I am enough

This blog is for anyone who has ever suffered from or is suffering from imposter syndrome, or thinks they are over it and yet at times something seeps through to imply otherwise.

I was prompted to draw this graphic after something I said last week and further inspired to write this blog after the person I said it to (Perry Timms) blogged an excellent blog entitled “Enough”.

We were in Warszawa (I have to write it this way, I am Polish after all and was accidentally born in the UK) and I was just about to open the Elearning Fusion Conference, when I explained to Perry the reason I had brought some postcards as give aways: I was not enough.

“Of course you are, you will be awesome” replied Perry (bless him!)

But would I be enough? Was I experienced enough? Was my message pertinent enough for the audience? Would there be enough interaction? Would there be enough content?

Let me tell you a little about myself and for those of you who know me, you will know that this is not me bragging (honest):

  • I have a degree in Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology
  • I was trained to be a VM instructor in the late 80’s in IBM
  • I have 15 years experience in the soft skills learning arena (and a CIPD qualification)
  • 9 years a business owner
  • Published author
  • Regular blogger
  • Nearly 5000 followers on LinkedIn, 2500+ on Twitter and 2000+ subscribers to our monthly free resources

So the question I ask myself, is knowing all of this and that I was invited to open the conference with a 45 minute workshop in front of a large audience “Why am I not enough?” The simple answer is that “I am”, but let us unpack it further:

  • I am enough because of the life I have lived and the experiences I have had
  • I am enough because others see the gold in me that I see in others
  • I am enough because I am imperfect and willing to learn
  • I am enough because I am unique and my voice is not any other persons voice
  • I am enough not because I have earned it, but because I exist in the world
  • I am enough, just like each and every one of us is enough

And yet…… having worked though my imposter syndrome on many occasions, this creeps up. Does it keep me real? Stop me from getting too big for my boots? Serve any useful purpose? Maybe?

All I know, is what I say to many people who suffer from the same syndrome, from time to time: you are awesome…. talented…. unique…. amazing…. and have something unique to contribute, regardless of your situation. I truly believe this deep in my core and so if I can believe this for others, I have to believe this for me:

“I AM ENOUGH”

….. enough said!

For anyone wanting to know how the workshop went you can follow this link

 

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (Baby=Learning Styles Bathwater=Learning)

 Health Warning: This blog post may cause agitation as I will be mentioning Learning Styles

I do not think there is anyone left on the planet who does not know that we no longer use learning styles to design learning for specific individuals attending learning events. Just in case you have been away here is a link you might want to follow before reading on.

Most days there is something posted about it and there are many videos saying that people learning in their preferred learning style DO NOT learn any better than in any other style. The important thing is that the learning is delivered in an appropriate way; based on the subject matter and whether it is knowledge, skills or behaviours we are trying to change.

So the other day I had a little insight and this is where it came from. At a meeting of Trainer Talk Local in Leeds we talked about Learning Styles and how they had fallen out of favour….. I reminisced with the group how I used to use them a lot in my early career and how it impacted my practice.

When I became a soft skills trainer I bought a trainer styles questionnaire booklet and completed it. Low and behold my preferred training delivery style was also my preferred learning style! This really made me think as I potentially was missing out some valuable learning. Was there enough theory in my design and delivery? Were learners given enough time to reflect on their learning and realise what they had learnt or was I simply immersing them in “doing” with lots of practical hints and tips?

Just to let you know my preferred style was Pragmatist, closely followed by Activist and then low scores on Reflector and Theorist.

Filling out the learning style questionnaire had alerted me to how I prefer to learn, not how I learn best. In discovering my bias in delivery, I thought about how to learn best according to David Kolb and that was to go around the whole of the learning cycle:

  • Have an experience
  • Reflect on it
  • Make sense of it (though theories and models)
  • Experimenting and applying it

If you are aware of your bias (buzz word of the year btw) towards any part of the cycle, you can as a learner, make more effort to experience other parts of the cycle. If you are a trainer or facilitator it will help inform you during your design and delivery, which parts you are likely to skip over or not spend as much time on because it is not your preference.

So lovely L&D folks out there, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Being aware of your preferences or bias can help improve your practice and therefore help others to learn better.

Some things to do may be:

  • Find out your learning style preference
  • Make an action plan for yourself to broaden the ways you learn
  • Always do a check in your design that there is a balance of activities, covering the whole learning cycle

So anyone else want to add anything?

