I was done a long time ago with being a competitive adult

As is often the way with my blogging, my title is the blog post.

Maybe it’s because I never really got into competitive sports, or a competitive career. At school, I played sports, but never cared if I won. But at school, sport wasn’t anything other than a lesson to do with no real emphasis on being good or not. For work, I never really cared about sales targets when I worked at Blockbuster Video. We’d be incentivised to upsell, and I just never really cared so never got the subsequent payouts.

As I started to learn more about myself, I learned that I do enjoy being active and keeping myself physically and mentally active. Although not academically strong, I enjoyed knowing how to make things better. I got into psychology because I wanted to understand people better so I could be more helpful and supportive.

Over the years, I always tended more towards collaborative efforts in different ways. I am always better with others than I am by myself. As I learned that facilitation was my gold-dust, that’s where I grew myself in a lot of ways.

And over time, as I took on work roles with budgetary responsibility, and with strategic responsibility, I recognised I had authority and autonomy to do things differently.

I realised, in a lot of ways I did not agree with capitalism as given. Dog eat dog of the 80s and 90s. Command and control leadership and management. Do or die for business and professional success. Look out for number one. None of it sat right with me.

Around the same time, circa 2009/2010 after the credit crunch, I started to come into social media more. I was reading about people doing things in fundamentally different ways. Not just people, but companies. Zappos. Buffer. YouTube. I was hearing from people studying the stuff we’ve been hypothesising about for decades. Actual thought leaders. My learning curve – and my thinking ability – started to really crank through stuff. I could articulate things I didn’t know I wanted to articulate. I could express things and talk about concepts with others.

So I started, too. To do things differently that is. At work in particular. I would purposefully find ways to bring people together. In a corporate world where that’s not the norm, it caused many conversations I didn’t expect to have. People were threatened by me facilitating a workshop with senior leaders. People got angry because I didn’t do the politics I needed to pay attention to. I would get feedback regularly about my approach, and I never understood why I was causing issues (I did understand cause I’m not dense).

But still I persisted, and still I persist to this day. Being a competitive adult doesn’t sit right with me. If I want business to better, I have to stand up for what that is. If I want society to be better, I have to show what that can be.

I believe that competition positions life in unhelpful ways. In most of the things we need to do, we don’t need to compete for resources, or to beat others to get ahead. Work isn’t about winners and losers.

I believe there is enough work and enough money that we can be paid equitably and fairly with everyone coming out on the right side of right. I believe that collaboration is how solutions are at their best. I believe inclusion is key in enabling people to be their best.

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Leadership in L&D

In a couple of months time, I’ve been invited to talk to the New Zealand Association of Training and Development conference (relax I’m speaking virtually not travelling to the other side of the world!). I’m going to be talking about leadership in L&D. Here are my early thoughts on what I’ll be discussing.

If you have a leadership role (whatever that might look like) you are a business leader just as much as any other part of the business. Often, we hear that L&D (or HR for that matter) is just a cost to the business because we don’t earn our salary back in generating revenue. This narrative can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy – we seek out and fulfil work that has high face value, but not necessarily doing things of real business value. The business experiences this, and therefore asks for the same – recognising they’re getting something, and accepting the solution because a workshop or an e-learning sounds like a good solution.

But where I’ve experienced L&D bringing about genuine business value is when we’re involved in systemic work. That systemic work is often over a longer period of time, may not be driven by any traditional form of learning delivery (course, workshop, e-learning), and could involve many other aspects of HR and business operations. That approach and thinking helps the business to see we’re pulling together insights and thinking they may not see themselves.

As well as this systemic level of work, I think being an L&D leader means we have far more of a role to play when it comes to services and product design. We don’t have to be experts in service operation or product management, but we have the collaborative skills and facilitation capability to bring people together to do that work – be it through sprints, project management or delegated responsibilities. In a previous role I worked with a tech leadership team where they were discussing working practices. I didn’t know about their working practices, and together over two days we were able to arrive at improved ways of working. They could have got there themselves, and my involvement enabled that to happen sooner than later.

