Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Habits & Elements of Coaching

Coaching is a highly-involved, highly-conscious conversation between a coach and their coachee to allow for a resolution of a coachee's issues.

For a conversation to be productive, a coach must have the following habits:

1. Highly-conscious

In order to help the coachee become conscious of their issues, the coach must first be conscious of themselves.

2. Stay neutral

A coach must be impartial to the issue and not frame it according to their values or the deeper causes of the issue will be difficult to uncover.

3. Mirror

A good coach is a figurative mirror for their client to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. The clearer this mirror is, the easier it is for the coachee to see the real issue.

According to the founder of the ONE Coaching Practitioner methodology, PLF Coach Jamil Wahab, there are four pillars upon which effective coaching is built. Without any one of these, the process cannot logically be called coaching:

1. Rapport building

Building rapport creates trust and facilitates the coaching relationship. Finding similarities, matching & mirroring behaviour or even just chilling allows the relationship to deepen.

2. Asking questions

There are specific ways of asking questions to induce thinking, create solutions and generate commitment. All are geared toward getting the coachee to be open and willing to share and eventually, act.

3. Listening

A coach who doesn't listen is a coach who is pushing their own agendum. Whatever comes from the coachee is to be appreciated, acknowledged and understood.

4. Action plan

At the end of every coaching session, the coachee is led to commit to an achievable action that they chose, to further their goal.

There are many useable models and frameworks to structure the questioning. These include the classical GROW, Start-Stop-Continue, Plus-Minus-Interesting and more.

However, when time isn't a luxury, the coach can focus on the two most important questions to ask are: What Do You Want and How Will You Achieve It.

We have many opportunities daily to help people declutter their thoughts. Learn how to coach and you will be of greater benefit to the people around you.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Mapping Functions to Different Parts of the Brain

(c) Prof Peggy Mason, The University of Chicago
The physical human brain can be thought of as separate parts, even though technically, they work together as a whole.

Most of the top of the structure is what is called the forebrain. The forebrain is made up of the diencephalon (Fd) and telencephalon (Ft).

Beneath the forebrain is the brain stem consisting of the midbrain (M) and hindbrain, which is made up of the pons (Hp), cerebellum (Hc) and medulla (Hm).

Connected to the brainstem is the spinal cord.

The forebrain and brainstem are contained within the skull, and is connected to the spinal cord through an opening called the foramen magnum. The spinal cord is housed in the vertebral column.

Each of the four brain functions of Voluntary movement, Perception, Homeostasis, Higher abstract functions can be mapped to the physical anatomy of the brain.

The voluntary movement function is controlled through motor neurons contained in the brainstem (facial and head movement) and spinal cord (limbs and trunk movement).

There are fewer than 100,000 of these neurons, compared to the total approximate 85 billion neurons in the body. If one of these motor neurons dies, the movement it controls becomes disabled.

Perception is processed in the cerebral cortex which covers the outside, squiggly surface of the forebrain.

Homeostasis is a distributed process and happens in the forebrain, which is responsibile for hormonal changes and the brain stem and spinal cord, both controlling automatic and conscious movements.

Higher abstract functions or cognition, depends fully on the forebrain. It is said that if only the forebrain were kept alive, cognition would still occur without the brainstem or spinal cord. While perception is an abstract function, it can also be viewed separately.

Knowing these differences can help us protect the brain better from damage. Any impacts to the spinal cord and brain stem can affect motor movement and cause disablement or paralysis while impacts to the forebrain can affect cognition.

People who are active in high-risk sports should take extra care to wear safety gear to ensure they avoid damage to these sensitive areas. Parents, guardians or educators who work with children also have to be aware of activities that pose a risk to the head or spine and take precautions to reduce potential for accidents.

Let's take good care of our brains. We still need them.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Four Functions of the Brain

The human brain has four functions: Voluntary movement, Perception, Homeostasis and Abstract functions.

Voluntary movement refers to any motor movement that a human being does, whether it be intentional such as closing a door, or an emotional response, such as wincing when you stub your toe on the door.

Perception is the ability to be aware of sensory input and know its measure in real terms. There are sensory inputs that we can perceive and others we can't. For example, we can perceive the dimming of light, but we cannot perceive the change in level of carbon dioxide in in our blood.

Homeostasis is everything related to keeping the body alive. The brain regulates the levels of water, sugar, oxygen and other resources and ensures that its person is functioning as well as it can by returning it to its operational norm.

