What does Caitlyn Jenner have to do with training?

Guest Author Dr. Rayford Barner, MATD Alumni

Guest Author Dr. Rayford Barner, MATD Alumni

Recently, I was a guest observing a law enforcement training class that was lecture, facilitation, and scenario-based. During a scenario involving physical contact in a pat-down of outer garments, a trainer, role-playing, said, “I’m not on that Caitlyn Jenner stuff.” You can take the trainer’s comment to mean what you want; I will leave that to you. (In case you missed the headlines, you can learn more about Caitlyn Jenner at caitlynjenner.com)  The remark drew laughs from some participants while others were quiet. While I understood why the comment was made—to add realism to the scenario based on participants’ experiences of citizenry in the presence of a police officer—I could not help but wonder if some in the audience felt uncomfortable after hearing the remark. Would you?

I want to provide suggestions about how trainers can avoid remarks that may be perceived or viewed as offensive by participants, including opinions expressed  in an online learning environment.

My overall recommendation is that you thoroughly review training content beforehand to look for language or images that could be offensive. If you have co facilitators, brief them on your expectations. Additionally, listen carefully (or read carefully if online) to the comments expressed by participants. By doing so, you can anticipate when to make adjustments to the course content, respectfully correct participant behavior, and prepare for potential “hot-button” issues that can emerge from discussions on the topic. My suggestions are as follows:

Good Instructional Practice

  1. Be professional! Use neutral language.
  2. Adhere to the course lesson plan.
  3. Leave your unsolicited or biased opinions out of the discussion.
  4. Avoid using words that slur, label, or stereotype any culture, race, ethnicity, sex or gender.
  5. Use the correct language or terminology when referring to any culture, race,
    ethnicity, sex or gender.

Classroom Management Strategies

  1. Set clear directions during the course introduction for participant conduct, and remind participants often.
  2. Allow the expression of feelings or thoughts by participants provided they are respectful. Respond immediately to any participants(s) whose remarks may be considered offensive to correct the behavior.
  3. Be diplomatic and professional. Do not lose your temper when confronted with a situation; do not voice or write a disrespectful response.
  4. Communicate directly to the participant on a scheduled break or privately by email, explaining the situation and some possible solutions to modify the behavior.
  5.  If you are unsuccessful at modifying participant behavior, refer them to management or the stakeholder responsible for hosting the training. Do not allow them to disrupt training.

Presentations that achieve the purpose of the training are the direct result of good facilitation. Do not allow your personal opinions or commentary to distract from the goal the lesson. My suggestions should be viewed as a starting point. Remain mindful of the dialogue participants express in class or online to reduce the chance of offensive language.

Regarding comments expressed by other trainers who are co facilitating, I concede that it is impossible to moderate with absolute certainty, but should you encounter or experience awkward dialogue, respectfully carry out the necessary adjustments to ensure the discussion remains on topic. Your participants will not be left wondering what Caitlyn Jenner has to do with your training.

Good luck to you!

Questions for Discussion

1. Can you think of any other behaviors that a trainer can demonstrate in class or online to avoid offending participants? If so, what are they?

2. What are some respectful classroom or online management practices you have used to address offensive comments made by participants? If so, how did you deal with the participant?


Caitlyn Jenner. (2016, February 21). Caitlyn Jenner.com. Retrieved from http://caitlynjenner.com/

Renner, P. F. (1993). The art of teaching adults: How to become an exceptional instructor & facilitator. Vancouver, Canada: Training Associates.

Ukens, L. L. (2001). What smart trainers know: The secrets of success from the world’s foremost experts. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

You can learn more about Rayford Barner by visiting our Social Justice page.

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You’ve Graduated… What’s Next?

dana p

Guest Author Dana Primeau 2016 MATD Graduate

Being a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development must mean that I have my plans after graduation neatly organized and planned out right? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

As excited as I am to graduate and “be done,” I am secretly freaking out. My palms get sweaty and my heart beats a little faster when the inevitable question of “what are your plans for after graduation?” comes out of the mouth of EVERYONE who knows of my impending graduation ceremony. As exciting as it is to graduate, whether it’s with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate, we all have to figure out “what’s next.”

I’ve put together a list of the top 5 helpful tips that apply to anyone who is graduating (or will graduate in the near future):

1. Make a Plan : You’ve just graduated and you want to take a break from writing, thinking, and reading. My advice is to keep the ball rolling. What I mean by this, is spend a chunk of time making a plan for yourself. Make goals that inspire you to keep working towards what it is you want out of your career. It’s not realistic to think we will all land our “dream jobs” after graduation but you can definitely start heading in that direction. Where do you want to be in 6 months after graduation? How about a year after graduation? Set your sights on where you want to be, write them down, and map out how you are going to get there.

