5 powerful secrets to improving your training program (and a perfect-ish latte)

 Before the Main Feature…

August is all about smarter tactics and tools for learning and development. As a media partner to the Corporate Learning Network,  I’ll have four fantastic Great Work Interviews to share with you: Gabe Zichermann on gamification; Allison Rossett on Performance support (which is a lot more interesting than it sounds); Josh Kaufman on the First 20 Hours; and Box of Crayons faculty member Roger Bilas on the transfer of training.

Not to mention a funky short video or two sharing some best practices about how to making your programs, workshops and learning sessions more useful, more impactful and stickier.

Training with a Champion

Here’s how much I love coffee. Way back in the distant past, when Box of Crayons wasn’t even Box of Crayons and I was thinking about what to name my nascent company, I seriously considered calling it Espresso Coaching.

I’m glad I went with Box of Crayons in the end, but the love of espresso runs deep. You can probably trace its roots to the Greek and Italian immigrants to Australia who saved us from the indignities of Nescafe and drip.

photoA couple of weeks ago, I had a couple of hours with Josh Tarlo, the Canadian Coffee Brewers champion and holder of the bronze kettle from the World Brewer’s Cup in Melbourne. Josh had bravely taken on the goal of teaching me about latte art.

Here’s some of what I learned from Josh. I suspect it’s got implications beyond just a funky latte.

1. Start with simple, quality building blocks

Here’s what goes into a latte. Coffee. Water. Milk. And air.

Really good coffee beans, ground well. Distilled water. And milk that’s become micro-foam by steaming with air to the right temperature and texture.

Nothing more is needed.

What could you trim from your program to make it cleaner, purer?

2. Slow down

When you’re steaming the milk, Josh tells me that it’s common for novices to tense up a little. All that heat and noise, all that pressure for the foam to be “just so”.

The art of creating foam seems to be about a few, distinct movements. Something like Japanese calligraphy perhaps, where the goal is to to be simple and fluent.

Where in your program or your facilitation could you be centred and still, rather than busy?

3. A strong foundation

The first pour of milk into coffee isn’t about making shapes. It’s about building the palate of brown, onto which you’ll paint your shapes. Pour the hot milk foam in and make sure the coffee and the milk blend to provide your base.

Where can you focus in the set-up – perhaps the invitation to attend or the arrangement of the room – to ensure you’re primed for success?

4. Relax

Once we’re into making the shapes, you need to master the micro-wiggle (that’s a technical term I’ve just made up). This is how you pour the milk. You need to pour it out of the jug, yes, but you also need to create a little sassy shake from side to side. It’s subtle, and you can’t do it if you’re all tensed up. I’m sure there are deleted scenes from Karate Kid where, after Wax On and Wax Off, there are latte making lessons too.

How can you role model relaxed, confident and engaged? People respond to the strongest signal in the room. Be that signal.

5. Be bold

Josh started me on The Tulip, the simplest shape of all. (Well, after The Shapeless Blob which I quickly mastered). It’s three circles of white pushing into each other, followed by a thin line down through the three to create the stem.

The circles I started to get. The line, that was tricky. I lost my nerve a little, and poured too slowly and too hesitantly. This is when I needed a little élan to finish with a flourish.

How can you finish strong? Knowing that the start and the finish of any event have the greatest influence on people’s memories of the session, how can you leave them with something they won’t forget?

My tulip

So here’s where I got to after first steps with Josh. Not brilliant. But I’m practicing…


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