Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barriers to Success

Hey folks - I'm going to dive right into today's post and gloss right over the 3 month gap in posts.

Okay? Great!

One of the things that I love most about this industry of ours is the courage we have to self-assess and reflect. We are consistently, and collectively, examining ourselves for the weakest link. We are our own test subjects. We happily subject ourselves to pilot classes, to peer-review our work, or beta-test doctoral projects.

Many times, we are able to identify some great development opportunities to get us to the next level in our career, skill growth, or personal relationships. We actively seek out those opportunities to improve our situation.

Sometimes, we find ourselves short on some essential skill and the ability to develop in that specific area is seemingly limited by factors outside of our control. We try to visualize our goals and can't see past the obstacles in the way. Examples from people in my immediate network:

1. Desperate Career Changer: They know they want something else in life, but can't afford the reduction in pay that will definitely come from moving to a brand new industry after a decade in their current one.
"I bring home the paycheck in the family, if I start over in a new job, my family will starve!"

2. Wannabe Manager: Wants to move up in the company and become a leader, but can't seem to get promoted to demonstrate their value. Also appears famously with recent college grads, "Every job I apply for says they want experience, but how can I get experience if I can't get a job!"

3. Misaligned Worker: These folks are hard workers, and they try their best, but they just don't fit with the culture. Relationships have soured and despite everyone's best efforts, they struggle just to keep a smile on their face.

4. Personal Focus: Sometimes... no, very often, we are going gangbusters on the job and life throws a curve ball. How can we be expected to excel in our job when we can barely get our minds off the drama we are coping with at home?

Here's my point - none of these scenarios are waterproof barriers to success. It's easy to collapse into a curled ball and blame the rest of the world. It's easy to point fingers at our bosses, colleagues, spouses, the economy and say, "This is why I can't achieve my goals."

For all of our courage in reflection, we can be cowards when it comes to execution. We can see what needs to be done, but it is too hard! We let everyone and everything get in our way so that we can martyr ourselves on the concept of "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda."

So, my challenge to you (anyone still reading) is to identify what is holding you back - and do something about it. If you are trying to get your foot in the door in a new position or industry volunteer/intern to build your portfolio. If you are coping with family issues that take your focus away, try and set aside a small amount of time each week to devote to yourself.

You deserve it!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Are Trainers Such Horrible Learners?

There is a "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" mentality prevalent in the Adult Learning field. Those of us lucky enough to earn a living facilitating others' development tend to neglect our own. We let the urgent items in life continuously overshadow the important things - all while preaching to our audiences about the critical need to be life-long learners.

A typical, and frequent, statement from colleagues is, "I really want to learn more about using (any social networking site) for learning, but I don't have time." Here, I present ten tips for making time for self-development.

Are these earth-shattering revelations? No. But maybe, one of these tips will be what you need to hear, when you need to hear it in order to make self-development a regular part of your balanced diet.

  1. Create a Performance Goal: If you have a formal performance review process at your current place of employment, ask to add a Professional Development goal into your discussion. This will help hold you accountable to that goal. Here's an example:

    "Research best practices for creating interactive Web conferences. Document and distribute my findings to the team by October 31st, 2009."

  2. Block off Calendar Time: This is one habit I very recently started. Every week, I block off a few hours of research time. The amount of time depends on the amount of work I have to do for the week, and my current passion of the week. I always find that if I have time specifically devoted to self-development, I don't feel guilty using it!

  3. Work with a Colleague: Do you remember working on group projects in school? Remember that horrible feeling of showing up to class without your part of the project done? Use that motivation to work with someone towards a common goal. Divide up the research and share back with each by a certain timeline, or pick two conferences/events that discuss the same topic and then compare notes.

  4. Tie a String Around Your Finger: Okay, not literally. But do leave post-its on your monitor, or put that book you really want to read on your nightstand. Set up your iTunes to download podcasts. I actually set a recurring calendar appointment on the first of every month to check the available podcasts and white papers on ASTD, ISPI, CLC, and CCL.

  5. Should or Would (A): We all know how much more difficult it is to learn about something we need to know versus something we want to know. So the first tactic to try is to dig into the topic you should learn about until you find an aspect that is enjoyable to you.

  6. Should or Would (B): The second option is to focus on the results. I really don't like reading financial reports. But, this is an important aspect of my current role. So - I focus on the outcome of this effort. After completing my goal, I can speak with confidence to my target audience, which has immense benefits for me.

  7. Manage it Like a Project: I know that this is common sense, but if we all listened to common sense, some of us would not have gone to art school. Ahem. Anyway. Break your goal down in to smaller, manageable steps. What are your milestones? When will you accomplish them? How much time each week do you need to devote to each step?

  8. Adjust Your Expectations: This may sound a little negative, but really it's about not setting yourself up for failure. Recently (as in last month) I set a goal to create a business plan to present within one month. That was totally unreasonable given my current time commitments, and it took a little work before I realized it. You can extend your timeline, or choose the smaller milestones mentioned in step 7 as your goal. Reward yourself immensely for hitting those milestones!

