Why “Lean In” Made Me Step Back for a Moment

working-women

Over the past few years, the Lean In movement has become a highly influential, inspirational voice for professional women around the world. As a professional female, I appreciate the message and encouragement. As the mother of a teenage son (today, at the time of this writing, is actually his 15th birthday!) and a college-aged daughter, I appreciate that these conversations are happening, to hopefully provide an equal, empowering career experience for her, and that my son has an educated perspective as well. I’ve read the book and follow posts on social media. I would say that I’ve been in agreement with most of the points I’ve seen.

Until last week.

If you know me, you know that I am hardly a confrontational person. This blog, while sometimes a source of tough love for hiring managers and those who are responsible for creating learning experiences, is not typically a platform that seeks out debate because, quite frankly, it’s exhausting, it rarely yields change, and it’s just not my style. However, in defense of my passionate stance for the new employee experience, I was unsettled by a post and New York Times article I read the other day on the Lean In Facebook page:

lean-in-facebook-post

Specifically, this line from the post:

Office Housework.PNG

Please hear me: I am not disagreeing with the overall premise of this article. I fully believe that women often do more “office housework” than their male counterparts. I have seen (and experienced) it time and time again during my 20+ years in the workforce.

My issue, and what struck such a nerve with me, is that this post described “training new hires” as OFFICE HOUSEWORK, suggesting that it is an inconvenience. A mindless task. A chore.

Then I thought, “Okay, Michelle. Before getting all worked up over a Facebook post, maybe you should read the article and then form an opinion?” So I did.

And in the first paragraph, I read this:

lean_in_article

 

Right there, among suggestively trivial items like helping improve a presentation and planning a holiday party, I saw it: “trained several new hires…”

Now, I can accept that fact that whoever wrote the Facebook post, and the authors of this article probably did not intend to minimize the importance of onboarding. Of the thousands of people who read the post/article, I am probably the only one who is reacting so passionately to something that wasn’t even the main point (I could argue how sad that is, but I’ll let it slide). But since the Lean In organization has such influence over so many professionals in countless organizations and industries (and kudos to them for it), I am distressed over the notion that such cavalier word choices may cause readers to dismiss an organization’s need for intentional, results-driven onboarding.

If you treat onboarding like an inconvenience or a low-priority task, then don’t be surprised if your new employees aren’t feeling connected to your organization.

A study by Aberdeen has shown that as many as 87% of new employees aren’t fully committed to a new job for the first six months. Eighty-seven percent. Let’s put it this way: out of 100 newly-hired employees, 87 of them are still subscribed to emails from Indeed and Glassdoor and may still be following up about other submitted job applications or calls from assertive recruiters. Those talented employees that you have invested time and money to hire and train are not entirely sure that they want to stick around for the long haul. If your partners in the onboarding process don’t realize how important their job is, then it is your job to communicate it.

Who are your partners?

Regardless of who “owns” the onboarding experience for your organization, there are a number of key stakeholders who should be involved in the new employee experience. Just a few include:

  • HR/Talent Acquisition
  • L&D/Training/Talent Development
  • Hiring Managers
  • Peers and teammates
  • Support staff (IT, administrative roles, etc)
  • Executives and senior leaders
  • Clients and vendors

Everyone involved touches a new employee’s experience in some way. If they treat this responsibility like an inconvenience, an afterthought or a “nice-to-have” during a busy time, then your new employees feel it. It potentially stunts their development, performance, engagement, and connectedness. You must educate your organization on how onboarding impacts the bottom line of your business.

Wait, what? You don’t know how onboarding impacts your business?

Find out.

What story is your company’s data telling about your new employees’ performance, retention and engagement? 

Depending on your organization’s goals and priorities, some essential metrics could include:

  • Sales within the first 30-60-90 days of employment
  • Number of errors or accidents on the job
  • Reasons employees leave within the first year (exit interview data is a gold mine for this!)
  • Number of internal promotions within the first year
  • Productivity – particularly for those in a very metric-driven role (think call center data, customer service, assembly line, etc)

 

Onboarding and new employee training can make a significant impact on business results – during Orientation, in a training environment and through on-the-job experience. People, male or female, who are involved should know how THEY are contributing to the bottom line. Give them a chance to take ownership of their role and recognize onboarding as a need-to-have. To lean in to the privilege of serving and contributing to a new employee’s success (see what I did there?).

Am I going to stop following Lean In because of this? No, of course not. The mission and work of this organization is important; it invites productive conversation and adds immense value to our professional society. In fact, had it not been for confidence gained through the stories of passionate female leaders and influencers, maybe I would not feel comfortable sharing my opinion through this platform? Who knows…

As a champion of learning in the workplace, I firmly believe that we need to pay attention to the direct and indirect messages we are sending, and use our influence to shape learning experiences for employees in the organizations we support. This article was a powerful reminder.