2. Network, Network, Network: When people tell you to network and get your name out there, they mean it. When looking back at my previous jobs, most of them have been referrals from people I know. It is more likely that an employer will hire someone as a referral from someone they know and trust, then someone who they know nothing about. While this isn’t always the case, it doesn’t hurt to make yourself known to a prospective employer through networking. Networking can be done in the form of social media, such as LinkedIn, but it can also be done through professional networks and pastor current colleagues. Do your due diligence and figure out how you can benefit from who knows who!

3. Have a Few Sets of Professional Eyes Look at Your Resume: Your resume will likely be the first glance into who you are by a prospective employer. Make sure it’s a good one! Having a professional look at your resume and give you constructive feedback will only benefit you in your job search. It’s important to make sure your resume doesn’t only show what your skills are, but it’s important to give specific examples. Use your resume as a way of showing your prospective employer how you can benefit their organization. Put your experience on display and use your resume as the outlet to do that!

4. Keep Learning: You’ve graduated and received your diploma so now you are done…. Not so fast! A degree program is just the beginning of your lifelong learning. Earning your degree has given you the knowledge needed to enter a career field, but working in the field is what gives you the experience. It’s said that one doesn’t truly master something until they are able to teach it to someone else. Think of what you have learned in school as just the beginning to your quest in experiencing maximum proficiency in your area of interest.

5. Be Humble and Don’t Give Up: Looking for a new job or position can be challenging and it can take time. Don’t become discouraged if it takes longer than you anticipate. While interviewing, you might receive feedback that you didn’t expect, which can be tough to hear. Instead of feeling frustrated or discouraged, be humble, and use it as fuel to keep moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other and doing all the right things, is the only sure way to get closer to the position that is right for you. Keep your eye on the prize!

Questions for discussion:

  1. Are you planning to stay in your current organization or seek a position at a new organization?
  2.  What key phrase will you use to position yourself on your resume?
  3.  What are your short- term career goals? What are your long- term career goals?

Congratulations Graduates!


Acuff, J. (2015, May 6). 21 Things Nobody Tells You When You Graduate College. Retrieved from http://time.com/3849142/life-after-college-graduation/

Matt, S. (2016, May 11). 7 Things You Have To Look Forward To After Graduating From College. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-matt/7-things-you-have-to-look-forward-to-after-graduating-from-college_b_9873510.html

Posted in Careers, Guest Student Post, Mentoring | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

What can a Career Journal do for you?

Guest Author: Peg O’Donnell 

Guest Author Peg O'Donnell 2016 MAOD Graduate

Guest Author Peg O’Donnell 2016 MAOD Graduate

We have all been asked at one point in our lives “what is your dream job?” As we continue to grow and develop what we know about the world we start to take the question more seriously. But have you ever thought that the focus needs to be on the “dream you” as much as it is on the dream job? Taking the time to focus on ‘you’ will guide in discovering your potential and possibilities.

A powerful tool that will add direction to your discovery and provide a clear path to your dream job is a career journal. When you hear the word ‘journal’ what is your initial reaction? I know that journaling can have a negative connotation; it can sound like something you have to do instead of want to do.

In the article Using a Career Journal to Further your Career Development and Empower Your Job-Search Hansen provides ‘why’ journaling is so impactful. He discusses how a person can use it for discovering aspects about yourself around your strengths or gaps. He also speaks about the potential to brainstorm and analyze career options. Journaling is a safe, controlled tool that allows you time for reflection.

career-journalJournaling can be used by anyone ranging from students; to people looking for that next step in their career to someone looking to change their entire career path. The method can also vary to be either formalized or simplistic. For some of the “anti” journalers out there, Quint Careers offers a formalized journal sample that can be found by following this link to the journal example. If this is the method, you would like to take you can use their free Quintessential Career Journaling Tutorial to get started.

A less structured but still simple method is discussed in the article 6 Ways Keeping a Journal Can Help Your Career (2012).

  1. Log good ideas- when the idea comes to you have your journal available to document.
    Learn you lessons- why not learn from your experiences.
  2. Write anything that you learned whether it was a good or bad experience.
  3. List Good Advice From Mentors- feedback is a gift you can either take it and internalize it or throw it out. Write down the advice you choose to keep.
  4. Vent (in a Safe Space) – the journal is for your eyes only so record your feelings of concern and frustration.
  5. Collect Compliments- keeping a record of your compliments can provide examples for your career search or increase your confidence.
  6. Envision the Future- what does your future hold.


Think of the potential you can identify by taking the time to reflect and think about ‘you.’ Journaling is worth the few minutes you can spend each day analyzing the avenues to take with your career. Aren’t you ready to discover what power you have in making your dreams come true?

