What I did over my blogging “vacation”…

off the air image

Well, hello there!

 

I know, I know – it’s been awhile, but I’m back.

 

So much has happened over the past year. Since I haven’t quite figured out how to clone myself or add more hours to the day, I thought it was best that I take a hiatus from this blog to recalibrate, both in business and in life.

What sort of things? Well, in the spirit of the Spring Break that many of you are hopefully enjoying right about now, I thought I’d treat this post like the back-to-school assignment we all likely remember from our elementary school days.  Here are a few of the happenings that have kept me hopping since my last post:

  • Onboarding, both as a new employee AND as a hiring manager at the day job
  • Built new processes at the day job to deepen the learning footprint within the organization
  • Did some consultation work with some terrific organizations and presented at a few industry conferences
  • Launched an eBook (grab a copy for your Kindle today!)
  • Co-authored an article for TD magazine with my friend Brian from Train Like a Champion
  • Cheered on my kids as they ran (distance – boy) and threw (shot put/discus – girl) on their cross country and track teams

Kids-XC-and-track

  • Helped my daughter finalize college plans, watched her graduate from high school and ultimately moved her to college (I’m still recovering from this one)

mom-and-meghan-graduation

  • Vacationed with the family in New York City
  • Spent some time at the beach on Lake Michigan
  • Bought a new house…sold our old one (yes, in that order)
  • Prepared for upcoming, conferences, events, speaking engagements and writing projects
  • Accomplished quite a bit of work done with my local ATD chapter board
  • Joined the Board of Directors with Girls Incorporated of Shelby County (Indiana)
  • Celebrated with my team as we were included in the 2016 Training Magazine Top 125 (on our first try, nonetheless!)
  • Checked off 2 of my last 5 U.S. states to visit (Kansas & Oklahoma) — only 3 states left! (You hear that, North Dakota, Oregon and Alaska?? I’m comin’ for ya!!)
  • Welcomed a sweet little French Bulldog puppy (Brooks) into our family, who immediately made himself at home…….

Brooks

For you puppy fanatics out there, Brooks is on Instagram (yes, I’m that person). You can follow his adorable puppy shenanigans and watch him grow at brooksmeetsworld.

Finally, somewhere in the middle of all that, I turned 40. Holy Moses, that’s still hard to believe.

Long story short, if there was ever a year to hit the reset button, 2015 (and the start of 2016) was the year to do it.

So, reset, I did. Whew..

In spite of stepping away from my regular musings here at phase(two)learning, certain fundamental things remain:

  1. I’m excited about the current landscape of organizational learning and talent development, and feel luckier than ever to have a front-row seat.
  2. I’m challenged by effectively sharing a compelling story with leaders on how investing in onboarding and employee development makes a difference.
  3. I’m inspired to dust off my laptop and jump back into the conversation. Stay tuned for fresh phase(two)learning content – I appreciate your patience, continued interest and support!

So, about that conversation, friends……

What’s on your mind right now? Leave a comment or drop me a note. Let’s catch up!

 

Madonna, Snapchat, and the Art of Knowing Your Audience

madonna-snapchat-and-the-art-of-knowing-your-audience

There was some interesting news in the music and tech industries this past week: Madonna previewed her new Living for Love video. Via Snapchat.

Now, depending on your musical tastes, demographics and social media preferences, you may or may not have paid any attention to this headline.

As one who is snugly nestled in that little generation between Baby Boomer and Millenial, I was intrigued by this. Partially because I have adored Madonna for as long as I can remember – I’m laughing while remembering the time I got in trouble for singing the lyrics to Papa Don’t Preach a little too loud-and-clear in front of my conservative dad – I was about 11 years old at the time and really didn’t understand what the song was about. If you remember that song, chances are you’re laughing at why it made my dad so uncomfortable!

And now, here we are in 2015 – where I am in equal parts awed and jealous that she is so ridiculously fit for a 56-year old woman (do you *see* those arms in that photo above? Holy biceps, Batman.)

I’m also awed that she continues to put herself out there, blazing trails and being just so….Madonna.

So, that brings us to last week’s video release. The decision to release her video via Snapchat was met with mixed reviews. Are you on Snapchat?

Me neither. But my kids are.

Do my kids care about Madonna’s newest video? Probably not. In fact, I don’t know that my 13-year old even knows who that is. So, releasing the new video through that channel was an interesting call.

