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Designing Trainings with the Learner in Mind

 @michaelbolton and me at the 2008 AYE Conference - with experiential learning master @jerryweinberg observing

 @michaelbolton and me at the 2008 AYE Conference - with experiential learning master @jerryweinberg observing

The "Golden Rule" states to treat everyone the way you want to be treated. 

In general terms, this may be true: I don't want to be lied to, I want to be treated fairly, I want to be respected - so those are all things I try and give out as well. Once you have some cross-cultural or Type knowledge, however, general terms aren't enough. You realize how important the details are.  

What I consider truth and fair may have different connotations for you. What I think is respectful behavior may not be where you're coming from. In fact, it may be the complete opposite. 

When serving clients from other countries or with other Type preferences, then, it makes sense to treat them the way they want to be treated.  

One-on-one sessions like coaching are pretty easy to customize, but keeping a diverse group engaged takes a little more preparation.  

During her keynote address at the conference, Susan Nash of took us all through an exercise. We learned by doing that the four Interaction Styles™ energies all add value to the learning process.  



  • provide guidance
  • narrow down ideas
  • provide information about potential pitfalls
  • stand back and monitor
  • set up a group structure
  • review what you’ve accomplished and next steps



  • complex problem-solving
  • reduce anxiety during conflict
  • listen, build trust, mediate
  • be there with client and ask questions to allow them the space to find their own answers
  • tipping point / push a little bit and step in with a gem



  • get people engaged with passion and energy
  • set time parameters
  • give structure/boundaries
  • bring people back on course
  • provide guidance when client is uncertain
  • make stuff happen



  • pull out the wisdom in the room
  • help connect people
  • humor element
  • get people to brainstorm / feel relaxed
  • bring energy up at the start and after lunch


One way of making sure everyone's engaged is to follow Susan's TEACH model: 

  1. State the Topic
  2. Engage the audience in experiential learning
  3. Provide Abstract data as well
  4. Help them remember by providing Concrete examples
  5. Show How to apply what they've learned

Concrete and abstract concepts speak to both Sensing and Intuiting learners, and applications speak to all adults. After all,

Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.




Let's meet at the APTi Conference in Miami Next Week!

APTi-conference-speakerI have been looking forward to this event since August 2011 - that's when the last APTi conference ended. :-) From July 10th to 14th, hundreds of personality type practitioners from all over the world will gather in Miami, FL to live, breathe, and discuss "Type in Action". Now, I know what you're thinking:

Conferences cost money, especially if you have to travel to get there and stay in hotels.

Why bother, when you can get a lot of the information a lot more comfortably online?

  1. Because of the people you meet,
  2. the new discoveries that are shared exclusively in that setting, and
  3. the aha-moments that can only take place over a cup of tea in between sessions, or over a glass of wine after a day of stimulating workshops.

I love going to conferences, because I always learn as much if not more from the attendees' comments and insights than I do from the speakers.

This time, I'm honored to be providing one of those learning spaces in my session on When Type Doesn't Explain Everything - How to Work With International Clients.

Among other things, we'll be talking about some of the findings of my own research into how personality type influences cultural adaptation in expats. To give you a taste, here's a profile of one person I interviewed.

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 5.57.02 PM

Do you have an international experience? What was it like?


Top 5 Reasons to Learn the Local Language


Top 5 Reasons to Learn the Local Language

For first-time expats going on assignment - and their accompanying partners - it’s easy to forget the fact you won’t be in your office working and surrounded by English-speaking colleagues 24/7. What about the weekends?

You’ll want to learn the local language to:

  1. Show respect
  2. Understand what’s happening at your kids’ parent-teacher conference
  3. Negotiate purchases at the farmers market
  4. Get a proper haircut
  5. Make local friends and meaningful connections

Language is the essential ingredient to the expression of culture.

Most expat couples I work with take a cross-cultural training because they want to feel more prepared for what’s ahead. Even more than that, they don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone. Recognizing you’re a guest in their country is the first step, and it would be a mistake to assume everyone speaks your language.

According to the 2011 Brookfield Global Relocation Trends Study, 75 % of companies support language classes for the expat and the spouse. In 2012, that number went up to 78 %. If your company still isn’t paying for a tutor, here’s what you can do:

  1. Invest one hour a day in an online or self-study program like Rosetta Stone, LiveMocha, or LingQ
  2. Sign up for a language class at your local college
  3. Find someone in the host country to do an exchange class with – English for “Enter your language of choice here” (Check university language boards and Irish Pubs for notices)
  4. Read children’s books and bi-lingual poetry or novels, then work your way up to glossy magazines and the newspaper
  5. Watch TV with subtitles, and listen to locals whenever you can, e.g. sitting in a café, walking through the park, or eaves-dropping on your neighbors

Does it always make sense to learn the local language? No. If you're going to be there 6 months or less and go abroad alone basically just taking care of business, you might get by without it.

