Monthly Archive: March 2014

FAQ’s on The Process of Coaching’s Experiential Learning Module

An interview with Peter Gardiner-Harding, Executive Director at playsthatwork

Peter-Gardiner-Harding_Bio_page1Many of you have asked about our Process of Coaching Course and what “experiential learning and simulations” as part of the second half of our day will be like.  We explained it in a recent post this way: After lunch, we’ll bring an actor in to “play”.  He will have a specific character, personality traits, and some previous past experiences built into his character.  And in this segment you get to do the hardest part of applying coaching tools – PRACTICE.  One-on-one you’ll get to work with the actor to go through the “Process of Coaching”.  Every once in a while we’ll “FREEZE” we’ll have the room give you some tips and suggestions, get feedback from the actor on how he’s feeling, and get feedback from Ruth and me.

I thought more about how best to explain it, and who better than the expert and experiential leaning guru himself? Our fantastic colleague at playsthatwork, Peter Gardiner-Harding (say that three times fast!), can share his thoughts on the subject?”  So earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter (furthermore known as PGH) to gain his insights.

ND: So Peter, what IS experiential learning? How is it different than role-playing or simulation?

PGH: To me, role-playing is like a “let’s pretend”, and simulation is a subset of experiential learning itself, which is a way to experience learning with the mind and heart. (Click to Tweet) Participants are fully engaged – not playing a role with someone else.  They are doing the work in their own skin, with their own point of view, learning to integrate the new coaching skills into the way they coach. It’s here we use a professional actor who does the role-playing. The actor has the skills to portray a character and to deliver feedback so that learners have instant integration of their performance with their learning.

ND: How did you get into this field?

PGH: Although I started in business and became a CA, I was meant to be an actor. The combination of business and theatre is dramatic and meaningful, and I wanted to tell stories using my theatre and business backround together.

ND: Who gets the most out of these simulations?

PGH: The people who really thrive in this learning environment are those that are exceptionally emotionally intelligent, and self-reflective; people who are good at receiving feedback and seeking it.  They levitate in these situations! (Click to Tweet) Everyone can benefit, but these people are the ones who who discover the most about themselves. And I believe that anyone who deals with other people in their jobs can glean a lot from learning to coach – IT software developer, for example, can learn to empathize with their users.

ND: Why do people find it hard to coach?

PGH: I would say the biggest barrier to effective coaching is when the coach has their own set of outcomes that drive the agenda for the coaching conversation. Keeping the coach’s outcomes out of the conservation is the key, so that the employee can self discover. It’s very difficult to straddle that line.  You can have outcomes and coach; you just have to be transparent about them.

ND: What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love seeing people come away from a simulation having experienced a transformative “a-ha” moment, when they actually see themselves and the results they get differently, something about themselves that they never noticed before.  Some people have come away from simulations having changed their lives both professionally and personally.


We absolutely love working with playsthatwork. And we also love seeing the “a-ha” moments when people really “get” the process of coaching and how impactful it can be on their teams. We know our attendees will love the experiential portion of our Process of Coaching course and are really looking forward to delivering it. Click here to register today! (Early bird savings end April 30th.)

Want to learn more about the process of coaching and how we use experiential learning?  Give us a shout at, or Tweet us at @whiteboardcons using the hashtag #processofcoaching.

We’re so excited to see you all there!

Until next week,


Happy Birthday to Us!



This week Whiteboard Consulting Group celebrates its second birthday, a real milestone for us!

We love our work, and we are so glad we made the decision to start our business together.

In the last two years we have learned a lot through experience and through our clients, we have laughed pretty much every single day, and we have never looked back.

Thanks to our clients, present and past, who continue to amaze and delight us, and to our partners who continue to support our journey. You know who you are!!

Here’s to the next two years and beyond!

Ruth & Nicole

That Time You Tried to Manage Alternative Work Arrangements


I was talking with a colleague in the insurance industry the other day, and, as often happens when discussing what we do at Whiteboard Consulting, the conversation turned to business processes, what they are, and where organizations can find them.

I love these conversations, because there is always an “A-ha” moment when the light comes on and the person finally gets it. (It’s not as easy as you think, especially if you’re not trained in the industry. Go ahead and try it. Write down five key business processes that are critical to customer or employee satisfaction in your industry. I’ll wait. … … … … Tough, isn’t it? But I digress…)

For my colleague, the A-ha moment came when he thought about his business clients and the implementation of benefits programs in their organizations. They get a new program and look at it and say, “Ok everyone, here are your benefits! Yippee!” and the whole thing ends up a complicated mess of paperwork and administration. Guess what? There’s a process in there, and it needs to be defined and efficient. (Click to Tweet)

Flexible, Remote, and Successful

At Whiteboard we recently engaged with Regus to use their gorgeous downtown Toronto workspace to host our upcoming course, The Process of Coaching. Regus helps businesses maximize the benefits of alternative work arrangements by providing access to the world’s biggest workspace network.

