What I learned observing the Business Expertise Advisor Curriculum

In between my wintery road trips and getting stuck in an elevator last week, I was actually in Toronto for work.

Last summer, while I was still an acting consultant, the opportunity to observe and/or facilitate this course arose. The initial plan was that two sessions would be held, one in January and one in February.

I would observe the course in January with an eye to facilitating it in February. Unfortunately, the second session never materialized. It may not be until next year that I’m able to try my facilitation chops out on this course.

It’s a long time to wait in the wacky world of facilitation.

Here’s what I learned:

1. The course is a very demanding one for facilitators.

Class1One of the facilitators, who had actually delivered the course once in the past, said she didn’t want to facilitate the course again. It’s a fairly cerebral course, and a lot of material is packed in to four and a half days.

The course is intended to be an introduction to the basic duties of an advisor and as such, it covers working on a virtual team, change management, interpersonal relationships, providing advice and guidance, teaching adult learners, and workload/time management. Things are pretty tight and there’s not a lot of room to wiggle. It’s difficult to keep on track.

Because the course starts Monday morning, the facilitators and participants must travel in overtime (something management frowns on), and the facilitators can’t get into the room until the first morning of training. I prefer to prepare as much as possible in advance and to keep activities queued up and flowing well. Having an hour or an hour and a half for set up would be demanding. It also means that I’d have to come in earlier and stay later each day to stay on top of activities and exercises.

2. The course is something that every new BEA should attendClass2

And, the sooner the better.

Many of the attendees of this course had been BEAs for years and had had the course on their performance and learning agreements for years as well.

As a result, we had a lot of great discussion about our quality control processes, technology, communications, and training. I don’t know that a class of entirely new BEAs would have been half so dynamic.

We also had a varied group of participants from different business lines. One of the big questions I had when I started out as a BEA was what other BEAs elsewhere in our organization did and how those duties compared to my own.

Even though I knew there was a BEA course, it was being redesigned when I started as a BEA and was only piloted to select groups of participants in the next couple of years.

In the positions I’d held previously, there was training, weeks of it. Plus post-training monitoring. I learned the role of advisor by doing it, which is fine because it works with my learning gestalt, but I’m sure for others it was a bit of a culture shock.

After the BEA level, most of the training is piecemeal and you have to actively pursue those courses if you want to take them. Task or competency-based training is not mandatory once you’re out of production.

3. The BEAs in attendance thought the course had value for them

Class3This was a concern, because, after one of my colleagues attended a pilot of the course years ago, she did not have many positive things to say about it.

The BEA Curriculum is a course where you derive benefit proportional to the time and effort you invest.

It’s also one in which the participant should have clearly defined goals and expectations of the training. When the modules of the course that hold the most value for them come up, participants are more likely to play a more active role in their learning.

I presented a short exercise about performance management. I prefaced it with Cathy Moore’s flowchart: Is training really the answer?

Once the advisor has determined that neither training nor monitoring is the answer, what do they do? They perform a needs analysis to identify learning gaps and see if they can devise a plan, working with management, to bring the employee’s behaviour into line with the employer’s expectations.

I asked them to come up with some scenarios from their own experience, and once we had a few, divided them up by business line to review a tool in the training package and see if it would help them in those performance management situations.

Several of the participants told me they thought both the flowchart and the checklist were great resources.

So while the BEA Curriculum was not an unmitigated success (I forgot one of the groups in a breakout room and they didn’t return until after everyone else had left—bad Mellie!) I think it was a good course and one that I’ll enjoy facilitating in the future. If I can remember all the tips and trick I learned this time around!

Do you have any facilitation stories to share? New courses learned or delivered? Lessons learned in the delivery?

Do share.

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Caturday Quickies: Hardy northern girl 2, winter highways 0

I left Toronto around noon and travel north through to about Pointe au Baril was good.

Then the snow started. The winds were high and blowing everything around. White out conditions pertained again.

keepinscore

I was thinking of putting a white square: Mel in white Optima in blizzard.

I was listening to the radio, attentive for not only weather and road reports, but reports of accidents as well.