Question for Discussion
Have you seen or heard of anyone using a Career Journal? If so what was the outcome?
Couldn’t a Career Journal be beneficial for you? Why or why not?


6 Ways Keeping a Journal Can Help Your Career. (2012, July 18). Retrieved May 01, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/07/18/6-ways-keeping-a-journal-can- help-your-career/#31fdfc0c396f

Career Development Journal: A Sample Career Journal | QuintCareers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from https://www.quintcareers.com/sample-career-journal/

Hansen, Ph.D., R. S. (n.d.). Using a Career Journal to Further Your Career Development | QuintCareers. Retrieved May 01, 2016, from https://www.quintcareers.com/career- development-journal/

Posted in Careers, Coaching, Guest Student Post, Human Performance Improvement, Knowledge Management | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Two Truths, No Lie: Positive Psychology

Guest Author Jennifer Lewellen, 2016 MAOD Graduate

Guest Author Jennifer Lewellen, 2016 MAOD Graduate

Dr. Martin Seligman is a mentor of mine in spirit. His day job however is being the father of Positive Psychology and its’ two supporting theories: the Authentic Happiness Theory (AHT) and the Well Being Theory (WBT).

Spoiler alerts:

  1. He was brave enough to recant the first
  2. I am about to be brave enough to (respectfully!) recall it.

Our story starts with Positive Psychology. “Positive Psychology…  is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play” (Positive Psychology Center, 2016).

In his beginning, Dr. Seligman’s AHT theory appointed happiness the pot of gold at the end of the positive psychology rainbow. The goal of the AHT is to find the path to the “Full Life.”  Dr. Seligman proposed that “Happiness and life satisfaction… could be increased by building positive emotion, engagement, and a sense of meaning in life” (Seligman, 2011).

Ten years into living the AHT, one of Dr. Seligman’s students challenged his theory, pointing out that the theory omits the dimensions of connectedness and accomplishment. This prompted Dr. Seligman to revise his thoughts and construct the Well-Being Theory. The WBT has five measurable elements that work together to contribute to our Well-Being (PERMA):


PERMA revolutionizes the purpose of positive psychology from straightforward happiness to all-inclusive well-being. It changes the story, asserting that the goal of one’s life is not just to find happiness or life satisfaction, but rather to “increase the amount of flourishing in your own life and on the planet” (Seligman, 2011).

Now for those of you keeping score, here is where we are at:

Initially, it was Dr. Seligman’s AHT that inspired me to search for the more specific statements of  my happiness; to seek satisfaction with actions that were louder than words. The AHT prompted me to go on a journey to be better than my day before. It empowered me to share my not the same old situation with others. And… it prepared me for the WBT.

So, my counter to Dr. Seligman’s recant is that the WBT is the emotionally intelligent version of the (still relevant) AHT. I see both theories as separate steps. I don’t believe a person can attain “increased flourishing” without starting somewhere simpler. This simple start has to be with the self before being able to offer our paramount to the “planet”.  Therefore, I propose that on our search for satisfaction and well-being we travel towards flourish via both his theories: the AHT is step one, and the WBT is step two. My steps so far reveal:

 Two truths

Our “Full Life” is founded on our free will to choose to create positive emotion, engagement, and meaningfulness in the gray of any day.

Our “Flourish” can take us further by going global and expanding our elements, ever increasing our contributions towards being our best well-being.

 No lie

Our Self is the source of our satisfaction AND our well-being; we can be our better best selves by understanding our role in our successes.

Step by step… this is how we find our flourish.

Questions to consider

  1. Do you agree with my categorization of the theories as steps one and two, OR do you see the WBT as replacing the AHT?
  2. Do either or both of these theories inspire you to be better than your day before? If so, how?


Pascha, Mariana. (June 19, 2015). Positive Psychology Program. The PERMA Model: A Scientific Theory of Happiness. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/ on May 8, 2016.

Positive Pyshology Center. (2016). Penn Arts & Sciences. Retrieved from  http://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/ on May 8, 2016.

Psychology Today. (n.d). Emotional Inelligence. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence on May 8, 2016.

 Seligman, Martin E.P. (April 5, 2011). Flourish. Retrieved from https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/learn/wellbeing on May 8, 2016.

Posted in Coaching, Guest Student Post, Human Performance Improvement, Mentoring, Organizational Development | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring 2016 Graduates and Award Winners


Dr. Kathy Iverson with Micah Morgan.


Dr. Kathy Iverson with Jennifer Lewellen.

On April 21 the Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies hosted the 2016 Student Awards ceremony. Jennifer Lewellen (pictured above) and Margaret O’Donnell  (not pictured) were both awarded the Best Master’s Portfolio, Master of Arts in Organization Development. Micah Morgan  (pictured above) was awarded the Best Master’s Portfolio, Master of Arts in Training and Development.

