I’m no rebel

I’m no rebel.

I am selfish though. I care about my personal development and when I want something I find ways to make it happen. I’m proper selfish like that. Recently I bought a Samsung Chromebook because I wanted it. Yes there were practical and justifiable reasons for buying it, but I wanted it.

So I have always actively sought proper personal development. I have been on some stellar training which gave me the skills to do some really cool things with my craft. I’ve been on training which I was not interested in in the least, mostly because it was a mandated course. I still learned things, and it helped give context to the work environment I was in.

Which got to a point where I needed more. But not just wanting more for myself. I felt and sought out development for the profession. I started going to external events with fancy titles. I learned lots and heard from really interesting people, but wasn’t challenged in myself. And I didn’t see a progression of development for the profession, I just saw ways of tinkering with the edges to have a better product. That’s not good enough.

I’m no rebel.

I have expectations. Forget them, though. I have professional responsibilities. I want a better profession? Right, I best make that happen then. Cos there sure as hell was no one out there making it happen. Not for the profession. They were doing it for themselves.

Cos we’re all self-serving really. Oh yes you are.

Fast forward and I had the high privilege of bringing together people to discuss the L&OD profession. An opportunity. An opportunity to combine my selfish desire for personal development and to share that experience with others.

We played with visual minutes, which was über cool. We created these by the end of the day.
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Not everyone contributed and that was fine. They experienced it.

We played with fishbowl facilitation. This really got people shifting in their seats. A panel in the middle. An audience surrounding them observing, listening, and waiting for an invitation to discuss. The Twitter backchannel lit up with people in and out of the room contributing and making themselves heard.

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I may have said that competency frameworks are a pile of shit and we need to get rid of them.

Honestly, I’m no rebel.

I just like to play with stuff. I’m selfish. It’s cos I’m an only child.

Someone asked me what I got from the day? And someone else called the L&D Connect community rebellious.

I like playing. I gave myself permission to keep playing. There are great ways to bring people together, to learn, to share, and to develop. I tried things out in an environment where I trusted people to have a go. They were kind of primed for that from the word go. They didn’t really know what was in store for them, and I didn’t really know what would happen. It was an opportunity.

But seriously, I’m no rebel.

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Finger on the pulse vs fear of missing out

It’s a noisy world out there, and I tell you I’m finding it harder and harder to not stay tapped in. The fear of missing out is strong in this one.

It makes life hard. I have to consciously stay switched off when I’m with my family. How daft is that? I do it though. For my own sanity. But those thoughts of… “what is being said?”, “what graphic am I missing out on?”, “am I missing out on an important discussion?”. They don’t stop.

Step through to the L&D world and by God are we bombarded with stuff. Engagement this, evalaution that, facilitation here, management training there. There are thoughts being shared aplenty, and it’s relentless. I come across stuff, click the lnks, have about 20 tabs open of stuff I think needs to be read, and then wonder why I have a headache at the end of the day.

So we need space to think, to share thoughts, to share worries and woes. I want to make sure I have my finger on the pulse, else I become redundant. Not in my work, but as an individual. That’s why we’re on social media isn’t it? To be validated? It’s why I blog, right? Because I want to feel like my voice is being heard?

But I haven’t got time for qualifications, or accreditations, or any of that formal gumph. I’d love to dedicate time to formally develop, but I’ve just got too much on. That’s what you think too, isn’t it?

Communities can help in this regard. Looking out for the voices of people I trust and enjoy. They’re the ones who can guide me, ground me, and help me stay true to myself.

I’ll be alright. I’ll make a difference. Some people are just getting on and doing it. Others need to know if it’s the right way to go. I need to know if I’m pushing innovation enough. You want to network. You want to share your experience. I want to learn from you.

Let’s make it happen in one place. On 26th November, L&D Connect (#ldconnect) are coming back together for their third unconference called Bold L&D. It’s a full day this time, and the tickets are available with a twist. You buy one ticket and get to invite another two people for free. There’s a button up over there, or you can click here.

The L&D and Community kaleidoscope

I’m concerned about you my fellow L&Der. I see that you’re listening to things being said out there. I see that you’re interested in what others in the profession are talking about. And there’s plenty of things being talked about of interest. Some of it by internal practitioners, some of it by e-learning specialists, some of it by technology specialists, some of it by external practitioners. And they’re all saying and talking about different and interesting things.

There’s a whole blogging community who are dedicated to promoting their word. Some use social channels to spread their brand, their work, and their good name. For them, social media is a powerful mechanism for a gainful living. For others, social channels allow their voice to be heard, they spread a message, they build a following. And for others social channels are a way of hearing what’s being said out there. There’s a different way of thinking that they want to be exposed to because they recognise things need to be better but don’t know where to start.

When I came across the #connectinghr community, I was captured by the lack of interest in any agenda people may have had. It was (and remains) about bringing professionals together from all walks of HR (and beyond) who want to be able to share knowledge and talk about their work in meaningful spaces. I enjoyed what this released for me, and realised I needed more as an L&D professional. The idea of L&D Connect was born and with the help of others, a community rallied around and we pushed for more to happen as an L&D community. #ldconnect and #ldblogs was created as a result.