It was not sounding good. A section of highway 17 west of Sudbury had been closed due to an accident. Highway 11 north of North Bay was also closed.

An accident involving a transport truck was reported around Key River.

Traffic, crawling at between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour since Britt, slowed to a stop.

We resumed a short time later with stop and go for a while, one direction of traffic being let through, and then the other.

When I reached Key River, I saw the transport in a ditch and three other vehicles were mounted on tow trucks for removal. Ambulance and police vehicles were also there and flares were being put out on the highway leading up to the accident.

Then I heard that there was another accident at highway 69 and 64, just before traffic slowed down again. Then the CBC announced that highway 69 was closed from Sudbury to the French River (highway 64 junction).

I’m not sure how long we were stopped. I turned the car off and then on again at intervals to keep the windows cleared of snow and ice, listening to the radio and watching people do the douche, trying to creep up the traffic in the oncoming lane or on the shoulder and try to find room to merge with the traffic up ahead.

I watched the guy in the car ahead of me get out to take an indiscrete piss (not something I really wanted in my image bank) and then get back in his car and turn around. Maybe ten minutes later we started to move again.

Neener.

Just north of the highway 64 junction, I saw the accident site. Four vehicles, two with destroyed front ends, were all being hauled away by tow trucks.

We were on our slow and steady way again, but the radio was still reporting that highway 69 was closed. As I was travelling on that highway, it clearly wasn’t …

Later, just south of Estaire, I saw that southbound traffic was indeed stopped, but northbound traffic was not.

I made it home. In one piece. With no damage to the rental and my sanity intact.

Caturday Quickies

By the way, the kitteh in this blog image is our dearly departed Thufir (Howat, the Mentat Cat)

Caturday Quickies: The further adventures of hardy northern chick

So.

After my adventure getting down to Toronto last week, I thought I’d had enough of an adventure.

Seems the universe disagreed with me.

On Monday night, I got stuck in one of the hotel elevators for an hour and a half.

This was a first for me. I’d heard of, and I’ve know of, many people who have been stuck in elevators over the years.  I’ve seen it countless times on television and in movies.

Another experience for the idea file 🙂

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I’m laid back. I’ll apologize in advance for the true story not being exciting, but here it is, for the record:

I was on the twelfth floor. I called the elevator, it arrived, I got on, and pressed the button for the main floor. The elevator descended, stopped, and then nothing happened.

I pressed the main floor button again, just in case. Nothing. I pressed the open door button. Nothing.

Swearing silently at my luck, I briefly considered hitting the “Alarm” button, but figured that it would only be loud and irritating, and I’d only be able to handle that for a handful of seconds before I went crazy.

So I looked around for some kind of call button, or an intercom. There was a phone behind a brass door beneath the button panel. I picked it up.

It connected me to the front desk. I explained my situation, and the desk clerk advised that he was sending his colleague down to reset the elevator in the control room.

They did that twice. I received three more calls from the front desk with status reports. I think I was expected to be claustrophobic, freak out somehow. The first reset had failed, and the second. They had called the service technician, but he was 45 minutes out from the hotel.

So I hunkered down on the floor and tried to get comfortable. What would be the point of When life gives you lemonsgetting upset?  I kind of dozed, but it was about as useful as trying to sleep on the red-eye back from Vancouver last fall.

The desk clerk called back as the technician opened the door to tell me that the technician had arrived. Um, yeah.

The technician advised me to jump for it. He was funny.

So that was my Monday night adventure.

It made for a great story in class the next morning: so what did you do last night?

And when I told Phil, he laughed at me. Nice one, dude.

By the way, what do you think of my first attempt at using Canva (for the picture)? From the user perspective, it wasn’t bad. Just getting used to the interface. Not sure if the wordage works either. It reflects my personality, but it’s a bit past its best before date 😛

Caturday Quickies

Work madness

The Ren & Stimpy Show

The Ren & Stimpy Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To really get the effect of the title of this post, allow me to coax you back to the classic Ren & Stimpy episode, Space Madness. If you’ve never seen it before, take a few minutes and watch.  I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’ve had a taste, you have to say “work madness” the way Commander Hoek says “space madness” in the ep. Seriously. You have to say it the same way or this won’t work half as well.