We have many teams and business leaders who can help us do our work better. Internal Comms can help us to engage the workforce in our solutions. The Tech team can help us find a solution that works with other internal systems. The Finance team can help us to understand business commercials. The Product team can help us to identify knowledge and learning needs we might miss. We don’t have to be experts in all areas of the business, and as leaders we will always achieve more in finding the right people to collaborate with at the right time for the right work.

The technology we use and bring into an organisation has to emulate the philosophy we want the organisation to experience. If we’re charged with compliance and mandatory learning, that’s only ever one part of the learning solutions we can provide. But if that’s the key focus, the technology we’re likely to introduce will only fulfil that element without a consideration for the potential of learning technology. There are many systems that can integrate with each other which improves the learning experience, and many experienced professionals who can help use that technology really well.

And then there’s the self-as-instrument understanding and practice. An OD practice, self-as-instrument brings with it a deep level of practice. Your own experience and your own practice informs how you are with the organisation. If you want people to experience you as a leader, how you show up, how you think, how you speak, how you influence, how you provide direction (and many more things), all demonstrate to others what you are capable of and what you want to see happen.

Lastly, we have to be aware of how we bring a focus to inclusion and diversity in the work we do. L&D isn’t alone in perpetuating systemic bias in an organisation. If the examples you use in programmes, if the images you use in slide decks, if the language you communicate with, if all these things don’t show and demonstrate inclusion and diversity we are reinforcing stereotypes, biases and prejudices. This doesn’t mean we have to be I&D experts in the work we do, but it does mean we have to do our homework to ensure we’re not letting ourselves be ignorant. There is no business reason, design reason or any other reason for why we can’t be focused on inclusion and diversity in the design and delivery of our solutions.

What is learning?

It’s a question I am really curious about.

As L&D professionals, we think we know. We should know. It’s in our actual job title – Learning and Development.

And if we were to survey 100 people what they think learning is, we would quite likely have 100 variations and different answers. If we asked 100 L&D people, would we get more consistent answers? I don’t think we would – and I don’t think that’s a problem by the way.

Here’s the thing. We all have an opinion about what learning is and we’re all biased in our opinions. It’s rare for any of us to have a genuinely objective view.

My bias is that I am a student of psychology. That doesn’t mean I understand everything about what makes us tick. It means that I am really deeply interested in insight which has rigorous research and evidence that sits with it.

However, I’m also interested a lot in lived experience. Psychology can only teach us so much. Our lived experience has a lot of deep value and informs us of a lot.

So when I see people write about learning or talk about it or present on it I’m often coming at it from very biased points of view. I believe I know. Of course I’m very interested in hearing and learning from others, and I recognise it’s often hard to put my ego to one side and let other opinions or insights influence how I think.

And if you’re still waiting for me to answer the question in the title, that won’t and can’t just come from me. There are incredible writers and thinkers on our field. They spend a lot of time writing and creating content. Don’t get drawn into the cult of a handful of people.

This blog, for the many years I’ve been writing it, has been an ongoing exploration of the title question. I’ll forever keep thinking on it, and will be making more of an effort to keep that writing happening.

70:20:10 stands the test of time – whether we want it to or not

Look, I gave 70:20:10 a good thrashing over here on the blog, and to his credit Charles Jennings engaged with me about it. This was way back in history now, and the more I think about it, the easier it is to see that the 70:20:10 model is more useful than we might like to admit.

Are there problems with the original research and the population it was carried out with? Yes, yes there are. It wasn’t representative, not a big enough sample size and certainly didn’t span industries or sectors. It almost certainly didn’t look at company size, available budgets or different levels of hierarchy.

And yet, as a model and frame of reference it is used a lot by L&D. A LOT.

However it’s used, it is used.

I was going to say more, but I think maybe I’ll leave it there and see what y’all have to say about it yourselves.

My reason for blogging

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

A long while ago I realised that blogging could open doors and invite business and cultivate connections in a way I hadn’t seen before. I learned a lot about writing, which topics could attract interest, and if being provocative was something I wanted to be known for. In the mid-2010s, L&D blogging (and wider HR blogging) was huge. There were new writers coming through all the time, with different styles of writing, varying points of view and genuine diversity of people.