Abstract functions deals with the 'higher-functioning' aspects of thinking. This is where we do calculations, determine where to have lunch and daydream of our lives together.

Understanding these functions allows us to better care for the only organ that works overtime to save us from the outside world and prosper in it.

Working on your coordination improves the voluntary connection and will lead into long-term usability into old age. Involve yourself in activities such as martial arts, sports or dance.

Working on your mindfulness will help you connect with your surroundings, notice previously unnoticed stimuli and allow you to stop and smell the roses. Slow down your daily pace and being aware of changes.

Knowing that your brain maintains the sensitive balance within your body, therefore nourish it, bathe it, clothe it and treat it with resources that are beneficial for maintenance, healing and growth. Eat well, breathe well, exercise and keep your surroundings hygienic.

Knowing that your brain only thinks when it has something to think about, constantly challenge it with puzzles and problems that will allow it to build new connections. Watch tv shows with complex storylines or movies which get you thinking.

How are you treating your brain?

Friday, 3 March 2017

Move From Training To Learning, And Never Go Back

Have you ever heard of the role of Chief Training Officer? Not yet? Well, you won’t hear it anytime soon either.

No self-respecting C-level officer of even a moderately-sized organisation would be caught dead wearing this title.

For good reason: most companies want to be seen to be on the leading, if not bleeding edge of Human Resource trends. Not the one being left behind.

As more and more strategic decisions are made in the C-suite, new specialist roles are created to align an organisation’s goals with its operations. Thus, after the ultimate title of CEO (Chief Executive Officer), comes the COO (Chief Operating Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and then CIO (Chief Information Officer).

For a very long time, the C-suite of many companies, both small and large have viewed training as a cost. A nice to have rather than a must have. It became a trend for any and all training decisions to be made at the Training Manager level, to fulfill employee training days requirements, to meet the quota.

How do you tell when an organisation views it this way? Simple. Any organisation that asks you if you can do training for them in December because they want to finish up their budget, is probably one that lacks the foresight and planning to ensure that training is effective. It’s just money to give away.

Another clue is when they ask you to provide team building services, and they quietly slip in, “Can it just be lots of fun? We don’t want it to be too heavy on the talking”. They’re not looking for training. They just want to holiday on the shareholders’ investment. This is a company with no vision.

Here is the danger. If you have a client who is like this, when the chips are down, the first thing they will dump is services. All services. That includes you, the training provider. You are a cost. So, cost-cutting means cutting you out.

Rise of the CLO

The good news is, if your client has formally instituted its newest C-level role, the Chief Learning Officer (CLO), you can certainly bet that they don’t view training as a cost. They view it as an investment. And investments must be planned, protected, measured and returned.

When any organisation establishes this role, it takes on a fundamental shift in thinking as well. The old concept of Training comes from the idea of Human Resources. Tagging a human being as a resource implies that if you can’t generate money for the company, you are therefore not a resource and must be trained or ejected.

An issue arises when the concept of training is introduced. Training was originally executed to impart knowledge and skills to operational employees who required to know exactly how to follow a standard operating procedure. It was, in essence, an exercise in forcing compliance by carrot or stick.

The ones who subjected to it, were retained. Those who questioned it, were removed. It was the trainer’s way or the highway. It was a military regime in making money and it worked, because the blue collar workers needed the jobs and were used to being told what to do anyway.

The professionals never actually needed training because they had graduated from business or law schools into middle-management apprenticeship. This was pretty much the norm for English and American vocational education up until the turn of the 21 century.

From control to collaboration

Then, from out of the blue, Americans began to take notice of a worrying trend. The Japanese were getting better. At a lot of things. So, western management gurus began to wonder what the secret sauce was. It was something they had never seen before.

Where American management philosophy takes decisions out of the worker’s hands and provide orders down through the chain, the Japanese workers were actually suggesting improvements upwards. Buzzwords like Kaizen, 5 Whys, TQM flooded the collective management consciousness.

But to work like the Japanese, they had to fundamentally change the way they did business and treated their employees. No longer could they drive people to perform. No longer could they control. They had to help develop them and provide the means for them to grow.

Thus, the culture of control became the culture of collaboration. And training, that stuffy, one-way street of imparting skills, took a back seat to a bigger, higher concept: Learning.

Academic and professional debates burned on whether one was a subset of the other with many schools of thought being born and dying out almost as quickly. But there was no denying it. More and more firms became convinced that this was the way to go. Training departments morphed into Learning departments.