I’ve enjoyed that the people who have attended the two unconference sessions have come from all walks of L&D professional – all those mentioned above, and more besides. We come together and respect each other as professionals. Everything else is left at the door. Why does it matter, and who does it matter to? All we expect is that people get involved in the conversation when they’re ready. There’s opportunity for people to take part in the conversations that matter to them, and there’s no pressure to talk if you don’t want to. The social channels help amplify what’s being said in the room to those outside who want to be part of the conversation but can’t attend.

It’s all quite organic and fluid. It’s the most inclusive environment I’ve ever encountered. It’s the most engaged I’ve ever been with a group of other people. It’s focused on people dynamics and trusting people to lead where the conversation takes them.

This is at the heart of L&D. L&D is less about us as professionals and more about the people we’re working with. Communities like L&D Connect help us to see that trusting people dynamics trumps models and theories every time. Yes we may need to guide the conversation to happen in a certain way, but L&D isn’t about that input, it’s about the outcome. That outcome is paramount to a good learning event. That outcome is whatever the person involved decides. We can’t drive that. We can’t make it happen. We can have the discussion to help figure out the goal, and hopefully facilitate the journey to getting there, but that’s not in our control as much as we may want it to be.

Things like social learning, informal learning, e-learning, mobile learning, face to face learning, are all things we need to remain mindful of and aware of. I don’t pretend to know about a lot of these things. Partly because some of them don’t interest me, and partly because I’m trying to strengthen skills I already have. My cognitive load is already quite full. So what I’m aiming to do is lean on this network and listen to what they have to say.

They help me to understand more, and for that I’m grateful. It makes me a better L&Der, and it means I’m better at understanding what spectrum of knowledge I could and should be drawing on.

Does this sound like it works? It does. That’s all I can say. There’s plenty of talk about how social technologies are helping us to create and become part of communities that serve a greater good. I’m all for that, and it jives with my philosophy of life. We all have the ability, capability and capacity for doing good in our lives by helping others. If I can move to help others, I am fulfilled. This is my purpose.

So we come back to L&D Connect. We’re arranging to meet on Tuesday 23rd April. It’d be great to see you there. You can book your ticket here.

Change is afoot in the L&D world

This week on Monday I attended the L&D Connect Unconference, and I’ve made myself wait a couple of days before jumping in with reflections.

Change is afoot in the L&D world. We have the right kind of thinking from the likes of Jane Hart who help us to think about the growing skills of the L&D profession. Donald Taylor is in the throes of Learning and Technology conference (and the various others attached to it) where there is various talk about e-learning and mobile learning and the use of social technologies. The good folk at Training Journal have been getting people together and talking about the future skills of L&D, which David Goddin has written about. It’s all high-minded stuff, and makes for good reading.

This storify really captures everything from the day nicely and shows a nice mix of people who were present, this post from Doug Shaw is a really nice piece sharing his thoughts about the day, and this post from Liam Moore is a very well written piece about his reflection of the day.

The unconference allowed for exploration of those topics above, and actually all of those were discussed, and more besides – how do we get inside the learner’s heads to know what they need not what they want? How do we deal with unconscious bias in the workplace? What is and should L&D be worrying about? How can L&D be bold? Important topics in their own rights, with some good points made.

So where does this take us? Did we unravel the mysteries of the L&D universe? Have we gained a clear vision about the future? Did we navel gaze enough?

Well, here’s what it meant for me.

This community of L&D folks cares about not only how we go about making a difference in the organisations we work for, but they also care about moving the profession forward. Some of the words used to describe the day were ‘bold’, ‘movement’, ‘permission’, and ‘anthropological’. (And speaking of how to be bold, check this excellent picture out, drawn by Simon Heath) In and of themselves, they mean little, but in the context of the day, it helped people find a way to connect with what they experienced and gave them a way to act when they return to the day job. That action piece right there is the important function of an event like this.

I remember at the end of the first, there were some questions posed about what was achieved as a result of the conversations and tracks. But I think that’s missing the point. The result is having a developed view on a topic. Be it that you’re convinced you’re right, you’ve been challenged in a useful way, or someone has explained something very useful, you’ve had the opportunity to engage in dialogue. We don’t do that a lot as a people. We don’t take the time to check in with our thinking, or check in with our opinions, we just tend to make a decision and charge on ahead.

The actions that people take though? Well, some people went forth after the last time and tried new techniques they witnessed and experienced such as World Cafe and Open Space. Some made meaningful connections which allowed them to be involved in interesting projects and work. Some made unexpected friendships and found reason to keep talking. Others chose to come together and support each other in a focused session on personal development. There’s more, and I’ve only just picked the examples that come to mind.

We expect a lot from learning events. We expect to be able to go forth and change behaviours and patterns as a result of that experience. We forget that behaviour change takes patience, time, and purposeful actions. I’d say with some degree of confidence that everyone who attended last year’s session, and this week’s will be able to go away and try something different which will have a positive impact on those they work with. And that’s the difference this community is making.

