Watching 70-20-10 Come Alive in an Unlikely Place

watching 70-20-10 come alive in an unlikely place

Unless you are in the L&D/Training/Talent Development world, the title of this post will probably leave you scratching your head. Who am I kidding – it’s probably leaving many L&D people confused…

If you’re not familiar with the 70-20-10 concept, let’s break it down:

Simply put, 70-20-10 is a methodology implying that the most effective learning takes place through practical means.

Approximately 70% of what we learn occurs through practical application – on the job training, applying what you learned in a training setting, or as Nike would say, “Just Do It.”

Approximately 20% of what we learn comes through building relationships, such as coaching or mentoring.

That leaves 10% – yes, only 10% – of what we learn happens through formal training.

(What the what??)

I know those of us who lead formal training sessions on the regular might be inclined to squirm a bit when 70-20-10 is brought up. After all, for many L&D practitioners, facilitating training is what. we. do. So, someone is now telling us that only 10% of what people learn occurs this way?

Well, good news: the 10% isn’t going anywhere, kids. #jobsecurity



The key is to leverage the 10% to make the 90% even more effective. What are you doing in a formal setting to set your participants up for success, whether building relationships with peers or a manager, or making things happen on the job?

As the title of this post indicates, I recently witnessed this approach in action in an unlikely place. At my friendly, neighborhood nail salon. Yeah, not exactly a place you would immediately think about 70-20-10, but bear with me.

When I was waiting for my appointment, I couldn’t help but notice the salon owner’s daughter was sitting next to one of the manicurists, whose “customer” was actually another salon employee. The daughter was observing and asking questions. I have been going to this salon for several years and am used to seeing this young lady around the salon. I thought for a moment that she is probably a little older than my own daughter, and then noticed that she and the manicurist traded places – SHE picked up where the manicurist left off, being watched closely by her more experienced peer.

Ahh – she is “in training” – so naturally, my curiosity was piqued.

She finished what she was doing, and they carried on a conversation throughout. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand them; they are a Vietnamese family and don’t speak much English. But here’s what I did know:

The 70% was represented – she was learning on the job.

The 20% was represented – the experienced manicurist was coaching her, guiding her and answering her questions along the way.

When I sat down in my chair for my appointment, I asked about it. I learned that she is 19 years old and wants to join the family business, so she is an apprentice. She is doing the necessary training so she can get her state license (hello, 10%!). I was impressed.

Bottom line: They don’t need a big training program, or a dedicated L&D team, or a Chief Learning Officer, to know that learning is most effective when it’s relevant and practical. They know what she needs to learn to be successful in her role and to add value to their family business. Sometimes, we (organizations) make things incredibly complex – but maybe if we go back to basics and consider learners’ needs, we’ll find that we can make 70-20-10 come alive in our own organizations.

Your turn: Is your team modeling the 70-20-10 approach (or a variation of it) in your learning programs? If so, how do you help your stakeholders, employees and company leaders understand the concept? Share your successful practices and tips in the comments!

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3 Learning Lessons from Sesame Street


Like many kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I learned on the Street. Sesame Street, that is. Watching this show was a daily occurrence when I was a tot.

Sesame Street is celebrating its 45th birthday this week! To think of how many millions of children have been introduced to learning through this show is simply incredible. Today, as a tribute to the institution that is Sesame Street, here are 3 lessons that adult learning professionals can take away:

1. The show is real and relevant.

Throughout the run of the show, Sesame Street hasn’t steered away from introducing kids to tough topics. One that stands out to me is when the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away in real life. Instead of replacing the actor and moving on with the show, they tackled the sad truth head-on.

The lesson: In our organizations, keep it relevant through times of incessant change (or even turmoil). Align your programs and messaging to your business objectives. There should never be a question of how your program connects to your organizational strategy.


2. Children interact with trusted adults. And celebrities. And puppets!

One of the most entertaining parts of the show is when children are involved – whether they are dancing and giggling with Elmo or singing a song with a movie star. The show (and learning) is at its best when everyone is engaged.

The lesson: Get people and teams out of their silos. Connect employees with leaders. Get new associates paired up with a buddy or mentor. What is your team doing to establish and maintain a collaborative environment?