Train vs Learn

Here’s where the debate gets interesting. If you were to attend training, would you say you were doing all the work or was the trainer doing it? Well, if training is you sitting on a chair for eight hours scribbling notes, yawning and later storing your binder of materials in your cubicle shelf next to many, never-again opened training binders, the answer is, you did nothing.

But if you were engaged by everything the trainers said or did, and ended up saying more than them, contributing your own opinions and experience to the discussion and if everyone, even the trainers themselves, came out of it learning from each other, then congratulations. That was a learning session, not a training one.

The argument for adopting the paradigm of learning vs training is simple. Training is an event. It’s a series of events. It’s organised by someone else to tell you exactly what they want you to know, and ensuring you stick to doing what you know.

Learning, on the other hand, isn’t an event. It is a fully engaging process of organic and personal experience and one that happens automatically, without any control from the trainer. It is enjoyable, desirable, lifelong and goes far beyond the classroom. Epiphanies never come through training, which are only meant to elicit a specific response. They come only when all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.

Since Learning is more far-reaching, it just makes sense that training, an event, be a subset of the whole learning experience. This is why companies are racing each other to shift their approach, and the names of their departments. So, CLOs run learning organisations, in which there are learning & development departments, in which there are, possibly still, training units.

The next problem is then, how do we give up control of the learning process to the learners and still get the change of behaviour and compliance desired? The answer lies in empowering the learners to accept that on their own.

It is said, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Human beings can be far more stubborn than horses. Just telling them the benefits of a training session isn’t enough to make them believe in something, nor is telling them the detriment of not paying attention in class.

The trainers themselves must undergo a paradigm shift. They must go from Tell to Sell. As every salesman knows, the final decision to believe, buy-in and champion lies with the buyer, the learner and the woman they proposed to.

As such, trainers can no longer afford to browbeat their learners into believing everything they say. Nor can they preach from the pulpit and expect people to practice it.

Trainers must move from being trainer-oriented to being learner-oriented, which means, doing everything necessary to engage them on a peer level, understand what they need and give it to them, at the same time, fulfilling the objectives of the training in the first place.

When a learner decides to become aware of what you teach, is willing to try it out and accepts the benefits of it, that is when retention increases. All because they decided to retain it. All because, instead of training them, you facilitated their learning.

Trainer vs Learning Facilitator

The corollary of that is now what do we call the trainer? A coach? An instructor? This is a choice that every training certification, association and company faces today. What do we call these people? The global trend is moving faster, and if they remain steadfast in insistence, they might get run over.

Well, to each his own choice. In Malaysia, however, about 800 (as of January 2015) people have already made that choice. They are part of a growing community called the PLF Family, a gathering of like-minded, learner-oriented individuals who don’t control the learning process as trainers do, but facilitate it, enabling people to be independent and responsible for their own development. We call them Professional Learning Facilitators (PLF).

Granted, the concept of learner-orientation and focus isn’t new, but the development of a multiskilled, highly responsive and adaptable facilitator of learning is. As part of their development, PLFs are run through a gamut of possible learning scenarios while dealing with difficult audiences and getting the best learning out of them, all the while keeping their eye on the learning objectives that the client requires.

Since 2011, the PLF certification program has seen huge success in developing brand new talent and converting even the most experienced of trainers to this new approach. PLFs from every walk of life have attended and been certified to deliver learning programs of all types to all ages, all sections of society and all educational and professional levels.

Does this mean that training is discarded for good? Far from it, training still exists as a useful approach in delivering exact information. But understanding whether the learner can apply it under varying conditions and whether they fathom where their role sits in the larger organisation, that takes learning facilitation to suss out.

If all other arguments fail, this should convince you. Imagine that you meet the CLO of your client. Would you prefer to introduce yourself as a Trainer or as a peer who shares an approach and function with them?

“Pleasure to meet you. I’m Nadzrin and I’m a Professional Learning Facilitator”

I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds good to me.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Learning From The Trainer-Motivator-Inspirator Dilemma

Being a Professional Learning Facilitator, I found it easy to introduce myself to clients because the certification and the system it was based on allowed me to ride on its promise of quality.

However, for other learning professionals, one of the biggest challenges they face is what to call themselves. Depending on the role, it could be trainer, instructor, coach, facilitator, mentor, motivator, or dozens more.

The good news in choosing from this list is that no one actually owns these terms and anyone is free to name themselves if they have enough credibility to carry it. The bad news is also that no one owns these terms; they are infinitely open to abuse.

