Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Workplace Trainer PD: presenting, facilitating, influencing

I've been asked more than a couple of times in the last few weeks about presenting, confidence and influence. Sometimes it's been asked by trainers, other times I'm deferred to because people assume I have all of this down pat 100% simply because I've presented in the past and regularly facilitate group sessions. It led me to start looking for resources that reflect what I have observed, picked up and been coached to do over the years. Of course everyone will develop their own presenting and facilitation style once they increase in confidence. But how do we get to the confident stage in the first place? Amy Cuddy's TED talk pretty well hits the nail on the head. I have never had anyone articulate these behaviours as explicitly as Amy does, but simply by turning on your critical observer eye while watching seasoned confident presenters will take you a long way to identifying most of what she outlines.

I've had so many people rush at me with a link to this clip that I almost assume everyone has seen it. It really is a great reminder for professional facilitators if we have a particularly challenging session or group of participants ahead of us. Realistically, how much time do we devote to such an essential skill in the workplace learning professional toolbox? But stopping at power posing does ourselves (and those we're trying to help) a disservice.

I mentioned at the beginning influence. For some reason, many professionals looking for a helping hand in this area, assume influence is inextricably linked to excellent presentation or facilitation skills. Not always so. In some cases influence is simply another tool in the negotiators kit, or a handy thing to be keeping in the back of your mind at a high stakes social event (cocktail networking anyone??). If you want to start somewhere relatively removed from 'influencing for success at work' or 'influencing for better learning', Nicholas Christakis' talk on the power of influence in social networks is a pretty good choice. Take those concepts of the social network at work and add in conscious effort or some explicit goal, such as a project or KPI, and people start looking for things like Goleman's Emotional Intelligence to get the upper hand. And then if you keep going down that path, looking for more and more explicit sets of instructions you'll eventually come across something like Deborah H. Gruenfeld's Lean In presentation on power and influence. Whether or not you agree with Gruenfeld, Goleman or Christakis, it's pretty clear there is a lot to be said for these topics to be separated from one another.

So why do we allow businesses to group presenting, confidence and influence into the same professional development needs, categories, solutions? Surely we can utilise some of our (now excellent) influencing skills to help our stakeholders see our side of things. Oh, the irony.