Gillespie Associates

Bridging the Learning Gap

When there's a learning gap between where your employees are and where they need to be, Gillespie Associates designs training solutions that keep them moving forward. We're experts in training needs analysis, curriculum design, instructor-led training, eLearning, blended learning, mobile learning, virtual instructor-led training, and more. Contact us today to see how we can help bridge your organization's learning gap.

Elements of Effective Management: Triangles Belong in Geometry, Not in Teams


New manager Brian was surprised to learn in the Monday morning staff meeting that one of his colleagues had been given an interesting new assignment that Brian felt should have been his. Immediately following the meeting, Brian visited his good friend Matt’s office to vent his frustration.

Jessica had recently been promoted to lead the customer service team. She’d been an outstanding customer service rep and had great relationships with most of the team she was now managing. However, one of her team members, Jason, seemed to be taking advantage of her by coming back late from lunch all week and spending a lot of time during the day chatting with co-workers. Jessica decided that Jason didn’t respect women in leadership, and shared this hunch with her ally Lauren.

First-time managers face a range of challenges—complicated dynamics with their colleagues, managing friends, establishing credibility, and sometimes, managing older or more experienced peers. In Gillespie’s work with new managers, we see one challenge again and again: triangulation. Triangulation happens when a new manager is faced with an uncomfortable situation and complains about it to a friend or ally, rather than talking to the source of the problem. This issue is prevalent throughout organizations and damaging to teams.

It happens every day because most new managers have not been given the tools and skills to handle conflict directly. Conflict is uncomfortable, and the discomfort is temporarily alleviated by discussing the situation with another peer, but that doesn’t really help. In fact, it can cause additional conflict and dysfunction within the entire team.

When coaching a new manager, I typically ask what about the potential discussion makes them uncomfortable. Many times it’s an assumption about how the other person will react that’s keeping them from initiating a conversation. I encourage them to express that concern as they start the conversation: “I was reluctant to approach you because I thought you might think I was micromanaging.” Or, “I was concerned that if I brought this up to you, you might see it as some sort of payback for disagreeing with me in the meeting earlier.”

Once we are able to honestly identify the underlying cause for our reluctance and share it openly, it can often be the start of a robust, authentic and transforming conversation.

There are many great resources for the new manager—from books like Crucial Conversations and Fierce Conversations, to the “Harness and Resolve Conflict” module in the Gillespie Nimble JumpIn™ series. These resources will help managers build skills to address the conflict in a constructive and direct manner. Some of the most important takeaways include:

  • Own your part of the problem. Your vulnerability is one of the best ways to set a non-defensive tone to the conversation.
  • Ask great questions. Open-ended questions can help to move toward problem-solving together.
  • Act quickly but responsibly. Address the issue as soon as you can do so calmly and privately. Timely conversations allow you to refer to a specific incident while it’s fresh.

For more ways to succeed as a new manager, download the tip sheet on Getting Started as a New Manager.

Gaps in First-Time Manager Training

There are an incredible number of demands on the adult worker today. These demands leave only about 1% of a typical workweek available for training and development—that’s about 25 minutes a week! Some of the fault rests with the technology that’s supposed to make life easier. It also makes us more available to an overload of demands and responsibilities.

That same technology, however, presents an opportunity to utilize those 25 minutes in a new way. Before we talk about that, however, let’s quickly discuss how most training works now.

Generally, training on how to be an effective manager is non-existent. When it does exist, it’s usually online and on-demand, which is great for working it into a busy day, but it’s also usually something that just allows you to “check the box” that you offered something. It doesn’t change or improve behavior. Here’s why:

  • It lacks specific tools that reinforce key skills.
  • It lacks activities that help learners integrate the new skills into their day-to-day.
  • There’s no coaching aspect that addresses the individual needs of each learner.
  • There’s no relationship to the real world, through either real-life scenarios, or discussions where learners share their experiences.
  • It’s a one-time event with unrealistic expectations: ”Take this one-hour course, and you’ll be able to perform the skill on the job!”

This kind of “hey, we offered something!” training does more harm than good. Learners who seek out training to improve effectiveness in their new role do so because they actually want to succeed. Giving them ineffective training can be demotivating, as well as being worthless.

Now that we’ve talked about how bad most training is, let’s talk about what you can do about it. When you’re searching for or thinking about developing a program for your new managers, look for a program that includes:

  • Downloadable resources and tools that learners practice using during the training, and afterward on the job. This provides handy job aids to transition new skills to the real world.
  • Lots of practice activities to get them using their new skills on the job. Scenario-based activities within the courseware enable learners to practice new skills in a safe environment. Supplementing those with activities where learners collaborate with their teams, and reflect on the experiences with other course members or a coach, help to further transfer the new skills onto the job.
  • Coaching. Find a program that provides coaching interactions between the facilitator and the learners, and offers additional guidance to the learners’ managers on helping learners adopt their new skills. New managers shouldn’t feel alone while they’re learning their jobs!
  • Learning experiences, not a solitary learning event. A new manager isn’t “created” after a one-hour eLearning course. It happens over time. Look for a program that supports learners as they flex their new manager “muscle.”