I think the last time I blogged about work was at the beginning of October, when my self-funded leave started. Though a fifteen-month stint as a regional training coordinator (consultant) was, strictly speaking, the reason I needed that leave, I am grateful to my employer that such options are available.

When I feel the spectre of burnout or depression, I know I have the means to fend them off.

My leave was five weeks of heaven spent focusing on the art and craft of my writing. I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, which I won 🙂

I returned to work November 19, which was a Tuesday, and before I’d even settled in, learned that I was to start delivering training the following Monday, training that I hadn’t delivered in about two and a half years (!) It was in Sudbury at least, so I wouldn’t have to travel.

I did spend the rest of the week prepping and revising the training material, though, and somewhere in there found the time to complete my travel request for something else coming up (more on that in a few paragraphs).

Say it with me now: work madness.

This was something that had come up in the five weeks I’d been off. Though I’d only heard the rumours before I left on my leave, I knew the powers that be were interested in “stabilizing” one of the processing positions. This meant hiring, and a lot of it.

The November 25th to December 3rd training was the result of hiring from an established internal pool of candidates.

After the training, the last two days of which I completed solo, I had to work some overtime to get the marking done and summary reports prepared. Four and a half hours added onto my seven and a half hour day. It was a loooong day. The rest of that week was devoted to further revisions—a lot of errors emerged during the delivery—and facilitating a conference call as a follow up to a self-study module.

While I was off, I was recruited to participate in a “training for trainers” session in team dynamics. The idea was to develop some regional expertise so that operational teams could assume delivery of the course. As only of a few certified trainers in the province, I was invited.

It’s nice to be needed.

This would be from December 9th to 13th in Toronto (yes, I know a couple of people who may be displeased to learn that I was in Toronto and didn’t tell them, but really, I was so busy, I wouldn’t have had time—still, my apologies).

Then the next sessions of stabilization training in Mississauga and London were to begin December 16th through to Christmas Eve. I was tentatively scheduled for London. These would all be new hires.

This training would require me cancelling some leave that had already been approved, and missing out on my family’s Christmas celebration, which we hold on Christmas Eve. Further, it would require the approval of some hefty overtime so that I could travel home on Christmas Day.

Work madness!

Still, I was prepared to do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

While I delivered training and stood on tenterhooks waiting for plans to solidify—they weren’t even finished with the hiring process yet!—another person was given the acting assignment so she could do the training.

Plus, there were so many people being given acting assignments to cover the training and monitoring for the fifty or so new hires coming into the organization, that I might have to resume my consulting duties as regional training coordinator.

This may require some ‘splaining.

My substantive, or permanent position, is with the operational training team for Ontario. We’d been told for years that our positions were “overstaffed.” This meant that as team members retired or moved into other positions, that there would be no back-filling of staff. We’d have to make do with less.

Prior to my joining the team in 2009, there had been fifteen or sixteen trainers. By the time I joined, we were twelve. Then ten. When I accepted the regional training coordinator position, there were eight trainers left. Then two more received assignments and another was affected by business transformation, leaving five.

Shortly after I returned to the team in September, another of our number received an acting assignment elsewhere. Now that I’m departing again, the number of permanent staff on the team is down to four. That’s to serve all of the training needs of staff in our business line in the whole province. Really?

Though being regional training coordinator wore me out, I was nonetheless disappointed when my assignment ended and I returned to the training team, especially when I learned that the reason I’d likely never get a consultant-level position again was geographic rather than merit-based.

Though the consultant pool I’m in has been extended through to December 31, 2013, this may be my only chance at a consultancy again, ever.

On the team that houses the regional training coordinators, there have been changes as well. The manager has received an acting position as a director and the person taking his place is also acting.

Two other team members have received assignments off the team, and now, due to the number of acting trainers and monitors in this stabilization exercise, another of them will become a second acting manager for the training team.

Though they too had been told that no positions would be back-filled, there won’t be anyone left on the team who’s done the regional training coordinator gig who doesn’t already have a full plate.

And so I’m heading back.

Altogether now: WORK MADNESS!