3. Learning is fun, gosh darnit.

I highly doubt that I would have learned how to read, count, be a good friend, have empathy or accept people who are different than I am had the show not have been FUN to watch.

The lesson: Are your learning programs (whether through face-to-face, online or other methods) engaging? Are they – dare I say – enjoyable? If not, maybe 2015 is the year your team takes an honest look at your offerings!


This week, I’m celebrating Sesame Street. I’m thinking back to the lessons I learned as a kid…and the lessons the show continues to teach today. Happy 45th birthday, Sesame Street!

Your turn: Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? What lessons did you learn? Who were your favorite characters (people or puppets)? What else can we take away from the show that can help us develop as learning professionals? Use the comments to share your thoughts and memories!


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Making an Emotional Connection to Your Learners


Last week, I was on a flight from Phoenix to Indianapolis. Seated directly behind me was a woman holding an adorable 6-month old baby boy. Seated directly across from me was a gentleman holding an adorable 6-month old baby girl. Twins.

Many people would cringe at the thought of being seated by not one, but two teething babies on a particularly long flight; but in this case, it didn’t bother me at all.

You see, shortly before takeoff, Daddy handed me (and everyone else sitting close by) a little Ziploc bag, filled with Hershey kisses:


How precious is that? Immediately, everyone seated nearby (including the curmudgeonly old man in 13F) was disarmed, sympathetic and completely enamored by these adorable tots. In fact, people were offering to assist and hold the babies to free the weary parents’ arms for a few minutes throughout the flight.

And yes, they were cranky and did cry on the flight. Quite a bit, actually. But they were forgiven.

Whether the parents knew exactly what they were doing, or Mommy just found something cool on Pinterest, this was a brilliant move. Not only did it put a smile on fellow passengers’ faces, but it set the expectation for the inevitable – crying babies – and reminded us that they were babies and really couldn’t help it. They found a way to emotionally connect with the other passengers.

It made me think – are we doing this with our learners in a training environment?

You might be a presenter who has mastered the mechanics of public speaking, but if you are failing to truly connect with your audience, there will always be something missing from the sessions you lead. As I manage learning programs, I am a proponent of balancing the quantitative with the qualitative…whether it’s with content to deliver or metrics to measure. It’s important to balance the “head” and the “heart”.

Here are 3 quick tips for connecting to your learners on an emotional level:

1. Meet their needs.

Think back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and be deliberate in making sure that your learners’ essential human needs are met. Have you included necessary breaks in your agenda? Ample time to stretch and move around? Is there an opportunity to ask questions? Do your learners know where to find the restroom? Can they get a drink or a snack? If their basic, physiological needs are met, they will be in a more prepared place to absorb the material you are presenting.

Let’s be honest: How engaged are you when your mind is consumed by when the next restroom break is?

2. Get to know them as human beings.

Incorporate icebreakers or energizers to engage participants and help them feel more comfortable and get to know one another. Show up early to greet people as they arrive and informally chat with them. Seek out opportunities to connect with your participants and find common ground. The more connected they feel with you, the more likely they will be to connect with your content.

Most importantly? Be genuine. Don’t let “professionalism” mask your authenticity.

3. Be respectful.

There are situations where a facilitator is met with a challenging participant. A disengaged participant. An argumentative participant. A downright rude participant. You know what I mean…we’ve all been there, right? Regardless of the “true colors” a participant might be showing, it is critical to demonstrate respect toward all participants (even while managing the challenging behavior). When you are respectful, your character will be apparent, which will not go unnoticed by your participants.

Adult learners bring a wealth of experiences, expectations, questions and a need to be respected. Honor that as you facilitate.


Just like the parents of those sweet little twins found a way to connect with their fellow flight passengers, we should be finding a way to connect with our learners. Take your sessions a little deeper. Build richer relationships. Leverage those relationships to create engaging, relevant, meaningful learning experiences.

Your turn: How do you connect with your learners? Share your stories in the comments below!


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Adult Learning Principles: A Quick Refresher


If I were keeping score, I’d say I’ve had at least 3 conversations this week about adult learning principles. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you might remember a post about how I migrated to the adult learning world from teaching kids. Over the years, I’ve learned that quite a few of us didn’t start our careers here. In fact, this awesome post from my friends over at Learning Rebels is precisely about that.

