Exciting Professional Development Update

Kicking off my Designing Learning Certificate through the Association for Talent Development today. Three days of intensive instruction about Instruction Systems Design, including foundational concepts like ADDIE and learning science as well as practical application and evaluation of learning impact. 

I’m really excited to take this information and apply it in my work to help lead my organization to further success. 

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On Leading Through Change

While this will not be the only post I write on this topic, I had a unique experience to put my theories and study and passion into practice this weekend. Now, this requires a bit of back story on your author, so I’ll start there. 

I have been a participant in a medieval recreation society since I was 2 years old. My mother played in the society and took me with her my entire childhood. I was raised spending 1-3 weekends of every month in this group. This society is entirely volunteer run, which means that successful events rely on trustworthy, hard-working, passionate volunteers. It also means that, anyone running these events has to lead through change.

Volunteers are amazing people, invaluable to any non-profit organizations, but they’re unpaid status means that paid work, lack of money to spend the weekend away from home, and a million other things, are more likely to interfere with their ability to show up. Some call when this happens, some don’t. 

The second piece of information you need is that I’ve been second-in-command of the kitchen at a particular event for many years. This year was the first time I have stepped into the Kitchen Manager position, putting me in charge of a core crew of 9 people, with 3 others filling in where needed when they were not working elsewhere. Together, we spent 4 days feeding 90 people. If those people ate or drank anything, it was prepared in our kitchen. 

9-12 people is not many, and when you’re feeding that many people everything they consume from sunup to sundown, it requires careful consideration of schedules, energy levels, and very intentional shift overlaps to have enough people in the kitchen at any given time. 

This weekend, one of those people did not show up. No call. Nothing. Just never arrived. They happened to be the person with the single most physically demanding job in the whole kitchen. 

Suddenly, I had to adapt and encourage everyone else to adapt successfully to a hole in our crew that needed to be filled. My carefully planned shifts and breaks were suddenly inadequate because the amount of work everyone would be putting in was greatly increased. 

What I did was successful, I believe, so I’d like to share the experience with you.

First, I recognized the problem and the worry of the rest of the crew, validating their feelings. I expressed my understanding and empathy. While each of us needed to pitch in to get the work done, I was sure to encourage them to ask for breaks when needed since the work would be much more physical than any of them expected. I expressed my absolute confidence in our ability to perform and carried on.

I think part of why this was successful is that I made sure not to dwell on it. I was confident in the ability of my crew and I made the necessary changes to task breakdowns to make up for the missing person. Once the changes were in place, there was no reason to focus on it. I simply proceeded as if everything was fine, because it was.

By maintaining the expectation that we could handle this, expressing confidence and support, and staying positive, we were able to navigate the challenge presented.

What are your experiences with leading through change? If you have any stories or tips to share, leave a comment below!

On “Divine Discontent”

“[D]ivine discontent: How can you make something better? I think entrepreneurship and invention are pretty closely coupled. And inventors are always walking around the world thinking, ‘I’m kind of inured to this, but just because I’m used to it doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.'” ~ Jeff Besos (January/February 2015 Foreign Affairs)

I have always had this, what I always assumed was strange, desire to improve the things and people around me, and most of all, a desire to improve myself. I have given people the impression that I am displeased or that they are somehow not good enough for me, repeatedly. I have worked actively to change that impression, and those who get to know me seem to understand my intent well enough, but those who are new to me tend to be put off by this tendency.

Jeff Besos, in his recent Foreign Affairs interview has given me a name for that perpetual desire to make things better: Divine Discontent.  Continue reading

On Having Fun and Keeping their Attention

leaves-smallIn order to lead effectively, you need the engagement and genuine interest of your people. It is your responsibility to warrant their full attention, it is not their responsibility to give it to you just because you sit at the head of the table.

I realized recently that I had become lazy in my training techniques and in life. Probably not in the way most people mean when they talk about being lazy, but lazy nonetheless. You see, when I am low on energy or stressed, I tend to fall back on working really hard until I push through a thing. I stop being able to see the merit of breaks or of having fun until I arrive on the other side of the stress I’m experiencing.It takes active effort for me not to fall into this pattern, and the lazy option is to just give into it, to give up my relaxation and fun until I get through it. Of course, I don’t learn nearly as much from the experiences I have when I’m in this mindset, and what I do learn, I often forget a week or two later. Continue reading

On Not Mothering, Hovering, or Micromanaging

In scrolling through my blog feed this week, I clicked on a post from Leadership Freak that really spoke to something that’s been bouncing around my head for a while. Specifically, the line below stood out, and I think it highlights a particularly important issue in leadership development today.

“When leaders act like mommy, team members act like children.”

Leadership Freak

We have moved away from a leadership model that includes fear and tyranny, and into a time of service leadership and leading by example. Our language has moved from how to make people follow your orders to discussion about how to inspire those around you to action for your cause or your project.

In this transition, there is a line that we must not cross, lest we want children to follow us instead of capable, empowered adults. That line is drawn at what is colloquially known as mothering, but is really just micromanagement, or hovering. Continue reading