I’m going to adjust my expectations of the position.  I know now the kind of chaos I’m going to be parachuted into the middle of. And the planning process I worked at so dilligently last year? It hasn’t even started yet.

I think I’m going to start every day with the Serenity Prayer.

Are there other projects I’m going to be involved in, work-wise? Yes. I’m going to be observing and potentially delivering the Business Expertise Curriculum (though I never received the training myself—this may be my only opportunity to take it in) in January and (possibly) February.

I may be training the team dynamics workshop too, though there are currently no plans on the table for it. Things shouldn’t be as insane as they were last year, however. I’ve already been certified. I won’t be going back there again.

In other news, the training certification program has departed our internal college for another training provider. So, no next steps for Mellie.  No assessment, no mentoring, and no training. Unless I get some kind of in with that other training provider. I become eligible to apply to them in March. We’ll see how that works out…

So that’s my work madness.

What’s yours?

It’s a wrap!

There is so much more to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) than I wrote about.

Yes, there were a tonne (that’s metric, eh?) of sessions that I couldn’t get to, everything from self-publishing, to social media and platform maintenance, from screenwriting to non-fiction sessions, and marketing sessions.

And yes, I may have mentioned things like the blue pencil and pitch sessions with the agents. Those keen on these could sign up for multiple sessions.

There was a professional photographer there to take head shots as well.

Where would I fit it all in?

But I didn’t mention the Master classes that preceded the conference. They required an extra fee, but I hear they were well worth it.

I didn’t mention Michael Slade’s Theatre of the Macabre, in which Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, and KC Dyer did a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” replete with music and sound effects.

I didn’t mention the book fair, author signing, or writing group get-together.

I didn’t mention the excellent food served at the lunches and dinners.

I didn’t mention the annual tradition of Jack Whyte singing the Hippopotamus Song.

Really, this is a conference you need to put on your writer’s bucket list.

We’re all time travellers

Since British Columbia is three hours behind the Eastern Time zone, I thought I would experience jet lag. I did, but not until I returned.

While I was in Surrey, I typically stayed up late to check on social media and do a bit of transcription of the notes I’d taken during the day. Although I stayed up until about 11 pm (2 am, my time) I woke up every morning around 5 am. Again, I used the time to prepare for the day and get in a little transcription.

When I flew back, I did so by the “red-eye” flight. It departed Vancouver at 10:30 pm. I tried to sleep on the way back, but I should have spent some money on one of those neck cushions. I woke up every hour or so and attempted to ease the pain in my neck and find a more comfortable position to sleep in.

When I finally got home, after an early morning layover in Toronto, the connector to Sudbury, and a hectic shuttle ride back to town, it was about 10:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, I spent a good portion of that day in bed 😉

I thought about time zones and jet lag again the following weekend when Daylight Saving Time ended. I’ve described the time change as self-imposed jet-lag, and I’ve never agreed with the continued practice. While it’s not so bad in the fall, it’s murder in the spring when we lose an hour again.

Really, though we can’t leap forward or back, we’re all time travellers. We all travel through time as we wake, work, eat, and sleep our way through life.

It was a philosophical moment 😛

Thanks for following my reportage of the conference, and I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled ramblings forthwith.

First, a few notes

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My flight was seven hours.  I had to be at the airport (a 20 minute drive) an hour ahead of time, fly to Toronto and have a brief layover before boarding my connecting flight to Vancouver.  There’s a three hour time difference between Ontario and BC.

Having arrived in Vancouver, I had to then make my way to Surrey.  I asked hour much it would be for a shuttle.  Even the flat rate was more than I was prepared to spend.

So I back-tracked, bought a train ticket, and rode the sky train for another hour and a half.

At the terminus station, I still had to catch a taxi to get to the hotel.

So, altogether, I spent about ten hours in transit and though it was only four-ish when I got here, I was done.

I checked in, got to my room, and discovered something:

I had to pay for internet access, and I could only pay for either in-room or meeting room access.  I opted for room access, hoping that my smart(-er than me) phone would have enough connectivity to tweet.

After supper and a bath, I went to bed, about eleven pm Pacific, but about two am Eastern time.

I woke up at 3 am.

