My Top 4 Learning Tools

A thought was shared from Greg Hartle (@greghartle) last week about his impressions of people he meets that are in career transitions.

Many people are perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists.

One area people struggle with is learning.  We wait for events, programs, our leader to direct us, a performance review, time away from our job to learn, or ___________(fill in the blank).  In a corporate class, experience shows me that 70% of people come to class without a clear objective.  In a personal study I have done, 100% of people who went to Google and typed in a “How do you . . . . ” search question had a clear learning objective.  Email me if you would like the full results of my study. 🙂

My favorite places to learn:

  • LinkedIn – I believe Greg’s perspective can be substantiated based on how someone leverages LinkedIn.  This tool is as much about setting up learning communities as it is about building a professional network.  Joining groups and asking/answering questions on a weekly basis.  This should be a cornerstone of your learning strategy.
  • Inc – I still get a paper copy.  It makes me old school, but the information I get from people trying things out is so valuable for me as an entrepreneur and an advisor to growing companies.  For a close friend it is Wired magazine.  I added that for 2013.  More to come . . .
  • TED – At the end of the day every TEDx video is still an event.  Given that, I am still shocked by how many people I work with that have never heard of this.
  • YouTube – 48 hours of new video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  (see graphic) I once had a friend with a health issue that needed to start giving himself monthly shots.  He is a bit impatient, so after trying to find someone to help he went on YouTube, found instructions, and did it.  I do not recommend this course of action for everyone – but he is clearly not the person Greg was talking about.

As I watch my teenagers interact with the Internet I realize the line between living and learning is non-existent for them.   The mantra that separates boomers from a millennial is a simple shift from I will outwork you to I will out-learn you.  The hardest worker is not the automatic winner anymore.

What are your favorite places to learn?

Follower: How Often Should I Get Feedback?

I am in the process of reading/reviewing Jodi Glickman’s book Great On The Job – What To Say, How To Say It – The Secrets of Getting Ahead.  Jodi has an impressive list of college clients, two being Harvard and Cornell, that bring her in to prepare their students for success on the job.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

I think our society is confused when it comes to feedback.  We lighten it with kids, with the intention of preserving their self esteem.  We worry about Millennials because the research says they need more.  In fact, at the height of the economic meltdown a study was done about what motivates people and managers said “positive feedback/thank you”, while their people said “making progress on my work”.  So what is the bottom line for feedback?

Jodi Glickman addresses the topic with new/soon to be new graduates in a way that anyone can benefit.

First, she shares a window – asking for it once a year is not enough and once a month is too often.

Secondly, she shares a very simple method for setting up the situation so the feedback can be given and has value for both the leader and the individual.  The two steps are:

  1. Phase I:  Preparation
  2. Phase II:  The Conversation

While both are good steps, I love Phase I.  Too often I see people jumping into a deep conversation with a peer or leader with no preparation for the person being asked to give it.  It usually ends with something generic like “It was great”.  Glickman’s quote about feedback that should be posted on cubicles everywhere is:

. . . the goal of the feedback is not to make you feel good.  The goal is to make you better at your job. (p. 129)

The author points out the best way to setup a good feedback session is to plant the seed before asking for feedback.  For example, if your focus is presentation skills, maybe planting the seed would sound like this:  “Julie, I am really trying to focus on my presentation skills, so could I ask a favor?  I’d welcome some feedback on my presentation after our client meeting next week.  If you could jot down some thoughts, I will setup some time for us to talk the following week.”

This builds off a core belief I have around Building Rhythm(from my trUPerformance™ model) in how we talk about our work, our priorities, and our needs.  Inherent in the one one one template I use with clients is the routine nature of our conversation and the predictable topics so feedback is continually mined (both positive and negative) without having to ask for it.

Talent management is about great conversations.  This book is loaded with tips on how, as a follower, to make those happen.

The final review of this book is coming next month, but so far I have really enjoyed the content and the way it is presented.

Tracking My Happiness – Final Report

Several posts ago I gave an initial update on my commitment to join a happiness survey that was discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review article.  Here it the link to that post.

I have completed it after 50 entries and 17 days.  Here is what the data says:

  • Top activities for happiness:  restaurants, exercising, being with customers, vacation, parties.
  • Bottom activities for happiness: balancing checkbook, meetings, taking care of children, working alone, watching television.
  • I am 2x as happy on Saturdays vs Sunday.
  • Thursday is my top day of the week – 25% higher than Friday. (today is Thursday – so I am happy about that)
  • I am 4x happier doing activities I don’t have to do but want to do vs doing things I don’t want to do but have to do.
  • There is a direct correlation for me between high focus and high happiness.
  • There is a direct correlation for me between happiness and productivity.

