What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people use everyday situations for learning and connecting to the Big Picture. After working with Firefly, you will be energized with specific action steps to achieve your goals.

We do this through training of trainers, leadership development, performance improvement training, strategic planning, and clarification of organizational mission and vision. Our methods are engaging, thought-filled, and results-oriented.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian

Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 10 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my new book
Say It Quick!

Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training

Thiagi Presents in Albany, New York
Thiagi's popular workshop has been expanded to three full days: June 18-20, 2013!

Day 1: How to Design and Facilitate Training Activities

Day 2: How to Design and Facilitate Different Types of Training Games

Day 3: How to Design and Facilitate Different Types of Simulation Games

Learn about Thiagi's seven-city US tour HERE.

Contact Thiagi directly to learn about "Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training." To register for this event visit thiagi.com.

NASAGA has published a book!

From the acclaimed North American Simulation and Gaming Association, comes the much-anticipated The NASAGA Training Activity Book. This first-of-its-kind book offers a dynamic collection of ready-to-use games, simulations, and activities. With contributions from expert trainers, educators, and simulation and game designers, this highly accessible resource presents a variety of activities that address the most common issues that trainers are asked to tackle including:

Communication, Conflict management, Creativity, Customer service/sales/marketing, Decision making/problem solving, Multicultural issues, Organization development, Self-awareness/personal growth, Team building, Training of trainers

Available from Pfeiffer.

May 2013

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
High Expectations An Interview with Lou Russell

Turning the Table

Become Infected

Special Note: If you attended Brian's workshop at the NE ASTD conference "Why Short Stories Rock," the book omitted from the reading list was Tales for Trainers by Margaret Parkin, Kogan Page publishers, ISBN 0 7494 2510 5 (c) 1998.

Say It Quick

Achieving high-level goals while maintaining low-level stress can be tough. Discover the balance beginning with this story in exactly 99 words.

High Expectations
Surrounded by friends and food in a small fishing village near Bilbao, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish. But forget about speaking. I couldn't even decipher the topic of conversation! I was completely frustrated.

Then I realized: we were nine people at the table and eight were speaking simultaneously! Not to mention the three children and a loud TV in the next room. Even a native speaker couldn't keep up with all that talk. I began to relax.

Holding ourselves to impossible standards we miss the joy of our current successes.



An Interview with Lou Russell
Our discovery this month features an interview with Lou Russell. She is the CEO of Russell Martin & Associates and L+earn, an executive consultant, speaker, and author whose passion is to create growth in companies by guiding the growth of their people. In her speaking, training, and writing, Lou draws on 30 years of experience helping organizations achieve their full potential. She is committed to inspiring improvement in all three sides of what she has dubbed the Optimization Triangle: leadership, project management, and individual learning.


Brian: Tell us about your work. What are your areas of specialty, what do you find yourself doing the most, and what do you most enjoy?

Lou: My personal mission statement is "I ignite, affirm and sustain learning." I love to see that look on someone's face when they've learned something new. It lights up. Or on a webinar, when they virtually light up with a comment in the chat window. My business, Russell Martin & Associates, focuses on the triad of project management, leadership and team development for real people in the real world. Ironically, I have a BS in Computer Science from Purdue (it's expired) and then found my calling and got an MS at Indiana University in Instructional Systems Technology, the land of Thiagi. (see www.thiagi.com)

Brian: You are a very fun person and you bring a sense of playfulness to your training and your work. What do you see is the connection between productivity and playfulness? And what about the connection between learning and being playful?

Lou: When I was a new trainer years ago, I met a guy selling Computer Based Training software who had worked for Sesame Street. He said something that has stuck with me - you must entertain first to help someone learn. That has become even more true in our visual, always-on culture. What he was saying is we need to connect with a person to get their full attention so they can learn. I use playfulness (well, usually ridiculous-ness) to get people to focus so they can shut out all the noise and concentrate on learning one new thing. If you want to be productive OR learn, you have to be in that moment.

Brian: Share an example of when someone took a more playful approach to their work and describe the result.

Lou: I used to coach 5-year-old little girl soccer. Only one child had ever played before. Normal coach behavior would be to teach them the new 'language' of soccer (forward, fullback, goalie, off sides, goals, etc.) but my gals were enthralled with muddy puddles not words. So, to start a rainy game, I'd make all my cute, clean little girls jump in the mud puddle. Then, I gave them their positions - the forwards were Warrior Princesses trying to get the ball into the other castle (goal). The backs were Dragons, protecting our castle from their ball. We rocked. We teach project management today pretty much the same way - sacrilegiously. It's very funny - projects are really just 'grown-up' flashmobs. What would be more helpful - learning to manage projects the way books have always dictated OR managing projects the way they really are? Insanity is Just a Project Constraint.

Brian: This reminds me of the 99-Word Story. It's a bit insane to hold oneself to unrealistic standards. I can see that the antidote for that is to not take oneself too seriously. Yet I wonder whether there are times when one can be too playful at work.

Lou: I get really annoyed when people are just goofing around and not focused on what they need to do. The days of the foosball tables and playing was goofy at times, so the work got left out and that didn't have positive results. Now I think people are so stressed that playing just for a minute or two makes them feel really guilty AND it could really help them focus. It's all tied to the goal - what do you want? What does it take to get there? Throw in a little focus through play or engagement and meet the goal. The trick is to avoid the noise and negativity that surrounds us constantly. Laughing lowers our stress and opens our brain. Playfulness helps us block our mental noise. Grumpiness kills. That's why I love playing soccer - I'm only focused on one thing.