Though I did my best, I only managed to send one tweet before my phone bogged down altogether.  I haven’t been able to send or receive much of anything since.

Also, Kristin Nelson was unable to attend, her flight from Colorado having been cancelled due to the weather.

I dealt with these small disappointments and have since had an absolute blast (so far).  Will be posting the day’s sessions and my notes as I go, but these will likely be at least a day late.

Why I hate flying

Now before I get too far into this post, let me preface it by saying I had an absolutely fabulous time in Michigan City with my friend Stacey Hembruff and her fiancé (now hubbie) Erik Lawrence.

For the day and a half I was there, I met Erik and his family, went to Carlson’s, a local landmark replete with car hops and brewed-on-site root beer (made me reminisce about the A&W of my childhood), went to their wonderful beach, and partied the night away at the local Elk’s lodge.

I had a blast and it made the trial and error of getting there so worth it.

Still.  I had a bit of an adventure.

Hater’s gonna hate

I’m not afraid of flying.  Sure my gut lurches a bit on take off, and when the ride gets a bit rough, I can’t read (legacy of childhood car-sickness) but I have nothing against the mode of transportation itself.  Sometimes it’s the only way to get from point A to point B.

Getting the ticket and dealing with the airline and insurance was a breeze, too.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  And I was looking forward to flying with Porter, as several of my friends have and have reported that it was a great experience.

I’m the problem.  I’m a control freak.  I hate being at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.  If possible, I’d much rather drive because then if I’m late, I have no one to blame but myself.

So this is all on me 😉

My tale begins when I checked through security at the Greater Sudbury Airport.

The woman behind me turns to me as we’re collecting our belongings from the bins and says, “Is this your first time?”

Excuse me?  She went on to explain that her flight, earlier in the day, had been cancelled.  She didn’t say why and the day so far both in Sudz and in Toronto wasn’t stormy.

I should have known then that I would be in for a few unexpected delays.

The flight departed a half an hour late, and when it arrived at Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island, I had 15 minutes until the next boarding.  Would I make it?  Would my checked bag?  I was escorted to the lounge to await the boarding call and about when I expected to board, the announcement was broadcast that due to thunderstorms, all flights were grounded.

Okay.  I texted Stacey to let her know that I would be a bit late and she said that she and Erik were running late themselves and that all would be well.

When the boarding resumed, Porter started with flights to Boston and Newark and the boarding time was now listed 50 minutes after the original.

The boarding call was announced and the lot of us trouped down to the gate where we stood.  And waited.  Additional problems would cause another hour’s delay. We returned to the lounge and I texted Stacey again.  The issue wasn’t weather, she told me.  The skies were clear in Chicago.

The next announcement that went out was that there were weight allowance issues and that any passengers who would volunteer to wait until the next flight would receive a voucher for $250 dollars off their next Porter flight.

If I knew what would happen next, I’d have gone for the deal, but hind sight is perfect, as they say.

When we board, nearly 2 hours after we were supposed to, I noticed that the next flight to Chicago was boarding in 15 minutes. Le sigh.

When we got on the plane, it was one of the smaller ones, and it was packed to the gills.

English: Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 landi...

English: Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 landing at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) in July 2008. Français : Un Q400 de Porter Airlines atterrissant à l’aéroport Billy Bishop de Toronto (YTZ) en juillet 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No wonder they had weight allowance issues.  Because of the smaller size of the plane, though, we’d have to stop for refuelling in Windsor…wait for it…for 15 minutes.  I’m willing to bet that the next flight was on the larger plane that could make the hop in a single flight.

As compensation, in addition to Porter’s usual snacks and beverages (and yes, before you ask, Porter serves actual alcohol on their flights) we were served a chicken pita sandwich, coleslaw, and Lindt chocolate.  I wished that I hadn’t purchased a late dinner in the airport lounge.

We stopped over in Windsor and flew to Chicago with no further problems.  I arrived, made it through customs and claimed my baggage.

But I couldn’t get a signal for my cell phone.  The airport had a Boing hot spot, but apparently, it can’t be used to text or email.  I tried texting Stacey again, because I didn’t know where she was, and I tried to text Phil, because I just wanted to tell him that I’d arrived safely.