On the drive to work this morning, this was further confirmed as I was listening to a morning radio show. The topic was, “Who is in a career that is completely different from what you grew up wanting to be?”

I was intrigued, so I paid attention as listeners called in. I could relate; after all, how many of us grew up with dreams of being a “L&D Professional” when we were little? Teacher, maybe…but “Corporate Trainer?” “Instructional Designer?” “HR Manager?” Doubtful (written with a giggle).

So, my point…and I do have one:

Are you new to the L&D world? Has “training” (or variations of it) fallen onto your desk by way of other duties as assigned?

Here’s a quick refresher, whether you’re a novice or a veteran: Adult learning is different, particularly in a workplace setting. You’re not exactly “teaching”, but you are providing knowledge and information for learners to acquire new skills.

With that in mind, here are 5 basic adult learning principles to remember:

Adult learners want to learn. Most realize that participating in training and other opportunities is a critical factor in their performance and ultimate success.

Adult learners need to be assured that the material is relevant. Many participants have juggled tasks, projects and other responsibilities to make your session a priority. Reciprocate that priority by being mindful of the content.

Adult learners appreciate a forum where they can ask questions, challenge the status quo and practice in a safe environment.

Adult learners seek feedback on their performance. Adults appreciate an opportunity to share feedback.

Adult learners bring a variety of life and professional experiences with them – leverage that experience to engage learners and create a collaborative environment!

Notice those action words: Want. Need. Appreciate. Seek. Bring. Adult learners are active learners. Sitting passively, listening to someone read them a PowerPoint doesn’t cut it. What are you doing to create an engaging environment for your adult learners?

Your turn: Whether you are an “accidental trainer” or have been among the L&D ranks for many years, what have you learned about adult learners? Share your findings in the comments below!


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Trainers, remember: Context Before Content


Recently, a friend and fellow blogger asked the question, “Is nothing sacred?”

I’ll give you a moment to check out the link…

(insert hold music)

According to this post, the answer was an emphatic no. I would have to agree.

Coincidentally, I was at church this past weekend, when I had my own “Is nothing sacred?” moment. I was sitting in my seat, when I noticed our pastor rolled out a flip chart. Given my fondness for flip charts, I was intrigued. He proceeded to talk – as he started to set up the lesson, he said these three words:

“Context before content.”

Rather than jumping right into the Scripture passage he was referencing, he took a moment to give the congregation the backstory. It set up his sermon in a way that prepared the congregation to absorb and understand the passage and his points.

As an attendee, I appreciated the color. As a facilitator, I was drawn into the setup, his unorthodox use of a flip chart and the subsequent lesson. It was a valuable reminder:

Trainers, we need to set our learners up to be successful. To understand the content, whether it’s in an instructor-led session or through technology. To gain the skills and knowledge they need to be proficient. To improve performance to impact the organization.

We do this by providing context. Before content.

So often, we (including myself) are guilty of providing nothing more than an information dump.

A “text-and-next” eLearning module.

Wordy slides. Death by PowerPoint. Lecture.

Butts in seats. Smile sheets.

You get the idea. The content is the easy part. Context is more challenging. How do we overcome these default training behaviors to get to the sweet spot – the context?

Start by establishing clear learning objectives. A clear learning objective answers 3 questions:

1) What is the action the learner will need to perform?

2) Are there any specific conditions under which the learner will perform the action?

3) How will learning/performance be measured?

We need to meet our learners where they are, then create an environment that is conducive for learning. Keep these 3 simple questions in mind when you’re developing content…and you’ll find that context is easier to communicate.

Your turn: How do you avoid a “content dump” and provide context to your learners? Share your tips in the comments below!

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Me, myself, and iPhone


Confession: I had a really, really hard time letting go of my Blackberry. There was something about those little keys that was oddly reliable and comforting. I started seeing many friends and co-workers jump on the iPhone bandwagon, and I just couldn’t do it. The idea of texting and writing an email from a touch screen was weird to me.

Inevitably, tragedy struck one day as I was walking along the Las Vegas strip, of all places. My Blackberry crashed. It was a moment of sheer panic. I immediately darted into the closest hotel (Paris, I believe), and wandered the labyrinth of shops and slots until I found some sort of business center. I located the nearest Verizon store, hopped in a cab and hoped for the best.