 

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3 Learning Lessons from Sesame Street

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Like many kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I learned on the Street. Sesame Street, that is. Watching this show was a daily occurrence when I was a tot.

Sesame Street is celebrating its 45th birthday this week! To think of how many millions of children have been introduced to learning through this show is simply incredible. Today, as a tribute to the institution that is Sesame Street, here are 3 lessons that adult learning professionals can take away:

1. The show is real and relevant.

Throughout the run of the show, Sesame Street hasn’t steered away from introducing kids to tough topics. One that stands out to me is when the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away in real life. Instead of replacing the actor and moving on with the show, they tackled the sad truth head-on.

The lesson: In our organizations, keep it relevant through times of incessant change (or even turmoil). Align your programs and messaging to your business objectives. There should never be a question of how your program connects to your organizational strategy.

 

2. Children interact with trusted adults. And celebrities. And puppets!

One of the most entertaining parts of the show is when children are involved – whether they are dancing and giggling with Elmo or singing a song with a movie star. The show (and learning) is at its best when everyone is engaged.

The lesson: Get people and teams out of their silos. Connect employees with leaders. Get new associates paired up with a buddy or mentor. What is your team doing to establish and maintain a collaborative environment?

 

3. Learning is fun, gosh darnit.

I highly doubt that I would have learned how to read, count, be a good friend, have empathy or accept people who are different than I am had the show not have been FUN to watch.

The lesson: Are your learning programs (whether through face-to-face, online or other methods) engaging? Are they – dare I say – enjoyable? If not, maybe 2015 is the year your team takes an honest look at your offerings!

 

This week, I’m celebrating Sesame Street. I’m thinking back to the lessons I learned as a kid…and the lessons the show continues to teach today. Happy 45th birthday, Sesame Street!

Your turn: Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? What lessons did you learn? Who were your favorite characters (people or puppets)? What else can we take away from the show that can help us develop as learning professionals? Use the comments to share your thoughts and memories!

 

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Onboarding Should be Relational, not Transactional

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Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that get under a person’s skin and drives. them. absolutely. crazy.

For me, it’s the term “new hire.” Seems innocent, right? I’m sure about 99.2% of people in the free world wouldn’t think twice about the expression, but it’s one I simply cannot stand.

In fact, I told my friend Brian the other day that “I die a little bit inside every time someone says ‘new hire’.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Onboarding should be relational, not transactional.

“Hire” is a verb. It suggests transaction, or something that you do. When I hear someone referred to as a “new hire,” I immediately think that person isn’t an official part of the organization yet. In fact, when we look at the top definition for hire, this is what we see:

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Am I saying there is no “transaction” involved in the process? Not at all. I get it, there is paperwork to complete, processes to follow, content to share. But that is not the end-all-be-all to onboarding a new employee.

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Onboarding is a process that immerses a new employee (noun!) into an organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us want our newest employees to feel welcomed, nurtured and included when they join the organizations we support. Your new employees are people, with needs and emotions and questions.

There is so much more to onboarding than the simple act of “hiring” a person.

When building a culture that welcomes, nurtures and includes new employees (particularly when there hasn’t been much of a process in place), an easy place to start is with the language you are using. It may be subtle – maybe even unnoticed – but being intentional with a detail as seemingly tiny as “new hire vs. new employee” sends a message to your organization that you are committed to building relationships with your newest employees.

Want to blow people’s minds? Tell them about it.

Tell your onboarding stakeholders and company leaders about your decision to use intentional language. Tell them that your team is committed to making onboarding a relational process, rather than a transactional one. This can be a huge value-add for your program.

Guess what? The benefit of intentional language goes beyond onboarding. Consider your language for learning, development and succession planning programs as well.

 

Your turn: Am I crazy? Is this just being a little too nit-picky? Tell me about it. Or tell me that this is brilliant, and it will revolutionize your program. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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#OneSimpleThing – Who Ya Gonna Call?

#OneSimpleThing - Who Ya Gonna Call

(Admit it, you’ve got the song running through your head now, don’t you? #SorryNotSorry)

Happy Monday! Here is the second installment of the #OneSimpleThing series. In case you missed last week’s post, the purpose of this series is to spark creativity, kickstart new ideas, overcome burnout and focus on your own development. Whether you’re a trainer/facilitator, an instructional designer, HR professional, manager or in an entirely different field, I hope you find value!

This week’s focus: From whom can you learn something?

There is always a part of our role, company or industry that is a bit of a mystery. Maybe you just haven’t had much exposure to a certain part of your business. Maybe you’re curious about how another department operates, or how you can partner cross-functionally. Maybe you want to break down those dreaded silos. Maybe you’d like to get acquainted with your company’s CEO. Maybe there’s an industry leader in your area whose brain you’d love to pick.

