Three Dangerous Employee Mindsets I have Conquered (mostly)

May 16, 2012

My company announced today that several hundred positions will be cut tomorrow. I work for a great company and completely understand the business needs, especially in this economy. Of course this sort of situation creates a bit of anxiety – I can’t help wondering if I will be one of those “let go.”

Given that nerve-wrecking space, Kevin Jones’ latest post, 10 Dangerous Employee Mindsets, came at just the right time.  It served as a reminder and acknowledgement that I have developed a strong, healthy, independent mindset in my career development – and that this mindset will continue serving me well, regardless of layoffs or no layoffs.

Here are three of ‘vin Jones’ 10 dangerous mindsets and his counter to them, plus my own 2 cents. Be sure to read his post. It’s good stuff.

Dangerous mindset # 5: Your Career Advancement Ends When You Leave the Office.

Jones says:  If you love what you do your work will be a part of your life, not just a workday activity.You will read books and posts about it at other times… Then you will realize the career advancement is not just confined to your current position.

I say:  Despite busy projects with stupid crazy time lines, I ensure I give myself time to roam the web for creative inspiration and new ideas,  or to learn new development tools. I do this on my own free time, too. Because it is my passion, somehow it helps me to not be threatened by loss of job. I don’ t depend on it to validate my passion.

6. The path to success is clear: work your way into management.

Jones says: Management isn’t the only path to success.  In fact, sometimes, it is a step backwards.  

I say: Amen, Brother! I once moved into a full-time project management job because I was told I was good at politics, organizing, and process. Truth was, I was good at those, but mostly because I loved design and development, and so ensured I was following good practices. But I figured project management was a great step into higher-level management. I never wondered whether I’d enjoy management. I just knew, or thought, it was the thing to do. I pushed design and development aside, and was miserable. Now I am back in design and dev, turning out creative, effective work that stakeholders and learners give strong kudos for. I am happy. 

Mindset #7. Don’t rock the boat.  Keep’er steady.

Jones says: If you don’t rock the boat, someone else will rock your boat and throw you off.  Time to start rock’n.  Be bold (but not toxic).

 I say: I totally embrace this. Many are the  days when I assert some difference of opinion, call a spade a spade, question stupid processes, or point out waste that impedes creativity or quality.  Perhaps sometimes I come across as argumentative or difficult. I’m also pretty sure that people don’t have to second-guess my sincerity. Generally, my experience is that people at all levels appreciate courage and respectful forthrightness. I try hard not to be toxic or offensive, and am also plenty generous with sincere expression of support and enthusiasm. But it’s also important to take risks and speak my truth. Life’s too short to short to be a politically correct “Yes” man.

Those are just three out of 10 great points made in the post. Be sure to check it out. And don’t let fear hold you back. Be bold, be true, be passionate.

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Learning Inspirations from MLK, Jr.

January 16, 2012

Today is a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth. While visiting my family in Georgia for the holidays recently, some of us visited the MLK Jr Center. visiting my family in Georgia.

There’s a plaque in the exhibition hall that has a fantastic paraphrase of some of MLK’s words. It uses Rip Van Winkle as an example of sleeping through a revolution. Obviously it is referring to the far more signifiant issue of political and human rights revolution, but I thought in a small way, it is relevant to the technical “revolution” impacting the learning world, especially around social media and user generated content.

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. 

In our domain of organizational training, learning, knowledge management, etc….I am thinking of the points made by many in the blogosphere that there are a lot of managers, execs, learning professionals, etc, who are clinging to the need to control knowledge, prescribe and define training needs, push out what they think workers/learners need, and so on. I am thinking of the  instructional designers and trainers who remain wary of learners posting their own content, even within enterprise social media platform.

Again, nothing comparable to what MLK was referring to, but are we not in a paradigm shift in our field? Just pick up books like Here Comes Everybody, the Power of Pull, and the Wisdom of Crowds. Things are rapidly changing.  And do we not have our own protectors of the status quo?

My question for us then is, are we sleeping through it? 