Needless to say, that was the day the iPhone came into my life. And let me tell you, as soon as I discovered that this little device could make my life easier, I’ve never looked back.

If you have been a facilitator for awhile, you would probably agree that managing a classroom is much different today than it was in years past. Sometimes, learning and leveraging technology (or any change, for that matter) can be intimidating. If you’re new to technology, take baby steps! Here is a list of my go-to iPhone apps, that I use for developing or facilitating training, keeping organized and staying productive. They are simple and easy-to-use, and most of them are free!

Evernote: My favorite note-taking app. I use this for everything from drafting blog posts to creating outlines for training content to taking notes in meetings. I love that I can use this on my PC, iPhone or iPad to edit or create content wherever I am.

Remind101: I wrote a post about this awhile back. This one-way text messaging service has added a new layer to pre- and post-training communication. If you are looking for a way to engage learners before, during or after a training session, check it out.

Buffer: This tool helps me schedule out tweets and other social media posts throughout the day or week. So when I come across a helpful article or resource, I can add it to my Buffer page, and it will time my posts, so as not to bombard followers at any given time. There is a great Google Chrome toolbar extension that allows you to add an article or site to your Buffer with a simple click.

Spotify: I love to use music in the classroom. Of course, talk with your Legal team to make sure you have appropriate permissions to do so (copyright laws, naturally). Spotify keeps my playlists at my fingertips at all times. I can add to them any time, or follow other Spotify users who have similar tastes. I can also stream my playlists in the car via Bluetooth, which I love.

The First 90 Days: This app is an extension to the book The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins. I have recommended this book and app numerous times to leaders who are starting a new job. In fact, we are starting to purchase the book and pay for the app for new leaders at the day job as part of our new leader onboarding program. The app will send a new leader a notification with a book excerpt and action steps every day, based upon the time of day you specify.

Dropbox and/or Google Drive: These are both fantastic tools to upload, create and share document files. I regularly use both, for different purposes, but some people prefer one over another.

Fellow facilitators, it’s not enough to be “aware” of technology anymore. Technology isn’t going away. We need to be comfortable with it, and make it work FOR us rather than against us in our classrooms. Participants rely on their devices; we cannot assume that a learner who is “on his phone” is disengaged. He might be taking notes or recording the session, or even tweeting a key message to his followers! Leveraging technology and tools can make our sessions more engaging and learner-centered. And honestly, isn’t that what we want our sessions to be?

Your turn: Tell us, iPhone/smartphone users, what are your favorite apps? How are you leveraging technology when you facilitate? How does your device help you stay productive? Share your go-to tools in the comments below!

A New Year…Revolution?


I love those AT&T commercials where the guy is hosting roundtable discussions with precocious kids. A recent one, pictured above, has a little boy talking about his new year “revolution”.

At the risk of sounding like a Sprint commercial with James Earl Jones and Malcom McDowell, that is “totes adorbs” (yes, I know I’m way too old to say that – this funny article reminded me of that the other day – enjoy!).


(Where’s a catchy T-Mobile or Verizon commercial reference when you need one?)

Anyway, back to the cute kid. Of course, he was referring to his New Year resolution of eating more jellybeans in the new year, not staging some sort of revolt. But that got me thinking of my own resolutions this year.

And, gosh darnit, I’m considering a revolution for 2014.

**shakes fist in the air!!**

Let’s revolt against the status quo. Let’s revolt against lackluster training. Let’s revolt against accepting “but that’s how we’ve always done it!” as an excuse. Let’s revolt against simply getting people to show up. And let’s turn learning upside down in our workplaces this year.

Who’s with me?

2013 was a terrific year for phase(two)learning. This little blog has made me a stronger facilitator and an even more passionate evangelist for workplace learning (who thought that was possible?!). It was a thrill to have the blog reviewed by T+D magazine in December and guest post for a few different organizations throughout the year. I’ve had the honor of gracing your inboxes and your social media feeds through your subscriptions and shares. I appreciate each and every one of you, and look forward to continuing the conversation in 2014.

Happy New Year!