Don’t let your new managers fall into the gaps left by poorly-developed management training. Give them the support they need with a training program developed with all these considerations in mind.

Our New Manager Jump Series provides learners with a cohort of other new managers to learn with, one-on-one coaching with the course facilitator, relevant practice activities and on-the-job skills application assignments, and an abundance of resources to reinforce key supervisory skills. Take a look at one of our most helpful resources for first-time managers. Download our FREE time management strategy worksheet today!

How Much Technology Does an Instructional Designer Have To Master?

Today’s job descriptions for instructional designers (IDs) require the following: Basic HTML and Flash programming familiarity. Solid knowledge of course development software and at least one LMS. Visual design skills (Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator).

Whatever happened to the good old interviewing, storyboarding, or writing skills? Is the pure instructional designer role a thing of the past? Exactly how much technology does an ID need to master in order to be a “good” ID?

The Purist vs. Technology

When I pursued a master’s-level Information Technology degree 20 years ago, my concentrations were in Human Performance and Multimedia Design. There was no convergence of the two disciplines relating to instruction. The part of the curriculum that dealt with usability had us design on paper, never touching a computer. And the technical courses had us programming games and branching stories, but never designing a course.

In an attempt to bring it all together, I added the Mager certifications in criterion referenced instruction and instructional module development. Technology was almost a dirty word in that classroom. The professor was adamant that instructional design fundamentals stood firm, immune to the dizzying pace of computer evolution.

And I think, to a degree, he may be right.

So, forget the technology?

I am not saying that in today’s marketplace an instructional designer can rely solely on organizational and writing skills; employers are looking for more. However, those skills traditionally associated with our profession prop up and validate the final deliverable. They don’t merely inform the process; they drive it.

Of course, good instruction can be delivered virtually technology-free in a classroom. Ask Thiagi, whose GameBlog provides scores of free, no-tech training games and activities on a monthly basis.

We know that when you are talking eLearning, technology is intrinsic.But whether the programming is being done by the ID or a dedicated multimedia developer, the fundamentals of instructional design have to dominate. One of the best examples I’ve seen is Cathy Moore’s needlestick injury course. (You can find a reference to it here.) With its basic graphics and lack of special effects, what’s so great about it?

  • An immediate request for the learner’s advice
  • The real-world consequence of the learner’s choice
  • The job aid support at the learner’s fingertips

That’s great instructional design. Did Cathy do the programming? Probably, but the point is that her organization and presentation of content shines through and delivers the learning.

So how much tech knowledge is the right amount?

Depending on your position within the organization, I don’t feel that you necessarily have to be fluent in authoring software. But you can’t operate in a vacuum, plopping your finished storyboard on the programmer’s desk. It’s your responsibility to find out if a specific tool can accommodate your vision for the course. You need to at least be familiar with or ask to what degree the tool offers or supports:

  • Animations
  • Simulations
  • Open navigation
  • Character images
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Knowledge checks
  • Responsive design
  • Output formats
  • LMS integration

I’ve had situations where probing these topics with a programmer has opened their eyes to new possibilities, coaxing the authoring tool to bend and perform in unexpected ways.

My personal knowledge of Storyline and Camtasia has not made me a better instructional designer. Yes, it has made me aware of the possibilities or limitations of my designs,but in the end it’s those solid instructional design principles that prevail and enable me to deliver value to today’s modern learners.

Download our tip sheet, “7 Ways to Engage the Modern Learner.”


Change Management is More Than a Written Plan

“Change? We won’t be doing any of that, it’s way too hard!” Over the past 20-plus years of helping organizations change strategies and cultures, I have not heard this statement said out loud. Yet I can guarantee you that at some point in the change process, every CEO has had this thought! I see it showing up in the form of excuses to a variety of suggestions. For instance I will ask, “How will you make sure the breakthrough mindset will stick beyond the workshops?” I get back: “I realize we could do more, but look, we just spent all this time and money on these workshops. I will make sure my leaders support this mindset. We’re all set—thanks.”

Make the time, effort, and money worth it

No doubt change is hard. Study after study shows that a lot of change efforts fail to bring about results. No wonder the top suite is reluctant to jump into these activities. They know it takes time, effort, and money. How does a company whose leader envisions a new or different future make it happen? Cultivating that change, especially when you want to change behaviors and hearts, doesn’t happen just by decree, or project plan, or following an 8-step outline. It happens through relationships between and among coworkers.

