The single most important skill of a learning professional

If you look at any job description for any learning and development job, you’ll find a whole lot of items listed under required skills and experience. Instructional design. The ability to be a dynamic presenter. Technical savvy with common software such as PowerPoint. Creativity (which is more of a trait than a skill or experience).

I’ve recorded 66 podcast interviews and I’ve been a little surprised at the trait I hear come up most often, including something that was mentioned by next Monday’s guest (Spencer Wixom will be talking about sales training and the Challenger Sale model).

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4 productive uses of your time while quarantined

This is unlike any other time in our lives. Many of us are living under stay-at-home orders. Zoom is our new way of life. And we have even more time to scroll through social media and news sites to see what’s happening in the world and to search for some glimmers of hope.

Perhaps we’ll be back to normal in a few months. Maybe it’ll take a year for things to truly feel “normal” again. Whenever it is that “normal” returns, will you be prepared for it? Here are four ideas of actions you can be taking now to be sure you’re prepared when “normal” arrives.

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Successfully Working in a Remote Office

Many workers are being asked to work remotely, but how does that change the way we work? In a post last week, we looked at some resources and tips around shifting to a home office. Recently, Gus Curran wrote a timely blog post about successfully adapting to a remote team. This week, Gus sat down with the Train Like You Listen podcast to dive deeper into how people can be successful in this work situation to which many workers are rapidly shifting.

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3 job seeking tips from an L&D hiring manager

Several weeks ago I wrote some observations for job seekers after reviewing 50 L&D manager job descriptions. In today’s post, Mary Cropp, Director of Training and Development at Bluetooth SIG, writes this guest post to share some very blunt advice for anyone looking to land their next role on an L&D team.

Job-seeking advice from an L&D Director

Mary Cropp - Head ShotAs the hiring manager and in-house consultant for all things L&D within my organization, I am choosy about who will be on my team and who will be providing contract work for the organization. Choosy? Make that very choosy. If I lift the veil for a moment on hiring practices within the L&D realm, I want to prepare all you facilitators, trainers, and instructional designers out there with a bit of what a hiring manager looks for in a candidate.   Continue reading

In whom should we be investing when our training funds are limited?

A while back I connected with blog reader Ashley Dietrick, a Learning & Development Facilitator with Lawley. When we discussed the topics about which L&D professionals might be interested in reading, she mentioned that since resources are always tight, an article about smarter ways to invest limited funds could be of interest.

I’d like to thank Ashley for taking the time to share her thoughts on the subject with our Train Like A Champion audience. Following are Ashley’s thoughts: Continue reading

How Many Experts Does It Take?

Training teams vary in size and skill depth. Large teams likely have individuals that focus primarily on one aspect of the training lifecycle, while small teams tend to have people that assume various job roles. As a trainer, I fall into the latter category. I enjoy being involved in various stages of a training, and as a dedicated learner, I love exploring more about how each task in L&D is completed.  No matter what the team size, it takes a lot of expertise to build a presentation. Continue reading

What’s Missing from ATD ICE?

Searching (Blank Face)

ATD’s annual international conference and expo began yesterday, and I have a feeling it’s missing something (and I’m not necessarily talking about me… although really, what good is a conference without me?).

I’ve been to several ATD conferences and a SHRM Talent Development conference over the past few years and they all seem to be missing something.

The crowds I’ve encountered at the ATD conferences have primarily included instructional designers, training program managers, classroom instructors and some independent consultants. The SHRM conference was primarily HR professionals – business partners, generalists, department heads and consultants.

I imagine it’s similar at major conferences for professionals in coaching or organizational development. On the one hand, it’s to be expected. These conferences, after all, are for specialized segments of the greater human performance field. On the other hand, none of these initiatives can be successful if professionals from across the human performance spectrum don’t have opportunities to cross-pollinate.

Recently, as I got involved in my local ATD chapter, I was given an opportunity to work on an annual program called the Allied Professionals Event, which will take place on June 9th in Seattle. I’m looking forward to it because it is the one night of the year when people from across these specialized areas – learning & development, human resources, coaching and organizational development – can all come together, spend some time networking and discussing what’s on their minds, and then listen to some of the region’s rock star executives in both HR and business operations speak to the impact of human performance initiatives on the people within their organizations.

If you’re in the Seattle area, I’d like to invite you to attend (here is the registration information) and I’d love to hear what you’re working on. If you’re someplace else in this world, I’d love to hear from you – have you found similar opportunities to engage with your counterparts from other areas of the human performance spectrum?