  9. Procrastinate: You've done everything right but you are still avoiding the work? Simple. Sometimes, the very best thing you can do is concentrate on something else. I know this goes against all sorts of GTD philosophies, but I really believe in the power of background-processing. While stressful to some people, I love that when I am working on one goal, the urgency and desire to work on another goal gathers momentum in my thoughts.

  10. Find a Mentor: I attribute much of my progress recently to my incredible mentor. As we talked, I started finding my voice and my direction. My mentor helped me rediscover the aspects of this industry that get me excited and made me choose this path in the first place. (By the way, it's more than finding someone you respect, but more about that in another post.) This is someone who can help you remember why you want to be a lifelone learner.
Okay, well hopefully this helped you think of one or two tactics you can use this week to recommit to self-development. I'm sure I left out A LOT of great ideas. Feel free to leave some of your ideas in the comments!

Bad Training Idea #6

(or, Commence nap time!)
"Welcome back from lunch! We're going to start our next segment with a video. This is a 35 minute clip of our CEO discussing our mission, vision and values."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Great Post - Web 2.0

Check out a great synopsis of this thing we call "Web 2.0" over at Andrew McAfee's blog.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Contest: Book from Jay Cross

Hey folks. Here's the deal. I would like nothing better than to enlighten, motivate, teach, or otherwise draw a strong reaction from you. But I just don't know what you want to hear (or don't want to hear.) So I propose a contest.

(All the cool blogs are doing it.)

You get Informal Learning by Jay Cross (like new condition - what do you want here, this is a self-funded blog!)

All you have to do is post an idea that you would like to read about on this little blog o' mine. That's it.

It can be anything, but the more specific the better. Here are some high level categories to get you thinking:
  • Succession Planning
  • Twitter
  • Knowledge Management
  • Millenials in the Workforce
  • Coaching
  • Using the news to teach leadership programs (ok that's kind of specific...)
So tell all of your friends!!! My goals are to get idea of what people would like to see, and hopefully get one or two more subscribers.

A top-notch random selection program will select one of the comments (sorry, U.S. addresses only for this contest).


Enter as many times as you have specific ideas for topics. Important: If you don’t see your entry appear immediately, please be patient.

No entries after 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday June 30th.

Winners will be announced at the top of this post early Wednesday morning.

Winner will receive one very awesome, and only slightly highlighted copy of Jay Cross' Informal Learning.

I reserve the right to withdraw submissions that are innapropriate.

Enter now!!!

Bad Training Idea #5
(or, the wrong way to introduce social networking)
"We should definitely be using Twitter. Each participant can tweet how the class is going on breaks. The WHOLE COMPANY can view how everyone is feeling ALL THE TIME!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Book

Well, everyone, here it is, my big announcement. An announcement that is being made for a singular purpose: to get me to commit to my goals. So, here are my SMART goals:

1. By August 2009, I will have my book outline and sample chapter ready to submit.

2. By January 2010, I will submit a proposal for my book to at least three publishers (Pearson, Thompson, ASTD Press)

3. By July 2010, (assuming rejections) I will incorporate feedback and resubmit proposals.

Please help hold me accountable to these goals! Thanks.

Bad Training Idea #4

(or, how to thoroughly confuse your participants before you even get to the content.)
"Now we are going to get into groups to work on this activity. Please count off 1,2,3, 4. '1's will be at the back table, '2's at the left table, '3's at the right table, and '4's at the front table. If you have more than 4 people at your table, the person with the earliest birthday has to move clockwise to the next table."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Technology You Should Know: RSS Readers

If you are reading this, it's most likely because I sent the link to you, (because let's face it, I only have about 1 and a half readers.)

If you are reading this, and somehow enjoy this blog, you probably spend too much time alone. And also, you would probably enjoy reading several websites just like it.

If you are reading this, and you are human, I'm going to bet that you would like to be able to read all of your information in just minutes a day.

**This is a basic overview. If you want more detailed instructions, please see this awesome document.

RSS Reader: What is it?
An RSS reader (or aggregator) is a tool to view updates on web pages, news sites and weblogs.

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication"and gives content authors, like myself, a way to push out updates to you. It gives readers a single place to look at anything new from their favorite sources. For example, my Google Reader shows me new posts from about sites about T&D, eco news, cooking websites, and a couple of coupon search engines.

RSS Reader: How do I use it?
Step 1. Choose a reader, (there are many, but these instructions are for Google Reader.)

Step 2. Click Create an Account and fill in the appropriate information.

Step 3. Visit a website, like this one, and if it has an RSS feed, you will see an orange button like this next to the URL in the address bar:

Step 4. Click the orange button and, if prompted, choose "Subscribe to RSS." You will then need to choose to "Add to Google Reader."