I turned on the roaming and tried to latch onto some other network, but no dice.

I found Stacey, she introduced me to Erik, and we drove to Michigan City, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Chicago.  We arrived without further incident at 11:30, 12:30 my time.  We were staying at Erik’s grandfather’s house and I tried again to find some kind of signal.  My poor phone searched and searched but couldn’t pick anything up.

After a day of travel, me by air, and Stacey and Erik by car, we were all of us pooped.  We dropped, and in the morning, Stacey texted Phil for me.

When I returned to Canadian air space, all my stored up texts were sent.

This is the way of air travel.  It must be accepted.  Still.  I had an adventure 🙂

And that’s why I hate flying.

How about you?  Do you like to fly?  Are you afraid of flying?  Or are you a control freak like me?  I’d love to hear from you.

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

Supper calls!  And tonight: True Blood 🙂

Review of Blaze Ignites by JL Madore

As I mentioned in our interview, I’d worked with Jenny in an online critique group.  I was so pleased to hear that she moved ahead with her novel and was eager to read the results.

The Amazon blurb:

BLAZE IGNITES blends strong, clever women and tough, sexy men in a fast paced, Blaze full page covervolatile cocktail of action, seduction, and wicked humour.

“Destiny my ass.” Jade Glaster refuses to believe the Fates rule her life. Orphaned after an attack by Scourge soldiers, a young Jade vows never to be powerless again. Once grown and strong, wielding the affinities of fire and healing, Jade protects innocents as an enforcer for her world’s elite policing agency—The Talon.

When an emissary mission to reinstate a race of exiled Elves brings Galan into her life, Jade finds herself overwhelmed by new passions, some welcome, some not. Although Galan’s antiquated views on women offend her to her heated core, when the Scourge attack his family, she helps him navigate the outside worlds he knows nothing about—the magical Realm of the Fair and, stranger still…the modern streets of Toronto.

Through their sensually charged pursuit of justice, Jade discovers that when dealing with the Fates—destiny is never random.

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My thoughts:

Jade Glaster doesn’t think much of fate.  Her life has been a literal shit storm to this point (in fact, the series was originally called the Shit Storm Survivors, which I now note has been tactfully changed to Scourge Survivors) and if this was fate’s doing, Jade wants none of it.

Her Talon code name is Blaze because of her red hair and fiery temper, which often results in the unleashing of a literal blaze of power.

One of Jade’s laments at the outset of the novel (aside from the Scourge murdering her parents), is her apparent frigidity. When her duties for Castain, chief of the Fae gods, bring her face to face (and crotch to crotch—had to be said) with Galen, however, Jade’s problem ceases to be one of not reacting to men, but of her overwhelming reaction to Galen.

This is not what she needs right now. She has a mission to complete.

The writing is taut and gives the reader Jade’s attitude with both barrels. I like the ‘tude and the sexy bits, which are well-done. I only have a few issues with Blaze Ignites, and most of those are matters of personal taste (word choice, creative decisions) which other readers will likely not cavil at.

Events begin with a bar fight involving an Otterkie that is never mentioned again. Readers often expect details like this to have a pay off somewhere later in the novel. It’s a loose thread that should be woven in.

Though conflict, physical and otherwise, abounds, the novel takes a while to pick up the pace. When things swing into high gear, the author keeps them at a high pitch with few exceptions.

I have to point out, for a supposedly “kick-ass” heroine, Jade gets her ass kicked more often than not.  This I did have a bit of a problem with, especially given the denouement of the novel (which I will not give away).

It just seemed to me that Jade shouldn’t have had her ass handed her or to be in need of rescue as often as she did. Yes, Galen needs a maiden in distress, but there might have been another way around this.

Blaze Ignites is a solid contender in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy sub-genres and suitable for fans of Laurel K. Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Readers of Charles de Lint will find Madore’s work enjoyable as well.

A good first novel in a new series that I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.

My rating: four out of five stars.