Will your experience be much richer if you give it a go? You bet your sweet tooth it will.

If you liked this post, sign up for the Getting your Point Across Cultures eBook - it's free! 

And now, just because it's cute, a video showing cute communication. 

Image from pg. 248 Internet Archived Book Image, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Diversify Your Learning to Remember More


Diversify Your Learning to Remember More

On a recent Southwest flight, I found this little gem in the inflight magazine. Under the heading "Life Science" it says: "Research geek Garth Sundem interviewed 130 scientists for his new book, Brain Trust. Here, he translates their research into smart tips for everyday situations." I'm going to share this other one with you, because it really resonated and I think there's a lesson for expats: How to Learn new things

Expert: Robert Bjork, distinguished professor of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

"Bjork, a leader in the fields of learning and memory, recommends interleaving. Rather than focusing on a single skill, it's better to work on several related ones, switching your focus among them. He explained it in terms of tennis: If you spend two hours working on your serve, you'll improve. But if you spend two hours interleaving several skills - volleying, forehand swings, footwork - the sum of the little, imperceptible steps in each area will, over time, be greater than if you had focused on each one individually."

I think that's fascinating, particularly if perhaps you have a preference for Sensing and prefer to do things one-at-a-time. What does this mean for expats? Try immersing yourself in the language, the cooking, and the socializing at the same time and see what happens. It seems overwhelming and counter-intuitive if you want to develop one skill really well, because you're diluting your focus. However, it makes sense when you think of the neuronal connections that are being formed and that will help your brain make the leap from one subject to the neighboring one, remembering related lessons, filling in the gaps as needed.

Let us know how you get on in the comments! :-)


Image by Ian Muttoo, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Creating A Learning Culture


Creating A Learning Culture

Culture is more than the different value systems between nations. Subcultures form and develop every day, and your organizational culture is one of them. Why, then, is a learning culture so important? With the pace of change in today's global and many times mainly virtual economy, you can't afford to stay still. Unless yours is a niche that thrives on stability, I guess, but I can't think of many that are still in business.

Here are 6 rules to support your teams in celebrating creativity and pro-active problem-solving, as published in an article by Dr. Michael Macobby on how to create a learning culture.. They are not rocket science, and they have been around for a while, and maybe now is the right time to look at them again with renewed vigor.

The Seventh Rule: Creating a Learning Culture

"The Seventh Rule: Creating a Learning Culture

By Michael Maccoby

Research Technology Management; Volume 43. No. 3. May-June, 2003. pp 59-60.

When you focus on the human side of your work, what are the most important issues for you? A recent study by an international consulting company cites as most important “improving teamwork between supervisors and subordinates” and “improving skills regarding the performance management of subordinates.” Why do we keep coming back to these issues? Stacks of books and articles offer advice of how to improve teamwork and how to manage and motivate. The answer, I believe, is that the advice is usually limited to improving relationships between individuals when these issues call for developing the organizational culture in which these relationships take place. This is the culture of a learning organization.

There are six rules that I believe a supervisor can follow to improve teamwork with subordinates. But their full effectiveness depends on the seventh rule of building a learning organization. This is something individual supervisors can’t do by themselves.

Here are the rules.

1.Describe the purpose of the work you and the team are doing. What are you trying to achieve? Who are your potential customers and how will you create value for them? When people are clear about the purpose of their work, they are better able to understand their manager’s concerns. When they are not clear about purpose, they don’t feel part of a team. Furthermore, they won’t think about innovative ways to achieve purposes they don’t understand.

2.Clarify roles and responsibilities. Let people know who are the team members and how their roles relate to each other. When roles are unclear, people don’t feel empowered to take responsibility. Or if the role is unclear, people may bump into each other’s territory, causing unnecessary conflicts that undermine teamwork. If a second baseman and a shortstop don’t understand each other’s role and responsibilities, that baseball team can’t execute double plays. Make sure the role fits the person. If people lack the needed competence, they won’t be able to perform. If the role isn’t challenging, they won’t be motivated. In technology organizations, it’s a good bet that subordinates know more about their jobs than do their managers. Your managerial role is to clarify goals and facilitate teamwork by following these rules.