The eternal flame burns before the crypt at the King Center on the the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. JOHN SPINK, JSPINK@AJC.COM


3 Reasons Training Departments Should Use their Social Network Tools

June 13, 2011

In a recent cafe chat with a few training/design peers, someone mentioned how their organization’s learning unit purchased a social network suite, but that it largely went unused a year after implementation.  While this puzzled her and me, others in the group protested that no one has time  to blog or other social network “stuff.” Really? I think that’s a crock. Intuitively and experimentally, I know how powerful social networking can be for learning (both personal and team/organizational). But how do I argue that to others who aren’t convinced?

Here are my top three thoughts on why we should be using social networking within our learning organizations. What others are there?

Reason 1: We need to enhance our ability to connect and network within the Learning function.

Our Jive-empowered network brings a variety of social media and networking technologies to the enterprise level, giving us an opportunity to harness the power of blogging, threaded discussions, virtual groups and more—all within the safe confinements of the firewall. With these tools, we can connect, collaborate, and share with one another in ways not possible with meetings and coffee chats.

The discussion tools give us an excellent way to share a thought or question, and get responses from people not just in your office, but in offices around the country/world.

“Groups” and other features provide an easily accessible, relatively easy way to create online communities of practice.   Members can post questions around fuzzy concepts, share links and documents, collaborate on a project, or share best practices.

Reason 2: We need a better way to distribute and access our wealth of knowledge.

In Company X we have a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is tribal knowledge around how we get things done, as well as role-specific know-how and a wide array of special interests. Typically, we share this kind of information in day-to-day conversations, emails, or via documents stored on Sharepoint or some server located who-knows-where. This knowledge is difficult or impossible to access.

The Learning Network offers a number of significant benefits for knowledge sharing over those traditional methods. Here’s a few:

  • Knowledge sharing on the network is not constrained by time and place. Someone in Japan can just as easily participate in a conversation as someone here at the SSC.
  • Knowledge housed on the network is searchable. Categorized topics and the thoughtful use of tags in blogs and articles makes content searchable and retrievable for future reference. You can’t exactly search last year’s water cooler conversations, can you?
  • Full participation is enabled. Anyone can create and share their own content just as easily as they can respond to others’ contributions. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled meeting  or a facilitator, leader, or domain expert to start a conversation. Have something to say or a question to ask? Want to share a great idea from an external Web site or favorite blog? Just log on and start writing!

Reason 3: We need to leverage and enhance our opportunities for informal learning.

Social media and networking tools also allows us to leverage and enhance informal learning. Most workplace learning doesn’t happen through formally prescribed courses, coaching, or learning paths. Rather, most learning happens through informal conversations that occur on the job, in the break room, between meetings, and so on.  This can be sharing a quick “how to,” or a vetting out of new concepts, ideas, and challenges. With the Learning Network, we can bring some of these conversations online, giving us more avenues to learn and share.

So, that’s what I think. What say you? Are there other good reasons for training and development departments to use their own social tools more? Or why not to?


Fallen from the Grace of Learning, Part 2

May 20, 2011

In Part 1, I shared how I have lost touch with my professional learning interests since getting immersed in project management. Sadly, I have also lost touch with my design and learning technologies network. I stopped blogging, stopped networking, stopped studying and researching trends, studies, and best practices. Shameful!

Well, enough is enough! Life pushed me to do something about it, and I can’t be happier for it.

On the livelihood front, I have returned to a learning design focus. While project management is a valuable skill set t have, it’s not something my brain type is natural at, and, frankly, I just don’t want to focus on it as a full-time role. Despite the skills and professional growth, the main lesson is for me is the basic importance of doing whatever it is you are passionate about. More about that later.

On the personal learning side, I pulled up the ol’ RSS reader for only the 2nd or 3rd time in at least a year. I caught up on a few of my favorite bloggers and quickly rediscovered what I love so much about this field.  Things sure change fast in this field! And though my tools are rusty, they aren’t lost. I’ve purchased or downloaded free trials of several key design/development/training tools, ordered a few books from Amazon, and signed up for a workshop or two.

I love this profession. It’s good to connect again and join in conversations that motivate and inspire me.

On that note, I’ll exit with this little ditty…


til next time.