Malaysia has seen many examples in the past. The term Trainer has had its ups and downs in the 1990s. Because there is no one standard certification for a Trainer that everyone can agree on, Human Resource (HR) professionals have experienced a variety in the quality of training delivery, both good and bad.

In response, HR now resort to asking for evidence of a Trainer's experience and not simply rely on their certifications. Trainers have a slow climb to build individual brand credibility to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Later, around the new millennium, we saw the rise of the Motivator when productivity and quality were issues in the workforce. Newly-minted Motivators, many of them trainers themselves, created a niche market that everyone, public and private alike, were willing to pay for. They were good at what they did, and they earned well.

The niche grew, and again, Motivators, with dubious credentials began crawling out of the woodwork. If you were presentable, humorous and had public-speaking skills, you could motivate. The industry got very crowded very fast.

The public soon saw that these people weren't the heroes they had envisioned. They saw instances of bad behaviour, profiteering and long-term ineffectiveness of their cheer-leading in the long term. This damaged the term Motivator. People who once called themselves motivators became defensive, sometimes even ashamed to use the term, because of the action of a few show-boaters.

In response to that, recently, an archaic term was discovered as its replacement: the Inspirator. It is so ancient, even spell-check software don't recognise it. More and more people are becoming comfortable using this instead of Motivator, and have various justifications for doing so.

Unfortunately, the problem remains. No one owns it, no one can control it, and all it takes is for some rotten apple Inspirators to spoil the barrel. Once the Inspirator becomes inevitably soiled, what alternative dictionary will supply their new term?

Thus, the Professional Learning Facilitator (PLF) realises that while the PLF is a new concept, it was coined based on a complete system with checks and balances to ensure that what happened to their friends, the Trainers and Motivators doesn't happen to them.

The term PLF itself, is generic enough to be used to cover the roles of trainer, facilitator, mentor, coach, motivator and inspirator. However, the legal registration of the term and specificity of its definition ensures that a PLFs actions are accountable.

When someone becomes a PLF, they take upon themselves the principles enshrined in the Take Charge! Learning Facilitator System® (established by Mohd Rizal Hassan). They commit to live up to a set of standards and give and receive developmental feedback within the PLF Family.

The Mastery level practitioners coach and audit the new PLFs and keep them honest to the system's tenets. Like the scientific and medical professions, it is peer-regulated, or at least, that's the long term goal.

The PLF Family is, in all senses of the word, a professional community that collectively takes it upon itself to maintain standards and safeguard the good brand name of the Professional Learning Facilitator. By doing this, they assure clients and the public of the quality and productivity of a PLF, as well as their openness to improve.

Any deficiency on the PLF Family's part to continue this effort will certainly lead us along the same path that our Trainer and Motivator siblings have trod.

If we don't protect and defend the PLF brand name, sooner or later, we will need to leaf through an old dictionary to find something else to call ourselves.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

EnSync Learning Conferred Prestigious Award

KUALA LUMPUR, 1 Mar 2017 - EnSync Learning's founder, Mohd Nadzrin Wahab was conferred the Global Training & Development Leadership Award by the World Training & Development Congress in Mumbai, India on the 15th of February 2017.

Nadzrin, who was not in attendance, was represented by YH Soo Hoo, a decorated Malaysian trainer who was himself conferred an award in the same category.

The award recognised EnSync Learning's uniqueness in delivering value to clients by focusing in four key areas: ultimate modularity, which allows for quick customisation and bite-sized learning, effective delivery via a highly engaging design and delivery system, learning support by providing relevant pre-and post-course online resources and free online coaching to assist retention and behavioural change.

It also recognised the company's efforts in propagating a necessary change in the local learning & development landscape towards more efficient and effective planning and delivery methodologies.

Chief among the company's push is the Professional Learning Facilitator program, which imparts cutting-edge facilitation skills for trainers who want to upgade their classroom engagement and management methods.

The program is based on the Take Charge! Learning Facilitator System founded by Mohd Rizal Hassan, an NLP and Hypnosis Master Practitioner who began his career in L&D in the 1990s. Today, this system is practiced by more than 1200 practitioners globally.

When asked about the importance of the award, Nadzrin replied, "It's definitely an honour to be recognised alongside great names. It also serves as a reminder for me to continue delivering value to and making a positive impact on my clients".

"In reality, this honour belongs to everyone who has taught, coached and mentored me to this point in my life. Thank you for helping me and thank you for the World HRD Congress for allowing me to be part of something bigger," he added.

EnSync Learning is a Malaysian-based learning services provider. Their website is