About Learning

What a great week! I’ve spent half of the last 4 days in professional development events–a real treat. And my clients, my friends and I are all better for it…I truly love to hear other perspectives that challenge and expand my own. How else will I get myself unstuck from the past?

On Sunday I was in the Ohio National Speaker’s Association audience to hear a legend in the business, Jeanne Robertson.  Jeanne is a humorist and has been speaking for almost 40 years… and she’s a hoot! (For an enjoyable break in your day, check her out on youtube.)  What I really learned from Jeanne is that she continues to improve her work every single day. She is wildly successful and she chooses to learn…because staying current is so critical to that success.

Following Jeanne’s session, Fred Gleeck, an information product expert, gave us more about using the internet in a couple of hours that I would have thought possible. Did you know that at http://JustDropped.com you can find good domain names? And that http://SpyFu.com does competitive analysis? Fred provided great information and also left me with a couple of significant learnings: “Done is better than perfect.” and “A confused mind always says no.” Both important reminders for those of us whose business depends upon our marketing savvy.

Yesterday I spent the morning with Jim Canterucci and a host of great panelists at the Personal Brilliance seminar hosted at the OSU Leadership Center.  How easy it is to forget that we are all OK just like we are–we don’t need to be fixed; and that cultivating creativity to produce innovation is a process…it’s the focus and repetition that retrain our brain connections so the process becomes more natural. Great reminders about how learning isn’t about “fixing” us, it’s about growing and becoming more comfortable with our talents—so we recognize and use them!

One thing Jim said really started my thinking about this post: he noted that some in attendance were taking great notes to share with their co- workers…almost like the small investment ($89) in the seminar made by their employer would only provide a return if the information could be shared with 5 or 10 others. I know that sharing learning is wonderful, yet minimizing the importance of learning’s value to an individual is still an incredibly short-sighted view! I’ve spent enough of my life inside organizations to know that this is not an unusual perspective, and that learning dollars are spent sparingly and grudgingly: “Man, I hate to spend it here because we have 17 more important budget lines.”

I simply don’t get it: in an economy that demands brains and innovation and connection with customers, how do organizations continue to see learning as extraneous to their success?

I’m also befuddled as to why every employee doesn’t develop a clear path for their own learning, their own growth, especially knowing that organizations seldom do.

Help me out, please! Here’s my question to you: do you have a learning path for yourself? If so, how did you decide to create one and how are you pursuing it? And if not, what’s holding you back? I’d love to have your thoughts on your learning…and of course it feeds my own!


8 Responses

  1. Janine, As part of a recent cohort which studied Workforce Development and eLearning, I was exposed to some of the reasons why the desire to learn has been killed or put to sleep in a portion of the populace. As you know, some of it results from experiences under an authoritarian pedagogy, which can result in a fear of further failure; so, the graduate once employed finds familiarity in similarly punitive and deadening environments and change is frightening.

    While change is uncomfortable for me, learning is a pleasurable activity. I seek it out for the endorphins. I need it to survive and thus have arranged and engaged in every learning opportunity I could. My learning path is a defense against that “life of quiet desperation.” It gives me hope and an awareness of my growing options and eases my fear of change.

    While I can’t speak for those organizations which dole out training money, I sense that that tactic grows out of some self serving motive. It may keep an employee at the grunt level where the dependably rote tasks requires such a mind set or there may be a sense that the opportunity to attend a learning event is just an excuse to get away from work.

    While some training has turned out to be a waste of money, we know that refusing training dollars to employees, just like the RIF process or buy-outs, starves the organization of potential strength. As we also know there are other paradigms for reducing the costs of salary and benefits, while not with as much of a bang as termination but with the ROI in employees paying the organization forward. As for whether training dollars are wasted, sometimes a day away from work with stimulating conversation and good coffee can do a lot to energize an employee in his daily tasks even if no further learning has taken place.

  2. Words of wisdom, Donna…I think your assessment is very much on target. Given the need for organizations to have all the brains in the workplace working, I continue to be caught up short with the antiquated view of development…seems like organizations should see beyond the old world view. Maybe the baby boomer generation needs to retire in order for this to happen…? Thanks so much for your comments…I appreciate your views!


  3. Janine, I don’t want to believe it is age alone which has set those organizational minds in concrete. The first wave of baby boomers from the class of ’64, females especially, has fought too long and hard for equality to facilitate personnel development using the silos-of-power model as a guide. Meanwhile, I have seen younger managers of both genders adopt this stance and appear to relish the power over the purse and the clock. I am willing to rethink this but perhaps it is the complacency and conceit of success combined with the dogma of labor/management divisions that prolongs this paternalistic view of employees. Until we can implement a newer model of mangement which some would call meta-leadership it is all the more reason to own one’s own career, as you say.

  4. I do agree, Donna, with your comments on women baby boomers, but my experience does not reflect this for most corporate leaders, who are men. I expect you are right with your comments on complacency and conceit…these seem to accompany (or maybe foster) entitlement and slippery politics. The younger two generations have different values and different world views, but that doesn’t mean they won’t mirror rewarded behaviors. Maybe the adage “he who owns the gold makes the rules” applies here…and it’s all about making the rules. Thanks so much for your thoughts!


  5. I just reread an article on Servant Leadership in the Spring 2004 issue of OSU’s Leadership Links. It describes a model for building a successful enterprise through the empowerment of all workers. The idea has been out there for a while.

  6. Thanks, Donna, for the reference. Empowerment as a business driver has been around for awhile…makes you wonder what it will take for it to finally catch on!

  7. Janine, I so appreciate your ability to deliver a tough message in a supportive way. You do seem to serve those you are leading. After referencing the OSU Leadership Links article on Servant Leadership, I took some time to search it out electronically so I could pass it on. The 2004 article is at this url: http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu/library/publications/leadership-link/2004/index_html . There is a newer article in Issue 1 of 2008 at http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu/library/publications/leadership-link/2008/index_html .

    I see from Twitter that you are talking with a client about mentoring. I haven’t read much about the skills for that but it appears that the servant leader would be a good role model. Have a good day.

  8. Thanks so much for this link, Donna…what a great resource this publication looks to be! I think I’ll twitter your post so others interested in the concept can access the article.

    This also fits quite nicely with my approach to mentoring, and I can incorporate this into an upcoming session for a professional association… as well as a presentation I was just asked to do on “Honesty & Integrity in a Leader.”
    What a great example this is of things happening for a reason! Thank you so much.


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