Category Archives: training design

Article: 4 Steps to Change the Coaching Conversation

The 4MAT model is a powerful tool for creating results. And, creating a new result begins with learning what is required to change the behavior that will ultimately deliver the result desired.

Here’s a recent article Jeanine Blackwell, President/CEO of 4MAT 4Business shared with one of our favorite business publications, Fast Company. You can click on the 4 Simple Steps that Will Empower Your People to Do Better and share with your leaders by clicking the share buttons found at the top of the article.

A change in the conversation can change the results.




Top 10 Best-Loved Business Books of 2013

Here’s our favorite books we read in 2013. This list isn’t based on book sales, critic reviews or Amazon ratings. These all made the list because they added value to the work we do at 4MAT®, engaging and equipping people to create results.

The criteria for inclusion include:

  1. Percentage of the book’s pages which have scribbled comments and/or enthusiastic diagrams on them.
  2. Number of times the book was recommended to random strangers in airports.
  3. And the big one: usefulness.

Here they are:

“Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”1 —Jay Papasan

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

The One Thing provides a simple method for focusing on what is important to create the results you desire. The method shared applies to planning your to do list, your year and your life. This is one of those rare books that combines brilliant insights with simple action steps.

One idea you can apply:

  • Ask the Keller and Papasan’s focusing question in relation to a result you want to create, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”


“A general ‘law of least effort’ applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”2 —Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman shares that there are really two systems of thinking: System One that is thorough, intentional, and largely accurate (this is the left brain, although, Kahneman is careful not to refer to a specific region of the brain), and one that is quick, efficient, and a bit on the lazy side (the right brain). Understanding how each system operates and when each steps up to the plate has the potential to transform the way we approach creating results as a leader, trainer or coach. This book validates the power of including right- and left-brain strategies in our coaching and training.

One thing you can apply:

  • If your success depends on others taking a specific action consistently, constantly ask, “How can I lessen the effort required for them to do this?”


“The strategic decision about what skill to refine is the essence of teaching.”3 —Doug Lemov

Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi

The authors show how deliberately designed practice can exponentially increase our mastery of a skill. The examples can be applied to building your own skill, coaching a colleague or client and, especially, to the design of powerful practice activities in training design.

One idea you can apply:

  • Get clear on the 20% of behaviors that will deliver 80% of the desired performance results. Practice these highest-priority things (in your life, with your team and in the training you deliver) more than all the other priorities combined.


“Some habits … matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives … Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything. The habits that matter the most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.”4 —Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Based on the most current neuroscience findings, Charles Duhigg explains how we can create the results we desire when we exchange old unproductive habits for new powerful ones that deliver the results we desire.

One idea you can apply:

  • Focus on identifying the one habit you might shift that has the potential to create a domino effect. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, a keystone habit might be creating a menu of meals for the week before you grocery shop.


“Desire is what moves you from thinking to doing … And that’s why all the information in the world will not get people to quit smoking, start exercising, or end an unhealthy relationship. If our hearts are not into it, if we don’t truly desire the change, our heads won’t be either. We are not computers. We don’t optimize our decisions. We decide, and believe, in order to feel good. And to avoid feeling bad.”5 —Tom Asacker

The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe by Tom Asacker

Asacker shares how the mind works and reveals what to focus on to motivate behavior, both in ourselves and in others.

One idea you can apply:

  • When trying to move others into action, ask, “What do they desire?” When someone desires something, they will pay attention to the evidence (the information, the solution, the product) that supports achieving that desire.


“Identifying a problem as a way to move others takes two long standing skills and turns them upside down. First, in the past, the best salespeople were adept at accessing information. Today, they must be skilled at curating it … Second, in the past, the best salespeople were skilled at answering questions (in part because they had information their prospects lacked). Today, they must be good at asking questions …”6 —Daniel Pink

To Sell is Human, The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

We are all in the business of selling. If that doesn’t feel right, you can swap out the word “selling” for “engaging.” It doesn’t matter if your big sales opportunity is selling seats in your next training course or selling your child on doing his homework, this book gets to the truth about how we move others.

