Inciter Art

a writing, co-learning, and resource sharing space for an arts ecosystem with big ideas and bigger questions.

Tim Cynova Post by Tim Cynova

By Tim Cynova on November 7th, 2017

Print/Save as PDF

15 Structured Learning Opportunities

Big Ideas | Learning | Professional Development | People Operations | Human Resources

Learning with Others to Improve Ourselves


Learning new things with other people is fun!

After publishing an extensive list of HR resources and announcing the launch of our Strategic HR Bootcamp in January, a colleague recently asked me where I turn for my own professional development training. Here are some of the highlights I’ve enjoyed for structured learning:

Building Competencies & Community

National Arts Strategies has partnered with business schools and leaders from around the country to create and offer high-quality learning, specifically tailored for the creative sector. I find their offerings quite helpful when filling in gaps in my own Musicology/International Affairs educational background. In the past, I’ve attended their two-day sessions on Finance, Managing People, and Strategy. Nowadays, their offerings are slightly different and include asynchronous online offerings as well. The quality is still just as high.

Tools for Tough Conversations

Fierce Conversations two-day training. Several years ago, we were exploring conversation frameworks to adopt at Fractured Atlas. We knew we needed skills to help us engage in healthy conflict and navigate challenging conversations, particularly as we started our all-staff anti-racism trainings. We looked at Crucial, Difficult, and Fierce Conversations (a cottage industry of [Fill-in-the-blank] Conversations models exists). While we ultimately went with Crucial Conversations, there’s a lot I love about Fierce. I find it’s particularly well suited for those in management roles, especially with Fierce’s frameworks to help structure delegating relationships, digging deeper into the root causes of stress and conflict, and even running effective meetings.

Crucial Conversations two-day participant session and two-day Train the Trainer, uh, training. Described by a colleague as more algorithmic than Fierce, I’m fond of CruCon (as we affectionately call it at Fractured Atlas) for its framework and use of video scenarios. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing the tough conversations they’ve had, or need to have, when skill building for tough conversations. With the video scenarios, every person can participate and learn without the stress of having to think of, and share, examples from their own life that are real, but not *too* real. Every staff member at Fractured Atlas goes through some version of the training during their tenure, and I’m excited to learn something new each time I teach a cohort.

Identifying & Aligning Motivators

The Culture Works’s What Motivates Me one-day Train-the-Trainer training introduced me to tools for identifying and aligning employee motivators, engagement, and recognition. It’s like Myers-Briggs but helps you make sense of what motivates you personally and professionally. So, you say Family is #1 — when you think a family member might be looking over your shoulder as you take the assessment — but this assessment just said you rate Family as #5 and *Fun* is actually your #1 motivator. You can even use their model to do individual or team job sculpting. (Buy the book for a code to take the assessment.) After you have your team conversation, you’ll be better equipped to align the kinds of recognition people prefer so you don’t keep giving Susan those Starbucks gift cards only to find out 10 cards in that she doesn’t drink coffee… but she loves Shake Shack (well, I mean, who doesn’t).

Artisanal Organizational Culture Tours

Zappos Insights offers a menu of opportunities to peek behind their famous company culture curtain. Several years ago, I attended their Coaching Camp (doesn’t look like they offer that specific training anymore). Their offerings might be a little too pricey for smaller non-profits, but they do offer non-profit discounts, and occasionally hold competitions for a few full scholarships for non-profit attendees (keep your eyes peeled to their Twitter feed). When I visited, we were in the early days of creating an internal coaching program at Fractured Atlas. The Zappos program provided me with tools for creating a program, and also offered a look at this company I’d admired for years. This journey also took me to The Motley Fool in Alexandria, VA where, like Zappos, you can join them for a tour of their space. It’s like a artisanal distillery tour for organizational culture.

Negotiation & Mediation

Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation’s 3-day Dealing with Difficult People and Problems. The agenda was packed with learning, including a memorable session with real-life hostage negotiators as well as one with those working on international peace treaties. One of the more memorable exercises from our time together focused on a cross-cultural employment negotiation. Each person had a secret list of the employment terms they would accept, and the things they could and couldn’t say. For instance, for the new employee it was bad luck in their home country to start something new on a Monday. It was preferable to start new initiatives on a Friday, but talking about the reasons was considered bad form. For the employer in a different country unfamiliar with this, they required all new staff to start work on Monday. You can see how introducing a handful of these variables could make for a challenging negotiation and unique learning experience.

The Center for Understanding in Conflict’s Basic Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training. This session is the only one listed here that I haven’t attended yet, and I’m excitedly looking forward to it in a few weeks as it was highly recommended to me by a colleague. I want some formal grounding in this area, and I’m also intrigued by their approach that recognizes the personal toll serving as a mediator can have on someone. Saying a mediator is a “neutral party” doesn’t mean the act of mediation has a neutral impact on the mediator. Will let you know how it goes.

Anti-racism & Anti-oppression

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s Undoing Racism. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Ron Chisom, a co-founder of People’s Institute, as one of the facilitators for the 3-day session I attended. If you’re earlier in your journey to understanding race and oppression, Undoing Racism introduces participants to the history of racism, institutionalized racism, power analysis, and the stages toward becoming an anti-racist organization.

Fractured Atlas staff participated in three all-day anti-oppression sessions with YK Hong last year. This year, we have anti-racism and anti-bias sessions with Keryl McCord and her team at Equity Quotient. (I’ve also enjoyed working with Tiffany Wilhelm who facilitates our monthly staff White Caucus.) The anti-racism journey for us will never be complete, nor how we can apply the learning to our organizations, so I welcome the different perspectives on the work.

HR Overview

David’s Siler’s 10-week SPHR prep course was incredibly valuable as a comprehensive overview of HR. I took this course in preparation for the SPHR certification exam, but also highly recommend it for anyone who’s coming into the People field without a formal background in HR. For a few hundred dollars you can get the self-paced materials and, as long as you can self-pace yourself, it’s nearly as good as the live course. Not convinced you can self-pace? There’s an online version and, if you live in North Carolina, Siler’s futuristic 3D option.

Digging Deeper

SHRM’s Leading Internal Investigations. The Society for Human Resource Management has an exhaustive list of courses, webinars, toolkits, and books available on their website. If you’re involved in any way with People Ops, at some point you’ll be faced with a situation that requires speed, tact, professionalism, and thoroughness. So and so said or did something, and now it’s up to you to figure out what, if anything, occurred and how to appropriately address it. This course gives you the guidance.

What trainings have you found most useful to you on your career journey?

More posts by Tim Cynova

About Tim Cynova

Tim wears a multitude of hats, all in service of creating anti-racist workplaces where people can thrive. He currently is co-CEO of Fractured Atlas (an entirely virtual organization with staff spread across multiple states and countries) and a Principal of the consulting group Work. Shouldn't. Suck. He serves on the faculty of Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity and The New School teaching courses in People-Centric Organizational Design; he's a trained mediator, and a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). Earlier in his career, Tim was the Executive Director of The Parsons Dance Company and of High 5 Tickets to the Arts in New York City, had a memorable stint with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was a one-time classical trombonist, musicologist, and for five years in his youth he delivered newspapers for the Evansville, Indiana Courier-Press. Also, during a particularly slow summer, he bicycled 3,902 miles across the United States.