It’s All About implementation: Andy Robinson Discusses Getting the Most Out of Nonprofit Training

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How many times have you participated in a really productive learning experience – a class, workshop, or webinar – and thought to yourself,

“This is terrific stuff. I’m going back to work and I’ll start using it immediately.”

And then you didn’t.

Why not? Let us count the ways: lack of buy-in from peers, unexpected deadlines, inertia, the crush of your daily workload…

However, there’s one barrier that the trainer or facilitator can and should address. Whoever designs the agenda must reserve time for you to sit quietly, process what you’ve learned, prioritize your next steps, and create an implementation plan.

Drinking out of a fire hose

When preparing for a workshop or training event, I tend to overstuff the agenda. Usually there’s more content than time to present it, so my sessions are pretty full.

A participant friend (and repeat customer) describes the experience as “drinking out of fire hose.” It’s immersive and energetic, but how much can you retain – and how much is lost?

If you’re a trainer, your challenge is to create inspiring, innovative content that also feels realistic and doable.

My resolution for the new year: integrate more participant planning time into everything I do. Here are a few simple strategies to help you do the same.

Before you leave, plan your next moves

At the end of each session, reserve a few minutes for people to draft an implementation plan. One simple way to structure this exercise:

1. On your flip chart or slide, create the following. (You could also turn this into a worksheet.)

2. Ask people to re-create the form, then have them write one or two implementation steps for each time frame: Next Week, Next Month, Next Three Months.

This approach encourages them to think sequentially, which can generate a more realistic plan.

3. If they attend the workshop in teams, have them work in teams. If they’re attending as solos, ask them to think and write quietly, then pair up with another person to discuss what they’ve written.

4. To complete this exercise, ask for a few volunteers to each share one action step.

Taking literal next steps

Another approach is borrowed from my colleague Kim Lier at the Marlboro College Center for New Leadership. Thanks, Kim!

1. Using this template, print life-size footprints on brightly colored paper, then cut them out.

2. At the end of the learning session, give each participant 3 – 4 footprints.

3. Ask people to write their next steps – one task per footprint – and place them in a circle in the floor.

4. Everyone takes turns reading what they’ve written. If you have time, you can debrief the exercise by asking people to reflect on any common steps or themes expressed by the group.

5. Finally, participants retrieve their “next steps” and take them home as reminders. They look good on the wall above your desk!

Because knowledge isn’t power

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “Knowledge is power.”

Unfortunately, this is a half-truth. I’ll suggest an alternative: “The application of knowledge is power.”

As I sometimes say to groups, “Whatever you learned today is irrelevant – unless you use it.”

As a group leader, facilitator, or trainer, give people the time and space to begin implementing what they’ve learned before they even leave the room.

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