Cheers! Best regards. Take care.
Do you have an email signature and better yet, what does your email signature say about you?
Does it even matter?
Yes, it does.
If you want to matter, that is.
You see, every single interaction we have professionally (and personally) for that matter is a small demonstration of who we actually are.
So, whether or not you tuck your shirt in to go into the office, it matters.
If you choose to eat lunch at your desk or in the break room, it matters.
It matters because all of these things are sending signals to others (and to your self for that matter) for who you are as a person and as a leader.
So, what's your sign off?
I was recently having a conversation with my accountability partner who asked me a great question: What are you doing in the time you have set aside for personal and professional development?
I started to list the things I was doing: reading, connecting with people on LinkedIn, getting coffee with connections...etc.
Then she asked me, what are you producing during that time?
I stared blankly.
What am I producing during my development time?
This is such a good question as we consider opportunities to learn and grow being times when we do something, rather than passively consume something.
So, I am starting to rethink what I'm doing with my professional and personal development time now. Now, I'm asking myself: am I consuming or am I producing? Am I creating and making something that at the end of the one, two three hours of development time I can look at - and possibly share with the world - and say "look, I made this." Something that is tangible that I can add to my portfolio or website. An experiment where I tried something new. That is producing. Or am I consuming: letting words passively pass in front of my eyes, or tuning into a TED talk that I'm only paying half attention to. Sure, there might be new take aways but where the true learning takes place is when we try those take aways out in our own lives.
Are you producing or consuming during your professional or personal development time?
I have a problem.
You probably guessed it by the title.
I'm one of those people who run for fun. Like half marathons. And a couple of times I ran a marathon too.
I laugh whenever I read One Fish Two Fish to my sons because there's a line that reads "they run for sun in the hot, hot sun." Clearly Dr. Suess wrote that part just for me.
People are amazed when I tell them that I run long distances like this but not so much because of the distance. Don't get me wrong, they think it's a feat for sure (and it is!) but what is more impressive, they tell me, is that I find the time to do it.
As a mom of two, a wife, a full time worker, a business owner, and a home owner (among many things) how do I find the time for it?
It all comes down to one big thing: priorities. I find the time to run because I make it a priority, which inevitability means that other things in my life are not priorities and other things become priorities.
Eating healthy and getting to bed at a decent time are priorities for me so I can run in the morning. Binging on Netflix until 2am is not.
What's something you want to do? Are you not doing it because you don't have the time to do it or is it not a priority?
The last time you received feedback, what did it feel like?
No, not what feedback did you get. What feelings actually came up for you?
Many of us have the knee-jerk reaction to get defensive when we receive feedback.
But why is this?
There's lots of dimensions to this question, but here's two ideas: 1.) People aren't good at giving feedback. 2.) People aren't good at receiving feedback.
We all know about 1, but rather than point fingers at someone else, stick with me for a minute while we look inward at why we aren't good at receiving feedback.
There's one big reason we aren't good at receiving feedback and that is: we have a story that goes along with the feedback we received. In most cases, the feedback isn't what causes us to get defensive, what causes us to get defensive is the story we tell ourselves about who we are in relation to the feedback.
For example, I got some feedback from a peer that I should change the wording of a sentence in my eLearning. My peer had the best intentions. In his eyes, by suggesting the change the wording, what I was trying to say would become clearer for my learners and create a better experience for them - my end goal. But what I heard when my peer told me about my sentence was that he thinks I am a terrible writer which quickly leads me to think that everyone thinks that I'm a terrible writer, which quickly leads me down the path of "why am I even writing?! This whole blog is a failure! I'm a terrible person!" And with that mindset, it's no doubt that I rolled my eyes at my peer and said sarcastically, "thanks for the feedback."
But what if I considered the feedback at face value? If I looked to the feedback as an opportunity to change one little thing that could make a big impact, rather than a list of items I need to improve on?
First of all, that seems less exhausting! Secondly, I am more likely to make a small change that can have a big impact!
This way of thinking isn't easy. I'm on a mission to change the way I think when I receive feedback and - I have to say - it's not easy, but it's totally worth it.
Today, try to take one piece of feedback you receive at face value; don't read into it. Instead, notice how it feels and see what happens.
Have you ever attended a medium to large sized conference on your own?
Meaning, you're the only one from your company or organization there?
I have and despite having people all around me, it was pretty lonely.
Thankfully that was not my experience at the conference I attended last week.
Last week I really lucked out and happened to sit by my conference buddy within just an hour of checking into my hotel.
Amanda and I met at the bar on the first night of the conference. Both of us, traveling alone, were eating dinner alone at the hotel bar. I introduced myself and we discovered we were both there for the same conference. The rest is history.