The point?

We all know someone who knows something we’d like to learn more about. 

So, reach out! What’s stopping you? I promise, it’s not as tough as asking your 6th grade crush to the Valentine dance. Unless the person you have in mind is a total jerk, the chances are good that s/he will oblige your request to meet for coffee, lunch or just to sit down at the office to chat one day. Advice? People are busy (I’m sure you are too!), so be patient and mindful of others’ schedules. More advice? Pick up the check. Money well spent, I promise.

Through casual breakfasts, lunches, coffee runs and other meetups, I’ve become acquainted with some pretty incredible people. Some I’ve initiated, others have been requested by others. Regardless of who reached out first, I always walk away with a renewed energy for what I do. An idea that I want to implement or a topic I want to write about. I learn something. And the best part? I’m building stronger relationships with awesome people.

So your #OneSimpleThing challenge this week is to reach out to someone you know (or know from afar) who you could help you learn something. Ask that person to meet up sometime in the next few weeks.

 

Your turn: After you reach out to someone, check in by posting in the comments below. Who did you contact? What are you hoping to learn? And after you met with the person, how did it go?

 

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Learning Professional = Change Agent

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Did you happen to catch the big announcement from ASTD yesterday?

ASTD, the American Society for Training & Development, is getting a new name and logo! The organization will now be known as Association for Talent Development (ATD). You can learn all about the change here.

One of the hats I wear is sitting on my local ASTD (umm, ATD…that’s going to take some getting used to!) board as Director of Social Media, so I was tuned into the live stream of the announcement so I could share the big news on our chapter’s social channels. As I soaked in the news and followed the stream of reactions through the #ASTD2014 and #ASTDnews, it made me think about change.

This new name, the new logo and branding, it really confirms something we already knew: It’s not just about the training. The organization is remaining true to its roots, recognizing that training is still an important part of developing people…but there’s so much more to it than that. We are in the business of developing people. Of communicating. Of collaborating. Of learning.

(By the way…what a privilege, amiright?)

ASTD – the American Society of Training & Development – was founded over 70 years ago. Think of how many changes our industry has seen in that time, how businesses have changed, how communication has changed – heck, how the WORLD has changed. Naturally, our largest association (and each of us) must embrace those changes and evolve as well.

This timely change is a great opportunity for each of us to pause and reflect upon our roles with the organizations we support. How are we acting as change agents for the businesses we support? How can we immerse ourselves to truly understand organizational change and use our platform to influence others?

Take a moment and think about how you can embrace change and support progress within your organization – whether progress at the organizational level, with your team or even personally. Be the change, friends!

Your turn: I’m curious about your thoughts about ASTD/ATD’s name change…please take a moment and answer the poll below, and then share your thoughts about this change and the evolution of workplace learning in the comments below!

 

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5 Leadership Lessons from Peyton Manning

leadership-lessons-from-peyton-manning

Playoff time has arrived, my friends. Regardless of what team you might be rooting for, I don’t think anyone could argue that the Denver Broncos are having an impressive year. At the forefront of this franchise is the one and only Peyton Manning, QB extraordinaire.

You could say I’m a little bit of a Peyton Manning fan. I know I’m not alone. I live in Indianapolis, home of the Colts, where Manning led the team for well over a decade and brought our team back from near-obscurity.

But now he’s with the Broncos….sure, it was a sad day in Indy when he left, but I think a lot of Colts fans understood the succession-planning move by letting him go. And I’d have to say people are pretty pleased with the new kid on the line of scrimmage, Andrew Luck. (Sidenote: Did anyone see that Colts/Chiefs game the other night? What a win!)

andrew-luck-touchdown

But this one is about Peyton. Over the years, Peyton Manning has demonstrated impressive leadership qualities; both on and off the field.  Regardless of what your role is in the learning industry, or whether you are a even a football fan at all, there are 5 simple leadership lessons you can apply:

1. Know your craft, inside and out.

Who will go down in history as the “greatest QB of all time”?  There are a number of opinions on that one. But few players are students of the game like Peyton Manning. On the sidelines, you will see Peyton studying plays, reading the defense, anticipating what will happen next. Off the field, he watches film and studies his opponents to a degree that few match.

How well do you know your role? Your team? Your company? Your industry? Your customer? As learning professionals, I think we can all agree that there is always something to learn.

2. Be open to coaching and feedback.

I often wonder what a coach thinks about being Peyton Manning’s coach. Like a trainer leading a classroom full of SMEs, wondering, “What am I going to teach these people that they don’t already know?” But if you see Peyton on the sidelines with his coaches, you often see communication and dialogue. It’s a mutually respectful relationship.