 

How do you in L&D respond faster to business demands?

There is more and more pressure on L&D to do more with less. So do you struggle to keep up with the demands of the business? Do you wonder how to prioritise all the things you have been tasked to do and wonder how you will actually design things that are more than just fit for purpose?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions you will probably be feeling pressured right now, so here are a few things you can do to help:

 

The 5 secrets to successful meetings

Here are Krys’s 5 Secrets of Accelerated Learning

Many of you may have already come across the “5 secrets of Accelerated Learning”, which we have expanded upon and discussed at length. But do you know the 5 secrets to successful meetings?

This may look like cheating or a little bit cheeky, but actually these 5 secrets of accelerated learning* are equally applicable to running great meetings. Let’s just double check that shall we?

*I shall be swapping the word “Learner” to “Participant”

 

Now here are the 5 Secrets to Successful Meetings – can you spot the differences?

 

  • Business focussed and participant centred – If the meeting is about what the business needs, as well as what the participants are interested in then surely this will engage the participants? In order for you to know what the business needs and the participants are interested in, you will need to understand what the business is currently focussed on and what is challenging the participants (speak to them all?)
  • Be a facilitator – Make the meeting flow and make it interactive. Facilitate means to “make easy”, so think of all the ways you can make it easy for the participants to engage. Make it inclusive and led my the participants instead of driven by you.
  • The participants come in all shapes and sizes so ensure there is variety in terms of pitch, pace and tone as well as activities. Think of all the different things you can include in a meeting: brainstorm, discussion, presentation, group activity, search and discovery. There are lots and lots of different ways to liven up meetings!
  • The environment – make it conducive to openness and honesty. Think about the physical environment – is it stimulating but not distracting? Which room layout will work best? Create a social environment where it is easy for people to feel part of the group and included. Get them interacting and collaborating (this may be affected by the room layout). Also think about the emotional environment – how are you going to make people feel safe and brave enough to make suggestions, especially if they break the mould?
  • The brain – understand how the brain works so that you can maximise the efforts and avoid people getting bored or distracted. A simple thing to do is to change pace, pitch or tone every 20 minutes. Nothing drastic, but maybe get them reflecting following a discussion or an activity.

There are  lots more things I could say about these 5 secrets but this is a good starting point and hopefully useful!

As Good As It Gets …….

One of my favourite films is the 1998 film starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear.  It’s a charming story about a grumpy man who falls in love and reluctantly changes to endear himself to his new love. The title was what initially drew me to the film, it sounded somewhat pessimistic but I thought it might be a good comedy, with an angle (especially with Jack Nicholson headlining!) This, as you can see is also the title of this blog, so will it be pessimistic? I hope it’s going to be the opposite, let’s see…..

I started writing this on holiday. For the first time ever, I have taken a months holiday with hubby and we have been traveling New Zealand, somewhere I have always wanted to visit. Our eldest son Alex, is on a working visa for a year and we thought it too rude not to visit, so here we are. The trip has been planned for months and I have dreamt about seeing the sights and visiting this magical place.

It’s no mean feat to carve out a month when you run a growing consultancy. Team prepped to step in and up, ailing parents warned “no shenanigans” and youngest son, not accompanying us, as he is on a work placement, told to “take care” …. Nothing was going to spoil the holiday of a lifetime!

After a days travel we landed in Perth and spent 4 days with family, before being reunited with our eldest. It had been 9 months since we last saw him, so the reunion was emotional and welcome.

Just hours after our reunion, we rushed Alex via ambulance to the nearest emergency department, where they treated him for anaphylaxis. His 4th to date and a mystery as to the cause. The next week, we had two more visits to hospital as the symptoms ebbed and flowed. It left us all feeling quite anxious and stressed.

Reassuring words from a doctor in Auckland encouraged us not to change our travel plans and so the holiday took on an upward beat. Fabulous views and amazing experiences put us back on track for this perfect holiday.

Then a phone call from my dad, distressed that he was stuck in Rochdale town centre with no money, threw us off track again. The truth was he was in respite care, as an infection had caused his dementia to descend into a spiral of confusion. Phone calls to my mum and brother, broadened the picture and what had been happening. Life does not stop happening while you are on holiday! The shine started to rub off the holiday of a lifetime…..

So why am I sharing this with you? To say “Woe is me?” – not at all. What I learned from this is applicable to everyone who works and has a private life that sometimes overshadows what they do for a living.