Use the power of the network

What exactly does this mean? To understand what it takes to change a culture (values and norms), you also have to understand that culture is made up of a network of relationships. Everyone is constantly in connection with and has an effect on everything and everyone around them. This understanding is remarkably different from the traditional linear view of organizational change that many of us have been taught. That world goes something like this: Analyze where employee mindset is, form a strategy to change it, roll out the plan to management, leave them to it, meet monthly to follow up, and one year later, question management why things have not changed much.

Define your starting line and finish line

Acknowledging that I have left some assumptions on the table, my point is that changes in values or mindset requires more than a strategic plan for anything of significance to take place. As a matter of fact, having a plan is only the start of the process. Unfortunately, this is where most organizations start and finish.

Maintain a reliable and healthy system

I mentioned earlier that change happens in relationships. Let’s refer to these relationships in the organization as a larger “system.” When people see that their behaviors have consequences intended and unintended, they are beginning to understand systems. When they understand systems they, in turn, acknowledge that all actions they take affect the rest of the system. Consequently, they are likely to become more responsible for their actions or perhaps more thoughtful. This is not a guarantee, but it does become a point of leverage when initiating change.

Let me share an example that’s grounded in both research and my personal experience about the way significant culture change happens:

I had once entered an organization where top management was ready to fire the entire team and start over—a knee jerk reaction, granted, but their best solution to what they thought was the problem. They blamed the ineffectiveness of the team on personality issues and infighting. While it did exist, that was a limited view and solution. What was happening was a systems issue involving multiple departments.

Key actions where the system contributed to the failure of the project:

  • Some department managers were unaware of the team’s current initiatives
  • Department managers kept adding projects to the team’s already full plate
  • Lack of prioritization of requests
  • Finance was reluctant to address requests for increases in the already overspent budget to hire the additional staff
  • When update reports were sent to the C-suite, those members requested more meetings to explain the situation again

Key steps to building a fluid system:

  • Look at the bigger picture to see the problem as a whole rather than individual parts
  • Empower team members to give regular input and feedback
  • Problem-solve in a way that honors others’ perspectives
  • Develop a change process by goal setting as a team
  • Regularly measure performance and adjust as necessary

Envisioning that next phase of your organization and looking to build a healthy and reliable system? We want to help you sustain that system for many years to come. Gillespie Associates is your organizational development partner. Learn more today:

Gillespie Nimble Creator Michelle L. Wescott Earns the CPLP® Credential from the ATD Certification Institute

Gillespie Associates is pleased to announce that Michelle L. Wescott, CPLP has earned the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance® credential from ATD CI (the Association for Talent Development Certification Institute). Earning the CPLP certification means Wescott possesses the knowledge and skills to be a top performer in the talent development field.

Wescott is currently the Director of Learning Products at Gillespie Associates and is the lead curriculum developer of the new Gillespie Nimble, a comprehensive, packaged training program. Gillespie Nimble recently launched its first program, New Manager Jump Series, to train first-time managers. Wescott applies the rigorous standards of ATD and the CPLP certification to this multi-faceted training program, leading participants through:

  • Three modules over a 9-month learning period
  • Cohort engagement, with web-based interaction between fellow first-time managers and Wescott, who serves as the group facilitator
  • Spaced learning, where the learner receives problem-solving scenarios outside of the course to extend the learning and practice skills acquired

Becoming a CPLP provides credibility by recognizing that an individual has an overall understanding of the ten Areas of Expertise for Talent Development as defined by the ATD Competency Model™, and can apply this knowledge in the workplace. To earn the CPLP certification, Wescott acquired industry-related experience and successfully passed a knowledge examination and skills application examination.

“The CPLP certification process is rigorous and challenging. Employing CPLP credential holders brings respect to an organization’s talent development function and helps to ensure successful learning programs and organizational impact,” said Jennifer Naughton, ATD CI’s Senior Director of Competencies and Credentialing.

More information about the CPLP program may be found at Additional questions should be directed to:

About ATD and the ATD Certification Institute
ATD is the world’s largest association dedicated to talent development professionals. ATD started in 1944 when the organization held its first annual conference. To support members’ ongoing development in the field, ATD formed the ATD Certification Institute (ATD CI) to take the lead in setting professional industry standards and certifying talent development professionals.

About Gillespie Associates 
For 27 years, Gillespie Associates ( has researched, analyzed, discussed, and pondered the unique ways in which adults build knowledge and skills, providing product and custom training in organizational development and workplace learning. Gillespie has worked with a broad client base, from Fortune 500 companies to local nonprofit organizations, enabling them to reach their goals. Their team of executives, instructional designers, and IT specialists brings immense experience, award-winning talent, and a defined sense of customer service to each project, working to tailor learning strategies, methods, and content to your organization's unique needs.

Gillespie Associates   60 Browns Race   Rochester NY   14614   585-244-1331