Workshop Follow Up for the Managers of Participants
The best workshop in the world will have little or no impact if participants do not use what they have learned. Workshop follow up unlocks the potential value of your workshops, turns good intentions into action, good ideas into results, and good workshops into game changers. Engage everyone you can in supporting post workshop follow up.
This blog will focus on engaging the managers of workshop participants in workshop follow up. It will share four practical tactics for engaging these managers in driving, reinforcing and sustaining your development program.
Research shows that it is not workshop content or the quality of facilitation but post-workshop follow up by the manager of the workshop participant that is the single most important driver of the success of a workshop—and by success I mean results, i.e., using new ideas, skills and tools to make a positive impact on individual, team, &/or organizational performance.
Think about it: What happens when a manager shows no interest whatsoever in what you learned, or in the potential value of that learning? Not much. Everyone needs a bit of support to follow up from a workshop, i.e., take time to reflect on what they have learned, take their new skills and tools for a spin, and take the risk of doing things in new ways.
To make this easier for you to use, I have set it up in a quasi-memo format: a post-workshop memo you can send to the direct managers of those who have attended your training program.
1. Debriefing meeting:
Several leaders reporting to you just attended a training program on [such & such a topic]. We know from research and experience that you can double or triple the value of their training by checking in with them on the experience. We need your help to unlock the potential value of the workshop. This is an important opportunity for you to invest in the development of your team and reinforce the investment our organization has made in learning, improvement and productivity. Here are four practical things you can do.
Please ask each of your direct reports (who attended the workshop) the following simple and direct questions—and plan to spend 10-30 minutes discussing their answers:
- What was your biggest learning; what was most valuable for you in the workshop?
- What are you going to do differently or better as a result of the learning?
- How is that going to impact our team or our business?
- How can I support your efforts?
Let them know in advance that you are going to ask these questions so they can come prepared and start taking action immediately—even prior to their meeting with you.
2. Follow up:
Check in from time to time to ensure they are continuing to take action, making progress and driving learning and improvement. Encourage, coach and remove obstacles as needed.
If you have also attended the workshop—or have a development goal of your own—share with your team what you are doing to improve your practice as a leader. This is a great way to lead by example (walk the talk), affirm that everyone has opportunities for improvement and drive continuous learning and improvement on your team.
Remember: leading by example is so powerful because people pay more attention to your actions than your words. Employees will actually ignore what you are saying if your words don’t match your own actions. If you tell people to invest in their development, but do not invest in your own, they will often assume (partly unconsciously) that you are just paying lip service to development, and that your real message is that development is not really important.
4. Ask for feedback:
If you yourself are open to feedback, ask for feedback from them. A unique way to ask for feedback is to make the request workshop specific: “Is there an idea or practice in the workshop that you think I (or our team) would most benefit from? If so, I would like to take a look at it.” This creates a great little opportunity and challenge:
- it puts them on the spot to think again about what is most important in the workshop;
- it gives them a chance to think about the various possible applications of the workshop’s ideas & tools, i.e., mine its contents at another level; and
- it also gives you a chance to see what they are learning and perhaps benefit from a piece of it yourself.
Do not ask for feedback unless you are going to act on it. If you ask for feedback and then do nothing (take no action, make no comment, or just make excuses), you will lose trust and respect, and diminish social capital on your team.
Real feedback is rare and a luxury to be cherished—even when it stings. Treat those who give it with respect and gratitude. From time to time, feedback comes as a surprise—when this happens, do not react on the spot, thank the person for their feedback, remain calm (even if you are panicking on the inside), take some notes, and tell them you need to think about it. This will buy you a few days to look for what is most interesting, true and useful in the feedback. (Looking for what is not true in their feedback is a total waste of time.) After finding what is most important to you in the feedback—even if it is just a kernel or sliver of truth—make sure to close the loop by getting back to the person who gave you the feedback: “Thanks; this is what I am going to do differently or better as a result of your feedback…”
See my blog on not getting defensive.
Final Comments: Supporting the Managers
To support accountability and successful execution, check in with those managers from time to time (the managers of the workshop participants) and debrief them:
- Are you following up with the workshop participants, as we suggested?
- Are you using our tactics and using them well?
- What impact is it having?
- How could the post workshop follow up be improved?
Finally, and obviously, if your organization invests in the coaching and mentoring skills of its leaders, then all of the tactics described above can be implemented more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably, i.e., with a greater positive impact to your organization.
Blog series on workshop follow up:
- Accountability and Support (post workshop group debriefing)
- For Direct Managers of Workshop Participants
- What Workshop Participants Can Do
- Engaging Executives in Supporting Leadership Development
- What the Organization Can Do (HR & OD)
Advanture helps organizations take their leadership development practices up to the next level for enhanced business performance. Performance by design!
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