As Chief Learning Officer at Maher, I get asked, “How do I develop myself professionally? What do I do to learn and advance my knowledge base and skills?”
While I’ve always wanted to pursue my PhD and I’d like to say I’m actively engaged in some formal advanced education, I don’t have that personal bandwidth to do so at this point in my life. However, I DO believe, and always have believed, we must continue to grow as professionals. We need to own that and be accountable for it. The world continues to change; we must keep up. One thing I know from working in the Talent Development field for more than 20 years is that a key trait of top performers at any organization is that they are continuous learners.
So, what does a busy mother-of-two do to learn today? In addition to reading articles and books, and watching videos, I participate in courses offered by LinkedIn and numerous other professional associations. But in the spirit of speed and need, I frequently tap the minds of my peers at Maher and my professional network. This allows me to engage in discussions and share ideas regarding learning strategy, design approaches, implementation, evaluation methods, and other key elements of Talent Development. However, these discussions often go beyond Learning & Development (L&D). I also get business advice. I receive operational and workflow insights. I learn about the latest industry trends and more. It’s social learning at its finest.
How do I engage? I don’t come with a structured agenda or methodology; I just reach out via email, forum posts, messaging, or a phone call. Sometimes I receive great insights, and sometimes I’m pointed toward resources to explore or I’m given referrals to others who know something on the topic. Sometimes, I just get an honest, “I don’t know, but it’s a good question. Let me know what you discover.”
As rapidly advancing organizations (inundated with information, thanks to that double-edged sword of technology), we need to siphon the value of social learning, whether it is water-cooler talk, online or in-person communities of practice, or good old one-on-one peer-to-peer sharing. And when we learn something that can impact many, we need to share that and grow its value exponentially. I think of the old Breck Shampoo commercial, “and they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends…” Perhaps we can do this in a more organized fashion, through best practice sharing or as new standards of work.
Another long-standing learning approach that I enjoy and value is storytelling. It natively folds directly into social and peer learning. Listening to TED Talks or other narratives is a great way to catch the pulse of business and my profession. I even started a Pixar storytelling course on Khan Academy with my 13-year old.
Storytelling is one of the most proven and effective means of communication. Before moving into L&D, I spent many years in the realm of Corporate Communications. We used storytelling for product messaging, employee recognition, and creating a strong and trusting company culture. It also offered a forum for peer sharing that fostered organic generation of new ideas and other improvements.
Maher has utilized storytelling with our clients in a mix of platforms. Some that come to mind most recently are in the form of graphic novels and videos to establish context for job roles or service provision. Through storytelling, we excite emotion, provide relativity, and generate empathy to better engage the target audiences and stimulate recall and application of key learnings.
As I noted before, I like to learn from my team, so I asked Susan (Sue) Brown, a Senior Instructional Designer and our newest addition to the Private Sector team, to tell me her perspective on storytelling. Read what she shared.
Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in Neptune, NJ and in Washington, D.C. The Firm’s Private Sector Practice specializes in customized learning design and delivery for the Deathcare, Financial Services, Life Sciences, and Media & Communications industries, and partners with our peers to do the same for government clientele. For more information about our services, visit us at http://www.mahernet.com or call us at 1-888-90-MAHER.