We sometimes have a picture of the perfect weekend, holiday, life, relationship and when things don’t go according to plan it takes the wind out of our sails and somehow the experience is diminished. What I felt was disappointment, that I could not even have a month off without demands on my time or support. What I then decided was that if this is “as good as it gets” I would squeeze every drop of enjoyment from it, so that on my return I am as ready and rested to get back to real life. I would selfishly pursue each magical experience to recharge my batteries, for the battering life gives us all.

So it wasn’t perfect, life never is. There were many magical moments, lots of recharging…. Now I am ready to get back to life, because if this is as good as it gets, you need to find all that magic to keep you going!

Just in case you were starting to feeling the slightest bit sorry for me, let’s put an end to that and insert a couple of gratuitously gorgeous holiday snaps! #loveNZ

 

 

 

ROI – how do we create a fresh approach to evaluating learning?

This question was raised in the Creativity Zone at Learning Live 2017 by a number of people. From observation, I have noted that a great many L&D professionals and teams find evaluation tricky. From Towards Maturity report “Driving the New Learning Organisation”, the “Top Deck” are twice as likely to identify metrics they want to improve through learning. That sounds so simple and yet there are many organisations not doing this. This may be for a number of reasons:

 

  • Lack of clarity about who to talk to about the important metrics
  • Lack of knowledge in how this data could be captured
  • Lack of confidence in an approach that might work

Our Learning Loop Approach gets people thinking about the end before they rush into a solution. Care is taken to engage with stakeholders. Objectives are set rather than woolly aims. Performance objectives are used to drive better performance. Learning objectives are leveraged to help improve performance and a culture of social and self-reliant learning is encouraged.

So what might we advise you to do to start a fresh approach to ROI:

  • Identify your key stakeholders
  • Spend most time with the “evangelists”, asking them what performance improvements they need and how these could be achieved through learning
  • Ask them which metrics will help THEM know the desired outcomes have been achieved
  • Get THEM to measure these outcomes instead of you in L&D sweating about how to get hold of the right numbers
  • Look at the MANY different ways that you can measure if learning has been effective as part of a larger evaluation strategy (see below for MANY different ways to evaluate)

Go on take a fresh approach and become a new type of learning leader that will forge a new way into this century!

How do we get leadership and stakeholders to engage in learning?

 

This was a question asked from Kate Rolfvondenbaum (UKAS). In the Creativity Zone at Learning Live 2017.

Let’s face it, this is an issue that bothers many people in L&D. Our Learning Loop Approach gets everyone involved in learning and empowered to learn for themselves.

What might be some of the symptoms of poor support from leadership or other stakeholders:

  • Budgets unexpectedly cut
  • Resources pulled
  • Participants not released from their day-job to attend
  • Lack of follow up to imbed learning
  • No real measurement of the outcomes

If you have experienced any of these you know how it feels to have all that effort go unappreciated and lacking in real support, with the danger that the original impact forecast is diminished. So, what can you do about it? Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Before any initiative begins identify the stakeholders that are going to be most helpful, the “evangelists”
  • Win over with the help of the “evangelists” those who are the “snipers”. In other words, those stakeholders that might scupper the whole initiative because they do not support you, but have influence in the organisation
  • Find out what changes in performance they REALLY need to see and ask how they will know if they have achieved their desired outcomes.
  • Get them involved in as many ways as possible – from introducing the initiative to supporting people an being a part of the “marketing“ campaign
  • Get them to engage with the line managers of those attending the initiative and stress the importance of the line manager follow up to imbed learning

Would love to hear your views of other things that would help.

 

 

We don’t do train-the–trainer (not in the traditional sense)

It’s not an intentional thing, more accidental, that we have called ourselves “Trainers of trainers”. It is something that people understand, but I feel now it is no longer appropriate due to:

The changing role of L&D and professionals
• The emerging “New Learning Organisation**” as defined by Jane Daly and Laura Overton from Towards Maturity
• We actually don’t just train trainers in how to train! (It is so much more!)