The Happy Manifesto

At the L&D Connect unconference, we trialled the idea of passing on books to others that you have read and are happy for someone else to take ownership of. ‘Paying it forward’ in this way, we know it’s going to sit with someone who will benefit from it, and that we’ve done a good job of passing on knowledge. Most people enjoy reading too, so it works out quite nicely.

I picked up ‘The Happy Manifesto’ written by Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd. His company has been “rated:
– Best company in the UK for customer service (Management Today)
– Best work/life balance of any UK organisation (Financial Times)
– Best for positive impact to society of any UK small business (Business in the Community)
– Best for promoting staff health and well-being of any UK company (Great Place to Work Institute).

In addition, Happy has been listed as one of the 20 best workplaces in the UK for the last five years.” That was all lifted from the first page of the book. Well worth repeating as it shows why I didn’t put it down until I’d read it. Those are some serious accolades to have to your name, so what do Happy do that awards them such praise?

Henry’s manifesto lays out ten things they do which I’m going to reproduce here.

1. Trust your people

Step out of approval. Instead, pre-approve and focus on supporting your people.

2. Make your people feel good

Make this the focus of management.

3. Give freedom within clear guidelines

People want to know what is expected of them. But they want freedom to find the best way to achieve their goals.

4. Be open and transparent

More information means more people can take responsibility.

5. Recruit for attitude, train for skill

Instead of qualifications and experience, recruit on attitude and potential ability

6. Celebrate mistakes

Create a no-blame culture.

7. Community: create mutual benefit

Have a positive impact on the world and build your organisation too.

8. Love work, get a life

The world, and your job, needs you well rested, well nourished and well supported.

9. Select managers who are good at managing

Make sure your people are supported by somebody who is good at doing that, and find other routes for those whose strengths lie elsewhere. Even better, allow people to choose their own managers.

10. Play to your strengths

Make sure people spend most of their time doing what they are best at.

What I like about the book is that each point is well supported not only with examples from where they’ve worked for Happy, but also with examples from other companies.

There is always the challenge when writing a list such as this that it will only work for this company. That’s true. It clearly has worked for Happy, but Henry is quite happy to also talk about hard lessons he had to learn in order to be this successful. What I think the manifesto helps to deliver are guidelines any organisation can follow.

For those of us who care about things like employee engagement, learning and development, organisational development, and the likes, this kind of list helps us to think about how we can take those ideas and either put them into practice, or convince the powers that be that doing so will help them to achieve very impressive accolades too.

Disclosure: I’m not receiving anything for writing this review, and indeed the manifesto is intended to whet the appetite for working with Happy.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.

Dear Bureaucracy

Dear Bureaucracy,

I see that you’re aware of this thing called social media.

Apparently it scares you.

Apparently you don’t know how to deal with it.

There are those of us who are actively talking about things.

After all, we could talk about anything.

Some of us have passion.

Some of us fuel our creativity.

We may even have a rant.

Just not about you.

Or the organisation.

Some of us are talking about the important things.

We’re free.

Some of us collaborate.

Some of us act like a family.

We’re all connected.

We’re concerned about making things better.

We want you to know life is changing.

We want to take you with us.

It’s a journey, and we’ll help you to get there.

I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

I give to you, L&D Connect

Today I was part of something new and exciting which many of you may be familiar with – the @LnDConnect unconference. I’ve written a lot about it over previous posts and there’s been a fair amount of chatter on LinkedIn and Twitter about the event. I would normally allow more time to reflect and take in what today has meant for me, but I’m at the CIPD HRD12 event for the next two days so want to get this out while there’s nothing to pollute my memories. (also, no links in this post)

If you’ve not been part of an unconference before, the essence is the agenda is decided by the delegates on the day. It’s a very organic process which does follow some method to allow the discussions to unfold. What happens is people get involved in the discussions that interest them and can move freely between the discussions.

I cannot begin to describe how glad I am that this event came to be. 1500 views of the eventbrite page, with 26 confirmed bookings (unfortunately two had to drop out), plus the organisers made a group of 32 on the day. We discussed things covering a range of very prevalent L&D concerns such as: What is learning? Who is responsible for learning? What should L&D stop doing? What’s happening tomorrow that holds interest for L&D? What part does social media play in learning? How do we help the next generation of learning? How do we make the L&D function better with more business impact? How do we create more agile L&D solutions?

The output of those conversations rests with the individuals taking part. I can’t share all that content because I was only part of some of the conversations. But, the use of a backchannel encouraged discussion to happen beyond the people present. Special mention goes to José Franca for being so open with his team about being part of the online discussion that he was probably the most active participant without being present.

The closing comments from the group that were shared out were so heart warming and kind I am filled with joy. That the event resonated so well with the group and had inspired them to think differently about what they do is a blessing and I am so grateful to everyone who took part today.

This is where I let go of being a minder. I may have had the brainchild of wanting to bring L&D professionals together, but the event was only possible because of the team involved: Martin Couzins, Debbie Carter, Stella Collins, Margaret Burnside, Natasha Stallard and David Goddin. Where it goes from here will be a series of ongoing discussions and organic development. Thanks all and I look forward to doing more brilliant things with you all.