More celebrating was in order on May 13 when the following graduates were awarded their degree.

Master of Arts in Organization Development

Bryan Alan Corbet

SharE Lee

Jennifer Lewellen

Margaret O’Donnell

Dana Primeau

Felicia Tate

Master of Arts in Training and Development

Adam Davis

Erika Diaz

Cassandra Hewlett

Kevin Hillman

Jeanae Jointer

Susan Spear

Pamela Starr

Felicia Thomas

Felicia Tate

Delilah Knadiah Wlison

Congratulations graduates!



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Commencement Goes Hollywood!


The trend to have celebrity commencement speakers, often Hollywood A-listers, is going strong. Roosevelt University was an early adopter when Oprah spoke at our graduation 16 years ago.

As we look back at last year’s commencement speakers, here are two memorable quotes:

I am a pop artist. So my medium is public opinion. And the world is my canvas,”                                                                                         –Kanye West

It’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become, who we’ve worked so hard to perfect, and to make some crucial decisions in becoming who we’re going to be. For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night. And you at some point will have to sleep. I am told the Adderall wears off eventually.                                                                                          –Stephen Colbert

As we consider the commencement speaker lineup for 2016, here are a few that look promising. . .

  • Jane Goodall at University of Redlands
  • Spike Lee at Johns Hopkins
  • Matt Damon at MIT
  • Seth Meyers at Northwestern

If you are a commencement speech aficionado, or in need of some career shaking inspiration, check out NPR’s Best Commencement Speech catalog http://apps.npr.org/commencement/  where you can listen to famous speeches by everyone from Chuck Norris to JFK (without ads!)

If you were to give a commencement speech to our graduates (MATD, MAOD) what words of wisdom would you share?

Posted in academic studies, Careers, Mentoring, Organizational Development, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Fall into the Capability Trap: Does your organization work harder or smarter?

When organizations fall on hard times, as many do in our volatile market, the way they
deal with the performance gap typically involves either working harder or working smarter. When organizations take the “work harder” path, they cut staff, increase hours and productivity, and push their constituents to do more with less. If this doesn’t pay off, then wages are frozen or cut and more layoffs ensue. Other work-harder measures typically involve eliminating training and HR budgets, delaying building maintenance, and minimizing retirement funds. Working harder can result in short-term gains, but in the long run, it can lead to long-term deficiencies in lost talent, mistrust, worker burnout, and low morale. Eventually, those working harder either move out or burn out. This leads to what Repenning and Sterman (2001) call the capability trap.
imagesTo escape the capability trap, organizations must view serious shortfalls as indicators of inadequate capability and instead of taking a work harder approach, take a work smarter approach to address the performance gap in a systematic manner. By first identifying the root cause of the deficit and defining best practices, organizations can then invest in developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of its constituents to work smarter and turn things around.

Lyneis and Sterman (2016) offer a series of strategies that organizations can take to escape the capability trap and find win-win solutions to complex organization problems. Although the authors apply the strategy to physical plant issues, I believe they are equally relevant to issues of human capital and performance. Here is my take on the five principles that contribute to working smarter:

  1. Don’t expect a quick turnaround. When organizations implement Performance improvement strategies take time and when resources are diverted to investigating and solving root problems, performance indicators may get worse before they get better.
  2. Metrics are important. Take stock of a variety of capabilities throughout all areas of the organization and honestly and openly communicate the results to bring deficiencies into the open.
  3. Avoid silos of improvement and instead, focus on the organization system as a whole. Often in hard times, small pockets of excellence will rise to the top, while others continue to decompensate. Sustainable improvement involves addressing systemic, organization-wide improvement.
  4. Invest in capabilities, even when times are tough. Most organizations are so lean, they have few reserves of ‘fat’ to rely on when they fall on difficult times. Investments in human capital in the form of skill development, reward systems, work-life balance, and career planning can create a reserve of capability and loyalty to draw on during the salad days.
  5. Invest in capabilities, even when times are good. The best time to build reserves of human capital (performance management, rewards, development, and morale) is during a boom. Reinvest in the organization to both prevent future difficulties and to have a strong reserve to address even the most unexpected challenges.
Lyneis, J., & Sterman, J. (2015). How to Save a Leaky Ship: Capability Traps and the Failure of Win-Win Investments in Sustainability and Social Responsibility. Academy of Management Discoveries, amd-2015.
Repenning, N. P., & Sterman, J. D. (2002). Capability traps and self-confirming attribution errors in the dynamics of process improvement.Administrative Science Quarterly47(2), 265-295.

Questions for Discussion

How does your organization deal difficult times? Does it take a “work harder” or “work smarter” approach? What are the long term effects on morale, capability, performance, and retention?

Posted in Human Performance Improvement, Organizational Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 16 Comments