3.Make sure managers and subordinates understand each other’s personality. You may be motivated in different ways. It makes a big difference if one is a loyal productive obsessive who pushes for perfection according to inner standards while the other is a productive marketing personality, interested in what will sell and with a self-image as a free agent, always seeking better opportunities, either inside or outside your organization. You can find these types, as well as descriptions of visionary narcissists and the caring erotics in my book The Productive Narcissist. This book includes a questionnaire to discover your own personality type and its significance for relationships at work. The more you understand each other, the better able you are to communicate and to avoid conflicts.

4.Communicate and facilitate communication. You can never communicate too much when it is a question of how work is progressing, what are the problems encountered, and what is needed from each person. The best teams have the most open communication and don’t avoid creative conflict. A few years ago, I interviewed technology managers in Europe, Asia and the United States. I found the German team was most effective, because managers allowed constructive debate based on facts and transparent logic. However, once a decision was made, they fully supported it. In contrast, members of the American team avoided conflict. Some went along, even if they were not convinced about a project’s logic, and others got themselves transferred from projects they believed would fail. To avoid this happening, managers have to seek the views of team members, even if they may not like what they hear.

In their insightful article “The Failure Tolerant Leader” (Harvard Business Review, August 2002) Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes maintain that effective supervisors engage a project team in a continual animated discussion about what they are learning. “They try to break down the social and bureaucratic barriers that separate them from their followers. They engage at a personal level with the people they lead. They avoid giving either praise or criticism, preferring to take a nonjudgmental, analytic posture as they interact with staff. They openly admit their own mistakes rather than covering them up or shifting the blame.”

5.Managers need to create trust by treating people fairly. Relationships deteriorate when managers play favorites. Managers can and should be demanding and challenging as long as they are consistent in their treatment of people. Some managers believe they can stimulate productivity by pushing subordinates to compete with each other. Inevitably, this kind of leadership breeds distrust and undermines teamwork.

6.Make evaluation a continuous and honest dialogue rather than a bureaucratic process. Documenting inadequate performance may serve as a legal protection, but it doesn’t improve the relationship between manager and subordinate. Often evaluations are made long after the events they evaluate have taken place—they are no help for improving performance and, furthermore, they may provoke angry disagreements. The Gallup Organization recommends emphasizing people’s strengths and putting them in roles where their weaknesses won’t cause problems and this can be good advice in most cases. (SeeFirst, Break All the Rules by M. Buckingham and C. Coffman, Simon & Schuster, 1999, and Now, Discover Your Strengthsby M. Buckingham and D. Clifton, The Free Press, 2001). But let’s face it. Many managers shy away from honest and prompt negative feedback either because they want to be liked, or they are uncomfortable with the feelings that criticisms provoke.

Create A Learning Culture

Follow these six rules and you are on the way to developing a learning culture. But the rules are not enough to optimize performance. In a learning culture, people take responsibility and support one another. They share experience and learn from mistakes as well as successes. Good ideas are heard, acted on and rewarded. A learning culture can only be developed from the top of the organization. If supervisors are themselves afraid of being punished for mistakes, if they fear giving their boss bad news, if their roles are unclear and they are confused about organizational purpose, then their ability to develop teamwork will be crippled. Furthermore, the measurements and incentives can either reinforce or undermine teamwork and learning together.

The seventh rule, create an organization that learns, is essential to developing the cultural context in which supervisors can practice the other six rules. Even the best of individual relationships will only be sustained within an organizational culture with the values that maintain trust and the processes that stimulate learning. The failure of top management to understand this is why, despite all the how-to-do-it books, improving teamwork remains the top issue for research technology managers."

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Cheers & til next time,


Image by Brian Donovan, flickr, Creative Commons License


Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real


Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real

As much as I love my virtual world and bubble of supportive and like-minded bloggers and twitterers, I'm still a raging extrovert at heart who prefers personal interaction nine out of ten times. Remember people? Actual human beings, sometimes smelly and obnoxious yet superbly entertaining? Here are three things I've done this week to meet such creatures, and a virtual bonus.

Before I tell you about the first, attention must be paid to last Saturday night that I so thoroughly enjoyed going out with my girlfriends. The joy, the laughter, the dancing - my bruised toes bear proud witness, and yes, next time I'll wear something more comfortable. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven't yet been to participate in the Gay Bingo at the Rose Room in Dallas, I thoroughly recommend it. There's money, CDs, show tickets, T-shirts and lots more to be won, and to round the evening off, you can go dancing at The Round-up Saloon. Meeting lovely lovely Matt and his friends made our night, in case you read this, thanks again for a wonderful time! :-) If you're more into the traditional style, when was the last time you went out with friends to have a game night, or bowled?