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About the author:

JL MadoreJL Madore, lover of family, animals and chocolate, spends her days writing fantasy romance and paranormal erotica. Strangely enough, she hadn’t considered being a writer until her writing muse found her lying in a hammock in a Panamanian rainforest.Blaze Ignites, the first installment in the five novel Scourge Survivor Series, was born out of that tropical haven. Though she didn’t actually see any Elves or Weres running through the trees or swimming in the waterfall grottos their voices came to her there and had a story to tell.

To learn more, you can follow her at:
http://www.jlmadore.ca
http://www.twitter.com/jlmadore

Caturday Quickies: The certification run

This past week, I travelled to Chatham to deliver yet one more session of Business Writing Made Easy.  The critical difference this time?  I was assessed for my trainer certification.  Eeps!

An omen?

What started my week was the journey to Chatham, some six and a half hours away.  Phil dropped me off at the car rental place at 8 am (we only have the one car).  Past experience taught me that I’d be in and out in less than 15 minutes, back home to load up my luggage and boxes, and on the road by 8:30 am.

When I walked in, there were four people waiting, one of them had an insurance claim to deal with due to a dent in the rental, and another was returning a car from another rental company.  The rental location was two employees short-staffed, and I settled in for a wait.

The first car I was given had some issues.  I couldn’t afford to wait any longer, so gratefully accepted an upgrade and was finally on the road shortly after 9 am.

The loveliness of the ETR

The journey itself was great.  For the first time, I used the 407 express toll route (ETR).  In the time it would have normally taken me to reach the hotel near our regional headquarters from the ETR on-ramp, I was exiting at Halton Hills, not far away from Guelph.

The ETR saved me precious time and allowed me to reach Chatham before the end of the day.

Lusting after the Zzzzz’s

I quickly checked into my hotel (more about that in another caturday quickie to come) and toted my boxes to the office, arriving just before 4 pm.  I spent the next several hours setting up the training room with my co-facilitator, Carole.  About 8 pm, we gave up for the night, Carole checked into the hotel, and we enjoyed a late supper at the hotel’s rather excellent restaurant.

I rarely sleep well when I’m on the road, but that first night was especially challenging.  I don’t know whether it was nerves, the trains that passed by periodically all night, or something else, but from 2:25 am on, I couldn’t sleep.  I’d gone to be just after 11 pm, and there’s no way I can function properly with only three hours’ sleep.

Despite that, I met up with Carole for breakfast the next morning, we finished setting up the room and our activities, I met my assessors, and class got underway.

The assessment

Really, I’m trying not to think about it much, because every time I do, I start thinking of all the things I did wrong, all of the technical difficulties I encountered, and all of the other things that could potentially have done me in so far as certification went.

I started asking closed questions.  My SMART Board activity bombed.  Toward the end of the second morning, I was exhausted and running on instinct rather than cultivating the Zen awareness critical to my success.  I curtailed a couple of side bar conversations clumsily.  I forgot participant names.  What’s the expression?  I sucked so hard …

The assessors were very kind.  I’d actually worked with one of them before, delivering workshops in Cornwall a few years ago, but their job is to make sure that I can facilitate in a participant-centered manner in accordance with a set of 18 competencies.  They assessed me for a full day, 1 pm to 4:30 pm the first afternoon, and again from 8:30 am to noon the second day.  I had to facilitate the class solo.

At the end of the first afternoon, the assessors asked me a series of questions about the competencies that weren’t clearly visible in my facilitation and presentation skills.  Things like the room set up, placement of visuals, the joining instructions, utilization of pre-course assignment materials, continuing professional development, and so forth.

At noon the next day, I bid them farewell and was advised that I would be informed of the outcome of the assessment within a couple of weeks.

I’m kind of dreading it.  I think that having to go through the assessment again would be a little bit more than I can handle moving into the new fiscal year.  Thus the avoidance tactics 🙂

The good parts

My co-facilitator bought me a wee gift.  Isn’t it lovely? congratulations

I tried not to tell her she was counting my chickens before they were hatched and just appreciated the gesture.  Carole also asked me to focus on all the things I had done well in the class.  Though I was able to list several things, my mind quickly gravitated toward the negative and I returned to avoidance.

