Paper Boats

Over the years in our Train the Trainer sessions we have had some of the most remarkable and fun sample trainings. The full-day session is designed to help all trainers, from the novice to the seasoned, sharpen their skills and their content. It is also designed to create a safe environment to try new stuff and practice delivery of a 5-minute sample training.

So, we review adult learning theory, learning styles, the roles of the trainer, and ways to make training stick. When we get to preparing the sample training we, of course, emphasize “Make it Interesting, Make it Memorable.”

Here are a few of the things that participants have come up with, showing that we have some really creative and talented trainers out there.

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly — Right Way vs Wrong Way: This trainer brought in all the necessary ingredients for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, teaching the ways to mess it up along with how to properly make a PB&J. It was memorable because we were encouraged to make mistakes, had a real hands-on experience and, well, who doesn’t like PB&J?
  • How To Get Your Kids Out of the House On a Rainy Day: Essentially, this trainer taught us a simple process on how to fold newspaper into a paper boat. We all learned the skill, and it stuck because he built the “WHY” into the objective statement.
  • Planting a Pea: This trainer also built the “WHY” into an exercise where we all planted a pea in a small cup and set it up to grow. The well prepared instructor showed details about planting depth, nutrients and moisture that stuck with us because we all wanted our little pea to sprout.
  • Tie a Fishing Fly out of Pipe Cleaners: This guy was really stuck at first about what topic he was going to pick for his training. We discussed his personal passions and he jumped on the pipe cleaners, already on the table, as something he could use to demonstrate an important skill. We all tied a large “fly” out of pipe cleaners per his instructions. The fact that he really cared about demonstrating and practicing these fly-tying techniques really came across.

What is really interesting is that these talented and creative trainers often do not know that they are talented and creative. They simply needed a safe and supportive environment to hit their training stride.

If you would like to join our session on February 21, we still have room for a few who want to have some fun and hone their training skills.



Money Plant

Nearly one hundred executives throughout Oregon recently provided their business projections for 2019 in the National Business Trends Survey. The preliminary results show a mixture of confidence and anticipated business challenges, with the majority of executives reporting optimism for the New Year.

Based on the survey results, prominent trends to watch for in 2019 are:

Economic Stability
Nearly 82% of Oregon executives are anticipating the U.S. economy to remain fixed or to improve in 2019.

2019 Business Trends Illustration 1

Increased Sales
71% of Oregon executives are projecting their 2019 sales to surpass sales results of 2018.

Top Business Challenges
When executives were asked to list their top three business challenges for 2019, nearly 50% of executives listed talent acquisition, 32% selected ability to pay benefit costs, and 30% listed ability to pay competitive wages.

Prospective Employees’ Priorities
Executives listed the top 5 most important factors prospective employees are looking for as:

  1. Competitive Pay (79%);
  2. Good Work Life Balance (74%);
  3. Flexibility in Work Hours (57%);
  4. Competitive Health Benefits (54%);
  5. Opportunities for Advancement (47%)

Most Challenging Job Groups to Recruit and Retain
Professional Staff (Non-Managers) were selected as the most challenging job group to recruit (44%), followed by Skilled Production Workers (43%). The most challenging job group to retain was also Professional Staff (30%), followed again by Skilled Production Workers (29%).

2019 Business Trends Illustration 2

Pay Strategies to Combat Recruitment and Retention Challenges
To combat recruitment and retention challenges, 31% of executives have implemented individual pay incentives, 31% offer year-end bonuses, and 30% provide employee referral bonuses.

The 2019 National Business Trends Survey provides executive level insight into current and projected national, regional, and local business trends. Visit SalaryTrends to learn more, or to purchase the full report.



blind spot

Please Allow Me To Explain

Resolve this year to improve the quality and effectiveness of your workplace conversations by challenging everything. Well, don’t challenge everything. That would take too long. But it may really pay off to work with your supervisory team to improve critical thinking.

When we move into leadership positions, even though our job description may not say it specifically, there is an expectation that we will see the world of work through a more critical eye and help make good, well-informed decisions. Most of us do okay with this, but few of us are formally trained in decision making. And all sorts of workplace activities are influenced by biases we can’t see. Successful leaders create teams that make fewer personnel mistakes in hiring, in employee coaching, and in performance management by confronting attribution bias.

Attribution bias or fundamental attribution error is a catch-all phrase that social psychologists use to explain how our thought processes can lead to misperceptions, mistakes and interpersonal barriers. It breaks down like this: Most humans have a tendency to explain behavior by attributing internal drivers and ignoring situational drivers.

We do this even in the face of clear evidence that situational factors are influencing our employees. The term cognitive misers is used to label this thought short-hand. (The psychologists did not come out and call us lazy thinkers, but this is implied. Apparently we all have too much stuff to process and think about and, so, we take short cuts). Basically, most of us have the tendency to attribute behavior to whatever most easily grabs our attention.