Step 5: Click the "Feed Settings" button and choose "Sort By Oldest"

Step 6: Repeat steps 3-5 for websites such as the blogs to the right of this post, as well as news sites: Google, Yahoo, or CNN.

RSS Reader: How does this relate to training?
Yes, I worship at the alter of the RSS Reader. Yes, I believe all WLP professionals should also utilize this technology.

People, I follow close to 100 websites in about 10 minutes a day. You folks with lives could probably follow 30 industry experts with about 30 minutes once a week.

Self-Development: This is the tool that lets you stroll by that smug ISD you know, and mention, "Oh, did you happen to catch Karl Kapp's notes on problem solving skills today? Hmmmmm?" Oh, and also, it's so easy to use this to keep up to date on the industry.

J.I.T. Learning: Imagine that once a week, a member of your executive leadership team posts a short blurb about strategy, and company news. And your marketing team creates a blog that sends out periodic updates on product literature. AND your professional development team sends out headlines with upcoming classes and online courseware.

Now imagine that your entire audience can go to ONE place to view all of these updates!!!

RSS Reader: What's the Bottom Line?
I hope that I have convinced you that as someone who relies on self-development, this is a tool you should spend a few minutes to learn. Try it out with this blog. I promise to post often so you get lots of practice!

Bad Training Closing #3
(or, how to keep your evaluation scores high)
"We are going to end today with an evaluation. Please hand them to me when you are done."

Monday, June 8, 2009

ASTD ICE 2009, Part 2

I know you were eagerly awaiting updates on the conference. I apologize. The ASTD conference was so amazing, so chock full o' training goodness, that I didn't have time to post again! Let me give you a few highlights:

1. Session Speaker: Thiagi
I've heard people say, "You HAVE to see Thiagi in person!" I have ignored such zealousness before. Fanatics do not have a place in such an objective field of study (wink wink.) However, Thiagi is to training what Jon Stewart is to the news (almost.) He brings a light hearted-ness to serious subjects and yet still manages to impart great information. Very highly recommended.

2. Session Speaker: Scott Blanchard
Sometimes, I expect relatively famous people to give presentations that are fluffy. Once you've made your mark, I think it's pretty easy to ride that wave of money into oblivion. Also, it's probably easy to ride your father's wave. However, Scott Blanchard's presentation on "Selling Training to Cranky CFO's" was research-based and compelling. (That reminds me, I want to get my hands on those shiny pretty slides of his...)

3. Session Speaker: Elaine Biech
Not only was Elaine the fantastic creator and facilitator of the Leadership Certificate program that I participated in last week, she is also the author and editor of almost 50 books!! I had the honor of meeting with Elaine for a one-on-one sit down. She has incredible insight on this industry of ours, and I hope to highlight our conversation on this blog at a later date.

4. The Expo
I am generally uncomfortable around the whole sales process, this goes double for people who try to sell me things. However, the Expo (a mass conglomeration of vendors selling everything from COTS training to LMS's to Books, etc) was pretty nice. The "BUY ME BUY ME BUY ME" pressure was turned way down, even though the economy is surely weighing heavily on all the folks there. I had a good time seeing the state of the industry products out there.

**Oh, and I didn't get paid by any of these people.

5. Networking
There is nothing more invigorating, inspiring, motivating, (add your adjective here) to me than meeting new people who have similar passions. The drive to engage our audience, contribute to our organization's bottom line, and increase the effectiveness of our field was prevalent in every conversation I had. Thank you ASTD for an amazing conference!

Bad Training Closing #2
(or, how to make sure your training doesn't "stick.")
"Ok, now I'm going to hand out Action Plans. Fill them out if you would like to. Have a great weekend!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

ASTD ICE 2009, Part 1

Today was the first full day of the ASTD International Conference & Expo. So, even though I have been there for four days, today was the day that hordes of WLP folks descended on the city to wreak havoc in the name of training.

So far, it seems as though ASTD is doing a phenomenal job of keeping things running smoothly and providing a whole lot of value for the price. I will go into the specifics of some of the sessions in my next post.

First, a general observation. The theme of this year's conference seems to center around Linking to Business Outcomes. My response is, and I don't use this term loosely, "Duh." Is this really news to anyone?

Session Facilitator: "Hey the economy is bad, so it might be a good idea to show your value."
Me: "Ohhhhhh, THAT's what I've been doing wrong!"

Anyway, I am definitely open to anyone who disagrees and encourage comments!

Bad Training Closing #1
(or, how to make sure everyone in class checks their blackberry)
"Now, use the remaining time to reflect on what you have learned and how you will put it into action."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stay Tuned!

Hi! Welcome to Thoughts on Training! I have two other blogs floating around out there in the wires, but I did want to create one specifically for my professional life.

I am at the ASTD International Conference & Expo. So far, it's three thumbs up, wayyyy up. (Three? Is that possible?)

So point that browser of yours to this blog in a few days to hear the full review!

Until then, "Stay classy, Internet Citizens!"