Brian: How would you advise someone who wants a more playful workplace but who also feels that would not be accepted by management?

Lou: Well, don't call it playful. Call it something more corporate - engagement is good. Make up an acronym for it. No one will have the nerve to ask you what it is. With all the great new information about emotional intelligence, playfulness in some form can be a great aid to regulation of negative emotions and stress. Unblock your brain. Think of it as eating or sleeping, which by the way people also are NOT doing well. Don't ask permission or tell people about it - just do it.

Brian: How do you respond to someone who says, "We're dealing with a very serious topic here (like a compliance issue or handling hazardous materials) and we should not be joking around about it."

Lou: That's never happened to me! OK, that's a lie. I was facilitating Accelerating Learning to compliance trainers - nuclear waste or something really not funny. They had built-in dour expressions and said things like "this will never work," and "they'll (?) never let us do that." Finally, the best defense against learning "That will take too much time!" I asked them what their goal was. It turns out their goal was to 'check-off' that safety training had happened not that safety concepts had been learned. If check-off is the goal, Accelerated Learning is not needed since it's not about learning. I think that's funny in a very sadistic-are-you-kidding-me-? kind of way, especially in the nuclear domain.

Brian: I see that you are doing both face-to-face training and online training. Which do you prefer and what adaptations do you make as you move from one to the other if you are teaching the same subject?

Lou: I never thought I'd convert to online learning. The weirdest thing has happened to me, partially thanks to Web Producer Guru Gary VanAntwerp (Training Magazine Network) who allows me to forget that I'm virtual. I literally feel like I can 'see' my students - connect with them just like I do in face-to-face class. It's a blast to push the envelope in this medium and play with the technology so learning occurs. I'm still a big fan of Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Model.

I try to use it to audit the flow of all things we do whether training, consulting or even our social media and newsletter. I still love face-to-face of course. Asynchronous e-learning is still a challenge - we're doing it (www.opensesame.com) and I want it to be so much cooler. My ultimate diabolical plan is to build a learning community (prototype - www.russellmartin.ning.com) around project management and leadership that is facilitated by us but led / shared / nurtured and organically grown by the community. Kind of cool, huh? I am really excited about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (@nolecture) which help us all connect in so many interesting ways. My brother was minutes from the bombing finishing up the Boston Marathon last month. I found him by asking people on Twitter.

Brian: What do you see as the biggest challenge for organizations that want to promote learning among their staff and employees?

Lou: People are so stressed that they are not thinking clearly and creating their own rework which stresses them out which creates more rework - a negative reinforcing loop. The leadership goal (and mine as well as leader of this company) is to help people focus. It is impossible to have everything (as Stephen Wright says "Where would you put it?") How can we lighten up? Stress is too hard and usually we do it to ourselves. Emotional Intelligence is the most important thing you can work on in this craziness we find ourselves in. We all need to stop accepting the chaos and work on our own choices. That's not a joke - that's my passion. (Talking to myself as well, of course!)

Learn more about Lou Russell and Russell Martin & Associates HERE.



Turning the Table
During our interview, Lou shook things up and began asking me questions! With this opportunity for reflection, it seems appropriate to include that part of our conversation in the Ideas section of the Firefly News Flash.

Lou: Brian, why do you think we are still doing this after so many years?

Brian: Well, what else would we do? When you are passionate about something, it's hard to think of doing anything different. I love learning from my experiences and I like to provide other people with an excuse to reflect upon what is happening to them and do the same kind of learning. But beyond this, there is so much new work in positive psychology, brain research, creativity, learning theory, emotional intelligence, and other fields that confirms what humanity has known but seldom recognized: that play, humor, fun, and engagement are critical to learning and growth (not to mention physical and emotional wellbeing). We need more playfulness in the world to counter the tragedy. You can't have both at the same time so I choose play.

Lou: Brian, what do you wish Russell Martin & Associates was doing?

Brian: I wish you were going viral - however one does that! I'm thinking world domination of face-to-face and web-based learning so play informs our work and our work becomes a form of play.



Become Infected
Lou Russell's style of purposeful playfulness is contagious! Let yourself become infected and receive the benefits of reduced stress and increased focus. So what if your organization is not "open" to having fun at work. You only need to worry about yourself. Try implementing one of the following ideas immediately, just for you!

Lou also recommends this game for any group of five to ten people:

Step One - Count to 10 as a group. Different people say the next number; No other rules; Sit down when finisned.

Step Two - Now spell TRAINING with the same process of one person per letter; If someone messes up, start over with "T."

Step Three - Now do both counting and spelling at the same time; The first person says,"1-T" next says, "2-R," and so on; Any slip-up and the team starts over.

Discussion - What extra effort did it take to accomplish Step Three? How is Step Three like multitasking? What does it say about our efficiency when we try to multitask? What changes does this activity suggest for how our team works together in the future?

Do any other activity that moves your body out of your chair and your brain out of its comfort zone. Then return to the task at hand with renewed energy and perspective.

As the 99-Word Story suggests, set your own standards for success. Make them realistic then, as Lou has said, stay focused on your goal, and avoid becoming the source of your own stress and rework.


If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

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