Many things make me smile when I review these results – mainly because they tell a story.  For example, as a parent much of my attention (and this is MY choice) in the last 3 weeks hast focused on homework, transportation, and getting children to bed and up in the morning.  My takeaway – I need to work on my attitude – and create some fun moments for us (good timing – spring break is next week).  I can only imagine what their happiness report would say about me. 🙂  I am okay with not liking the checkbook, meetings, and working alone.  I also think I need a bigger television. 🙂

I mentioned in my first post that this would be a great activity for any company to do with high potentials or leaders.  For smaller companies it is nice because it is free (it works with straight email, but requires an iPhone for easy data collection when walking around).  I still think it is best done by groups of 3 people, and then having a general report out to the whole group.

Talent management is based on self awareness that feeds into a great conversation.  This activity has the potential to provide for both.

I will post next week on how our talent management processes (one on ones, performance conversations, etc.) actually create some of these reflective/conversation moments if done well.

If you tried this, what was your experience?  What questions would you ask me after seeing some of my results?  Here is your chance to coach me.

Wisconsin SHRM 2011: My presentations

As promised to those who attended, below are the links to the presentations I gave at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM conference.  As I reflect back on the questions and the conversations around each topic, I am especially drawn to the feeling around talent management that their needs to be more top down practicing of these habits.  The economic environment is Wisconsin is comparable to Michigan because of what has happened to manufacturing, and yet imagine the untapped potential of the people who are working that DO NOT have development plans.   In my resilience presentation a majority of the attendees were worried about the commitment and attitude of a workforce that is pretty battered.  At the core of talent management is a conversation to build/rebuild trust and invite people to start looking towards a better future.  It is important AND it does not have to be expensive.  Remember that I detest expensive initiative!  🙂

Look for trUTips #15 to talk about how to create a great development plan – no matter what your performance evaluation looks like.

I made the 2011 SHRM WI Promotional video!

My Wisconsin SHRM Talent Scorecard presentation:

My Wisconsin SHRM Resilience presentation:

Lead? Yes. With Laughter? Absolutely! Here is one way . .

Image by Fonzie's cousin via Flickr

A friend of mine works in a startup focused on education.  Lots to do.  Lots of stress.  One of those jobs where it would be easy to never go home and never be done.

Then along came the movie Waiting for Superman.  The team went to see it, and as part of the event he challenged them to wear Superman capes around work all day for $20.  Their response?  Absolutely.  All day, out to lunch, AND to the movie.  They even made a cape for their leader.  There was lots of work and lots of laughter that day, and in the days following.

When is your Waiting for Superman moment? 

  • Is there a festival going on outside your office?  Go.
  • Have a yo-yo expert on your team?  How about a group lesson?
  • Is there a park nearby?  How about some frisbee golf for 45 minutes.

Its Friday – do something different.  Are you leading? Maybe.  Is there any laughter?  If you are really leading there should be.

Oh, and a point of clarification.  Just the cape, not the super shirt and super tights.  That would not be funny. 🙂

Leadership Lessons – through Art?

I had a moment where I was reminded how my perspective on things is not the only perspective.  I was at Art Prize 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I was looking at the picture shown here.  It is made out of 520 tiny cups that are 12 different shades of grey and the artist is James Freeman.  So here is the trick with this picture – when you stand close to it all you see is grey cups, with just a faint image that there is a face in these cups.  The farther you move away, the clearer the face becomes.  For me, even moving away the image was never really all that clear.

How did I figure out this was a face?  Well, my 7-year-old took a picture of it and announced to me “Daddy look – it is a face!”  It turns out when take a picture from any distance the face appears.  Apparently the artist created an image that exposes some of the limits to our minds ability to process the different shades of grey and be able to see the REAL image.

So where is the leadership lesson here?  First, a gentle reminder that we often need help in seeing the real truth in anything – whether it is developing personal awareness of strengths/weaknesses/passions, finding the best solution to a problem, or becoming better leaders by knowing and dealing with our own constraints.  Looking through our own eyes have some natural limitations.

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a 7-year-old along to look at things a little differently.  Or having a friend take a picture of us (have you taped one of your speeches lately?).  Art reminds us that there are different ways of seeing the same thing, and having the courage to first ask the question “What do you see when you look at this?” is the first step.  The second is waiting to hear the answer or answers, then giving time to consider the possibilities that differ from your own.

I initially just saw a bunch of grey cups.  Thankfully someone else saw the art.  Kudos to James Freeman for the leadership lesson in art. –