One idea you can apply:

  • Ask the 5 “Whys.” To sell, you need to solve a problem. When you want to figure out what kind of problem someone has, ask a “Why?” question. Then, in response to the answer, ask again. Repeat 5 times and you will get much closer to the real problem that person needs solved.


“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”7 —Brene Brown

Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

One idea you can apply:

  • To create belonging and to belong, we must lead, coach and inspire as our most authentic selves “because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”


“Because you have only have one supply of willpower, If you set more than one self-improvement goal, you may succeed for a while by drawing on reserves to power through, but that just leaves you more depleted and more prone to serious mistakes later.”8 —Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

Each decision we make depletes our willpower “reserve.” Think of your willpower like a battery. It is recharged at the beginning of the day and steadily depleted as we deal with all the things that require willpower such as making choices, controlling emotions, and controlling our actions.

One idea you can apply:

  • Baumeister’s studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives to conserve willpower. To ensure your willpower reserves are available to support new behavioral choices that produce new results, you can limit what you are trying to achieve to the most important, essential action. Choose rituals that make this action a daily habit rather than a choice.


“When leaders lead in ways that people’s brain can follow, good results follow as well.”9 —Dr. Henry Cloud

Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge by Dr. Henry Cloud

Explaining that a boundary is setting up what will exist and what will not, Cloud leads us through how to create cultures and teams that create results. Using brain-compatible strategies, Cloud shows leaders how to “attend” to the thought patterns required to produce optimal results.

One idea you can apply:

  • Pay attention to three critical things the brain needs to stay on track to create results: attention (what is important is always being attended to), inhibition (what is not important is not allowed in) and working memory (there is ongoing awareness of all the relevant pieces required to fulfill the task).


“Introverts need to trust their gut and share their ideas powerfully as they can. This does not mean aping extroverts; ideas can be shared quietly, they can be communicated in writing, they can be packaged into highly produced lectures, they can be advanced by allies. The trick for introverts is to honor their own styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.”10 —Susan Cain

Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Cain helps us understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation. With an understanding of this, you can consciously create environments that stimulate you appropriately. Understanding these very different preferences can also help you better create learning and work environments that allow each individual to find their “sweet spot.”

One idea you can apply:

  • Create learning and work environments that balance large group dialogue, collaborative projects and high stimulation with small group conversation, independent projects and reflection.


Download the Top 10 Best-Loved Business Books of 2013 PDF here.


  1. Keller, Gary, and Jay Papasan. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Texas: Bard Press, 2012. Page 16.
  2.  Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Straus and Giroux, 2011. Page 35.
  3.  Lemov, Doug; Woolway, Erica; Yezzi, Katie; Heath, Dan. Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. California: Jossey-Bass. 2012.
  4.  Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2012.
  5.  Asacker, Tom. The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe. Kentucky: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. Page 50.
  6.  Pink, Daniel. To Sell is Human. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2013. Page 132.
  7.  Brown, Brene. Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. New York: Gotham. 2012. Page 37.
  8.  Baumeister, Roy and Tierney, John. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. New York: Penguin Books. 2012. Page 38.
  9.  Cloud, Henry. Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. Page 11, Pages 28-29.
  10. Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2012.

Here’s what to focus on instead of your goal

Here’s why most New Year’s resolutions aren’t realized: focusing on a goal doesn’t work.

The key focus of every 4MAT course design is to deliver results. If you want to create a result, the fastest way to do that is to mirror the beliefs and behaviors of someone already achieving the result. The high performer that is already achieving what you want to achieve is not focused on the goal. They are focused on the beliefs and behaviors that enable them to do what they need to do to deliver the result consistently.

Let’s explore the beliefs and behaviors that influence the #1 most commonly made (and broken) New Year’s resolution: to lose weight and get fit.

What do fit people of a healthy weight do to achieve this goal?

Example behavior: Exercise 3-5x a week for one hour.

What do they believe that enables them to do this consistently?

Example belief: “To exercise 5x a week, I just need to plan in advance and schedule exercise into my day.”