Amanda and I quickly connected and decided to get back together at meals throughout the conference to discuss what we learned.
Not only was this conference not lonely for me but I learned more than I have ever learned at a conference before.
There's something to be said about the process of learning when you engage in the journey with someone else.
Thanks Amanda for being my conference buddy and helping me learn so much more than I could have on my own.
Since I've been traveling for work this week (that's why it's been a little quiet around here), I thought I would share a little story of someone I used to work with who used to use layovers as an opportunity to get in a few extra steps.
Carry-on in hand, he would circle (or if the terminal wouldn’t allow, walk up and down) the halls of the airport while he waited for his flight to arrive. An avid runner, he did it because he knew he wouldn't have the time to run on travel days so it was a way to stay in shape without running.
Reflecting back on this, it made me think about how we can take advantage of times where we can't do what we love but still move in the direction of our goals. In the case of my former co-worker, he couldn't do what he loved: run, but he could at least take some steps (pun intended) towards his goal: staying in shape.
Which got me thinking: What do you do with your layovers, at the airport and in life?
As learning and development professionals, it's our job to help facilitate great classes, create great courses, and generally speaking - get content into the hands of learners.
One program that succeeds at this is the altMBA. At the surface, it's a four-week intensive online course created by Seth Godin that offers leaders an alternative path to an MBA. But it's so much more than an online leadership course.
The altMBA has no grades. There's no lectures. No facilitators. There's weekly assignments, group video calls, and peer-to-peer feedback on your work. And all work is supported by coaches, in a 10:1 student to coach ratio.
It was unlike anything I have ever encountered. I learned more in 30-days than I learned in the last five years of my life combined.
Nearly two years after taking it, I am still talking with people in the program - coaches, peers, people in different sessions. I'm still inspired by the books I read, the connections I made, and I use what I learned daily. It was (and continues to be) a truly magical experience for me.
I recently pondering: How can I create learning and development programs that have the same magic at the altMBA? And decided it was time for a phone call with my altMBA coach, Peter Shepard, where I could ask that very question.
I was looking to come away from the call with some tips on how to design learning experiences that mimic the altMBA, and while I did get a few tactical tips, my biggest learning is that the magic isn't in how the curriculum is put together or the assignments are written, it's in the posture of everyone - the students and the coaches - involved in the course.
The goal for each session of this course isn't just for the students to learn, but for the coaches to learn as well.
The magic happens because everyone is approaching the experience with a growth mindset.
Which got me thinking, what if we approached every learning experience we design as an opportunity not just for our learners to learn and grow but also for ourselves to learn and grow? How might your work change?
When you give feedback to your favorite podcast and they make a small adjustment for the better.
When you share your work with someone who points out that it sounds a lot like an author they've heard of, and one who inspired your work.
When your almost three-year-old puts his dirty dish in the sink.
All small. But all big.
Small because they aren't ground breaking things. But big because combined together they all show you that you're making a difference, you're on the right track. And that's how things change - a bunch of little things, over time, adding up to a big change.
Organizations spend a lot of money getting employees to accept change.
"A system is changing and we need employees to start using it differently."
"A policy is changing and we need people to start doing things differently."
"Our department is changing and we need people to accept it."
And the list goes on.
Entire departments are devoted to helping employees navigate the change. The organization I work at has one - the Organizational Development team. Maybe you have one too? Change Management team? Transition Management? Sound familiar?
Change is hard, so it's good to invite people to help others in the workplace navigate that change and (if you're lucky) embrace it.
But what if instead of devoting resources to helping people embrace the change, we devoted resources to helping people embrace Change?
Rather than being reactionary when there's a change, instead get people bought into the idea of change as a good thing in order for the organization to meet its vision.
How about hiring people who encourage change, the people who see it as a pathway to getting good stuff done?
How about sharing with new employees how the organization has changed for the better and how change will help it in the future?
How about workshops that help your leaders not only accept change, but run towards it?
Rather than change management, how about Change Embracing?
"I wrote a blog post about it..." says the speaker, as if that somehow ups their credibility.
So what, I used to think. You wrote a blog post, but that doesn't make you more credible. What makes you more credible is when someone credible reads it and sites your blog post.
But is that really true?
Do we need someone to validate our work for it to be credible or is creating our own work enough to make it credible?
Aren't the acts of processing, of writing, and sending it out into the world what gives us the credibility?
The next time I hear someone say they wrote a blog post about it, instead of wondering who read it and what they thought of it, I should wonder what the author experienced during the process of sending their work out to the world. Because that makes you a lot more credible than most.