Did it convert other Boomers and Gen Xers to join Snapchat? Did it entice current Snapchat users to watch the video to see who this Madonna person was? Well, as I was learning about this, I caught wind of this tweet, sent from the Twitter account of the Material Girl herself. It made me laugh:

madonna-snapchat-tech-support

So, there must have been some feedback from people who had no idea how to use the app, so Madonna took it upon herself to act like Snapchat Tech Support and help them locate and launch the video. This tweet got me thinking about the situation, and reminded me how important it is to know our audiences when we develop and deliver workshops, training classes and other sessions.

Friends, one of the most important parts of what we do is to ensure relevance, so our participants can carve out a meaningful learning experience to help them be more effective in their job today…or prepare them for wherever their career might take them in the future. To set the stage in our sessions (the 10% of 70-20-10!) for participants to carry the content out to the job, so they can apply it in the real world (the 70%!) and work with others to master the content and build context (the 20%!).

Was the decision for an artist with primarily a non-Millenial fan base to release a video through a Millenial-heavy channel a risky one? Sure. Did it pay off? I think the jury is still out on that. Am I going to start Snapchatting now? Nah. But I can certainly appreciate the fact that technology is changing the way we do things and the way we learn.

As learning professionals, we need to remember that – and like Madonna, blaze our own trails, continuously evolve, and shatter the status quo in our organizations.

 

Your turn: What are your thoughts on how Madonna launched her new video? In your opinion, was it a hit or a miss? Share your comments below!

Know of someone who would appreciate this post? Be kind and share it!

 

3 Facilitation Tips from Jimmy Fallon

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Confession: I have been a little smitten with Jimmy Fallon for quite some time – since he was  a young SNL player, giggling uncontrollably during sketch after sketch. His easygoing, likeable style has kept me coming back, show after show. I was thrilled when he visited Indy for a week to host the Late Show when our city hosted the Super Bowl a few years back. I was even more excited when it was announced that Jimmy would be Jay Leno’s Tonight Show successor.

So, the Tonight Show. An institution in American television, right? For many years – since 1954, in fact – people have tuned in to watch a similar agenda: The host delivers a monologue, often inspired by current news and pop culture events. This is followed by a celebrity interview or two – sometimes a standup comic. The show often concludes with a musical act.

And millions of people faithfully watch, and are entertained. Myself included. Then a few years back, Jimmy Fallon burst onto the late-night TV scene, and shook up the status quo.

While there is still a monologue, celebrity interviews and many of the other mainstays of a successful late-night talk show formula, he added in a few elements that are more reflective of his personality, and really ushered in a new generation of this television genre.

Because when have we been able to witness an Oscar winner (Diane Keaton) playing beer pong?

jimmy fallon diane keaton 1

jimmy fallon diane keaton 2

 

Or cut up in the now-famous “Ewwww!” sketch with Will Ferrell and the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama?

jimmy fallon will ferrell michelle obama ewww

Or make up games like Faceketball?

jimmy fallon bradley cooper faceketball

Or sing hit songs with kids’ classroom instruments?

jimmy fallon idina menzel the roots band classroom instruments

Or play Antler Ring Toss?

jimmy fallon antler ring toss
I could definitely go on, but my point is this: He is a master at having fun, engaging his guests and audience, and being a little bit (or a lot) silly.

And yes, he manages to make celebrities look a little ridiculous. “Egg Russian Roulette,” anyone?

jimmy fallon tom cruise egg russian roulette

Look at the celebrities’ faces in the photos above. They are having fun. This is clearly not just another interview to promote their newest film or project. Sure, they have the opportunity to promote during the show, but I think it’s obvious that they also have a pretty good time when they hang out with Jimmy Fallon.

And as a facilitator, I want to be like that.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t try to convince a participant to smash an egg on his head, but I would love for that participant to walk out of a session I facilitated confident that he not only learned something, but also enjoyed himself.

How does Jimmy do it? I’ve noticed these techniques that training facilitators can leverage:

  1. Try something different. As the photos in this post indicate, you really never know what you’re going to encounter on the Tonight Show. Have you been using the same icebreakers, energizers or group exercises for a long time? Maybe it’s time to retire the old and bring a new activity into your rotation.
  1. Have fun with your participants. Get involved in discussions, do something silly and unexpected. If something is funny, laugh! Humor can be an effective way to connect with your audience – just keep it appropriate, of course!
  1. Extend the conversation past the classroom. Jimmy Fallon not only engages his guests and the studio audience, but he keeps the viewers engaged as well. A good example is “Hashtags” – Jimmy encourages people to tweet personal experiences or anecdotes to a particular hashtag; he includes some of his favorites on the air:

jimmy fallon hashtags why I'm single

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday 2

 

I may just “steal” the Hashtags idea to use as an icebreaker….I’ll keep you posted, Phase(Two)Nation.