While I know large national conferences are organized for specialized groups that make up their membership, are they completely serving their members’ best interests with such a narrow focus across all conference programming?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it in the Comment section.

Know someone who might be interested in this type of initiative, please pass this along!

My Next Job: Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor (Eat Your Heart Out, Snape!)

Defense Against the Dark Arts InstructorThis fall I’ll begin working as an instructor in a new Workplace Learning & Professional Development certificate program at the University of Washington. I can’t quite recall the formal title of the position, but I kind of see it as a modern day, Seattle-based Defense Against the Dark Arts sort of position. The Dark Arts being poorly designed learning experiences (obviously).

This is how I envision my first day:

“Interactivius!” shouted one of my pupils as he pointed his wand at the PowerPoint slide that was being projected on the screen.

Suddenly the clip art on the slide was transformed into… well, into an animated gif file. “Keep working on the Interactive Charm, young master Neville,” I said, “animated gifs can be fun creatures, but more often than not, they’re nasty little beings that simply make poor slide design worse.”

“Who’s next?” A red haired boy stepped up and as he was about to try his spell he suddenly became distracted. A little rat hopped out of his pocket and ran out the door. The red haired boy ran after it as the class burst into laughter.

The next student to step up was a young man with round spectacles and a funny little scar on his forehead. “Enumerate!” he shouted, and a bolt of light shot from his wand and transformed the bullet points on the slide into numbers.

“Nice start, Mr. Potter,” I explained, “numbers definitely make it easier to identify which point you may be talking about, but there are more engaging ways to present.”

“Step aside, Potter!” a little blonde haired boy shouted, then pointed his wand at the screen and cried: “Transitious!” Suddenly, the slide swirled off the screen, advancing to the next slide which dissolved into the next slide which evaporated into a series of random bars, and finally a checkerboard pattern took the last slide off the screen and left the class facing a blank image that said: “End of Slideshow.” The students who weren’t nauseated or dizzy laughed uncomfortably.

“Mr. Malfoy,” I tried to be as tactful as possible since his father was rumored to have been a very ill-tempered and powerful man, “let’s try to ease off on those slide transitions next time.”

“Hocus Poll-cus,” said a soft-spoken young woman in the class. The bullet points and text were suddenly replaced with a brief series of PollEverywhere questions.

“Brilliant, Miss Granger!” I exclaimed. “Where did you learn that particular enchantment?”

“It was quite an easy one to learn, actually,” she said. “It’s one of 100 different charms I learned from The Big Book of Technologies that can Transform Any Learning Experience! By polling the audience instead of talking at them, you can get them involved in generating content for the lesson!”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now that we’re warmed up,” I continued the lesson, “this will be the first and last time we play with PowerPoint in here. For even though there are a gazillion PowerPoint presentations given each day, it’s actually a very dangerous creature that’s been misused, overused and certainly abused for quite some time. It wasn’t born dangerous, but He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named transformed PowerPoint into a dangerous, perhaps even deadly (if you can die from boredom) creature long ago.”

“He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? You mean, Lecture?” There was a collective, panicked gasp among the students.

“No Mr. Malfoy, Lecture is not the root of all evil, contrary to what many may tell you. There is a time and place for the kindly old soul of presentation delivery methods. No, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is…”

Just then, the bell rang.

“Nice job today. We’ll get into it more deeply on Monday,” I said. “Class dismissed.”

Think you know who He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is? Let’s hear your divination(s) in the Comment section.

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10 Minutes (7 if you run)

There are some things we just have to do, whether we like it or not. Compliance training comes to mind immediately.

Sometimes walking falls into this category for me, too, which is why this sign stood out for me during a recent sightseeing excursion in Japan.

Almost There Edited

Hilarious, right? Entertaining? Encouraging? I appreciated the humor behind this sign so much that I took a picture of it and decided to blog about it.

Oh wait, that’s an edited version. It’s not entertaining or funny or encouraging. It’s plain. And not memorable. And typical of visual aids we normally create. Especially for mundane tasks.

Here’s the actual sign that was posted:

Almost There

It has humor. It has encouragement. For overachievers, there’s a challenge to be found.

Next time you’re putting together a slide deck or handouts or flipcharts – even if you think the topic is routine or boring – why not get a little more creative? Why not respect your audience enough to throw something a little unexpected their way? Why not go the extra mile?

It’ll probably only take an extra 10 minutes or so. Seven minutes if you run a little.