To create any result, you can work backwards from the goal by asking these 4 questions:

  1. What result do I want to achieve?
    Example: Write a book.
  2. Who is already achieving it?
    Example: “My mentor, Sue, wrote 3 books in the last 5 years.”
  3. What do they do that enables them to achieve this result?
    Example: She sets a minimum requirement to write 2 pages a day, 5 days a week, before she does anything else.
  4. What do they believe that enables them to be consistent with this behavior?
    Example: Sue believes that the discipline of making time to write daily is what enables her to be creative.

So, here’s what to focus on instead of your health, relationship, business, team or life goal:

What’s the one thing you need to do consistently to achieve it?

What belief will get you there?


On Being Uncomfortable

Transformation is not a comfortable process. It’s interesting to notice how uncomfortable we can be with making others uncomfortable.  I’ve heard many trainers and leaders share examples of how often we brush up against the wall of our comfort zone and stop:

  • “Our leaders won’t do that kind of activity.”
  • “We can’t really talk about that because we don’t know where that will go.”
  • “If we go there, we may never get back on track.”
  • “That could provoke a lot of (emotional) reaction…I don’t think we are ready for that.”

If we expect real learning, deep changes to the way we engage that result in huge leaps in life and business, we have to honor that discomfort is part of this process.

When leaders normalize discomfort, they invite a culture that embraces feedback and change.

What does normalizing discomfort look and sound like? It looks like putting it out there, bravely inviting in THE conversation that is the most important one we should be having. It sounds like, “We are all about growth here. Growth is uncomfortable and sometimes messy. You’re going to feel uncomfortable and that’s ok.”

Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that when she is teaching at the University of Houston she tells her students, “If you’re comfortable, I’m not teaching and you’re not learning. It’s going to get uncomfortable in here and that’s okay. It’s normal and it’s part of the process.”

What would it look and sound like for you to invite in the uncomfortable?

Cool People Doing Great Things with 4MAT – Heidi Matthews, Regional Employee Development Manager at Grundfos


What are you working on? How are you using 4MAT in this work?
I am working on a flipped classroom concept for our presentations training for employees. 4MAT comes into play in an overarching structural way. An engaging opening eLearning piece that lays out the program and gets input from students, followed by software video training for some PPT content. The students will meet in a virtual classroom to show their practiced slides they have created for critique. The course will continue in that same flow until the final presentation is loaded into an internal share site for class and invited guest feedback.

What have you discovered lately that has positively impacted the results you are creating through the learning experiences you design?
We are trying to discover what makes people “click.” Part of the engagement is getting them to invest in their own learning to begin with so how can we entice them to do that? It is still audience focus, just a different spin.

What are you consuming these days? (content, books, new food, music, art)
Art books geared toward sketch noting and doodling. Rachel Maddow’s Drift is on my nightstand and Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn read by Cassandra Campbell on my iPod. My girls have introduced me to Macklemore—that Thrift Store song and Same Love are tunes that stick in my head. Pizza from different places to compare them has been on the menu a lot.

What’s your favorite quote? Why?
“May you feel God’s presence surround you during this day and with each inhale, be filled with peace.” Tracy Hemsath (a personal friend). It is on a sticky note on my computer and helps me be calm and focus.

Visit 4MAT 4Business to learn more about training programs and tools based on the 4mat learning styles model.

Doing Less to Achieve More


There is a great myth out there that most of us will fall prey to at some point: if you do more, you will get more. Not always true.

In many instances, doing less will actually give you more.

In a world where most of us do not have excess time on our hands to fit in one more “to do”, the ability to focus on the few, vital behaviors required to generate the results we desire is key.

A critical skill for anyone focused on helping others improve performance is the ability to filter through all the distractions (the “stuff”) and get to the one thing that will deliver the result. You can start with a few powerful questions:

  • What do you want?
  • Why?
  • How will you know when you achieve it?
  • What are all the things you could do that would achieve that outcome?
  • What can you learn from others who have already achieved it?
  • What does this tell you about the behaviors that you need to execute consistently to achieve your outcome?