In that time my own thinking grew a lot, mainly because of all these bloggers. I remember first learning about privilege and diversity through blogging, as I did more about: organisational development, global L&D, research in L&D, tech in L&D, diversity and inclusion, design thinking, user experience and so many more subjects I can’t recall.

I also learned that sometimes my writing was bad. I started wanting to say one thing, and didn’t always complete my own thinking, which was clear (or not) in the writing. I tried with different formats such as LinkedIn, Twitter threads and Medium articles. I think one of the things I knew about my own writing is I was writing to just share my thinking and my point of view. Blogging by nature is meant to open the world of writing and be inclusive to a range of writing styles. Although I value research, my writing isn’t always researched and referenced. It’s my thinking, and I reflect on my own work a lot. From an OD perspective, I use my blogging as a form of “self as instrument”.

What I also became clear for myself is this blog in particular is it wasn’t going to build. I’m not asking anyone to subscribe. I’m not building a newsletter. I’m not looking to sell a product or content. And I’m not slighting anyone who is setting out to do these things. They’re just not what I’m interested in doing. Again, that’s with this blog in particular. When I was running my own consultancy, the blog over there served a purpose.

Anyway, this is me saying I’m going to get back into blogging a bit more regularly.

How much can you earn as an L&D consultant

One of the hardest decisions in going independent is deciding your price points. Other consultants are reluctant to share their rates. Some will, and it can be an enlightening conversation.

So, to help those either in the L&D consulting space, or considering it, here’s my take on this side of stuff.

My standard day rate is £1200. That’s based on several factors. I can pay my tax and VAT bills from that. I can pay myself something from that. I can keep some money in the bank account. As a rule of thumb, I place 25% of the rate into a separate account to pay for VAT and tax.

That day rate, though, may not be work done in one day. Often its half day here, an hour there and some more hours in other places.

My half-day rate is £700 and my rate for an hour’s webinar is £350.

With each of these, I will nearly always include design and thinking costs. The rates for that are the same as the day rate. Want me for a day’s worth of work? That’s two days worth of design and thinking.

If I do associate work, that can vary a lot. £650 a day tends to be lower end, £1000 a day is the better end. Don’t forget with associate work, much of the client engagement side of life, and the winning of the work is already done by the lead consultant/provider. So although I may also include design work, it’s more about preparation of materials and any additional research I might need to do.

Also, I am really clear on the consultancy work I want to be involved in. I’ve done little training or facilitation work. Yes, the work I have delivered has involved doing training or facilitation work, but they aren’t the solutions I’m initially providing.

With a sales team I worked with it was about improving their team dynamics as a team. With a group of front-line workers it was about developing their resilience. With a group of instructional designers it was about upskilling them to learn about experience design.

And I’ve done a lot of webinars. But the topics have been quite clear – L&D technology, L&D strategy, emotional intelligence, positive psychology, wellbeing. Areas that I have specialty in.

It has been rare for me to have worked with one client and rely on them for either retained work, or ongoing work. That’s because I am not seeking to do repeatable work such as regular training. The work I tend to have done has been more for a clear purpose or scope, and once completed that’s no more work from that client. So my better revenue months have tended to be where I’ve been doing work for at least 3-4 clients.

Through the network, I was grateful for people letting me know about different opportunities for consultancy work. Many times I had to say no because it didn’t meet the work I wanted to be involved in. Where I did say yes it’s because I knew they would be getting my best thinking and my best delivery.

There will be, and there are, consultants who charge different rates. Some charge a lot more than I do. Some charge much less. There’s no rights and wrongs with the rates. It’s about knowing what you need to charge so you can cover normal day to day stuff.

I also haven’t discussed putting together proposals of work or responding to tender requests. I’ve tried both, and it’s not an easy world to navigate from a cost perspective. Typically work of that nature is longer form, and there is more budget available. However, you’re also likely to need additional help yourself to deliver the work else you’ll be doing a lot of hard work and juggling many parts of a moving project. And if not then you need to be cool with relying on that project to deliver for you just as much as you deliver for them.

As I now re-enter full-time work, I can put all this on hold and not have to think about it again for the foreseeable. I share the above to allow some more open conversation about this part of consultant living.