This morning I listened to the Good Practice podcast “What I Learned This Year” and it got me thinking about what I learned and decided to share my reflections here.
Lesson 1: Knowing More About What I’m Willing to Stand For and Put Up With
Working on your own is hard work and not for the faint-hearted. I’ve had massive moments of self-doubt, anguish and bouts of disheartenment throughout the year. It’s made me reflect on what exactly pushes me to do the work that I do and why I do it in my own way.
My biggest realisation is that I love to work and learn out loud and I’m inspired when people do the same for their own purposes. In fact, it’s made me redefine the type of people, teams and organisations I want to work for and with. Even the people I engage with on social media. It means that I turned down work that was not aligned with my own personal values about the importance of role modelling, the power of experimentation and curiosity and the freedom of being made to look like a fool sometimes.
Lesson 2: Get the Bull Shit Out of My Life & Networks
This year, my bullshit detectors have been working overtime too which reached the pinnacle and necessitated me writing “You Are Not a Thought Leader” which got people on Twitter and LinkedIn talking.
Lesson 3: We Need More Diverse Voices in Learning & Development
Another lesson for me this year was the lack of diversity of voices in our field of Learning and Development.
What brought it home was attending the Learn Tech Asia Conference in Singapore and seeing the cultural differences of the importance of personal and organisational learning between the East and the West.
Similarly, a MOOC I did on the anthropological differences of people using social media across the world was a massive eye-opener and made me question how my network is made up of mostly white Anglo Saxon males and females with little representation of any other culture and races.
It made me realise how one-sided my perspective was when people I connected with on Snapchat (who come from all parts of the world especially the middle east, India and Asia) were my sounding boards. Behind the scenes, I felt free to ask them questions – possibly naive and innocent questions – just to get an understanding of how they view the world. It made me question that we can put all the learning solutions in the world into our organisations but when you’re working with a multi-national organisation made up of different cultures, races and practices – our solutions can’t be so cut and dry.
If anything, it’s taught me the value of having diverse voices and in fact, steered me away from ‘social learning’ (for the time being) to be more about encouraging people to express their unique voice and experiences through whatever social network, online community or medium. The tools and platforms are irrelevant for me but the opportunity for people who may not feel empowered to speak up is now becoming stronger. I’m thinking that maybe this is where I can help people?
Lesson 4: Only Work With People and Organisations Aligned with Your Personal Values
Another realisation for me is that I prefer to work with people who are open to creating their own personal learning strategies – that is, to do the work themselves and not look at it from the point of view of scaling it across the organisation. This was made evident during a lightbulb moment in conversation with a couple of other people who focussed on organisational learning. They were taking what I was saying and asking, “what does this look like for the organisation?” and I stopped in my tracks. I never placed importance on what anything looks like for the organisation because I never felt it was right to determine this for the organisation. My focus was on its PEOPLE – the individuals first. It was up to these people to define what it would look like for an organisation.
It was like a flash of inspiration that happened and that’s when I realised why rank, position, authority, levels played no bearing on how I treat people (which is why I never progressed up the corporate ladder in private industry but for some strange reason reached command level in the military). I’d work the same with someone who is a CEO as I do with someone who works as a member of a team because I admire people who take an interest in their own professional and personal development; as well as people who roll their sleeves up and muck in. Maybe this comes from my military background where your leadership is determined by how well you support and empower your people to be the best they can be – it’s all about THEM not you.
Lesson 5: Take Personal Responsibility
Another realisation is that through all this, is that it’s up to us to make changes for ourselves and not rely on others or our managers and organisations to do this for us. We’ve got to take personal responsibility and accountability. We need to put in the ‘hard yards’ and get out of our comfort zones. So my focus has been away from ‘social learning’ this year simply because it has failed to reach any traction with Learning and Development and focussed on ‘personal learning’.
With too much change in our organisations – and in our society – I don’t believe we are ready for social learning just yet until we work on ourselves first.
Lesson 6: Have Fun, Be Curious, Enjoy Life – Create More and Consume Less
This year has been an immense learning experience for me where I have allowed my imagination to take over. I have explored history of Singapore, walked around the Sydney historical sights after reading voraciously anything I could get my hands on Australian history and William Bligh.
My biggest creative endeavour was building an alter ego, Sharon (Don’t Call me Shazza) Breaknews, a Foreign Correspondent for a fake news channel a small group of us are participating in Snapchat.
The opportunity to be involved in this global collaborative project has made me more creative and given me something else to think about. It’s also made me realise how I love to CREATE MORE and CONSUME LESS. The idea of having to CREATE and produce something really gets me going! Time passes instantly and I’ve had such enormous joy out of the process that I’m constantly stretching myself on how to do better. I’ve now started to use Instagram for my ‘fake’ and filtered photos (who would have thought?) and created the stories behind Shazza. I’m not one who is comfortable taking selfies or being in photos myself but having an alter ego – that changes matters. It’s all about Shazza because she can express my frustration for things that I don’t normally share openly.
I wrote about the experience in this blog post “What Business Can Learn from (Some) Fake News Channels.”
In 2011, as part of the Obama Administration, Sharon (Dont Call Me Shazza) Breaknews covered the black ops operation with Navy Seals (Seal Team 6) to seek, search and kill “High Value Target” Osama Bin Laden as part of JSOC contingent. Unfortunately she didn’t have the correct Top Security (TS) clearance, missed the memo and turned up to the wrong location with Mike, her cameraman. She counts this operation as one of the highlights of her Foreign Correspondent career. She had nothing to report there too.
Are you interested in listening to the Good Practice podcast? Here’s the link and why not share your own lessons for 2017?
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.