Coaching Leadership


What good is a workshop if the participants don’t use anything they have learned after the workshop is over?

Here are a few practical tactics that I share with workshop participants at the end of my workshops.

I am writing this blog more or less how I pitch it (verbally) to participants in my workshops. I don’t share all of these ideas in any one workshop but want to leave you with lots of ideas to work with.

Opening Spiel: Making the Case:

Being here in this workshop is very expensive—it’s not just the cost of the facilitator and the room but also of your time and the opportunity costs of you being away from your work. This is a big investment in you and, hopefully, in our business. How can you make sure this investment is a good one; how can you respect, maximize, and leverage our investment? What can you do? Regardless of what your company may or may not do to support your efforts here, there are several practical things you can do—things in your direct control. Good workshop follow up will be a big win-win for you and your company.

Workshop Follow Up:

Read the handouts: Read through the workbook sometime in the next two weeks—while the material is still fresh in your mind. There is a lot of important information there. It won’t take long and it will greatly enhance your learning, since you will be going back to the material as an educated consumer. Now that you have been through the workshop, and see how the pieces fit together, everything will have more meaning to you when you read through it now; and you will also be much better equipped to find things that will be useful to you.

Action plan: As you read through the workbook, identify your top 2 or 3 priorities for action. These can be the most important things you learned and that you are going to implement immediately, or they can be a few easy, tactical type things—great places to start; things to take care of before you tackle the big things. Starting small can be very useful for building momentum. Advice for development projects: set a clear goal; identify a few concrete metrics (signs of progress and success); action items (who is going to do what by when); needed resources and support; clear timelines (milestones), and a regular schedule for debriefing.

Idea Bank: When taking notes, look for these three different kinds of follow up activities: (i) things you want to learn more about; (ii) things you can teach to others, e.g., your employees; and (iii) action items, i.e., ideas for improving your job performance or company. [Note: I include an “Idea Bank” with these three categories in the workshop handouts and get participants to fill it out throughout the workshop. This is a great way for them to capture their personal highlights for easy recapture after the program.]

Note to your manager: Write a follow up note to your manager, and cc HR or the workshop sponsor, thanking them for the opportunity. Let them know you really appreciate this investment in your development (and that you weren’t snoozing) by sharing 2 or 3 actions you are going to take as a result of the workshop. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable for action—once you share it, you have to do it. Unfortunately, now that I have shared this idea with everyone here, you are sort of obligated to do this—it will be a little embarrassing if you are the only participant that does not submit a little “thank you” note like this (apologies for this). You could also write up a formal Idea Bank and submit a high-level version to your boss.

Take it for a spin: You learn by doing, so take some of the new ideas and tools for a spin. They are not useful until you act on them. It takes a bit of time to figure out how to make them work really well for you (all tools need a bit of customizing for your unique style & strengths and for your unique situation). It is just like learning a new language: use it or lose it.

Teach others: Find something from the workshop that you can teach to your team. Teaching something to others is a great way to master it yourself. Moreover, sharing valuable ideas or tools with others multiplies the value of the training for the organization—this can be a big win-win for you, your team, and your organization. 

Find a buddy: Find a colleague, friend, or mentor you can debrief with from time to time on your development goals (instructions here). You can also debrief as a team (instructions here).

More generally:

One good idea: 40 good intentions are useless. In fact, they are destructive. No one can do that many things at the same time, especially with a desk full of work. 40 good intentions create unnecessary stress, pressure, guilt, self-blame, self-doubt, etc. One tool or idea at a time is enough. Think about it: if every employee on your team chose one development goal per year, and actually did something about it—really worked on it all year—just one good idea—it would have an enormous impact on their success and the success of your team. Of course, it becomes even more powerful when (i) people choose important development goals, and (ii) individual development goals are aligned with team and organizational objectives;

Team goals: consider having one shared team development goal every year—so that you can all work on the same thing at the same time, i.e., embark on a learning journey together, work on it collaboratively, and support each other.

Build your strengths: In the 1970s and 80s training departments helped employees assess their skillsets (strengths, weaknesses, and gaps) and then helped them figure out how to build their weaknesses (fill their gaps). We know now that if you spend your whole career working on your weaknesses, at the end of your career, you will end up with a very big bag full of very strong weaknesses. It is almost always more valuable (and engaging, fun, inspiring, satisfying) to build your strengths. Those are your bread and butter skills. Exception: build weaknesses that are mission critical to your job. If you have a lot of those, however, you might be in the wrong job.


“Don’t wait for someone to come and hold your hand on this. This isn’t Hollywood—you can’t just sit around waiting to be discovered. The workshop was designed to help you be better at your job, think about what kind of leader you want to be, and open a few doors for you—new possibilities for thought & action. The doors are open. It is up to you to walk through.”

Note to HR: 

Obviously, in addition to telling workshop participants to take action, you get far better results when you also facilitate their efforts.

We tell participants to choose to walk through the door—as if this were an individual choice and solitary path. But we know, of course, that employees can’t do it on their own. Employees can’t do big things if they get no support and have to fight the system every day.

Organizational leaders, starting with HR, have to work very hard (sometimes behind the scenes) to support their efforts, bring people together (business is a team sport), and make our development efforts stick. We need to be proactive in ensuring the organization is ready, willing, and able to nurture and drive the transfer of training—giving workshop participants space to take new ideas for a spin and put them to work for the good of the organization.

My other blogs in this series explore ways to do this.

Blog series on workshop follow up:

  1. Accountability and Support (post workshop group debriefing)
  2. For Direct Managers of Workshop Participants
  3. What Workshop Participants Can Do
  4. Engaging Executives in Supporting Leadership Development
  5. 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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