or phone.

9. Show off new skills.

If you have taken continuing education courses to enhance your resume or just for your own benefit, be sure to update your resume to feature them. Continuing education shows dedication, good time management, and motivation that can all be impressive to a prospective employer.

CCSU offers continuing education courses like the periodic Writing at Work course, along with various certificates and other job skills classes. View our open courses to see how you can enhance your resume with continuing education.

How Training and Personal Development Leads to Career Advancement

Dr. Don Ford is a human resource management consultant specializing in talent development and the author of four books.

We recently asked Don about the value of continuing education and how to make your continued education stand out on your job applications. Here’s what he shared: Continue reading “How Training and Personal Development Leads to Career Advancement”