Your turn: Jimmy Fallon has found a niche among the noisy late-night talk show space. He always looks like he’s having the time of his life…which draws people in. So, fellow facilitators, let’s shake up the status quo in the noisy space of training classes and other learning events. What can we do to convey passion for what we do, genuine interest in our audience, and have fun? Share your ideas in the comments below!

 

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Just for fun!

Did you happen to catch the special episode of the Tonight Show after the Super Bowl? There was another epic Lip Sync Battle (not a new thing) between Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Absolutely hilarious – if you’re looking for a hearty laugh, check out the video below!

How Being a Mom Made Me a Better Facilitator

happy-18th-birthday-Meghan

Today – January 28th – is my daughter’s 18th birthday. As this milestone has approached, I have been exceedingly reflective (read: sappy and emotional). Naturally, I’ve been thinking of how quickly she has grown up and what an incredible young adult (gulp) she has become, and how many exciting things are in store for her this year – a trip to Haiti in March to work in an orphanage, high school graduation in May and starting college in August, just to name a few.

Also, while I’m reminiscing, I’ll put this out there: I actually went into labor with her on Sunday, January 26, 1997 – Super Bowl Sunday (yes, it took that long). The New England Patriots LOST that night (!!!). So, no offense to any of you New Englanders, but maybe history will repeat itself THIS weekend, even though they’re playing the Seahawks this year; in 1997, the Green Bay Packers hoisted the Lombardi trophy.

Yes, I’m from Indy and a big Colts fan. No, I’m not rooting against the Patriots because of the now-infamous “Deflategate” controversy. I’m rooting against them because that’s what we do here in Indy…we love the Colts, and whoever beats the Patriots.

I digress. This post isn’t about the Colts. Or the Patriots. Or Deflategate. This one is dedicated to my best girl, Meghan.

mom-and-meg-january-2015

Meghan was a very little girl when I began my career in workplace learning. I’ve learned so much since those early days. Technology has changed as well – making our jobs easier in some ways, more complex in others. Through it all, the fundamental rules of adult learning and leading engaging training experiences haven’t changed that much, but I have learned how to be a more effective facilitator…and I believe being this girl’s (and her brother’s!) mom has contributed to this in a few ways:

1. I’ve learned how to prioritize.

Whether managing the day job + kids’ sports + household chores + homework + this blog + a multitude of other activities, it’s critical to prioritize the need-to-happens and balance the want-to-happens. The same goes for leading a training session – often, we are faced with more content than we have facilitation time. Or more requests than we can allocate resources. We must be skilled at not only asking good questions during the needs analysis/instructional design processes, but carving out learning opportunities to maximize the time spent with participants.

2. I’ve learned how to put others’ needs ahead of my own.

As a parent, it never really seems to be about you, does it? The same goes for facilitation…sometimes, facilitators tend to embrace the “stage” aspect of the job. While that’s great, it’s important to remember that we are there to support and engage learners. It’s all about them. All the time. The best learning professionals understand and embrace this.

3. I’ve learned how to listen. Like, really listen.

Sometimes, it’s not about what’s being said….it’s about what’s not being said. I’ve been there for my kids through sniffles and puppy love, homework stress and sports drama. Kids don’t always just come out and say what’s on their mind (particularly when they become teenagers!). Consider your participants…they don’t always speak up when they don’t understand. They don’t always know what to ask. Anticipate this, be observant, and listen with intention.

 

I don’t know if Meghan will ever see this post…high school seniors aren’t exactly the target demographic for this little blog. But this post is dedicated to my beautiful, dynamic daughter. Pretty much the funniest person I know. Wise beyond her years. Responsible AND adventurous. Happy 18th birthday, sweet girl!

Meg-18th-birthday-collage

Happy 2015! What’s Your Resolution?

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Happy New Year, Phase(Two)Nation!

After a wonderful break for the holidays, phase(two)learning is back in full swing for 2015. Not only have I taken a blogging break, but I also enjoyed a near-total “digital detox” – I’ve been laying low on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, clearing the perpetual noise, hanging out with my family and working on some projects. Still busy (the holidays have a funny way of keeping things hopping!), but blissful.

What did I learn upon re-entering social society?

  • Twitter is still Twitter
  • Facebook is still Facebook
  • LinkedIn is still LinkedIn

(Imagine that.)