Even after being in our field for many years, we should always be receptive to feedback – whether about how we facilitate, develop content or lead teams.

3. Don’t let setbacks or mistakes define you.

Peyton Manning will not go down in NFL history books, remembered for throwing the occasional interception. He won’t be remembered (negatively) for his neck injury, multiple surgeries or being released by the Colts. He will be remembered as a consistently impressive performer on the field. As a philanthropic member of his community. As an intelligent, well-spoken person who represented his team with class.

The point here? Even when your project or role doesn’t progress the way you anticipated, don’t let that define your career path. Learn from the mistakes and move past the setbacks.

4. Raise the bar.

Just like I wonder what it’s like to be Peyton Manning’s coach, I also wonder what it’s like to be a teammate. I mean – you’re out there with Peyton Manning. How does that NOT motivate a player to do his best?

How are you raising the bar on your team? Do you motivate others to do their best?

5. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Let’s face it. He’s a funny guy. We cracked up watching him host Saturday Night Live, and he has been on more television commercials than I can list. The guy has a good sense of humor, and can poke a little fun at himself.

That’s important for a leader. Lighten up – have a little fun!

So whether you’re a facilitator, instructional designer or training manager…or maybe you’re not even in the learning field at all…consider these leadership lessons and what you can bring to your role, team and organization.

And while I’m certainly okay with Peyton and the Broncos doing well in the Playoffs, I must end with this:

Go Colts!!

Breaking the Rules: Innovation and Interaction for Leadership Development Programs

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Note: This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the fall conference for the Central Indiana chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (CIASTD). Not only was I able to attend, but I also had the honor of presenting.  This post is a recap of that session. If you attended this – my sincere thanks for spending a little time with me!

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that my style isn’t exactly conventional when it comes to learning. My career has been largely shaped by the opportunity of bringing learning experiences to the workplace, and I refuse to believe that those learning experiences have to “look” a certain way. As I began preparing the content for this session, my intent was to “represent myself” with phase(two)learning, rather than presenting on behalf of the day job.

You know, building brand awareness and all. :)

But I quickly realized my examples and talking points were coming directly from the new Leadership Development initiatives we have been implementing at the day job, and I was excited to share those, soooo…I just pulled double-duty on the representation.

The session title was “Breaking the Rules: Innovation & Interaction in Leadership Development Programs”. I was thrilled to see standing room only for the session! Conference attendees had several terrific topics to choose from during that time slot, so the fact that so many made the decision to spend a few minutes talking about Leadership Development was awesome.

Speaking of time slots…I was given the dreaded “right-after-lunch” time slot. When I saw the schedule a few weeks ago, this pretty much sums up my reaction:

pouting-because-training-right-after-lunch-is-rough

(Okay, maybe I just wanted an excuse to share a pic of my adorable nephew, Logan.)

Despite the less-than-ideal time slot, I am proud to report that noticeable yawning was minimal, and no one fell asleep.

Did you know that U.S. businesses spend over $170 billion-with-a-B per year on leadership-based curriculum? Much of this is spent on leadership training.

Those of us in the learning biz know that training, education, learning and development are all different things. But from this statistic, it’s clear that many, many people don’t realize the distinction.

We don’t always need to be training our leaders, but we do need to be developing them.

Training often focuses on best practices. Development should focus on next practices. What’s next for me? What’s next for our team? What’s next for our organization? What’s next for our customer? What’s next for our industry?

You get the idea.

Leadership development programs will vary, depending on culture, people, needs, etc. Regardless of the myriad of differences, successful leadership programs often share 3 qualities:

Learner Motivation – Participants WANT to be involved. They take ownership of their development and are motivated to discover what might be “next” in their career paths.

Program Quality – A well-planned program and engaging content is a must. There must be a long-term strategy, not an ad-hoc hodgepodge (yes, that’s the technical term. Hodgepodge.).

Manager Support – A participant’s direct manager needs to be involved in the process, from providing ongoing feedback, to coaching, to helping his/her emerging leader to build relationships up, down and across the organization. This also goes for upper-level managers and executives: They need to be engaged in the program, endorsing its value and simply getting involved.

During the session, I challenged attendees to brainstorm in teams how they could facilitate leaderhsip/learning with methods they were provided. Here are a few photos from flip charts they used to record their discussions:

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The slide deck from this session can be found here:

CIASTD session – Breaking the Rules

In the deck, you’ll find a number of other progressive ideas that we have recently implemented at the day job in our new leadership development program. If you have questions or would like to chat further about the, drop me a note or leave a comment below!

Did you know?! This session can be tailored and delivered for your organization, conference or retreat! Check out phasetwolearning.com for more information, or drop an email with your questions!

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