If this type of service is available, why do so many organizations find alternative work arrangements difficult to manage?

Do they do the same thing my colleague’s insurance clients do? “Hey everybody, we’re being flexible! Work from home! Yippee!” And then a month later when deadlines are missed and it’s impossible to find Employee X for an important call, it’s instantly revoked.

Do they manage remote teams by having a conference call once in a while to go through action lists? Are they surprised later when individuals feel disengaged and isolated?

That got the process geek in me thinking.

Nicole, David, and I work from home and from office space at Regus. We have no problem with our productivity, meeting goals, staying connected with each other and with clients, and we have the flexibility to hit the gym in the middle of the day (or have a nap, if I’m being honest) if we want.

The reason for our success in this area is that we have a process in place. If we didn’t, we’d be in trouble and we’d probably have to move to a formal office structure, which is not what we want to do right now.

It’s a Process, It’s a Process, It’s a Process

A while back Nicole wrote a blog posting on how processes don’t have to be big and showy, but you do have to have them! And if you look at some of the things that are bugging you at work (like unsuccessful alternative work arrangements) as processes, you’ll most likely be able to turn them around and make them work for you.

If you are thinking of setting up an alternative work arrangement, or if you’re in the middle of one and it’s not going very well, ask yourself what your processes are:

  1. Have you clearly defined who is eligible for flexible work arrangements and under what circumstances?
  2. Have you outlined the goals (which may be unique to each employee) expected out of each arrangement?
  3. Do you care about core working hours? If so, do you have a check-in process? (Once a day? Twice a day? Twice a week?)
  4. Do you have a way to personalize your communications process? Do you use Skype or another similar program that allows virtual face-to-face interaction?
  5. Do you review the success of the arrangement on a regular basis? (more than annually) Do you have a way to modify if things aren’t working perfectly right away?

Below is a highly over-simplified image of what your process might look like. (Bonus points if you can comment and tell us one HUGE improvement that could be made over this simple process flow diagram.)

Blog March 21

The key is to have a process, discuss it with impacted people, communicate it, and stick to it. If you do, even complex situations like alternative work arrangements can work for your organization!

Until next time,


Sneak Peek into “The Process of Coaching”



This post is a short and sweet SNEAK PEEK into our: Process of Coaching course being offered on June 9 or 10 (register here) in the format of a FAQ!

Note there is an early bird discount of 10% (on the registration website) and a special BNI members discount of 20% (email us for details) so, if you like a deal (and who doesn’t?) – get a deal!

FAQ’s About the Process of Coaching

What is the target audience of this course?

The people who will get the most from this course are people managers.  Examples include supervisors, team-leads, managers, or directors that lead groups of people in the private or public sector. These leaders want to be just that – a leader, not just a manager.  They want to evoke a spark in their teams that will increase productivity, unleash skills, and create a great culture.

What exactly do you mean by “Process of Coaching”?

If you read our blog a lot – you know we love to talk about coaching (link, link, link).

We’re taking all of those tips, tricks, methods, and tools (along with more) and putting them into one simple process that you can apply to be a great coach every day.  The morning portion of the course we will be teaching you our Process of Coaching that helps to build effective and collaborative relationships built on trust.  This trust empowers multi-layered feedback and difficult conversations with accountability making sure that you get the most from your team.

What is Experiential Learning? Who’s this Kris guy?

Great question(s). If you come to our course you’ll learn why stacking questions isn’t a great idea! We will have a few blogs coming up over the coming weeks to give you more insight to the methods to our madness.  The first will explain why experiential learning is so effective with a one-on-one interview with Peter Gardner-Harding from Playsthatwork.  The second will be a blog feature on our fantastically famous actor, Kris Ryan, and learn a little more about Kris’ experiences with acting in a business setting like this.  After lunch, we’ll bring Kris in to “play”.  He will have a specific character, personality traits, and some previous past experiences built into his character.  And in this segment you get to do the hardest part of applying coaching tools – PRACTICE.  One-on-one you’ll get to work with the actor to go through the “Process of Coaching”.  Every once in a while we’ll “FREEZE” we’ll have the room give you some tips and suggestions, get feedback from the actor on how he’s feeling, and get feedback from Ruth and I– something you CANNOT replicate in real life! This is the most fun you will ever have in a business course, hands down (Click to Tweet)

What’s for lunch?

Excellent question. We haven’t decided yet, but rest assured, between two gluten & dairy intolerants (Ruth and I), and our vegan project assistant David Keyes, we’ve got you covered.  When you sign up, send us a note with any dietary restrictions and we will happily accommodate.

Why is the dress code business casual?