The first recommendation I have (not only for extroverts, of course) is joining a Toastmasters club. Founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in the 1920s, Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that has helped and continues to attract millions of men and women around the world to improve their communication and leadership skills. Not only do you learn how to give effective presentations, you also practice time management and team work skills. All this takes place in a friendly and supportive environment that welcomes people from all walks of life and levels of shyness. For $4.50 per month, joining a local club is the best possible affordable investment you can make in yourself. Find a club near you, or have your employer sponsor one, and visit as many meetings as you like before making the decision to join. More information here, and you're welcome to ask me, too.

Secondly, I participated in a free workshop held at a local hotel to learn more about how to do business with the Government. Now, the training topic you are interested in can be anything at all. How about photography, or Tango? The point I wanted to make is if you have a few hours to spare during the week or on the weekend or in the evenings that you don't want to spend alone on your couch, check your local listings for free courses that are offered at your colleges, google your topic of interest, and find groups you can join. Some websites to get you started are and For both browsing and marketing purposes, in case you have your own business or want to start one, I invite you to search conferences that are held in your area on They're organized by field and region, and who knows - you may even talk your boss into sponsoring your next weekend in Vegas.

Last but not least, my friend and role-model Yvonne invited me to another Forum of Expatriate Management (FEM) round table discussion which she facilitated this week. From a professional perspective of somebody eager to learn about the grassroots and backgrounds and corporate needs of their field, a forum like this one is the best place to sit, listen, and take notes. I've written about it before, and can only say the participants don't disappoint. Some new faces, some known ones, another yummie lunch sponsored, by the way, by this company that'll go on my resources list, and I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours. Is there a professional forum available for people in your line of work? Is there anyone you can ask if you have a particular question regarding best practice or successful planning? Why not start with the q&a section on LinkedIn, where you can search and pose questions if you're registered. For those times that the virtual forum is no longer effective, I challenge you to offering a meeting in person in your offices, for example. It's a great way to informally get your hands on the pulse of your industry.

The virtual bonus is virtual, because in my case it's international and via teleconference. By all means, you can make yours an in-person event. It also works as something essential and not only as a premium: the mastermind group. As Napoleon Hill stated in his widely acclaimed bestseller "Think and Grow Rich: (It's) the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind." I was invited to one such group by fellow FIGT participants, and last week was our first tele-conference. That one hour of talking to five other like-minded expat coaches has left me energized, motivated and hopeful for the future of this business we're all in, so I thoroughly recommend sharing concerns, exchanging opinions, and providing support in a group with a focus that suits your situation.

Which one activity to aid your personal or professional growth are you going to commit to for the following week?

Til next time, have a good one!

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Image by Beverly Goodwin flickr, Creative Commons License



Effective goaling

bballhoop*goaling = pondering over, setting, achieving, and generally working with GOALS.

Welcome to the first of three blog articles on effective goaling. Right in time for the looming new year's resolutions that you might be tempted to make, or indeed for any other goal you want to set yourself. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed (available in the top right-hand corner) and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own personal coaching alert, your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about being thankful for what we've achieved this year, now it's time to set some goals for what's ahead. Whether you want to learn a language, lose some weight, start a business, get married, or become the mayor of your hometown, you won't know how to get there if you don't know where you're going. First thing: set your goal. In case you haven't heard of it yet, one way of making sure your goals won't turn into regrets is setting them up the SMART way.

S - specific. "I want to lose weight" is too vague for your brain to kick into gear and actually help you achieve it. "I want a BMI of 25" or "I want to fit into a size 10" is better, because you'll definitely know when you've reached that goal. Same with, "I want to be more balanced" or "I want to be happier". "I want to remain calm next time my boss yells at me" is more specific. Find a way to describe your goal in your own definite terms. These should be terms that feel right and that your subconscious or your values cannot argue with.

M - measurable. The weight-goal is an easy one to quantify, e.g. gain 10 pounds, or lose 5. If you can't put a number on your specific goal, the question to ask yourself is, "How or when will I know that I've achieved it? How would my friends or any outsiders know?"

A - attainable. "Aim for the moon, because even when you miss you'll be amongst stars." W. Clement Stone said that, and I agree. I also think that it's better for the self-esteem in the long run if a couple of your goals actually do come true. In part this plays into knowing yourself, your strengths, and your limitations. Even Superman has his kryptonite, so there's no need to feel bad about them, and by acknowledging your challenges you'll save yourself arguing with reality. If you're unsure of what your areas for improvement might be but really want to know, don't be afraid to ask your co-workers, friends, and family for feedback. It's only natural we have blind spots, so it will be easier for other people to notice something we may struggle with. For best chances of success, make your goals attainable in a way that makes use of your strengths while stretching your comfort-zone a little. You'll be all the prouder for reaching it if there's a challenge that's not too easy. The other part attainability plays into is regarding the involvement of other people. Can you alone make this goal a reality, or would somebody else have to change in order for you to reach it? I'm not saying you have to do it all on your own, of course you can involve people and other resources to help, as we'll discuss next week. But if your goal is "Have Adam propose by Christmas", you might get disappointed.