The final day of class, with Carole at my side, went well, and by the end of it, several of the participants not only told us how much they enjoyed the class, and what good resources they got out of it, but also told us that their colleagues were asking how they could get on the list to attend the course.

That kind of validation warms a facilitator’s heart 🙂

After class, we packed everything up, and had an hour or so to enjoy Chatham and some of the quaint shops in the area.

At breakfast on Friday morning, Carole asked me some very helpful questions about the certification process.  She has an interest in pursuing it, and was curious about what might be next for me given her expectations for my success.

It was another very helpful way of keeping my mind from dwelling on all of my short-comings.

I dropped the set of posters I’d borrowed for the delivery of the course back at regional headquarters on my way through Toronto, and was home by 4:30 pm.

At home, Phil reminded me that my focus on the negative wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Being conscious of what I did wrong means that I’ll be less likely to repeat those errors since I am, as always, my toughest critic.  I get so embarrassed about it that I determine never to fall into the same trap again.

It’s all about doubt, something that plagues me in both spheres of my professional life (training and writing).  I constantly question the value of what I do, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

So … the next you’ll hear about this is whether I have, in fact, been successful or not.

Have you been assessed, or tested recently?  How did you feel about the process?  What did it teach you about yourself?

Caturday Quickies: Business Writing Made Frozen, er Easy

The road to certification

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Timmins to deliver the second of three sessions of Business Writing Made Easy.

BWME Nov 19-22 001The first delivery was back in November and in the much warmer Toronto.  At that time, I was observed by the person who designed the course and who was, at the time, one of the leads in the trainers certification program.

Then, my hope was to certify in Timmins.  My observer told me, point blank, that I wouldn’t pass.  We then made plans for another delivery of BWME.  Timmins would be a practice run, to let me become more familiar with the material and more practiced in my participant-centered training delivery methods and techniques.

My mentor was unable to continue coaching with me and my observer volunteered to take over.  An opportunity arose for me to co-facilitate Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery in January, further cementing my skills.  My co-facilitator, a recently certified trainer herself, said that I was ready.

In February, however, things began to devolve.  My observer-turned-mentor was assigned a project and could not continue to coach me.  No one would be able to take over.  In a final meeting, we whizzed through the remaining material we had to cover.  I was again told that I was ready for assessment.

My own workload did not lessen and as I started to prepare for my delivery in Timmins, I realized that I was within the six-week deadline to arrange my observation.

Frantically, I contacted the certification program lead.  I had to complete an assignment on the 18 trainer competencies, showing how I’d been working to develop each one, and complete a pre-evaluation interview to ensure that I was, in fact, ready.  She felt confident that I was.

While I worked on Joining Instructions, pre-course assignments, and prep for the delivery, I waited on pins and needles to find out if assessors could be located for my certification run.  Just before I left for Timmins, I was informed that I had one more assignment to complete.  I did, and was propmtly introduced to my certification team.

The drive up to Timmins was lovely.  It was a bright, brisk, winter day and we made excellent time.  We set up the room and started organizing the activities.

That night, the weather grew stormy.  10 cm of snow, followed by another 20 or so the next day.  Then the deep freeze descended and for the rest of the week was less than pleasant.

The training went well, thankfully.  There were a few rocky places, but there always are.  No training ever goes perfectly.  I firmly subscribe to the good enough theory of life, the universe, and everything.  I wonder if good enough = 42 😉

The weather improved for our journey back to Sudbury on Friday.

Sunrise over downtown Timmins, Ontario, Canada

Sunrise over downtown Timmins, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, I strove to catch up on my regular work and still conserve some time to prep for next week’s delivery.  The certification program lead emailed me to once again offer a few words of support, and here I am, with a skimpy weekend between me, a six and a half hour journey, hasty room and activity set up, and a full 8 hours of solo assessment of my facilitation skills.

My main goal?  To remain mindful in the moment.  Yes, training is a Zen kind of thing.

Will let you know how the certification attempt goes, but I won’t know anything for a while after.  The earliest I can have my debrief is April 4 (!)  While the report should be released within a couple of weeks, I’m not certain if they’ll give me a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before the debrief can happen.

The nerves come and go in waves.

Keep me in your thoughts trainer types.