So, here we are. It’s 2015. Lots of big things are on the horizon for yours truly this year, both professionally and personally. I’ve pounced on a terrific new day job opportunity that is overflowing with promise (more on that in an upcoming post). Speaking at ATD TechKnowledge next week (!). My daughter is turning 18 in a few weeks – she is graduating from high school and starting college this year (which turns me into an emotional wreck just thinking about it). And if that isn’t enough, I have a pretty big birthday milestone waiting for me in September….gulp.

In the midst of all of these big things, it could be easy to forego the New Year’s Resolution attempt – but I won’t, because learning and growing doesn’t stop simply because we’re busy, amiright? My friend Brian from Train Like a Champion had a recent post about committing to a one-word resolution. I like his succinct concept.

Here are my resolutions; maybe not one-word, but succinct nonetheless:

1. Build stronger relationships.

2. Give more than I take.

3. Learn by doing.

Pretty simple, really, but pretty important stuff. These are goals that translate in both personal and professional settings. Hold me accountable, Phase(Two)Nation!

2015 is going to be a great year…thanks for coming along for the ride! In the next few posts, you’ll learn what a nail salon taught me about 70-20-10, get a recap from ATD TechKnowledge, and hear about my Adventures in Onboarding at the new day job…you don’t want to miss it!

Your turn: What are your resolutions for 2015? What are you hoping to learn/achieve/do this year? Tell me about it in the comments section – I’d love to hear what you’re working on!

 

Know of someone who might appreciate this post? Be kind and share it!

 

Viva Las Vegas, baby!

Will you be at TechKnowledge next week in Las Vegas? If so, let’s connect!

How to be Thankful for Change

how-to-be-thankful-for-change

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. A day to spend with loved ones, eating all kinds of deliciousness, and simply taking time to reflect on what matters most. I can’t think of anything better!

This year, I’ve been particularly astute to the idea of change. Whether professional or personal, it seems that change has been swirling about in my life and in the lives of many others that I know. Some changes have been wonderful. Other changes, a little more stressful. I know that not everyone is crazy about change, particularly the stressful changes.

How do we embrace change and even – be thankful for it? Is that even possible?  I think yes.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Don’t just do something…sit there! (see what I did there?)

It’s a crazy time. We are in perpetual motion, whether physically, mentally or technologically. It seems that when change occurs, we jump to react – and sometimes, when we follow that knee-jerk reaction, we don’t take the appropriate time to consider the change and its impact on the situation, job, or our life. Take a moment. Reflect. Consider your questions. Talk to someone. Or maybe just sleep on it.

2. Don’t just sit there…do something! (see what I did *there*?)

Once you’ve reflected, once you’ve done your due diligence, once you’ve made a pro/con list – once you’ve done whatever you do to process the change…get to work! Make a plan to implement the change. By accepting the change and incorporating it into your routine, the sooner you will get used to it.

Learning nerd sidenote: This lends itself to the 70% of 70-20-10, don’t you think? It’s not enough to learn it conceptually….apply it practically.

3. Ask why. Often.

Connect with people you respect to ask questions and discuss the change. Sometimes it takes an unbiased opinion to put a situation in perspective or to provide context. Once you have perspective and context, often you’ll see the situation in a different light…which often makes change easier to digest.

4. Make change your competitive advantage.

Since many people are averse to change, be the person who gets on board. Look for the positive opportunities that come with change. Look at that half-full glass and use the situation (whether personal or professional) to your advantage!

Recently, I read this quote that stuck with me:

There is no growth without pain. Change for the better always requires letting loose of a certain degree of status quo. You realize then that the pain of moving ahead … the trials, the frustrations, the disappointments, and the failures … are always better than the situation you once found yourself in and accepted. Change won’t begin until you seize the courage and mental discipline to immerse yourself in a certain amount of pain and disillusionment concerning where you are in the present.

(source unknown)

I know this quote naturally lends itself to stressful, negative change. But to me, this speaks to positive changes as well. Change is all about moving past the status quo. And for that – for better or worse – I’m thankful. If your 2014 has been full of changes, know that I’m rooting for you as we move into this holiday season and bring this year to a close. I’m hoping something positive has come from those changes!

Finally – to you, Phase(Two)Nation, I’m thankful for you. For your continued readership. For your likes and comments. For your shares and subscribes. For your passion for and dedication to progressive, meaningful workplace learning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Your turn: What are you most thankful for – personally or professionally? Please take a moment to share in the comments!

 

3 Learning Lessons from Sesame Street

learning-lessons-from-sesame-street

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!

 

Know of someone who fondly remembers the Street? Be kind and share this post!

 

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