 

So what do we do? We help organisations, line managers, teams and individuals to:

Have a strategic outlook when considering how people will learn to improve performance
• Learn how to engage with stakeholders and leverage them when looking for support and resources
• Be curious and dig deeper to find out underlying issues to find out what is needed
• To choose a complimentary blend of opportunities to help people improve their performance (#100ways2learn)
• Use accelerated learning principles so that the learning is sticky
• Be agile and fast
• Use a facilitative approach when doing any learning interventions rather than traditional trainer-led methods
• Build a cohesive learning community that benefits the whole organisation
• Open up to new ways of doing things
• Be motivated and inspired enough to have a go

Our open and in-house workshops do much more than “train” in the skills and knowledge required to become a new learning leader, for the new learning organisation. Through unique and innovative practices we have seen teams:

  • Have a mind-set shift in their thinking about how they approach learning
  • Become more cohesive a team in their approach to improving performance
  • Be inspired to make a real and measurable difference to the organisation by helping people learn how to improve their performance

**To compliment the “New Learning Organisation” we have developed our first draft on the “New Learning Leader”:

The visual is above but the detail is below:

  1. Has clarity of purpose
    1. Business focused but also learner centred
    2. Strategically focused to deliver what the organisation needs
    3. Curious and analytical
    4. Able to engage stakeholders in order to leverage essential resources and achieve the ROI required
    5. In tune with what the organisation needs
  2. Helps create a holistic people experience
    1. Helps to nurture and encourage an environment where people are developed consistently and with heart
    2. Clearly defined and easy to apply models and frameworks
  3. Supports and nurtures a thriving ecosystem
    1. Knows how to encourage a learning culture
    2. Inspires a culture of feedback and healthy challenge
    3. Empowers people to learn for themselves
    4. In learning interventions inspires others to learn more and share
    5. Promotes accountability at all levels
  4. Agile, digitally enabled
    1. Digitally courageous, not scared to experiment
    2. Able to choose the appropriate method/media for the outcomes required
  5. Helps support continual engagement
    1. Provides appropriate learning support when it is needed
    2. Understands the way the brain works to help learning be engaging and focused
  6. Helps people make intelligent decisions
    1. Makes decisions informed by the organisations’ purpose
    2. Develops others capability in decision making by providing the appropriate tools
    3. Applies the latest neuroscience to help make wise decisions
  7. Emotionally Intelligent self-starter
    1. Has awareness of their own behaviours on others
    2. In touch with their own emotions
    3. Good networker
    4. Loves to learn

What have we missed or what could we add and to which category?

Imagine if …. #6

 

This is the approach that we take at How to Accelerate Learning. Many other people do too (without calling it that!). In this blog series we will be looking at each of the 6 parts of the Learning Loop approach. So imagine …. what if, YOU were to take this approach:

Number 6: Learning interventions are underpinned by accelerated learning principles

I have been using accelerated learning principles for quite a number of years now and probably even before I knew what it was.

Accelerated learning brings together many models and theories which are practical and give results. Elliot Masie saw an improvement of 300% in the retention of information, switching from traditional to accelerated learning principles. I worked with an L&D team in Atos and Debbie Meddins, the manager reported a cut of 30% in trainer prep time.

So imagine if, your trainers took less time to prepare and the learning was more sticky? What might that mean:

  • More time to develop relationships with stakeholders to keep your finger on the pulse of the organisation
  • More time to explore new learning methodologies and a wider variety (see my #100ways2learn if you are stuck)
  • More time to develop new skills and create more of a learning culture
  • Fewer refresher courses and more credibility in L&D
  • Performance improvements that are more sustainable and noticeable

Would you like to know more about this approach? Then you have some choices:

Mutual Exchange

I really enjoyed the debate on Twitter this morning in the #ldinsight chat (runs every Friday 8am-9am), though the question did spark quite a lot of strong reactions from people. That is not a bad thing is it? The question was:

“What business skills are we missing in L&D and what can we do about this?”

Lots of great points made and you can follow them up in this storify, but I wanted to home in on just something that popped into my head as I was exchanging thoughts with Andrew Jacobs. He said “Feels like the business has the skills and L&D could learn from it.”

But is this enough? What about us in L&D? Don’t we need to understand the organisation? How do we do that?
So the phrase “mutual exchange” popped into my head. That’s what we need to be doing! A bit of “I will show you mine if you show me yours” but without the playground context! Maybe the exchanges could go a little like this (and I am working out loud here #WOL so please spare me!):
  • We share what tools we have to use, the business see how they might apply
  • The business tells us what the key issues are, we share with them others experience learnt from conferences, research etc
  • The business tells us their plans, we look to the most creative and cost effective ways of getting there
  • We share all the different ways we can improve performance through learning, they tell us what needs improving

My first ever #WOL, so I would love to hear what you are thinking about this…..

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