All of that real-live simulation means we need to be in an environment that means business.  So, when you arrive, you’ll notice our fantastic space at the Verity Club, 111d Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1S2 ( – you have no choice but to get right into a business mood with that buzzing modern business environment surrounding you.

Same goes for your outfit. Dress like you would when talking to your team at the office!

Where do I sign up?

Intrigued already? Sign up here to catch our early bird deal and join us for a fantastic day!

Join us in our on-going conversation about coaching and office culture on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

And if you sign-up, let us know about it! (Click to Tweet )

Are you excited yet? We are!

– Nicole




New Course! – The Process of Coaching


Please note location change: Verity Club, 111d Queen St E, Toronto


We have been teaching and writing about how to be an effective coach for a while now, and are truly excited to announce that we are offering a full-day session on the topic in June.

If you manage people and you’d like to know how to be a better coach at the office, become more engaged with and respected by your employees, and learn how to coach “across and up” as well as “down”, then this session is for you! You will learn some new and useful concepts, and then have a chance to practice it with an actor who will play different employee characters during our interactive afternoon. It’s fun and it’s so helpful – we can’t wait for you to join us!!

The details:

  • Your choice of either June 9 or June 10
  • 8:30am – 5pm
  • (Please note location change) Verity Club, 111d Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1S2
  • $595 plus HST per person
  • Earlybird savings of 10% if you book by April 30th
  • Lunch is included

Click here to register today! And if you have any questions, please do contact us.

See you in June!

Some quotes from our session in Chicago at last September’s Quality Expo:

Nicole and Ruth put on an amazing session at the 2013 Quality Expo. They work together very well and come across like good friends talking to you in a relaxed setting, all while conveying concepts that are some of the hardest to master in business. I guess that’s why they’re so good at “Process Improvement by Osmosis”, because they make the mastering of coaching so painless. I highly recommend. Glen Young, Engineering Manager, Pequot Tool & Manufacturing

Your session “Create a Process Driven Culture Via Coaching” was listed time and time again as the favorite of the conference. I really wanted to share that piece with you because it’s always great to hear that your work is well received. Keep doing what you two are doing, it’s clearly working. Heather Townsend, Project Coordinator, UBM Canon Conferences

The Process Geek in All of Us

Geek GlassesWikipedia says of the word “geek”: Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to connote “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake.”

I do not use the word “geek” pejoratively. No, I use it with fondness to describe those of us who have an aptitude for any subject that goes beyond the average person. You could be an astronomy geek, a food geek, a botany or gardening geek, a Shakespeare geek, a 70’s geek… anything!

I – I’m proud to say – am a process geek.

In our line of work Nicole and I run into many geeks of all kinds (you know who you are). Naturally we are drawn to those who are process-minded as we are, and we’ve come to realize the following truth: there are many people who have an inner process geek and don’t even know it. (Click to Tweet)

We love to see that side of people and let them know how awesome it is and how they can make it work for them. Wondering if you’re a process geek too? Wonder no more!

Process Geek

You Are a Bit of a Process Geek if:

  1. You’re reading this blog. Face it – if you’re on Whiteboard’s website, you’re interested in learning more about us and what we are up to. And what we do (be it training, facilitation, or strategic planning) always comes down to process.
  2. It pains you to know how long your proposal will be in the approvals process at work, and you’ve already thought of three ways to make it faster. If only anyone would listen.
  3. You stand in line at coffee shops and think of ways the line could move faster. Want to get Nicole ranting? Ask her about how she feels now that Starbucks has moved to individual coffee preparation vs. batching. I, on the other hand, am dying to revamp Tim Horton’s meal combo ordering process so that people don’t have to repeat Every. Single. Item. Separately. And. Slowly.
  4. Although the voice is annoying, you secretly think stores that employ the audible call to open cashiers (Cashier Number Four Please) are genius. Not only does it save the cashiers from shouting “I can help you down here”, but it also moves the line along just that little bit faster.
  5. At airports you wonder about people who don’t yet understand the effective processes for passing through security (jacket off, belt and shoes off, laptop out, all before you get to the bins) or boarding a plane (slide into the seat, check if people are waiting to get by, then slide out and throw your carry on up top).
  6. You kind of like doing your taxes. Even just a little. The feeling of organizing all the files and filling out the online apps is quite satisfying (especially if you’re getting a refund).
  7. You can’t believe how much manual paperwork is required at the bank. In 2014.
  8. You have developed routines for mundane things in order to make them as quick and painless as possible – at home: packing the car for a roadtrip, housecleaning, packing lunches. At work: preparing a monthly report, doing performance reviews, starting a new project.
  9. When you have a great idea for something, you grab a piece of paper or a napkin and you sketch out the steps and how it will work. You number things and use arrows to show the flow of the idea.
  10. You’ve already thought of ten other ways that you’re a process geek.

It’s not such a bad thing. Embrace the process geek in you and tell us about it! We’d love to help you make it work for you.

Until next time,