Whether we are moving towards leading the life we imagine or defining the learning outcomes for a workshop, asking the right questions is the key to identifying what it will take to achieve what you want.

What’s one thing I can do to maximize my learning style strengths (such that my weaknesses become less significant or inconsequential)? Download the PDF of “4MAT Thinking Style Strengths”.

What’s the one thing this team needs to focus on? The 4MAT Online Learning Type Measure allows you to instantly create graphic team overlays of team learning style results. What’s will this project team need to be aware of to ensure they deliver?

Click to view larger image.

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The Problem with Organizational Learning

The problem with learning in most organizations is that it tends to emphasize only two parts of the four-part learning cycle: Share and Practice. I have interviewed thousands of training and development professionals and asked the question, “Which of the four steps of the learning cycle is most likely to be missed in your organization’s training strategy?” The number one answer is the first step, Engage, and the number two answer is the final step, Perform.  In fact, over 75% of training professionals share that one or both of these steps is missed consistently in the learning programs delivered in their organization. Here’s the really bad news: these two steps are the key to learner (employee) engagement.


Without focus on what has to happen in all four steps, the learner is not engaged nor are they equipped to adapt learning to the real world. While learners might know what to do and how to do it, there may well be little to no actual “doing” happening.

Shelley Barnes, Executive Director of Aveda Field Education and Program Development, shares, “[4MAT]…allows learners to not just absorb information, but interact with it and apply it immediately, with the ultimate goal of helping them reach their professional and personal potential.” By intentionally including the steps you might otherwise miss, you engage the learner at a personal level which leads to higher commitment to action.

Jeanine O’Neill-Blackwell is the President/CEO of 4MAT 4Business®, a global learning and leadership development company. Her most recent book is Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley, 2012). You can experience the 4MAT Advanced Instructional Design program on June 5-6 in Bucharest, Romania. Click here to learn more.

Designing Outcome-Based Practice Activities

Reflection without action is not learning. The first two parts of the 4MAT cycle, Engage and Share, emphasize the importance of reflection. In Practice, the learner moves into action.

Effective practice activities emphasize the development of the skills the learners will need to successfully apply the information in the real world. To determine the most effective activities to include in your training design, focus on the skills required to deliver the desired performance.  Ask yourself: What behaviors must be executed consistently to deliver the desired results? What skills must the learner possess to competently execute these behaviors?

For example, if you are designing a product education course, the activities chosen should directly link to the desired outcome. In the left-hand column of the table below, you will find three variations of a skills outcome statement for a product education course. On the right, you will find a practice training activity that aligns with each outcome. Notice how the activity links to the outcome focus.


If the desired skill outcome defined for the course requires that learners adapt the information shared, learners should have an opportunity to practice adaptation. You will want to check the learners’ fundamental understanding of the content before creating an opportunity for creative adaptation.

Source: Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley 2012)
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What makes great trainers great?

What makes a trainer great? Are they excellent at every role a trainer plays:  facilitator, presenter, coach and evaluator? In observing many trainers and teachers, it is obvious that even the best have weaknesses. Sometimes they explain things poorly. Or, sometimes they tend to answer their own questions rather than waiting for responses. Or, their organization could use some help. What differentiates great trainers from mediocre ones is an awareness of their strengths and how to capitalize on them. And, most importantly, the ability to apply those strengths to weaker areas to achieve a “threshold” level of ability in the essential training skills.

If you want to create a team of transformative trainers or you yourself are on a mission to make an impact, worry less about every weakness and focus your energy on applying strengths to leading the four critical parts of the learning cycle.

Some ideas:

  • Discover your strengths. You can begin with the online Training Style Inventory.
  • Practice applying your strengths in new contexts to deepen and broaden the ability.
  • Notice what others do well. Model their ability through the lens of your own strengths.

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ENGAGE Tips & Tools

Is this a training issue? Training is often perceived to be the fix-all for every gap in performance. In Chapter 9 of ENGAGE, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles we explore how to begin the performance analysis. Here is a list of questions you can use to answer the question, “Is this a training issue?”

Download the ENGAGE PDF Checklist

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Source: ENGAGE, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley 2012)