R - relevant. Take a moment to listen to your inner self-talk. Is there a "should" involved in your goal? "I should set up a regular cleaning schedule and do the dishes every night" sounds to me like that's really a goal someone else might have for you. In fact, that sounds alarmingly like my mother! ;-) I'm not saying you don't want to live in a clean and sanitary household, and if that's your goal, you will find a way to make it reality. But it's also ok to take as long as necessary to question the goals you have and identify which of them will actually serve to make your life better, and which would serve the purpose of getting somebody else off your case. And that is another set of goals that may be achieved in different ways. Another - in my opinion - interesting tangent that you may want to explore is what your goal's good intentions are. What are you ultimately hoping to improve or achieve? Could it be that the goal you are working on is really a placeholder for another, superficially hidden, purpose? Talk to your coach about underlying beliefs and cognitive restructuring, you may find out some pretty interesting stuff!

T - timely. Or time-boxed, or time-limited, whichever you prefer, as long as you put a deadline on it. "I'll travel to France" is a great goal that will remain a dream until you actually set in motion the chain of actions and events that will get you there. By when do you want to reach your goal? When will you take your first step? When will you call that person who can help you? Check back next week to see what to do if your time-line isn't working out. And again, this is where working on your goals with a coach comes in really handy, because they are the best accountability partners. Did you know that WeightWatchers members who go to meetings lose 30 % more weight on average than members who follow the program online? Your coaching appointments will do the same thing, they help keep you on the straight and narrow, and your coach will call you or send you emails and ask you how you've been getting along.

There are many ways to aid your goaling, e.g. you can write affirmations every night, make a wishing board, a scrapbook, even go all out and buy one of Jack Canfield's "dream big" products - the imagery will serve as motivation and reminders to keep your goal fresh in your mind. However, keeping reminders, looking at pictures, even knowing exactly and SMARTly what you want to achieve isn't going to get you there. Just like when you go on a road trip, you'll need a map to figure out how to get to your destination, plus actually get in the car and drive. Check back next week for more tips on how to do just that.

Til then, have a good time!

Thanks to Raycan for the free image!

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What did we learn this week?

I learned that there's always going to be that one more book I feel I should read, and that it's really difficult to research the coaching profession online. I think that's because a) there's no one place where all of us are registered, and b) many of us are also trainers, speakers, authors, managers, consultants, therapists, or experts in a specific field. Googling the term "life coach" spits out over 8.5 million websites, including schools, information on certifications, and then millions of individuals' websites that coaches have set up for their business. That's a lot of information!

Another thing I've learned, or rather re-learned, is basic accounting. Of course I had seen balance sheets, cash flow and income statements before, but I successfully repressed them. Why am I revisiting it? Because I'm starting my own business. Obviously, the easy cop-out would be to hire an accountant, which I'm sure I'll look into once my practice is up and gaining momentum, but it can't hurt to know what things are and where they go while I start.

I also learned that writing a business plan is not as easy as I thought, that I should not keep a quart of ice-cream in the house, nor eat a whole bag of popcorn on my own before bed, and that it's ok to trust my instinct about movies: I didn't think Atonement was worth seeing in the cinema, so I'm glad I only paid four bucks for the rental. (Tangent: is that a self-fulfilling prophecy? Would I have enjoyed the movie had I thought it was going to be great? Probably not. I didn't like The Gladiator when I first saw it, and went back to see it again because EVerybody and their mother raved about it. Me? Still didn't get it, to put it politely. Oh, on the other hand, I had not expected to like The Love Guru as much as I did - Mike Myers, everyone. Fu-nny.)

One last thing I learned, but no less important, is where the post office is (and to read package delivery slips carefully: if they tick the box "Apt office" that's below the "Post office, directions overleaf" box, that means you don't have to drive 10 miles for nothing, you just go to the front desk of your apartment complex).

What have you learned this week? What happened that frustrated you, that you thought was a waste of time and effort, that you didn't enjoy doing at the time, but now looking back on it you know something you wouldn't have known had everything gone smoothly?

The glass IS half full, if you let it. :-)

Til next time, have a good one!

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