This concept of bias also hangs over so many supervisor coaching moments. I have wanted to write about it for some time, but have hesitated because it’s, well, sort of hard to explain. So, stick with me for a minute here. You just might change the way you see things, the way you approach your employees, and the success you have in understanding them.

Have you heard the term heuristic? It essentially describes the process of approaching problem-solving and decision-making by what gets us there quickly and easily, but often not incorporating logic, analysis and practicality (things that take longer). Studies continue to show that most human beings are lazy thinkers.

In The Undoing Project, a 2017 book, Michael Lewis (the Moneyball guy) gives a great breakdown of the evolving science of behavioral economics – i.e. how we see stuff and how we all make a lot of fundamental mistakes. Numerous examples of heuristics and biases hammer home the point that we often misinterpret what is really going on. The psychologists who put this all together ended up winning the Nobel Prize, so I was willing to pay attention.

If I flip a coin 5 times and it comes up heads all 5, what are the chances on the next flip that it will come up heads? That one is easy for most of us. It’s still a 50/50 proposition. Seems, however, that our blind spots go much deeper than this fairly simple anchor.

One company found that their best sales people had three things going on:
  1. they had good objection-answering skills,
  2. they had good grooming habits,
  3. they dressed conservatively (black shoes).

This really looks like causation, i.e. one thing leading to another. Turns out, upon further inspection, the same three traits were true of their weakest performers. We tend to jump on what is available to explain behavior.

Ever feel like a professional sports scout? “Tell us if you think this candidate will perform well in your department.” Well it turns out the professional scouts make the same attribution errors that we all make when it comes to identifying talent and fit in our organizations. Left to our own devices, we will fall in love with our ideas and push on even in the face of better, sometimes contrary evidence.

So what does this have to do with your leadership team? Well, higher functioning organizations show patterns of interacting in ways that combat these biases. Inviting an “outsider” to your meetings, for instance. (See Ted Talk: Tribal Leadership). Perhaps teaching Performance Review skills that includes a review of common bias patterns. Progressive workplaces are also adding more objective Analytics to their hiring and review processes, such as ©The Predictive Index.

This fall, we had lots and lots of supervisor development sessions where the discussion continued to turn to these assumptions we make about what motivates certain behaviors. Is it a “Generation Thing”? Is it a “Cultural Thing”? Why are my employees behaving this way?

Apparently there are many workplaces that are being challenged with employees who don’t share the same work ethic with their supervisor. Some involved in the discussions were new to supervision, many were the more seasoned leaders. Some of the best “Aha” moments in these trainings are when we begin to break down our blind spots, our guesses, our assumptions and our biases. All of us, new or seasoned, are influenced by an often unseen dynamic that drives miscommunication and misunderstanding. Improvement comes when we build in better processes.

Resolve this year to build in some cross-checking and critical reviews of your hiring, your performance management and decision making. Resolve this year to have Assumption Check on your weekly meeting agenda. Resolve this year to invite some fresh eyes to look with you at old processes.

We would love to hear your examples of workplace bias and especially how you are confronting it.




This sixth generation farm is located in the Silverton Hills of Oregon. Did you know…

  1. Martin Doerfler, with his son Joseph and Joseph’s wife Mary, arrived in Oregon in 1877 and began farming their land with a focus on small grain crops. Joseph and Mary raised seven children, with four of their boys (Jake, Joe, Frank and Alexander) staying in the area to continue their farming legacy.
  2. Alexander and his wife Alice had two children, Shirley and David. They settled down to raise hogs, turkeys and Hereford cattle. David urged his father to buy him his first combine at age 10 and they began farming Bentgrass on a portion of the family farm. When David was 14 they were working the whole farm and began leasing additional land. In 1961 David married Rita, and a couple of years later David graduated from Oregon State University and began farming full time with Rita and his father.
  3. In 1968 Shirley, David’s sister, and her husband John Duerst, joined the farm and the name Ioka Farms was formally adopted. The Ioka Farm name was coined by David’s father and came from the Chinook Indians, who had camped on the farm many years ago. Ioka means “a thing of loveliness, or a cherished piece of land noted for its beauty, health and natural fertility.”
  4. Each family had three children and all have been part of the farm’s growth and diversification. Their vision is for future generations to continue the family farm.
  5. Today, three generations manage Ioka Farms as a comprehensive grass and forage seed farm and seed processing plant. The farm has over 5500 acres of contracted varieties of perennial ryegrass; hard, fine and tall fescues; Meadowfoam; small grains; hazelnuts; and timber and Christmas trees.

Cascade is proud to feature Ioka Farms, a symbol of pride of the families that have tended the land for well over 100 years.

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